The new centre will be operated by EREA through its arm EREA Youth+, the largest provider of flexible education in Australia. Youth+ currently operates 19 flexible learning centres in all states and territories except the ACT. EREA also owns and governs 34 mainstream Catholic schools in the Edmund Rice tradition around Australia.
“We expect to have 30 young people as the first intake and to grow this to between 80 and 100 young people,” said Sean Scanlon, the CEO of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
“The establishment of this new centre will help address a very real need within society for flexible learning and it is also an opportunity for us to help marginalised youth, which is in keeping with the Church’s mission.
“There are 70,000 students enrolled in over 900 flexible learning centres in Australia – so there is a need for such centres.
“This new centre will provide educational opportunities for those who have fallen through the cracks of traditional education centres. The students at our centre will be given the skills and the opportunity to make a positive contribution to our society,” Mr Scanlon said.
Research published in 2016 shows that for every dollar spent, a flexible learning centre generates about $25 in socio-economic returns – and for each student who can be successfully engaged by such a centre, there is an average socio-economic benefit of $359,000 over the life of a student.
Mr Scanlon said that beyond the opening of the new St Laurence Flexible Learning Centre in Broadmeadow, and in keeping with the Church’s mission, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is aiming to open flexible learning centres in other locations in the Hunter and Manning regions in the future.
“Edmund Rice Education Australia is delighted to be entering into a partnership with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle to open the new St Laurence Flexible Learning Centre at Broadmeadow,” said Dr Wayne Tinsey, Executive Director of Edmund Rice Education Australia.
“The school will provide a place for those young people who, for various and often complex reasons, have become disconnected from a mainstream education.
“It will also provide an opportunity for such young people to re-engage with learning and community.”
In an interview with the Newcastle Herald, Gerard Mowbray, Assistant Director of the CSO, said: "Our aim is to open five flexible learning centres in the next 10 years with the one at Broadmeadow being the first."
Advertising for staff will commence shortly with the aim of having them occupy the new centre in October this year. These staff members will build links with the community and the young people who may attend the centre in the future.