VCESS 2014


The university has been inundated with hundreds of VCE students in the past two weeks for UMSU’s VCESS 2014 program.

2014 marks my second year volunteering with VCESS. This year I tutored Unit 3/4 Psychology, was a group leader, and ran a workshop for the program.

Here’s a summary of VCESS in 2014.

What is VCESS?


In 2014, the program ran from 6-17 January under the UMSU umbrella.

‘VCESS’ is short for VCE Summer School. It’s a two-week full time program held in January, aiming to ‘provide affordable and equitable education access for students who are from schools that are disadvantaged or under-represented in the Victorian tertiary system.’

The other VCE summer programs offered by other organisations are ridiculously expensive (e.g. see TSFX prices here). Other organisations charge around $100 per subject for 2 sessions. VCESS charges $190 for 2 whole weeks of classes for all their subjects. See the price difference?

This year, VCESS has expanded the size of the program to a whopping 380(ish) students. The program offered tutoring in 67 VCE subjects.

VCESS offered two types of program

There were 2 programs – day program and a residential program. The day program is from 9am-4.15pm. Day students participate in all the activities, attend classes, but are required to go home after 4.15pm.

Then there’s the ‘resi kids’ – these guys are those who are coming from rural areas, or have to travel forever to get to Melbourne Uni. There were 56 Resi students whom resided at St Hilda’s. They were divided up into teams (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Purple) and they battle it out for the ‘Residential Cup’ outside VCESS hours.

The lead up to VCESS


Before the program began, we were off to Creswick for a tutor training camp – which was lots of fun. Alternatively, if tutors couldn’t make the camp, there were other training days offered at uni.

At the camp we went through tutoring techniques, classroom management…plus, the camp was a way for us to meet the other tutors in the program.

The people involved with VCESS

To make a big program like VCESS possible, a lot of volunteers were required. In 2014, there were approximately 150 volunteer tutors. Yes – we really did give up two whole weeks of our holiday for the students (the things we do for VCESS). Within VCESS, tutors may have special roles, and these are outlined below.

Group Leaders

Tutors and group leaders were in the orange shirts.

All the students are allocated to a group, from Group A – U. And each letter is further split into 2 groups – e.g. A1, A2, B1, B2.  In total we had 40 groups, and 40 tutors took on the role as a group leader.

Group leaders are the equivalent to a ‘home room teacher’. We meet our students everyday at 11am, mark the role, make the announcements, and hand out zines. Zines are like a newsletter to keep students in the loop of things (news, room changes, and fun things like sudoku, horoscopes etc.


Activities team were in the red tops

As the name suggests, they looked after all the VCESS activities including Trivia, the BBQs, scav hunt etc.


1495350_599400650129103_233564314_oThe welfaeries were in charge of looking after everyone. They check up on students AND the tutor volunteers to make sure we’re all good.

That includes making sure we’re all fed, watered, not dying in the extreme heat, and other welfare-related tasks.


Improvisation at its best

These guys were stuck in a little office on Level 2 of Union House which was an oven. There were no blinds in the office, so they improvised with the share tutor shirts.

These guys looked after the logistics of VCESS and help the program to run smoothly – things like room changes, printing things out, coordinating movement of groups etc.

IT Operations

Photo: Michael Gill

New to VCESS this year, IT Ops looked after the technology side of things such as the timetabling process, workshop allocations etc. They also created a Tutor Portal so we can access class roles and report absences online.

Resi tutors


Resi tutors stayed with the residential students at St Hilda’s. They organised the resi activities such as the Amazing Race, Muggle Quidditch Cup, disco night etc.



The Zineditors put together the daily zines, and the megazine (which is the big fancy zine distributed at the end of the program).


In the purple shirts

And of course – the directors. Without these guys, there is no VCESS. They are the ones who do the nitty gritty work of putting a program together.

What happened at VCESS?

To put it simply – A LOT happened. In addition to the classes, there is also a strong social component to the program. I’ll try to skim through the main things that happened at VCESS. 


IMG_4924There’s about an average of 10 kids in each class – so this creates a more personalised learning environment, which was great! Students don’t have classes all day, they are allocated ‘free periods’ where they can relax at VCESS headquarters (level 2, Union House).


And we also offered one-on-one tutoring for students during these free periods. They would write their names up on the whiteboard, and if tutors are free, we pop our names down and we help them!



Delivering my workshop

Every week, we have two workshop blocks in the timetable (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11.15-12.15pm). A very big range of different workshops were offered to students in those blocks – and these workshops were run by the tutors.

Here were the workshops that were on.

  • Hip Hop
  • Beginners’ Spanish
  • A Basic Introduction to Climate Change
  • What’s this thing called science
  • Activism
  • Dodgeball
  • Beginners’ Crochet
  • Origami
  • Get that job! Tips on tackling job interviews
  • Transforming your school community
  • Salsa
  • A history of English
  • Beginners’ juggling
  • A guide to public speaking
  • Beginners’ Greek Dancing
  • Crash course to University (My workshop, Hurrah)
  • Learn to Play Magic the Gathering
  • Knot tying
  • Gender in Disney
  • Quiet study
  • Argentine Tango
  • Facepainting
  • Growing your own food. Ideas for the future and practical tips for now
  • Yoga
  • Maths of Roulette
  • Beginners’ French

Yes – whole lot of different workshops!

Scavenger hunt


The activities team organised a mini amazing race on campus with each group competing against each other for gold stars, points and glory.



Groups battled it out through their trivia skills on North Court. Unfortunately for this blogger, her trivia skills are pretty poor. And her group was not impressed.

Tertiary Expo


Held in Grand Buffet Hall in Union House, VCESS invited other universities down to a Tertiary Expo to help our VCE students with their plans after year 12.

Saying goodbye to the students

Shirt signing

It was really hard to say goodbye! These students have come a long way since we first met them, and yes – there were teary students.

We had a Goodbye Festival to farewell our students. Prizes were awarded, lip synch battles between tutors entertained us, and the Resi students performed the Resi Dance.



Students also signed a VCESS 2014 banner, and here were some of the comments:

IMG_5092 IMG_5089 IMG_5088

IMG_5087 IMG_5086 IMG_5084

In summary

VCESS was good, so good. VCESS really is a special program, and the kids get a lot out of it. It was rewarding knowing that we have made a difference in their journey to complete VCE.

Highly recommend getting involved in next year’s program! Good stuff.

For more photos of the program, head to the VCESS 2014 facebook page.



3 thoughts on “VCESS 2014

  1. Yeah, I wish I knew this existed last year… I went to TSFX instead. They were helpful, but I think the small classes would’ve been more beneficial for me!
    Oh well, maybe I’ll help out next year now that my offer’s come! :)

  2. Had a look at the TSFX prices – I love how education institutions that charge a lot don’t call their fees “price” but “investment.”

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