Five years ago, almost every second student at Para Hills High School in Adelaide did not complete their schooling.
But in a remarkable turnaround, by last year almost all (97%) finished Year 12. What’s made the difference is a relentless focus on creating positive wellbeing for "every teacher, every student, every minute of the day", says principal Alina Page.
Para Hills has worked hard to understand the school community's needs and find strategies to address them.
"For example, lots of students arrive with negative perceptions of schooling that often come from home. So, we do a lot of work to build connections with the families.
"Before the students arrive in Year 7, we've already had multiple connections with them, and their families have had a positive engagement with school," says Page.
Most of the students are from low socioeconomic backgrounds and many suffer severe disadvantage that affects their ability to learn. But funding for extra care and support is "meagre", says Page.
With more funds Page could offer small group tuition, an evidence-based approach proven to have the highest impact on disengaged learners, and work more closely with parents to help them engage with their children’s education.
It’s an investment that would benefit students, families and the country.
"Our goal is to raise aspirations and break the cycle of poverty," Page says.