Weeroona College Bendigo
Additional Learning Support Program (WALS)
Winner outstanding school, rural or regional category
My Education Awards 2017
Weeroona Secondary College caters for Year 7 – 10 students in the north of Bendigo. Several years ago, refugee and asylum seeker families from Myanmar, mainly from a Karen background, began arriving in Bendigo. There was no local English Language Centre so students commenced school with very little English.
The college introduced the Weeroona Additional Learning Support Program (WALS) primarily to provide additional support for the Karen background students, but also open to other EAL students. WALS operates once a week, in partnership with Grade 6 Karen students from White Hills Primary School and is supported by teachers and skilled volunteers, who provide one-to-one tutoring for students.
A key aspect of the support program has been the employment of a Karen speaking Multicultural Education Aide (MEA), who assists students with their work and provides a vital link between students, families, community, and the school.
“It helps me finish all the work that’s due. It’s given me experience to help other people who need it. It’s a great opportunity. We eat lots of yummy food! If we don’t have homework, we can get the teachers to get extra help.” Year 10 student
Staff members provide holistic support for the students who attend, and students are encouraged to take on additional responsibilities in the club. WALS is not just about academic work, with projects including RACV Energy Breakthrough Pedal Prix, a Water Safety Program, a Pre-Driver Education Program, developing a traditional dance presentation and helping with ‘Deb’ dresses for the school Celebration Ball.
WALS contributes to student’s well-being and confidence, leading to greater participation in the classroom and extracurricular activities. The program provides students with informal opportunities to expand their English vocabulary and gain a variety of skills and uses a variety of creative methods to meet the needs of EAL students both educationally and socially.