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Students defy COVID, storm event to gain L-permits

COVID lockdowns and restrictions and a devastating storm event failed to deter a group of students from Cire Community School’s Mount Evelyn campus who pushed through the additional challenges to gain their Learner Driver’s permits.

Having completed their Changing Gears Pre-Learner Driver education program, their Learner Permit tests on the fifth and final day were postponed due to the recent COVID lockdown and then again as a result of widespread power outages and disruptions caused by the damaging storm event that pounded the region and other parts of the Victoria in early June.

It’s an anxious time for anyone preparing for their Learner permits with candidates keen to sit their tests as soon as possible when they are ready. Our students truly showed their determination, resilience and competency on the third successful attempt with a 100 per cent pass rate and, on the day, having to enter the centre one at a time over several hours to undertake their tests due to COVID social distancing restrictions.

The now learner drivers from Mount Evelyn are among a total of 18 Cire Community School students who have gained their Learner Driver’s permits in recent weeks thanks to the Changing Gears program which focuses on the knowledge required for safer drivers and passengers and good decision making. Programs were successfully delivered at the Mount Evelyn and Yarra Junction campuses but a third had to be rescheduled to August, again due to the recent COVID shutdown.

Changing Gears has become an important part of Cire Community School’s offerings for several years and helps students achieve one of the ”rites of passage” which may not otherwise be within easy reach, as well as contribute to keeping our roads safer.

It has been made possible by support and funding through the Department of Transport and VicRoads. Students have achieved 100 per cent success rates for almost every program. Of significance is that Cire has as recently awarded funding for the safer driver and passenger intervention for 2021/2022 and is set to become the benchmark in the region for a new safer vehicles intervention which is being rolled out for the first time, as well as a Looking After Our Mates online session.

 “Changing Gears gives students, and their families, the confidence to undertake their Learner’s permit test and then gain invaluable time driving under adult supervision,” explained Karen Swankie who has been instrumental in securing the necessary grant funding and overseeing the program.

“It provides a supported environment that breaks down the road rules into manageable learning opportunities and as a result, our students have been incredibly successful in gaining their Learner permits over the years. We are now very excited to be able to extend our offerings to the additional interventions of safer vehicles and also Looking After Our Mates. ”

Karen and Willa Vale, who helped coordinate the recent program at the Mount Evelyn campus, emphasised the importance for Cire students to experience success.

Willa explained: ”Changing Gears gives students, particularly those with low literacy levels and self-confidence, the opportunity to achieve success by learning the road rules in a supportive environment with their peers. Facilitators work with individual students on areas where they may require extra support and students are able to learn with their peers, which further embeds the learning. Being able to sit for the test with a group, rather than alone, helps to alleviate nervousness associated with testing. It is such a valuable program for our students.”

The following feedback from students further highlights the value of the program:

I joined the Changing Gears program to hopefully gain a clearer understanding of the Learner’s permit test and to get started on my journey to becoming a responsible driver. The program exceeded my expectations, our teacher was a kind and patient lady who was willing to explain what and why the information she was presenting was valid.  I found it to be incredibly helpful and encouraging and would recommend others do it when the opportunity comes again – Tom

I really enjoyed the program and the extra support I received – Ben

I thought it was really good. It was good that it was at school so everyone was on the same level – Myles

It helped to have the support of other students in the class to learn the stuff – Ruby

I have been waiting to get my Learners through the school with the Changing Gears program – Shaun

It was good to learn with my mates – Hugo

I wasn’t able to get my Learners during COVID so it was good to be able to finally get it – Keely

Changing Gears - learner driver program

VCAL Students Getting Into Gear

Our Mt Evelyn Campus recently ran a four day Changing Gears course to help young people get their learners permit. Changing Gears is an initiative of Mission Australia that provides an interactive and flexible learning environment to assist young Victorians prepare for their learner test.
Having a driver’s licence opens the doors of opportunity for employment and community participation. Changing Gears supports people to take the first step along this important pathway. The program presents the road rules in an interactive and flexible manner and has a very high success rate in assisting young Victorians to prepare for and receive their learner permit.

Yarra Valley Community School had 13 students participate in the Changing Gears program, 10 from Mt Evelyn and 3 from Yarra Junction. They participated in a three day classroom style course where they learnt the road rules through interactive games, videos and practise test. Then on the fourth day, they were taken to Vic Roads in Burwood to sit their test. 10 of the 13 passed and received their learners, which is a great success rate. The program was very popular and we have received a lot of interest in the next course being held later in the year.
Here’s what some of our students had to say about Changing Gears:

“It was a good opportunity to be able to achieve the completion of my learners. The teacher Rob was really good at breaking it down into an easier way to remember all the road rules and tips. If I didn’t have this course I probably wouldn’t have got my learners anytime soon.” – Keith VCAL Mt Evelyn

“My favourite part of changing gears was after doing the test at Vic Roads finding out I got 100% from the help of the classes.” – Liam VCAL Mt Evelyn

“I learned so much in the few days and it was the best experience. I thank Rob so much, he’s a wonderful guy.” – Tmia VCAL Mt Evelyn

“It was a really good experience and helped me so much. Thank you Rob” – Paige VCAL Mt Evelyn

“It was incredibly useful and we learned a lot! It was good.” – Sam VCAL Mt Evelyn

To find out more about the Changing Gears program and Mission Australia click here