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(Australia) NSW: High school for severe mental health problems hopes to expand

June 19, 2018, (Australia) Maitland, NSW: Margaret Jurd College seeking funding as it eyes Gillieston Heights expansion ...She is the head of Margaret Jurd College [high school] at Shortland, which caters for students from years nine to 12 with mental health diagnoses that impact on their ability to function in a mainstream school setting. Many have experienced trauma and several live in out of home care, or with grandparents. One quarter are on the autism spectrum. A quarter are indigenous…. “They have either been bullied, or were the bullies. They have been expelled, suspended, have a history of aggression, emotional dysregulation and school refusal. They’re not bad kids, but they appear that way in the mainstream because they get abrasive. “They’re not coping with the environment, so they end up with emotional overload and they lash out…. The school has reached its maximum of 67 students and is this year offering year 12 for the first time. It has a waiting list of 15 and fields enrolment inquiries every day. “The need is growing, particularly up through the valley,” she said. “If it was empty, we could fill the school tomorrow.” Ms Sutton doesn’t have space to accommodate any more students on the Shortland block, but she is hopeful of opening a second campus: a middle school focusing on early intervention for years five to eight, on a 10 acre greenfield site on Cessnock Road Gillieston Heights. The Uniting Church NSW purchased the block for about $2.5 million and gifted it to the school last December. Ms Sutton has planned a meeting with an architecture firm to discuss a master plan and estimates it will cost about $10 million to complete the first stage. … She has called on the state government to use Tuesday’s budget to lift its support for the non-government sector, which includes both Catholic and independent schools. “Enrolment at state schools is at an all time high,” she said. “If we don’t meet our market share, the state system does not have the capacity to take these students…. Ms Sutton said her school targets emotional overload before it becomes a problem. Each class of 15 has a teacher, teacher’s aide and access to a case worker inside the room, as well as another outside. Students have emotional toolboxes, filled with sensory items such as kinetic sand, colouring in books and scented candles, which they can use to “recentre themselves”. …

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