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Inspiring student success with senior college

Having worked in education for over 30 years, TAFE Queensland's Craig Eades is now inspiring Year 11 and 12 students to engage with their education through Senior College, helping them find their pathway in life.

"Our Senior College program offers a practical and independent alternative to high school for students in an adult-learning environment that helps them enhance their education, careers and their lives," explains Craig.

"We set our students up for success by giving them the support in an inclusive environment where they can finish high school while studying for their Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) or TAFE Queensland certificate qualifications."

Offered at TAFE Queensland's Alexandra Hills campusSenior College gives students a pathway into vocational study with TAFE Queensland, entry into university, or the knowledge and skills to go straight into the workforce after graduating.

The Senior College school week runs from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Thursday, giving students Friday to study certificate courses and prepare for their futures, something that Craig says is essential.

"We build individualised study programs for each student that gives them the flexibility to complete their high school and also go to their apprenticeship, go to work or attend further studies," he says.

"It's a fantastic program, and it changes our students' lives. Many have had mental health challenges or have disengaged from traditional high school altogether. But my staff and I know that everyone's got the ability; it's about recognising their strengths and nurturing them towards their goals in the right environment," says Craig.

Fostering that study environment is essential to the success of the Senior College's students. It's an inclusive environment with like-minded classmates and teachers who engage students in education to provide them with a pathway for their future.

"We have an amazingly diverse and inclusive group of students including transgender and different nationalities and ethnicities — everyone is accepted and gets on with one another."

"Students call their teachers by their first names, there's no uniform, and they have the freedom to express themselves with various hairstyles and hair colours, clothes, tattoos, earrings and the like."

"There's still the rigours of attendance and due dates for assignments, but by allowing them to be themselves and accepting who they are as individuals, they feel more comfortable and focus more on their education."

Senior College's passionate staff also work closely with students in mentoring programs, forming solid relationships, understanding their individual challenges, and nurturing them to keep them on track with their assignments and attendance.

"Our staff work closely with each student and handle any issues they may have to ensure there's little to no impact on their studies. Giving them that support and encouragement in this environment is a real game changer for them."

"We're still a high school, and we do still need students to have 90 per cent attendance and get their assessments in on time. But if they've got a problem we listen and create a plan to ensure they can succeed, because sometimes things have gone on in their life and they need our support."

Since joining TAFE Queensland, Craig has helped hundreds of young people who had otherwise given up on education to realise their potential and provide them with a pathway to work or further education.

"Supporting students to become successful is incredible. It's so enriching to see our graduates leave us and have meaningful careers, especially considering how extremely challenging their lives had been," continues Craig.

Success for Craig and his team is seeing motivated and engaged students working hard to get the positive outcome they set out to achieve when they enrolled, whatever that may be.

"For some, success might be a job at McDonald's. It might be a pathway into university, or a certificate course into an apprenticeship. Every student is different, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution, so it's about connecting with them and guiding, encouraging and educating them along their journey with us."

Craig and his team thrive on seeing students have unique study experiences while developing into successful adults and graduating with the skills to be a positive asset in the community.

"I think the role we play in each student's life is the difference we make. It's inspiring for us to see how engaged students are with our staff and their studies as their attendance and grades trend up."

"There's nothing better than seeing a student's 'Aha' moment when everything clicks, and they mature, start enjoying their education and can see that they're achieving something that was once impossible, and they can see their pathway out of their past into adulthood."

"After they graduate and enter the workforce, students often say that without Senior College, they wouldn't have had a future. It's truly remarkable to see just where our students come from, how much they grow, and how they're excelling as professionals since their time with us," concludes Craig.