An innovative school program focused on improving student engagement and long-term education outcomes is expanding in Ballarat and the surrounding region.
Beaufort Secondary College joined Hands On Learning earlier this year, a program that is helping dozens of students in the region develop confidence and skills that are helping them re-connect to school and set themselves up for future success.
From where we started, the development in every student is fantastic.Andrew Hooper, Beaufort Secondary College
The in-school program supported by aid agency Save the Children takes participating students out of the classroom for hands on learning one day a week.
The program is already in place at Mount Clear College, Daylesford College and Creswick Primary School.
Beaufort Secondary College Hands On Learning co-ordinator Andrew Hooper said he was already seeing the impact of the program through student progression and skill development.
"Hands On Learning is about what the students as individuals want to each get out of the program, whether it be development of social skills or behaviour improvements," he said.
"From where we started, the development in every student is fantastic."
Ten Beaufort Secondary College students were selected to be a part of the full-day program one day a week
Students spend time at their school working together on practical projects, including construction and hospitality, that foster teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills.
The model creates a place to belong on school grounds but outside the classroom where students build relationships, learn through real life projects that give back to the school community, and develop strategies to shift attitudes and behaviours that can be barriers to learning in the classroom.
Beaufort Secondary College year eight student Tom Bilston joined the school's Hands On Learning program in term two.
He said he had made good friends and learnt new skills that he had applied back in the classroom.
"I have been more focused in class and have been trying to do my work more," he said.
Students are asked to develop individual focus plans and share them with the group at the beginning of each Hands on Learning day.
At the end of each session they reflect on their progress and whether they met their focus plan throughout the program day.
"Mine is to teach people my skills and ask for help if I need it," Tom said.
"I have been asking for help more than I was at before in the classroom and on Fridays (the program day)."
Hands On Learning students from Beaufort Secondary College, Mount Clear College and Daylesford College came together for an inter-school program day in Ballarat last month.
About 25 students met at the Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre for lunch and an afternoon of rock climbing and gymnastics.
Hands On Learning Regional Victoria School Support Manager Steve Schneider inter-school days were common in the east of the state, but it was the first time it had been done for Ballarat region students.
"Even though the students are from different towns, are in different schools and come from a variety of different circumstances, it is good for them to know they are not the only people who are involved in this program - we are at 120 schools across the country now," he said.
Mr Schneider said students engaging in the activities together was what Hands On Learning is about' - challenging yourself, being a supportive team member, persisting, problem-solving and realising it is okay to fail.
"Before the students came in they all chose a focus plan; for most their key focus was about supporting other people, challenging themselves, or persisting through when times are tough," he said.
"We had a couple of the kids who were saying they were scared of heights or didn't want to put a harness on who have gone up the rock climbing wall. If they can build on what they have learnt here and apply that back to Hands On Learning and outside of the classroom, that will be another win."
Data shows the Central Highlands region has one of the highest rates of early school leavers in Victoria.
The latest Victorian government On Track survey revealed 569 young people in Ballarat exited school before completing year 12 in 2017. That same year 1266 young people completed year 12 or equivalent in Ballarat.