The day that Berry Street School students went back to school was a day of joy, laughter and of showing genuine care for each other.
Our school is a specialist secondary school that supports students who have become disengaged from mainstream education – they have either stopped attending or have been excluded.
Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, with some living in out-of-home care (foster, kinship and residential care). Many have been subjected or exposed to abuse, neglect and family violence. This means they often have gaps in their learning and behavioural and social problems in school.
Our school uses the Berry Street Education Model (a trauma-informed education framework) to create a stable, supportive and flexible environment. Given our students’ backgrounds, school closure may have been particularly disruptive to their learning, routine and positive social connections.
Return to school
Along with the rest of Victoria, school holidays started early on 24 March for our school, with wellbeing staff checking in on students regularly over the phone during the holiday break.
For the beginning of term in mid-April, some young people were welcomed back to campus with social distancing measures in place; others opted to learn from home.
It was so wonderful to see our students coming back with such enthusiasm to learn. Our school is an encouraging space for them with positive routines in place. It would have been difficult for many students to be away from school under these circumstances.
All the young people who came onto campus respected the parameters that were in place: they washed their hands when they arrived as requested and maintained social distance. Many expressed that they enjoy being on campus to engage with their teachers, friends and the very missed therapy dogs.
Some highlights from our Morwell campus
- The common room was filled with laughter after the morning’s positive primer – a game to encourage laughter and connection between the students – as students engaged with each other.
- One of our students articulated how much she had missed coming to school and was proud of her efforts and achievements that day.
- Another mentioned that she had been waking up most mornings around lunchtime during the break. She was so excited to come back to school that she organised everything the night before.
- Another young person was particularly keen to read with his teacher as he had new glasses!
Moving to online learning
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, teachers and other education staff prepared to move to its new online learning platform, SeeSaw. Some students don’t have access to appropriate technology or the internet at home, so iPads and data are being provided to those in need.
While our four campuses are unique in their approach, tailored arrangements are being made for each student: we are providing online learning options, while also ensuring our campuses are a safe and welcoming environment for those who want to attend.
While our community is facing a challenging time, we will continue to strive towards ensuring young people feel connected, supported and have access to education that helps them towards a thriving future.
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