Breaking the Mold
26 February 2018
A year ago, Korumburra local Corrine Garton faced a fork in the road. To return to school and complete her senior years or move forward without a high school qualification.
“High school wasn’t right for me, but I wanted to help people, and the best way to do that was with a qualification,” Corrine said. “I needed an alternative pathway where I could reach my potential.”
Today, the future is looking brighter than ever for Corrine, who has been accepted to study Youth Work at Victoria University after completing the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) at Education Centre Gippsland (ECG) College in Leongatha.
ECG College Head of School, Jamie Robertson, said that the College’s customized VCAL program was unique in the region.
“Our programs turn traditional schooling upside down,” Mr Robertson said. “Instead of expecting the student to fall in line with what the school is offering, we tailor our studies around what each student needs to succeed. They attain the same skill set and certificates as their peers, but our learning environment is very different.
“Some kids feel like square pegs in round holes. We don’t change the peg – we change the setting.”
Flexible learning schools like ECG College are growing in popularity throughout Australia, as students who need more support seek innovative alternatives to mainstream classrooms. For Corrine, the personalised learning approach was the missing ingredient in her schooling success.
“It was such a relief to find a school where I could be myself,” she said. “I used to feel like the odd one out. Here, everyone has a place. You’re encouraged to do your best, but in your own way. By the end of the year, everyone is so close that the campus feels like a second home, and you are armed with what you need to follow your dreams.”
For fellow ECG College graduate, Michael Franklin, the school offered the chance to be more hands-on in the classroom.
“Before I started VCAL, I was really struggling in class,” Michael said. “I wasn’t keeping up with the homework and the teachers weren’t able to give me the help I needed. It just wasn’t the right fit. But here, the classes are small and you get to learn by doing.
“One of my favourite projects of the year was working with the Salvation Army to create a Youth Week event, from helping with the overall planning right through to selling items we’d made in a stall on the day. It was the first time I had done a project like that. It was a lot of fun but I learned a lot, too.”
Michael is now working as a kitchen hand at a popular Leongatha restaurant and, with his newly secured drivers licence, is seeking additional work as a trades apprentice.
“Alternative school settings are the best-kept-secret in some ways,” Mr Robertson said. “It’s important for both parents and students to know that if they are struggling in high school, there are other great options available to them.”