VCAL Provider – Sunbury College
Under Julie’s guidance, Sunbury College VCAL students planned and created a sensory garden in partnership with Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School (SMRSS). The idea of the project was to provide SMRSS students with a space where they could explore their environment in a safe, calm way that encourages curiosity and a connection with nature. The garden is designed to stimulate the senses by encouraging students to touch, smell, taste, look, listen and interact with the natural environment. This has been achieved through landscaping, planting of colourful and aromatic plants, including edible plants, and interactive sensory equipment. Wheelchair accessible pathways and ramps ensure the garden is accessible to everyone.
As VCAL coordinator and literacy teacher, Julie worked hard to develop and lead the program, which had a strong focus on student voice and agency, along with community-based learning and the development of a partnership between the two schools.
The integrated project was inquiry-based, focusing on the skills learnt during the process, including communication, collaboration, self- and peer-reflection. The authentic experience encouraged questioning, problem-solving and motivation to investigate. Students were given a voice in a respectful and trusting environment, where they could develop and participate in the experience with staff.
Julie ensured the project met a range of VCAL outcomes, with students planning and organising the project autonomously, working effectively as a team, and gaining skills in presentation, communication, literacy and numeracy. Students also increased their understanding of occupational health and safety to make the project compliant.
Julie ensured the program was designed so that students were at the centre of all decision-making at every stage of the project from conception to celebration. The curriculum was focused on the students’ learning, individually and collectively, and in ways that allowed students and teachers to be informed partners in the learning process. Students conducted audits, met with clients, maintained a financial report and created budgets. They were also responsible for promoting the project via the media and organised the grand opening of the garden by Josh Bull MP.
The commitment to maintain the garden has created a long-term connection between the two schools, ensuring that Sunbury College students have the opportunity to take pride in giving back to the community, while the SMRSS students have been given an opportunity to engage in new and beneficial experiences.
VCAL Provider – Mentone Grammar School
Shelley has been the VCAL coordinator at Mentone Grammar since the program’s introduction three years ago. In 2019 she evolved the program to incorporate two in-house Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) programs, Certificate II Business and Certificate II Outdoor Recreation, which all VCAL students completed in addition to their VET program of choice. This would provide students with as many opportunities as possible to develop skills and knowledge they can apply to a wide range of workplaces and contexts.
The practical component of the Certificate II Business involves running an in-school pizza business once a fortnight. Students develop work schedules, safe operating procedures, position descriptions, marketing materials and customer feedback surveys, which they use to improve aspects of their operation. They also develop and apply their customer service knowledge, communication and numeracy skills in the fast-paced work environment.
Shelley and her team were able to provide students with several excellent opportunities to demonstrate practical skills in classes, through various excursions and camps. The program provides opportunities for personal development, independence and applied learning. Last year students refurbished their VCAL space after six months of planning and proposals. Shelley inspired them to think about learning spaces and different learning needs, so they created different ‘zones’ in their space, including a team-meeting conference area, smaller collaborative spaces and benches for independent work. The students also painted the room, selected the furnishings and colour scheme, and constructed the workbench.
Shelley has continued to develop community links to support the students’ learning in Personal Development Skills Unit 2, for which students complete individual community projects. Proposals included an indigenous garden, a trip to the movies for students from Yarrabah School, collections and fundraising for the Salvation Army, and a fun run for Year 8 students. Shelley also looks after the service component of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which all VCAL students are enrolled in.
All students successfully completed their VCAL program level in 2019, with approximately one-third also currently undertaking School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships. As some students can only attend school two days per week, Shelley ensures there is teacher support available to them on other days so they can catch up on their learning outcomes.
The success of the VETiS programs for the school is testament to Shelley’s innovative ideas and commitment to creating the best possible opportunities for VCAL students.
Belinda Evans and Sally Ross
VCAL Provider – Narre Warren South P–12 College and Beaufort Secondary College
The Closing the Gap project was a joint initiative between Narre Warren South P–12 College (NWS) teacher Sally Ross and Beaufort Secondary College teacher Belinda Evans. They had long wanted to explore a city–rural partnership through VCAL to highlight the differences between the two places, and also explore the similarities between VCAL students and programs in different communities. The team had support and leadership: Sally and Belinda, as the VCAL leaders at NWS and Beaufort Secondary College (situated 50km from Ballarat) respectively, worked together to develop a program between the two schools. The goal was to close the gap between country and city, so that country students could develop an understanding of multicultural Australia, and city students could experience life in the country.
The project aimed to promote tolerance, respect and harmony through education. Activities organised between the two schools included a city camp; a trip to NWS by Beaufort students to attend its multicultural day and celebrate the school’s 60-plus different cultural groups; and a trip by NWS students to Beaufort to experience rural life.
The staff assisted students to organise and lead the NWS P–12 College Multicultural Day. Students were responsible for organising the program, the opening ceremony, guest speakers, student-led workshops, student sign-ups, catering, competitions, karaoke and a concert. The Beaufort students participated in this full-day event and were able to interact with NWS students, participate in workshops, and learn about the different cultures, traditions and food they had not experienced before.
Sally and Belinda worked cooperatively and with a sense of the importance of the opportunity that students from both schools were going to experience. In many ways this would prove to be a life-changing experience for many of the students from these totally different communities. Tolerance and harmony replaced ignorance and fear and helped to ‘close the gap’ between rural and suburban Victoria.
At the conclusion of Closing the Gap, students from both schools agreed that whether they came from the city or the country, and despite all their apparent differences, they were still teenagers with a lot in common. City developed a new respect for country and country for city. The partnership has proven to be so successful that it will continue into the future.
Teacher of the Year
VCAL Provider – Emmanuel College
Bobbie has developed the VCAL program at Emmanuel College into a high-functioning learning environment that incorporates applied learning with academic rigour to enable students at all levels gain work-ready skills.
He has conducted and organised several different types of professional learning experiences for VCAL teachers, and meets with all new teachers to plan with them and ensure they understand VCAA learning outcomes and how to incorporate applied learning into the program. He then meets regularly with all VCAL teachers to discuss and evaluate individual learning plans for students. He has created a team-teaching environment, introducing project-based learning, in the form of Learning Sprints, to focus teaching methodology on individual students and collect data to evaluate and improve learning strategies.
Aspects of different VET courses have been introduced by Bobbie into the VCAL program, including Creative Industries and Business Studies. After gaining a Certificate IV in Assessment and Training, Bobbie supported other VCAL teachers to gain this qualification, which enables the team to assist students access VET units and learn a wide variety of work-ready skills.
Several types of applied learning have been created by Bobbie, to become a core part of the VCAL course. All subjects operate with a community base, which involves highlighting local issues and working with local groups to create a positive outcome. In 2019, a group of VCAL students raised funds to purchase a coffee machine. They then designed and converted a van into a mobile coffee van, which will be used at local events to teach hospitality skills, as well as raise funds for local groups and issues.
Personal development is individually focused. Bobbie has created a structure that allows students to focus on vocational pathways or an external passion to ensure they remain highly engaged. Recently, some students with artistic ability taught a four-week performing arts program for Year 4 students at a local primary school.
Bobbie has recently completed a Master of Educational Leadership, focusing on improving the outcomes for teachers and students as they move from the mainstream to the applied learning environment of VCAL. He is currently a member of the VCAA’s VCAL Quality Assurance Panel in the Western Region and is a school representative on the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria’s Grants Allocation Committee for Targeted Programs and VET VCAL Accountability Working Party.