About the Unit
Sunshine Teaching Unit operates an ten-week/one term withdrawal program
for students, and is run by the Department of Education and hosted by Sunshine College. It is currently staffed by
The unit aims to assist schools in increasing and maintaining the
participation of at-risk students in the regular classroom. The unit caters
for students experiencing serious problems in schooling that are primarily of
a social-emotional nature, including truancy, where school-based solutions to
these problems have been tried without success.
The unit aims to boost students' self-esteem and develop social skills
that will assist them in their return to regular school. This is achieved
directly through individual counselling and the unit's curriculum and reintegration
procedures, and informally through the interaction of staff with students.
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The philosophy underlying the program is that with counselling, support
and encouragement and the building of self-esteem and self-discipline,
students are capable of changing behaviour patterns that decrease or put at
risk their participation in the regular classroom.
Sunshine Teaching Unit aims to:
1. Be a short-term component in assisting students to increase and
continue their participation in mainstream schools;
2. Assist schools in increasing and maintaining the participation of
at-risk students in the regular classroom.
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The objectives of the unit are to:
1. Raise students' self-esteem by providing experiences of success within
an education setting;
2. Equip the students with appropriate social skills to enable them to
deal more productively with difficulties at school and in the wider
3. Develop a rapport between staff and students to allow effective
4. Within the time limitations of the program to foster development in
literacy and numeracy skills.
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• Referrals generally come from schools, but may also come from sources
such as school support staff, Department of Human Services and other welfare
• Initial telephone contact between the referring agent and unit staff is
used to establish the student meets the basic criteria for placement.
• If appropriate, a referral form is forwarded to the referring agent.
• Referring agents are encouraged to bring the student to the program for
an introductory talk to a staff member to allow the student to make a more
informed decision on attending the unit.
• Referrals that are considered to warrant priority placement by the
referring agent are referred to the College Principal who may then discuss
the case with unit staff.
• On receipt of the completed referral, including a Staged Response
Proforma, the student is placed on the waiting list.
A few weeks before the end of each term meetings are held for the
following term's students.
CRITERIA FOR PLACEMENT
a. The student is in a post-primary school within the Department of
Education's Western Metropolitan Region.
b. School-based solutions to the student's problems have been exhausted
before withdrawal is considered. A Staged Response Proforma, detailing
actions taken by the school to assist the student, must be included with any
referral to the Unit.
c. If the student is in transition between schools, he/she must be
enrolled and admitted to their new school.
d. There must be agreement between unit staff, the student,
parents/guardians and the school concerned, regarding the appropriateness of
e. There must be agreement from the school to undertake visits by relevant
school staff to the student during placement in the program, and to accept
and organise at school level, reintegration follow-up visits by program staff.
f. The student must accept some responsibility for the difficulties
experienced at school and make a commitment to work towards goals established
by the student at the assessment meeting.
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Assessment meetings are used to determine the suitability of a student for
placement in the Teaching Unit. The meetings are held at Sunshine Teaching
Unit and are run by a unit teacher, who is subsequently responsible for
reports, liaison with school and parents/guardians and visits to the
student's regular school for reintegration. Other participants include the
referring agent, the student, parent or guardian and a representative of the
student's school. An Assessment form is completed by program staff during the
Meeting procedure generally takes the following form:
• Program description: unit staff outline the unit's procedures and the
• Problems at school: the student is asked to identify the difficulties
experienced at school leading to the referral. Others may then be asked to
• Problems at home: difficulties at home that may have an effect on the
student's performance at school are discussed.
• Goal setting: the student is asked to identify specific goals for the
placement, relating to the problems at school leading to the referral. Other
participants may then contribute to the goal setting, though the student must
be in agreement for a goal to be accepted.
• Placement decision: Given agreement by all participants as to the
appropriateness of the placement, a starting date is established by unit
• Form completion: parents are then asked to complete the following:
- medical form,
- excursion permission form,
and are given an information sheet on the program.
