Helping students stay the course -an interview with Leigh Bartlett, BATForce

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The Barwon Adolescent Taskforce (BATF) began in 1978 over an instant coffee, when a group of Youth Workers decided that they could work best if they worked together.

“A lot has changed since then and BATF has changed with it,” says Executive Officer Leigh Bartlett.

“As an organisation, we are governed by a Board and informed by community. We respond to the gaps and where possible, work with the sector to find solutions.”

One of its key programs is called Tools To Transition (TTT) which works with both students and the ecosystems that support them. The program has a structured approach that ensures BATF has the opportunity to work with the students that need it most.

“The schools chosen for the TTT program approached BATF because they had concerns regarding small cohorts of their students that may struggle with transition from primary to secondary school,” says Leigh.

“All students participate in two sessions that look at issues of transition and the tools that can be used to make it a success. This gives us an opportunity to get to know the students and assess who may benefit from a more targeted intervention.”

A workshop is offered to parents and carers, focusing on how these people can support students through the transition years as well as the importance of school and family partnerships. A professional development workshop is also offered to staff, based on the feedback from the last 12 years of working with parents and carers, and offering proven strategies for family engagement.

BATF works closely with the school staff to identify the students which require additional support and these students are offered the TTT intervention program, which is an 8-week small group intensive skill development program which aims to enhance their transition skills. This also allows staff to make any referrals that may be required for longer-term support.

“During our delivery of the project, we continue to develop the Dashboard Support boards that are available to all schools. The information and insight we gain from these sessions informs the content of these support boards,” says Leigh.

“The funding provided by Geelong Community Foundation has enabled us to work with five schools, who would not have qualified for funding through other programs, but had all expressed the urgent need for support.”

Geelong Community Foundation CEO Gail Rodgers, said understanding that the leap from primary to secondary school is one of the biggest transitions in a student’s life was the key driver for the Foundation in supporting the BATF Tools To Transition Program.