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One stop family shop opens

When Patsy Huggins arrived at Doveton College she had no qualifications, no confidence and bad teeth, The Age reports.

She enrolled her daughter in the school’s early learning centre and then signed up for an education for herself.

The school also put her in touch with a dentist who fitted her out with dentures.

“I had a car accident when I was 19 and lost some of my teeth and that put my self-confidence way down here,” she said, pointing to the ground.

The disadvantaged state school in Melbourne’s south-east doesn’t just enrol students, it enrols families.

It’s a one-stop shop, with an award-winning early learning centre, short courses for parents, community and volunteer programs, doctors, psychologists, paediatricians, fitness classes, playgroups, employment services and hundreds of extra-curricular activities.

Now the pioneering model, which is a partnership between the Colman Foundation and the state government, is being expanded to another 10 disadvantaged Victorian schools. These include Morwell Central Primary School, Seymour College, Carlton Primary School, Robinvale P-12 and Bridgewood Primary School.

The Colman Foundation and its philanthropic partners have committed $30 million over the next decade to make this a reality.

It also donated $1.8 million to help build Doveton College, which opened in 2012, and is spending $500,000 a year on its support services.

Philanthropist and retired businessman Julius Colman said the initiative — which is called Our Place — transforms schools into community hubs.

“We hunt down all the services and try to deliver them in an ordered, wraparound way, rather than a piecemeal way,” he said.

He said none of the services were pushed onto families.

“They elect to do something about their lives,” he said.

Principal Greg McMahon said the unique approach to education was paying off, with student attendance increasing from 85 to 93 per cent over the past three years.


Classes, playgroups and confidence: the one-stop shop for families (The Age)


Julius Colman / Colman Foundation