Strong partnerships, real outcomes
Rural, regional, low SES, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are still significantly under-represented in tertiary education. Future Moves addresses these challenges by developing localised, strong and engaging partnerships with interactive activities for students who may not have considered university as a feasible option. Hosted from the Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Wagga, Port Macquarie and Albury Wodonga campuses of Charles Sturt University (CSU), Future Moves works with 78 partner schools. Fifty five external community partners also support activities across all locations.
The Future Moves partnership model extends the VicHealth Partnerships Analysis Tool (2011). In addition to providing an effective tool for auditing partnerships, the tool allows Future Moves to evaluate its partnerships in real time and strengthen and deepen its ties with partners as necessary.
Future Moves partners with 78 schools in the delivery of workshops and events to around 15,000 student points of contact per year. While school partnerships form the crux of its work, there are a number of other bodies with which Future Moves partners that enable program staff to succeed.
Future Moves partners with faculties and internal divisions at CSU, who support and deliver experiences that reflect universities’ openness and accessibility, while mapping to the National Curriculum and connecting to community. Sky Stories, for example, is a collaboration between Future Moves, the Faculty of Education and an external Social Media consultant. The Faculty team involves a PhD student, a senior lecturer and the PhD supervisor, and an expert in Indigenous pedagogy. This team has developed a series of resources, workshops and community events aimed at engaging students, school teachers, parents and Indigenous Community members in the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); all mapped to the National Science curriculum. Responsive relationships in this project have resulted in strong internal and external partnerships.
This partnership model has been developed and sustained over 4 years. It allows for strong input and participation from schools, with the aim of engendering confident relationships between Future Moves staff and school personnel, and the development of needs based activities per school based on a framework of core content.
Future Moves works from a strength-based paradigm focused on students who, with the right tools and support, can realise their potential through study in the higher education context.
In terms of its specific long term outcomes, the program aims to increase the numbers of students from partner schools enrolling, participating and succeeding in higher education, largely through operationalising inherent aspiration. In keeping with a logical progression of outcomes and objectives, the main short term objectives of the program are:
- to increase the motivation of students to study in higher education, and
- to enhance participants’ confidence that they can succeed in this setting.
Coupled with these key audience objectives are objectives around further teachers’ knowledge in the area of aspirations and empowering parents with actionable knowledge around higher education.
Functionally, Future Moves operates similarly to other aspiration programs, with school workshops, on-campus events and parent activity; supported by undergraduate student leaders. Future Moves provides multiple transactions with students through participation in school workshops and on campus events, fostering familiarity with the program and its staff while contextualising the idea of “going to uni.”
School workshops are linked to, and informed by, the Australian Blueprint for Career Development (ABCD). On campus events include Future Directions (Year 9), Real Time (Year 10s shadow Uni students for a day), Skill Fix (Year 11) and Check It Out (Years 5 & 6).
A significant aspect of the Future Moves program is Danygamalanha (Wiradjuri for ‘to excel’), which works with schools and their communities to deliver culturally appropriate activities engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in primary and secondary schools.
Each CSU campus’ program has developed around a clear core set of protocols and policies while allowing for organic and local needs to be realised. For example, the Port Macquarie program does not as yet, have a true campus location on which to provide the campus experience so alternative activities are offered in collaboration with key community organisations, while the Wagga Wagga program has a full set of on and off campus activities offered to its 15 partner schools.
Future Moves works with more than 300 CSU students trained and participating as volunteer facilitators and leaders. This work can involve anything from accompanying school activities to developing and facilitating a workshop. This aspect of partnership is based on increasing depth and strength, with the aim of building skills for student leaders while strengthening the program.
Future Moves reaches the right students in the right schools; partner schools have a mean ICSEA of 911 (national mean=1,000), and 75 per cent of participants’ parents had not attended university.
Post participation in Future Moves activities, 19 per cent of participants were more motivated to attend university, while 21 per cent felt more likely to achieve entry. Positive shifts were greater among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and potential first in family students. Since 2012, based on analysis of available enrolment data from CSU, around 400 additional students have made the choice to study at university from partner schools (compared with other schools’ figures).
While respect for the student is at Future Moves‘ core, it is reaching in and working with schools and communities that can create long-term, sustainable change at a community level. The program’s integrated approach seeks to build inclusivity, maintaining the connectedness between the student, their university and their community.
To be successful, partnerships must be clearly understood, agreed and be real and concrete. To achieve this, Future Moves negotiates written and signed agreements and action plans with all of its partner schools, and works to include parent and community activities in these plans.
An ideal, strong partnership would be with a school that has been with the program a number of years, participates in all agreed activities, requests further involvement, invites the program to school assemblies, and includes Future Moves into its annual plan. For example, one strong partner school has reached this “active engagement” status by embedding Future Moves in school activities and allocating school resources to its Future Moves classes.
Significant partnerships with Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups (AECG) and other community organisations are coordinated and supported by Future Moves staff who act as a community and school liaisons. These roles enable partnerships to have a key “go to” person for all stakeholders in the program. Localised initiatives arise from this relationship. For example, Art & Yarn is a 5-week program with local Aboriginal community members and a school with art as the focus, enabling academics and Future Moves staff to bring parents and community members with their children onto campus in a staged process.
Using the adapted Vic Health model allows the Future Moves team to identify where each partnership sits, and how it might evolve and strengthen in the future. Partnerships are assessed at the start of each year, goals are set and then reviewed for development throughout the year. Using this model, the team can assess, monitor and maximise the effectiveness of each partnership, whilst still being able to gather a picture of the overall and not get lost in the detail.
Future Moves will use its strong collaborative planning approach to develop and evolve. Recognising staff strengths will ensure that key relationships with internal and external partners are sustained. The variety of activities, aligned with Future Moves‘ core business model, delivered at each campus, will be refreshed and revised to accommodate school needs, while utilising the deep knowledge of the team in generating aspiration and widening participation. The strong evaluation process built into the program will continue to inform continuous improvement, while monitoring of inputs, activities and outputs will result in intended outcomes of increased student enrolments in higher education.
New initiatives currently in development for Future Moves involve the use of online and virtual support to schools. For example, Future Moves is supporting the production of “What’s Uni Like?”, a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) that will be available as a free resource to participating schools.