Centres for difficult teens face axe

Education Minister Peter Collier has flagged closing behaviour centres - which help WA's most disruptive and abusive students - and shunting troubled teens into privately run alternative schools.

After announcing an extra $3 million for CARE (Curriculum and Re-engagement) schools ahead of the State Budget, Mr Collier told a conference at Clontarf College yesterday he was "not convinced" that public school behaviour centres were performing the role they should.

He planned to work with Catholic and non- government sectors in the next six months to look at expanding CARE schools, which take students struggling in mainstream schools because of mental health problems, dysfunctional home lives or substance abuse.

CARE schools charge low or no fees and are funded by State and Federal governments and the private sector.

Mr Collier said it cost taxpayers more than $15 million last year to run 12 behaviour centres for about 500 primary and secondary students, compared with $5 million for nearly 1000 teenagers at 10 CARE schools.

He said it was "ridiculous" to have two systems, with CARE schools delivering similar outcomes for a third of the cost of behaviour centres. Asked if the Government planned to shut behaviour centres, Mr Collier said it was an option.

He said there was little evidence to show behaviour centres had made any long-term difference to young adults since being set up in 2007.

Mr Collier believed CARE schools gave students more educational options. But he said no decision had been made and the review of behaviour centres was not focused on cost.

Shadow education minister Sue Ellery said CARE schools had different roles to behaviour centres. "Behaviour centres help kids go back to school," she said.

The West Australian

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