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A very special program.

From left to right: VicRoads Centre Manager Kirsten Anderson, excited learner driver Jasmine with trainer Nikki, outside VicRoads Leongatha.

Monday, April third was a very special day at South Gippsland Special School (SGSS). It was the first day of the 2023 Changing Gears program and the first day trainer Nikki met students Grace, Jasmine, Noah, Jayden, his sister Sky, Julia, Micaylah and Corey.

The group was gathered excitedly when Nikki arrived, ready to learn about safe driving. Teacher’s aide Beck was concerned that Sky, Julia, Micaylah and Corey were only fifteen.

“That’s no problem at all,” trainer Nikki reassured Beck and her colleague Di, “the program is designed to give the students a really good understanding of the Victorian road rules and uses fun ways to help students retain the information. By the time the fifteen-year-olds are ready to sit their learner permit test, they'll be well prepared.”

Doing the program at fifteen can help sit the learner permit test at sixteen

The class launched themselves into the course with enthusiasm, all of them working hard to fill out the learner permit application form. The group also sat the BASE (Behaviour, Attitude, Safety, Experience) driver profile test at both the beginning and the end of the program. Their results showed they had all developed a great appreciation for driving safely and carefully on Victorian roads.

Then the course began in earnest. Students learned about everything from how their eyes scan the roads to the rules of uncontrolled intersections. Noah and Corey particularly enjoyed it when Nikki made an intersection on the floor with tape and had the students all behave as if they were driving cars.

Dad delivers birth certificate

The class was animated and engaged and the four students who were sixteen were very conscientious about bringing the ID documents they needed to sit their learner permit test. Noah’s father even visited the school to personally deliver his birth certificate!

One of the students had a medical condition and was worried about driving.

“It’s fine,” trainer Nikki explained, “you can sit the test on Thursday, then all you need to do is to visit your doctor and have them fill out a VicRoads driver medical form. You can then collect your licence once you present the results to the VicRoads office. From there you can take driving as slowly and carefully as you like.”

The students studied hard and by Wednesday afternoon trainer Nikki was well satisfied that the sixteen-year-olds; Grace, Jasmine, Jayden and Noah would all do well.

Vicky visits VicRoads on her day off

The day of the test dawned sunny and bright as Nikki met the students and their driver at VicRoads. Teacher’s aide Vicky also attended on her day off as she really wanted to support the students and see how they went.

VicRoads manager Kirsten Anderson and her team were incredibly busy when the group arrived, but the staff and students were given a wonderful greeting. As soon as Kirsten was available, they were given eye tests, processed for testing and ushered, one-by-one into the testing booth.

Jayden went first as he had a job at a local hardware store he needed to go to. It was not long before he heard the words, “Congratulations, you’ve passed!” from a thrilled Kirsten.

Nikki and the SGSS staff were excited and celebrated with him before he had to leave.

Jasmine, eager to get the test done, went next. Grace followed then Noah, who although one of the livelier members of the group, let everyone else go ahead of him and waited patiently for his turn.

Nikki does a happy dance

Once the girls had both passed with flying colours, Nikki wished Noah the best of luck saying, “If you pass too, I’ll do a happy dance right here in the middle of VicRoads.”

Noah took his time, reading every question carefully. He was rewarded with a pass above ninety percent.

“So are you going to do that happy dance?” Manager Kirsten asked Nikki.

“I said I would,” laughed Nikki and did her dance as promised. The students and staff had a good laugh but once they were done, Nikki became serious, “You deserve this," she said to the students, "You’ve all done exceptionally well and I’m extremely proud of you,” Nikki looked around, “also, I need to thank Kirsten, Beck, Vicky and all the SGSS and VicRoads staff. You are all very special people and we couldn’t have done this without you.”

Our excited new learner drivers hold their L Plates.

Possibilities open up

Driving opens up so many possibilities for disadvantaged young people. Classes are supportive, students and trainers inspire each other, showing the way for young people to overcome their obstacles to driving and experience success.

Click here to subscribe and find out about delivery of the Changing Gears program.

Call 1800 766 361 to find out more about Changing Gears.

Tags: #South Gippsland Specialist School, #SGSS, #SGSS Leongatha, #Leongatha, #community education program #safer roads #l plates, #learners permit, #road safety, #student driving program, #ChangingGears.

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