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a. Reintegration meeting
Ongoing information regarding the student's placement is discussed with
visiting staff from the student's regular school. During the student's final
week in the program a meeting of the student's teachers at the regular school
is organised, where productive approaches and strategies and the student's
participation at the unit in terms of the goals established at the Assessment
Meeting are evaluated and discussed. Difficulties likely to be experienced on
return to regular school are identified and strategies discussed with a view
to minimising such problems.
b. School report
The teacher assigned to the student writes a report on completion of the
placement, copies of which are sent to the student, parents, regular school
and referring agent. Notes taken during case discussions are used as the
basis for the report.
c. Follow-up visits
The teacher visits the regular school four/five times in the first ten
weeks of reintegration and meets with the school representative and the
student, usually both together and individually, to discuss the student's
progress, and deal with issues of concern.
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Students are required to attend the program from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Students
return to their regular schools on Wednesdays. Parents/guardians are asked to
notify staff by 9:30am if a student will not be attending, and when no
explanation has been received, parents for absent students are contacted
between 9:30am and 10:00am.
After a couple of warnings, students are generally required to make up
time lost due to late arrival. Records of attendance for each student are
kept in the Attendance Book.
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A management committee oversees the running of the unit, and is comprised
of the unit staff, the host college principal, and representatives from the
Region’s schools and Student Support Services.
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takes place from 9:00am-9:30am daily. Students read in turn from a class set
of short stories or plays. Students select their own interest based reading
material on Fridays.
As the majority of students attending the program have a reading age well
below their chronological age, reading time offers an opportunity to
consolidate and build on their reading skills. For many of the students
reading time also provides an opportunity to practise concentration skills.
Maths/English takes place from 9:30am-10:30am daily in the classroom.
Students spend the first 10-15 minutes writing in their diaries, which are
responded to in writing by staff prior to the next Maths/English class.
Students then generally work individually on topics chosen by unit teachers,
sometimes after negotiation with the student. This work may be provided by
the student's school or from the resources within the program, and is chosen
to suit the individual student's level so that success may be achieved in the
As the purpose of the program is to return students to mainstream schools,
it is important that there is a continuity in classroom work.
The Maths/English component of the program is designed to:
• consolidate and increase numeracy and literacy skills;
• develop students' self-esteem by:
a. allowing them to achieve success in the classroom;
b. increasing competence in specific skills; (this is made possible by the
low staff : student ratio);
c. by providing high quality production of students' written work;
• develop social skills and behaviour appropriate to the classroom.
A curriculum meeting is held on Monday. Suggestions are taken for Friday's
excursion and Tuesday's sport session, and, following discussion if
necessary, students and participating staff vote for their preferred
activity. Participants have equal voting rights. All students are expected to
accept majority decisions and participate in all excursions regardless of
Each student is given a notice stating what the sport and excursion
activities will be for the week, and a brief report to parents on the
student’s progress in the previous week. Students are required to return the
notice the following day signed by a parent or guardian.
Students are given the opportunity to contribute to the program content
and take part in democratic decision making. The meeting also gives the
students an opportunity to develop social skills concerning cooperation,
negotiation, and working within a group.
On Friday mornings a short time is spent by each student assessing his/her
progress over the past week towards achieving the goals set at the assessment
meeting. This is done through the use of assessment sheets. Students are
encouraged to critically review their performance based on their behaviour
over the period of the week. Students also provide positive feedback, in
written form, to other students attending the unit.
By a quiet self-examination of progress towards goals, the student is made
to regularly bring to mind the purpose of the placement and to become
self-motivated towards further personal effort. As scores increase over the
duration of the placement, self-esteem and confidence may be raised.
The self-assessment sheets may form the basis for discussions between the
individual student and staff members.
Excursions take place on Fridays from 11:00am - 3:00pm, the nature of the
excursion being decided by staff and students at the previous Curriculum
meeting. Past excursions have included indoor rock-climbing, movies,
and visits to places of interest, such as Scienceworks and the Zoo.
