NETschool Bendigo partnered with La Trobe University to evaluate how the program works. Find the research papers here.


NETschool Bendigo partnered with La Trobe University, from August 2007 to early 2010, to evaluate whether the program works. Di Cox, from the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Faculty of Health Sciences La Trobe University Bendigo, conducted a ‘design evaluation’ of NETschool. The research asked two questions:

  • Does the program at NETschool actually meet its intended outcomes? i.e. is our purpose being served by our actions?
  • What does the evidence say? i.e. are young people, who are at risk of dropping-out of education, re-engaged because of their participation in the NETschool program?


The chief findings of the research showed the NETschool program:

  • Is comparable to the best practice internationally.
  • Meets the intensive educational support needs of disengaged youth: Positive (team-based) learning culture focuses on developing personal and interpersonal skills (accepting and supporting each other) rather than on curriculum content.
  • Relationships first works! Learners experienced that “learning to trust and being trusted” was central to their relationship with their Mentor. This relationship is critical to Learner’s improved self-esteem and sense of connection to others. Learner’s percieve Mentors to be “always there”, “motivational”, “emotionally available”, and “challenging”.
  • Small is good! (1 Mentor to 10 Learners), “…mentors have fewer kids to look after so they have more time. They haven’t got 30 only 10 or 15 so you got one big time period with them.”
  • Learners successfully re-engage in mainstream education, training and/or employment: Learners in all groups identified the “learn at your own pace” approach and “learn what is relevant” as key to their successful re-engagement.

Future focus

The NETschool team implement a continuous improvement cycle:

  • Undertake routine professional development strategy based on reflective practice.
  • Foster Mentor-Learner and Mentor-Family (NETschool community) relationships.
  • On-going development of protocols to better manage referrals, triage, the educational re-engagement needs of Learners, and individual pathways (exit) of Learners.