ASPIRE project in the Kiama region


Determine how student learning and wellbeing outcomes change when changes are made to the environment in which they learn via modification of physical environment, enhanced teaching, the use of wrap-around services and integration of behavioural learning models.

Measure of success

Concerted student engagement, covering attendance, behaviour and suspension.

All measures

  • Student participation
  • Student learning outcomes
  • Student wellbeing
  • Staff and parent perceptions
  • Parent and teacher applied learning
  • Professional learning outcomes

Partner schools

  • Albion Park High School
  • Coniston Public School
  • Flametree (an annex of Figtree) High School
  • Lake Illawarra High School
  • Yudi Gunyi School


Staff in the Kiama region have been helping vulnerable students better access and engage with learning using the principles of trauma-informed practice, quality teaching and curriculum adjustment.

The area’s ASPIRE (A Secondary Program for Inclusion, Retention and Engagement) strategy is providing wraparound services for students and building staff capacity in settings where all children experience difficulties with learning due in part to traumatic early childhood experiences.

One aspect of the program is examining the impact of improved staff understanding of neuroscientific principles by training them to consider the way the brain reacts to stressful situations.

A deeper understanding allows them to help students to first regulate, then relate and finally reason so they can return to a state of calm in which they are ready to learn.

“Our data so far is very supportive of what we’re trying to implement in the classroom,” said Kristen Cairncross, the project’s coordinator.

“Our major incidents are down 26%...our suspensions are down 30%, we’ve had a student transition full time to mainstream and we’ve had two students transition to full time apprenticeships.”

It is hoped the project will additionally improve engagement and attendance, reduce negative behaviour incidents, improve attainment levels and improve post school transition for all students, particularly Aboriginal and out of home care students.

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