The excursions broaden the student's life experiences, and promote
cohesion within the group. They also provide the opportunity for staff-student
interaction outside the classroom and therefore assist in the development of
Above all, the excursions provide a time for students to develop and
practise appropriate social interaction with peers and staff and appropriate social
behaviour in general.
On alternate Mondays
students prepare and serve lunch for the group. Students vote on the menu
selection and complete shopping lists for necessary items. One or two
students and a staff member purchase any items required from a local
supermarket whilst other students begin preparing necessary equipment etc.
All students participate in the preparation of the meal and clean up after.
These sessions provide the opportunity for cooperating on a group project;
learning food preparation skills and hygiene; becoming more familiar with a
wider menu; and learning something of the food groups and nutrition.
SOCIAL SKILLS / PERSONAL
The development of social skills is an integral part of the unit's
program. Specific classes are devoted to developing such skills as
assertiveness, communication, peer relations and conflict resolution through
the viewing of videos, group discussions, role playing and other mediums.
These classes promote tolerance and understanding of people with differing
views and values and increase students' self-awareness. Various methods are
used to study topics such as smoking, alcohol and drug use, sexuality and
cultural, religious and racial differences.
Through the use of various art and craft mediums, students have the
opportunity for self-expression and exploration of creativity.
Self-esteem is raised through creation and completion of works and mastery
of media that may not have previously been worked with. Group projects
provide the opportunity for cooperation, sharing of ideas and negotiation.
A sport session is held each Tuesday afternoon from 1:00pm-3:00pm. The
session is supervised by two teachers and the sport activity is voted on by
staff and students at the curriculum meeting on Monday.
The sport session provides an opportunity to develop sporting skills, to
try new activities, to assist in the development of health and fitness, and
to achieve on a personal level.
Sport provides the opportunity for students to practise/develop
cooperative skills, good sports-ship, social skills, such as supporting
others, encouraging others, acknowledging the efforts of others and withholding
critical remarks. During sport sessions, staff have the chance to encourage
participation, team spirit, and promote students' self esteem.
Through excursions, videos, projects, practical classes and discussions,
an awareness of nature and the environment is promoted.
Students benefit from focusing attention on taking care of and
responsibility for issues and concerns outside of themselves. Objectivity is
RETURN TO SCHOOL -
Students attend their base school each Wednesday. They are given a
Behaviour Sheet (Appendix) to be completed each period by their classroom
teacher, and signed by a coordinator and parent when complete. The sheet is
returned to the unit Thursday, and forms the basis of discussions between the
student and unit staff.
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Management of student behaviour at the unit is based on the program
incorporating the following beliefs and expectations:
* That discipline is preventative, corrective and supportive.
* That students take personal responsibility for their own actions.
* That risk taking is supported and valued. Mistakes and failures are seen
as necessary parts of the process of achieving goals.
* That students feel safe from put-downs, bullying and exclusion.
* All students are accepted and individual rights, feelings and opinions
of other students are respected.
* Limits and rules are clear with a firm understanding of consequences for
* Logical consequences are given, appropriate to the situation.
* Limits and rules are firmly and consistently applied by staff members.
* Where possible, discussion and negotiation in decision making is
* Close student supervision and development of teacher-student rapport are
of high priority.
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Teaching strategies used with individual students are determined by
assessing the student’s developmental level and areas of strength. Teaching
strategies are based upon beliefs that:
* Students experience repeated success because tasks and learning
experiences are tailored to their individual levels and types of ability.
* Through the achievement of success, students’ increased self-esteem
allows them to take on challenges and become more confident in their ability.
* Students experiencing difficulty benefit from small group and one-to-one
* Experiential, hands-on activities provide motivation for students
experiencing academic difficulties.
* Healthy student - teacher rapport allows students to be more receptive
to learning opportunities.
* The peer group can be an effective and positive learning tool.
Staff at the Teaching Unit have conducted a number of surveys of secondary
schools in the Education Department's Western Metropolitan Region in the past
few years. The results from the 2007 survey are available:
Click here for 2007 Feedback Survey
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