Camperdown College: An Innovative 3-way Buddy System

In the Lakes and Craters region of South-West Victoria, Camperdown College, a P-12 state school, has created an innovative buddy program that aims to create a sense of belonging for Prep students. The School facilitates a 3-Way Buddy program which extends beyond the traditional Prep – Year 6 Buddy relationship by also linking in a year 12 student.  The program consists of formal introductions, reading time, school activities and celebrations which fosters a relationship between the 3 Buddies. 

In 2019, Principal Mrs Cherie Kilpatrick discovered a special milestone in the history of the program; it was the completion of the first cycle of the program. During a whole School Assembly and Induction Ceremony, when Year 12 Students graced the stage with their Year 6 Buddy alongside, it became apparent that this wasn’t the first time the pair had met. They had, of course, been buddies back in 2013 when the Year 12 was the Year 6, and the Year 6 was the Prep. The pair of ‘old buddies’ introduced their new Prep Buddy to the audience and so began another cycle of the 3-Way Buddy program. 

Junior Campus acting Principal Jacinta Tolland says the cycle of belonging to the School Community, knowing “a big person” or knowing “a little person” is equally beneficial to all three of the participants. 

“We couldn’t say that it has more benefits for either of the year levels-all the students take different things from the program.  The Year 6 students have regular fortnightly sessions with their Prep buddies which are structured and planned by the teacher. What we often observe with the Buddy program is the students taking it into their own hands and we see unplanned interactions out in the yard- or within the school gates which really shows the bond developed” says Jacinta. 


Lachie Bennet (Year 6) and Issac Coote-Smith (Prep) meet for the first time 6 years ago- dated 2014  

“Then looking forward when these two students are 6 years older they’ll be reunited as Year 12 and Year 6 and their growth will be visible in more than just photographs” says Jacinta. 

Prep Teacher, Kathryn Edwards, says the 3-way Buddy program delivers remarkable learning outcomes for the Preps in their first year of schooling. 

“One of the formal activities at the end of the year involves the Preps writing a letter to their Year 12 Buddy just before VCE Exams begin and it’s an interesting process asking Preps to think about what it means for these Year 12’s who are becoming ‘adults’. It’s a lot of fun for the Preps to think about what they aspire to be when they grow up” says Katherine. 

Reunited Buddies Lachie Bennet (Year 12) and Issac Coote- Smith (Year 6) with their new Prep Buddy Oscar Stephenson- dated 2020 

On the other end of the scale the Year 12 students enjoy their involvement with the youngest members of the college and consider the Buddy Program downtime and a useful chill out from the busy Year 12 schedule. Katie Taylor is the Year 12 co-ordinator and she says the time spent with buddies is heart-warming and really beautiful to see. 

“We take the most senior students on the campus who are often rushed, busy and sometimes stressed out, over to the Junior Campus and what you see is these amazing patient and understanding people appear who happily read, colour or count with their Prep Buddy” says Katie. 

“It’s a visible reminder to our Year 12’s of where they’ve come from- and for the Preps and Year 6 students they can see ahead to where they’re going” says Katie. 

Principal Cherie Kilpatrick says there are always more ways in which Camperdown College could be exploring the program and the possibilities of how it can be developed in the future. 

“We love what the 3-way Buddy program currently delivers to all 3 of the participants currently, but we’re always open to exploring more ways we can add value to the program in the future” says Cherie.

Phil Brown

Author Phil Brown

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