High school mentoring program axed

VOLUNTEERS are outraged the state government has axed a youth mentoring program that helps young people at risk of leaving high school.

Plan-It Youth program volunteers and workers have been told state government funding will not continue past 2013 despite the scheme helping more than 3500 students over the past decade.

The state school program pairs year 10 and 11 students who are unsure about career options and could leave school with a volunteer community mentor to help them think about their choices and learn to balance life and study.

There are 26 Hunter high schools and 200 community mentors involved and it has been backed by principals at schools serving disadvantaged areas including Tomaree, Hunter Sports and Hunter River High.

Volunteers have formed a working party to lobby the NSW Education Department to reconsider.

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery called on the state government to explain its decision.

‘‘I’ve seen this program in action at Glendale High School, it’s a very successful program,’’ she said.

Volunteer mentor Alan Moore, of Eleebana, estimates he has helped 20 young people in the past decade into careers ranging from chef to jockey.

‘‘These people are the future of our country, if we’re not prepared to help them then who can?’’ he said.

Plan-It Youth started in the Hunter Central Coast district in 1999 as an independent program but the department asked to take it over and rolled it out statewide.

A 2007 report into the program found it helped increase attendance and ‘‘creates a sense of purpose about schooling and its relevance’’.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the program's four-year funding period expired in June and next financial year the funding structure would shift to the state government’s local decision making policy.

Under the policy, each education region can individually fund mentor schemes, including Plan-It Youth.

‘‘The Hunter/Central Coast Region is currently exploring options about the future role of mentors,’’ he said.

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