24-26 High Street, Frankston, VIC, 3199
Started in 2010, the Brotherhood of St Laurence Community VCAL (BSL-CVCAL) program offers a tailored education program for young people aged 15 to 19 who want to complete secondary school but have experienced barriers to education in mainstream schools. The program delivers Foundation, Intermediate and Senior Levels of the Victoria Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) (Years 11 and 12). It combines classroom tuition with vocational training and work placements in a community setting, as well as access to School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships (SBATs), and stand-alone apprenticeships. The program is based at the BSL Frankston High Street Centre, and works in partnership with schools and other local organisations to offer an integrated support and education program. BSL-CVCAL students remain linked to a government school and are enrolled concurrently in both educational sectors. Government funding for each student is forwarded by the enrolling school to the program, and this supplements funding from BSL reserves and philanthropic sources. Students are referred by schools, community support agencies and the youth justice system. The program caters for students with complex needs including: disengagement/truancy, family issues, carer responsibilities, substance abuse, homelessness, mental health issues and bullying, low levels of literacy and numeracy, and difficult relations with teachers. In 2012 67 students (38 male, 29 female) were enrolled in the program.
How this program works
The program is based on the principle that all young people need education options that meet their learning needs and helps to prepare them for the rest of their lives. It models a flexible supportive approach to education for young people facing multiple barriers. The program consists of three fundamental and combined components: education, vocational training, and well-being. High levels of pastoral care and resilience building are integral to the program. Wrap-around learning, well-being and pathways support is provided in partnership with local schools and organisations e.g. Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Frankston Mornington Peninsula Local Learning & Employment Network, Chisholm Institute of TAFE, and Peninsula Health. The staff team includes registered teachers, counsellors, trainers, education aides, and youth workers. Within a safe, comfortable, and inclusive learning environment, emphasis is placed on adult learning principles alongside student-centred and applied learning methods. The program sets positive expectations while providing autonomy to the students.
Typically, the program follows the school year with classes from 9.30 to 3.00 Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Students attend VET, SBATs or work placements on Wednesdays and Fridays. The addition in 2014 of online provision will provide access to students outside of these times, and to those who cannot easily access the Centre. The timetable is flexible to nurture and support individual trajectories. There is a low student-staff ratio and a team-teaching approach is favoured. Learning takes place in and out-of-class and the learning experience is described as hands-on and real world promoting positive links between young people and the community. Team work and communication skills are developed through negotiated activities and projects. Students can study for Foundation, Intermediate and Senior VCAL, engaging in practical work-related experiences as well as literacy and numeracy skills.
Positive outcomes, indicating the success of this program, include: formal outcomes – attendance, graduations, and training certificates completed, and positive transformations for young people who had previously disengaged from education in relation to their behaviour, lived experience, outlook and prospects.
Credentialed attainment: In 2011, 14 of a possible 17 graduated from the VCAL program. In 2010, 10 of 11 seniors (Year 12) graduated, and 12 of 14 intermediates (Year 11) progressed to their senior level.
Program wide achievements: An evaluation of the 2011 and 2012 programs found that staff and students reported significant progress and improvement in literacy and numeracy levels.
Destinations and pathways: Two success stories offer examples. A student who previously had disengaged from traditional schooling, reengaged with education through the BSL CVCAL program, gained her VCAL Senior Certificate together with a Cert in Business and undertook a work placement in Horticulture. After graduation she completed a full time traineeship and a Cert IV in Horticulture before being employed in a Horticulture business. Another former student was the first in her family to graduate from Year 12. Before enrolling in the BSL-CVCAL program the student had left school in Year 10. On the VCAL program the student completed certificates in Business Administration and Animal Studies, and undertook work experience at the RSPCA before gaining employment working with animals.
Engagement and participation in learning: Student enrolment figures have increased over the 3 years of operation from 25 in 2010, to 49 in 2011, to 67 in 2012. In 2011, 40 out of 49 students maintained at least 70% attendance.
Health and well-being: BSL’s internal evaluations of the program found positive impacts on student confidence, empathy, aspirations for the future, relationships, anger management and alcohol/drug use (Evaluations of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 program). As one student said it [led] me to become a better person (2013).
Productive partnerships: Students recognised the value of the partnerships with local organisations in terms of the opportunities presented and access to networks they gained (BSL evaluation 2013).
Wider influence: A formal research and evaluation project by the BSL has actively documented and shared the challenges and achievements of the program’s growth with the community, academia and government.
Why this program is successful
The BSL’s internal research identifies the following as important to the program’s success: attention to student wellbeing needs, resilience building, strong, supportive and respectful relationships, peer support, adult learning principles, access to a range of providers and programs so students can access appropriate opportunities/pathways, the breadth of learning and flexible nature of the CVCAL. Students valued the opportunities for community volunteering and the hands on nature of the curriculum, ability of teachers to respond, engage and teach effectively creating a collaborative environment that empowered the learner, being treated like an adult, close relationships with teachers and the role of the teachers in helping students to set and achieve future goals.
Want to know more?
Sources of information
Brotherhood of St Laurence (2013) Website (accessed 05.12.2013) and Newsletter Issue 49: December 2012
Frankston Mornington Peninsula Local Learning & Employment Network Inc. – Community VCAL – A case study http://www.fmpllen.com.au/community-vcal.html (Accessed 05.12.13)
Myconos, G. (2013) Successes and challenges in re-engagement. Evaluating the third year of a Community VCAL education program for young people. Brotherhood of St Laurence, Fitzroy, Vic.
Myconos, G. (2012) Re-engagement, training and beyond. Evaluating the second year of a Community VCAL education program for young people. Research summary. Brotherhood of St Laurence, Fitzroy, Vic.
Myconos, G. (2011) A path to re-engagement. Evaluating the first year of a Community VCAL education program for young people. Research summary. Brotherhood of St Laurence, Fitzroy, Vic.
Myconos, G. & Smart, L. (2012) Navigating VET. The experience of ‘at risk’ youth. Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Please note, where possible and appropriate, we have adopted the language and terminology used by the program sources (italic fonts) and referred to the most recent publicly available information.
This vignette was developed in 2013 by The Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning (part of the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Network) for the project Putting the jigsaw together: innovative learning engagement programs in Australia and supported by the Ian Potter Foundation.