Berry Street School opens doors in 2017

SUPPORT: Berry Street School principal Robert Miller, left, with new Ballarat campus head Damien McKee at the Flexible Learning Forum.

SUPPORT: Berry Street School principal Robert Miller, left, with new Ballarat campus head Damien McKee at the Flexible Learning Forum.

A Berry Street School will open in Ballarat next year.

It will be based in the “Glenvale” site in Yarrowee Street, Sebastopol, which was formerly an Exclusive Brethren school.

The school will initially cater for 20 students who have been impacted by trauma and become disengaged from schooling.

Berry Street School principal Robert Miller was the guest speaker at a flexible learning forum in Ballarat on Friday.

It was organised by Highlands LLEN and Flexible Learning Victoria and held in the Ballarat Technology Park in Lydiard Street South.

“We’re hoping for growth so we can cater for up to 60 students in the next few years,” Mr Miller said.

“There was a huge need here so we had a look to see if we could do something.

“The Grampians region has an extremely high number of disengaged students.”

He said the school taught a “trauma-informed” model, based on positive psychology and dealing with family and societal issues.

“The students have no role model or support from their parents so we take on the role model role.”

He said the students could come from in-home care, from broken and damaged family relationships, from homes with chaotic structures and even living independently.

Mr Miller said Ballarat had a lot of support for students aged over 14 through services such as Link-Up but the key need was in the 10 to 14 age bracket.

Damian McKee will be principal of the Ballarat campus and said he had been working in mainstream schools for 30 years and “seeing students slip through the system”.

“But when you’re working in that system, it’s difficult to address,” Mr McKee said.

“I’d rather do something about it and support people in need.”

He said the initial intake of year 7 and 8 students would study foundation numeracy and literacy plus electives such as woodwork and art.

“It’s about developing positive behaviours and personal development skills.

“The big one will be engaging in the community – that will be a real focus.”