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Unique Living Learning Program Moves into Second Year

28 Feb 2022

Formerly disengaged students now in a ground-breaking education model supported by The Ross Trust and other philanthropic partners, have successfully moved through to the second year of the program.

The Living Learning program will eventually support 144 early school leavers over three years. 

The unique program runs at Hester Hornbrook Academy, an independent school run by Melbourne City Mission, and provides wraparound mental health and specialist education to students aged from 15 to 21 as they work towards a senior secondary qualification. 

Living Learning was developed as part of the Victorian Government’s Partnership Addressing Disadvantage initiative, which brings together the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to solve complex social issues.

Last year was the first full year of the program, which has a multidisciplinary team to work with the initial student cohort of 48. A second cohort of 48 are now being enrolled for 2022, and a third cohort will begin in 2023.  

Academy Principal Sally Lasslett said the pandemic presented extra challenges, but the staff and students had been resilient. The introduction of an app called Ripple was particularly helpful as it allowed students to privately tell their classroom team of their current wellbeing.

“The extended remote learning period in the third term took the wind out of the sails of many students, after finishing, they’re feeling empowered and successful,” Sally said.

“Completing secondary school allows them to access employment and education which may not have been possible. For those entering into further education they are often the first members of their extended families to do so.”

The program includes a teacher and youth worker in every classroom, and also has a clinical psychologist and an occupational therapist will this year join the team. Excursions and camps will run every term this year. 

Living Learning Manager Sam Barrett said the program was a new and unique program and approach. The partnership model provides a space for innovation between the Victorian Government, Melbourne City Mission, and philanthropic investors, including the Ross Trust. 

Sarah Hardy, the CEO of The Ross Trust, which in 2020 made a $500,000 impact investment to the program, is delighted with the success of the first year. 

“The Trustees knew this was a program we should support, and we’re very pleased to be able to explore unique financial models that address needs for young people trying to overcome barriers to complete their education,” Sarah said.

Sarah said collaborative approaches such as this, allowed for the not-for-profit and philanthropy sectors to work with government on challenging social issues. 

The Hester Hornbrook Academy began in 2011 as a small Community VCAL provider for young people connected with the Melbourne City Mission programs and services. Today it is an independent flexible senior secondary school that provides year-round enrolment opportunities for students who have not flourished in a traditional school setting.