A conference on flexible education options.

Education is definitely an important focus in our community – we all recognise and acknowledge this fact. But education also has many faces, and although traditional schooling works for some, it doesn’t always work for everyone. The Doing School Differently conference, aimed at all those who are interested in flexible and inclusive education, was held in Melbourne last week over the 15th and 16th of September, and Pam Waters from LLEN in Gippsland East was one of around 500 attendees at this exciting conference. 

Doing School Differently aimed to bring together educators, researchers, policy makers and young people committed to developing and sustaining successful educational opportunities. The facilitators provided a platform for advancing a national conversation on practise and research in flexible education. People and educators from all over the country were in attendance, to listen to and learn from speakers from all over the world – each with their own stories and experiences to encourage and inspire new systems and ideas across the country.

The appeal of school and education is different to everyone – especially young students! – and finding and maintaining the balance is paramount. One message that presented itself strongly throughout the conference was that the needs of kids and young students need to be first and foremost, and that every single person is different. Of course, this can make providing engaging education difficult, and the examples of programs and initiatives provided by the keynote speakers focused on a range of ideas, tactics and goals. 

Two of the speakers present who really piqued Pam’s attention were Nick Johns, of the Melbourne City Mission, and Richard Villa, an experienced educator from the USA, although every presenter over the two days of the conference had great things to share. The common thread weaving them all together? Flexible learning has many forms, and a basis in respectful, connected and tailored learning with strong relationships will provide many positive outcomes. 

Here in Gippsland East we have a few great examples of flexible learning,which includes but is not limited to the Changing Lanes program at Bairnsdale Secondary College, and the senior secondary courses available through Federation Training. Both of the above support young people and students who have found themselves not quite fitting into mainstream schooling. It is important that we encourage and support all youth to have equal access to educational success, tailored to their specific abilities and skills, regardless of background, rural location or socio-economic situation – and conferences such as Doing School Differently certainly help to bring new ideas into focus for the greater good of the entire community. With more interest and further learning, there may be the possibility for exploring more learning options in Gippsland East so we can be sure we are supporting everyone within the community. This works neatly into what LLEN’S are striving to achieve across all communities, including Gippsland.

The Doing School Differently conference was successful and engaging, and is sure to bring about more conversation in the future – there are lots of opportunities and lots of models available to reference, and we are happy to encourage what could be some interesting and engaging outcomes. We are so happy that Pam was able to attend this conference, and the LLEN in conjunction with Flexible Learning Australia were also pleased to be able to support a few local teachers in attending as well (from Lakes Entrance Secondary College, Federation Training and Maffra Secondary College).