• Gateway Community High

Social Impact is in the Community College DNA


There was already a great selection of high schools in Port Macquarie when Mid North Coast Community College opened Special Assistance School, Nautilus College, a not-for-profit high school for students in Years 9 and 10. Why another school?


For the same reason that Macquarie Community College will open the doors to Gateway Community High in Carlingford this year. To meet the increasing community need for an alternative schooling model focused solely on adolescents who have faced barriers to participating in learning. The school supports teenagers to help them stay on track and re-engage with their school education at a time when they are most at risk.


“No entry score or uniform is required. Our goal is to plug them back into education so they can experience how it can be of benefit to them.”

Valerieanne Byrnes, CEO Nautilus College, initiative of Mid North Coast Community College


“It’s important to help them in these fragile teenage years, when young people are at risk of dropping off the ‘conveyor belt’ and not transitioning to a successful adult life.”

Helen Zwicker, CEO Shoalhaven River College, initiative of Kiama Community College



Tailored Support for Students


Community Colleges were amongst the first to pioneer Special Assistances Schools in Australia. Running adjacent, rather than in competition with mainstream schools, the objective is deep social impact. The purpose? To improve the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Having honed a learner-centred approach in the decades they have worked with adults, Community Colleges now bring this individualised approach to adolescents, too.

“We believe that everyone has a story and a lived experience, and this enlightens the conversation and contributes to learning.”

David Martin, CEO of Western Riverina Community School, initiative of Western Riverina Community College, Griffith


Special Assistance Schools employ a higher ratio of staff to students and the same teachers are involved in most of the learning. The tailored curriculum allows time for questions and discussion, learning support, and individual case management for students with social welfare needs. At the same time, students meet the curriculum requirements for Stage 5, graduating with their NSW Year 10 Record of School Achievement (RoSA) qualification. Special Assistance Schools follow the syllabus but not with the frenetic rush, rigid structure, and multi-teacher timetabling found in most mainstream schools.

“Many of the young people we’re assisting were not going to school and therefore not accessing the student welfare supports that come with that.”

Helen Zwicker, CEO Shoalhaven River College, initiative of Kiama Community College



Not Just Another School


Gateway Community High and its sister schools, are more than merely just another school. Theresa Collignon, Group CEO Macquarie Community College and Gateway Community High notes: “Education is the pathway to empowerment. Community colleges are in a unique position to fill that need in the community because meeting the needs of their community is in the community college DNA.”


The expected benefits of Gateway Community High for the North Western Sydney community are enormous, especially with numbers of students disengaged from education skyrocketing due to COVID-19.


Post school outcomes are important and encouraging. Of the 2020 cohort from Western Riverina Community College’s Special Assistance School, 60 percent have moved on to work, trade apprenticeships and/or TAFE. Fifteen out of 40 of Nautilus College graduates have decided to do further education at the TAFE, back in mainstream schools, or at the local vocational high school. Some have aspirations to earn a degree. The majority are now engaged in work.

“We find out what’s going on and then spend time getting them ready to learn—which is only when they’re emotionally and mentally ready. Then we see them pick up and learn really well because they’re engaged in more meaningful learning, in a smaller cohort, with less anxiety in the environment.”

David Martin, CEO of Western Riverina Community School, initiative of Western Riverina Community College, Griffith


“It’s a legitimate and credible activity to say that you are learning something to improve your life. If employment is scarce because of trauma or literacy, it is a way to rejoin society. Education breeds hope.”

Valerieanne Byrnes, CEO Nautilus College, initiative of Mid North Coast Community College


Working Closely with the Community


Special Assistance Schools like Gateway Community High have close ties with key stakeholders in their immediate surrounds, including mainstream schools and other youth professionals such as counsellors, support workers, and employment agencies. These are important referral networks and community agencies that, through collaboration and engagement, work together to provide students a pathway to further education, employment and social inclusion – creating and empowering better futures for young people.


Find out more


There's only a few spots left for our 2021 intake of Yr 9 & 10 students. Find out more about Gateway Community High at www.gatewaycommunityhigh.nsw.edu.au or call 8845 8835.

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