A healthy pathway to success


A student receives a health check-up at Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre.

Migrant and refugee students at a school in Sydney's south are being given every chance to reach their potential academically through a program that focuses on their health and wellbeing.

For more than a year, Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre has run a program in conjunction with the local multicultural health service that supports students by providing comprehensive on-site health assessments and screenings.

This innovative project - called Optimising Health and Learning - has been awarded the NAB Schools First 2011 NSW Impact Award, which recognises school-community partnerships that demonstrate improved learning outcomes.

Beverly Hills Intensive Learning Centre caters for immigrant and refugee students of secondary school age who have newly arrived to Australia.

Preparing for mainstream schooling

The school has 300 students from 30 different countries and 26 language backgrounds who typically spend three to four terms at the centre before moving to local mainstream high schools.

"The aim of the school is to assist students to settle into life in Australia and to develop the English language, interpersonal and learning skills they will need for effective participation and learning at their local high school," said school principal Michael Harmey.

The idea for the project came after Mr Harmey attended a forum last year highlighting the need for refugee and new arrival students to have access to early health assessments.

Identifying health issues

Many students who enrol at Beverly Hills IEC have had limited access to healthcare services and often have unrecognised or asymptomatic health conditions.

By identifying early any health and wellbeing issues the students have these can be overcome. This means the students are in an optimal position to achieve academically.

The lead partner in the project is the Multicultural Health Service, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. Each week a school nurse visits the school to carry out hearing and vision assessments and general health screenings. 

Barriers to healthcare

The project also works with students' families on healthcare education. 

"There are a number of barriers that many newly arrived migrants face in accessing mainstream health care such as financial constraints, lack of understanding of health services, language and cultural barriers and lack of access to interpreters," Mr Harmey said.

The school links families with local doctors, arranges hospital tours and ensures they receive information on health and health services available to them. 

A transferable program

The school will use the $100,000 funding Impact Award to support the continuation of the program and would like to see the program implemented in other schools.

"Our model is designed to be readily transferable to other education settings and we hope to use some of the funding money to mentor other schools and community partners," Mr Harmey said

Photo: By Ben King Photography.


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