A tailored support program designed to help primary school children with incarcerated parents engage in positive learning was launched in Cessnock last week.
SHINE for Kids launched its Rise Education Program at East Cessnock Bowling Club, along with its first NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)-accredited teacher training seminar in the Hunter, at East Cessnock Bowling Club.
SHINE (an acronym for Support, Hope, Inspire, Nurture and Empower) for Kids is a not-for-profit organisation that supports young people and families with relatives in the criminal justice system.
National programs manager, April Long said the Rise program will meet an urgent need in the Hunter region, with Cessnock in the top 10 communities in NSW affected by parental incarceration.
"Each student with an incarcerated parent will be paired with a SHINE for Kids' qualified volunteer for a weekly one-on-one mentoring session in the classroom, providing a holistic approach to academic, social and cultural learning and development," Ms Long said.
"With 77,000 students (in Australia) currently having a parent in prison there is a need in our country to upskill teachers because they have had no formal training on how best to support these students."
SHINE for Kids has received a $55,000 grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, part of which funded the teacher training seminars, which explores the complex situation that students affected by parental incarceration experience and how it impacts their education.
Twenty teachers, assistant principals and student learning support officers took time out from their school holidays to attend the Cessnock seminars on Wednesday and Thursday, and those who took part described it as "brilliant", "engaging" and "relevant".
Nulkaba Public School teacher Kylie Ebony said the seminar helped teachers become more aware of ways they can support children with a parent in prison.
"It helps us create a rapport with them... the more we know, they more we can do to support them," she said.
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation chair Phil Neat said research indicates that children with an incarcerated parent are six times more likely to end up in prison themselves, and 40 percent more are likely to drop out of school than those without a parent incarcerated.
"This is why the Charitable Foundation Board recognised this as an important initiative to support the RISE Education Program, helping children connect positively with education and improve their prospects for a bright future," Mr Neat said.
Any child living in Cessnock and surrounds with a parent in prison may be eligible for the Rise program, which is also looking for volunteer education mentors.
For more information, visit shineforkids.org.au or call (02) 9714 3000.