Tenison Woods College Flexible Learning Program

Shepherdson Road, Mount Gambier, SA, 5290

Established in 2002, the Flexible Learning Program (FLP) at Tenison Woods College is an alternate education option for young people seeking to complete their South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE, Years 11-12) without having to attend school. Part of the educational provision offered at Tenison Woods, a co-educational Catholic College, the FLP enables students to manage work, study and academic success in a program that caters specifically for their individual needs. It is particularly suitable for students who: are more practical ‘hands on’ learners, prefer/need to enter the workforce, have caring responsibilities, are pregnant or young parents, have disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health conditions, or are homeless or living in poverty. Students come from diverse regional communities and a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. In 2011, 119 students (64 female and 55 male) were enrolled in the FLP.

How this program works

The FLP provides a holistic model of pastoral care and customised education delivery aiming to meet the diverse educational and psycho-social needs of students who aspire to complete the SACE but for whom the traditional model of classroom based schooling is not appropriate. At the FLP, the emphasis is on individual student personal development, recognising prior learning and enhancing skills and knowledge for future participation in the community. This involves making connections to students’ worlds in the learning process, recognising broader learning such as continued participation in sport, music or other community activity and acknowledging the need to meet the basic welfare/pastoral needs of students before formal learning can begin.

Each student has a case manager who oversees their educational program and works with the students to develop an individual curriculum plan designed to meet the student’s specific needs and aspirations. Students spend between 2 and 5 days per week in the program but do not attend school classes, rather, a range of community based learning activities are utilised. Activities such as, employment, TAFE studies and volunteer or community work, are packaged as SACE Stage 1 and 2 Community Studies subjects for which students are required to collect and collate evidence of their learning, and reflect upon this learning. On-line learning and distance learning packages, with tailored learning tasks and assessments, enable students to complete compulsory units such as mathematics and English. The program works closely with local employers, education and training providers, government support agencies, NGOs, volunteer organisations, service organisations and local health providers to support and enhance students’ programs of learning and accreditation.


Positive outcomes, indicating the success of this program, include: growth in student numbers, high SACE completion figures for students on the program and, as learning is applied from the FLP to the wider College context, the customisation of SACE delivery for ‘mainstream’ students contributing positively to the school’s overall Year 12 retention and achievement rates:

Credentialed attainment: 90% completion rate for SACE for students on the FLP (2005).

Engagement and participation in learning: Enrolment figures on the FLP have grown from 2 in 2002 to 119 in 2011.

Wider influence: Student performance in the SACE has steadily improved for the whole College since the establishment of the FLP (2002-2010). The percentage of Tenison Woods College students receiving A Grade and A & B Grade results in SACE Stage 2 was greater than the state average (2002-2010). There have been significant increases in the number and diversity of students seeking to complete their SACE at Tenison Woods College (2005-2010) and a significant increase in students seeking flexible options for completing their SACE – both through the College and through combining part-time work and study (2005-2010). There have been higher retention rates in all levels of schooling at the College (2002-2006).

Why this program is successful

Staff members involved in the development of the FLP identify the case management approach, flexibility of the program, personal flexibility of the case manager, customised support structures, recognition of difference and the empowerment of students as keys to success in enabling students to reach their full potential. Through the program students are encouraged to develop networks and knowledge to help manage many of the complex issues impacting on their lives and to complete their secondary education.

Sources of information

Ronan, P. and Moriarty, J. (2006). Case Management – shaping futures through new models of learning. Presented at the ACE 2006 Conference.

Tenison Woods College (2011) Annual Report.

Tenison Woods College (2013) School Website (accessed 27.02.2013).

Please note, where possible and appropriate, we have adopted the language and terminology used by the program sources (italic fonts) and referred to the most recent publicly available information.

This vignette was developed in 2013 by The Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning (part of the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Network) for the project Putting the jigsaw together: innovative learning engagement programs in Australia and supported by the Ian Potter Foundation.

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