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Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

It is the groundbreaking initiative savings our kids, so why wouldn’t you want to go to BackTrack with its record and reputation for getting kids back on track?

During our investigation series into Armidale Secondary College, parents raised concerns that students who were victims of bullying were being pushed towards BackTrack as an alternative avenue. Meanwhile, primary school students were already asking to go to BackTrack instead of the public high school because they are scared of the violence they have heard about, and in some cases seen with their own eyes.

BackTrack continues to show its worth, receiving applications from NSW, QLD and Northern Territory. According to its Founder, Bernie Shakeshaft, he can’t remember a time they weren’t at full capacity, and the current waitlist is over 100 students.

“BackTrack is not for everyone, but it is for kids who are struggling in other systems,” said Bernie Shakeshaft, Founder of BackTrack.

“To be eligible we do have an expression of interest online where schools, parents or police can refer, our wellbeing team look through those and make sure it’s a fit for all parties.”

However, the social enterprise cannot be the solution for the failure of mainstream education but an asset for students who are suitable for the program.

“We have a good relationship with Armidale Secondary College, they know the kids that would fit, and we work well together.” said Bernie.

“We are continuing our journey to helping kids for whatever reason they have found their way to us,”

“We have our Core Program where we have a teacher employed and we do all of those bits and pieced to settle them down and work through the issues, we have our residential which has six kids living out there and our tiny homes.”

“We have four self-contained units for young people who are finding it tough or not ready to take on the own rental in town yet.”

“And then we have our employment section with our social enterprise, where we have 35 young people working whether it is on the farm or elsewhere.”

“And finally, we have our farm which gives us plenty to do out there and plenty of options for kids to learn in a different way.”

BackTrack is eager to grow their footprint and opportunities across our region and further, helping to impact more lives along the way.

However, the alternative to school is for those who struggle with schooling, not those who Armidale Secondary College is failing to provide a safe learning environment for.

Numerous parents, including Cheryl whose ward Riley has missed half the school year due to violence, and Stephanie whose daughter Zoe was bullied by a teacher and told to leave the school over a uniform dispute, have reported that BackTrack was repeatedly pushed as an alternative in line with TAFE.

Parents and staff at Ben Venue and Drummond primary schools have also separately told the New England Times that some of their students started asking about BackTrack after witnessing violence at ASC during visits.

The NSW Department of Education have previously denied that BackTrack was being offered as an alternative other than where social workers have felt it was appropriate.


This story is part of a series the New England Times is working on about Armidale Secondary College. Reports of violence, bullying, and other issues within the school are not dying down. We want to hear your stories – the good and the bad – whether you’re a student, parent, teacher, or other interested member of the community. 

Email newsdesk@netimes.com.au or DM our Facebook page if you’d like to tell your story. The names of all parents and children in personal stories is being changed to protect the children involved.

Some of the content in these stories is distressing.  If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact: