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This report has explored the impact of Mission Australia’s Flexible Learning Options (FLO) Program in South Australia, which is part of a broad social inclusion initiative of the state government’s Department for Education and Child Development (DECD). It provides both qualitative and quantitative data in support of its key findings but, first and foremost, seeks to give a voice to the FLO students utilising the service. A key question associated with FLO services in South Australia has been what the nature of success looks like. Concerns over the educational outcomes associated with FLO have rightly given rise to a focus on South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) outcomes, though the remit of the SA FLO Program has always been far broader, including wellbeing enhancement, learning engagement, vocational learning pathways, as well as earning pathways. Most importantly, FLO is designed to help disengaged students re-engage with learning and critically, with casework support. Originally established as a school retention initiative FLO seeks to address the complex issues that drive non-attendance at school. This report demonstrates that these issues often relate to mental health, anxiety, learning difficulties or bullying and there is a clear risk that, if not addressed, they can lead to students becoming completely disengaged educationally, as well as socially and put in great risk as they proceed to adulthood.
With such concerns in mind this report demonstrates the powerful role that Mission Australia’s FLO Program in South Australia plays in supporting ‘at risk’ young people, with impacts that extend far beyond simple educational attainment. Key findings and recommendations associated with this evaluation are broken down into two core areas of relevance to: (i) MA FLO’s impact; and (ii) MA FLO’s implementation, which are also relevant to DECD’s wider FLO Program in South Australia.