By Brendan Rees

Cranbourne East Secondary College has been shortlisted a finalist in this year’s Victorian Education Excellence Awards.
The college is among the top-three finalists for Outstanding Education Support Team in recognition for its ‘Lift Off’ program which began at the start of this year, with 18 students enrolled from seven local secondary schools in the region.
Cranbourne East Secondary College principal Mandee Strickland said the Lift Off program was an initiative of the Cranbourne East Secondary College wellbeing team.
“It was 12 months in the planning phase, and was created from the simple premise that all students need to engage in learning, but we recognised that many students face barriers that needed to be addressed.”
“The success in engaging not only our students but other students in our local area shows that our wellbeing team has a strong moral purpose,” Ms Strickland said.
“They are a dynamic and creative team led by Debbie Edwards and includes Hayley Williams (social worker), Jacqueline Binns and Harlin Gandhok (counsellors) and Anna Syposs (health promotion nurse). We are very proud of their nomination as finalists in the Victorian Education Excellence Awards, as it’s recognition for their hard work and dedication to improving student outcomes.”
“The goal of the Lift Off program is to promote complete, physical, emotional and social wellbeing through collaborative care from the school, family and community the young person is connected to. The key to the success of the Lift Off program is the support from partnering agencies such as the registered training organisation, SkillInvest, Balla Balla Community Centre, where the program runs from and Connections UnitingCare, who provide a dedicated family support worker.”
Ms Strickland said the program was launched in term one this year with an initial enrolment of 18 students from seven local government secondary colleges in the south-east region.
She said student outcomes had been “phenomenal” and exceeded expectations.
“Student attendance and engagement has significantly improved, and parents have reported that this is the best thing that has happened for their child in a long time.”
Ms Strickland said the program gave hope for students to have a brighter future.
She said students, parents and facilitators at the Lift Off program identified that smaller class sizes run from the Balla Balla Community House assisted in reducing student anxiety, and a 1:8 ratio allowed facilitators to support and spend the necessary time with each student to create a safe, nurturing environment.
“All students with similar academic skills, strengths and challenges – encourages and fosters a sense of companionship, empathy and respect,” she said.
“Self-paced assessment tasks targeting areas of interest – promotes passion and excitement for their classwork.”
The awards highlight exemplary education and innovation – including staff that go “beyond the call of duty” – in government schools in the state.
Winners will be announced on Friday 27 October at the Plaza Ballroom, Melbourne.

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