Wendy Powson was already looking for tutors to help students get back to speed after one of the longest periods of remote learning in the world.
The Lilydale High School principal invited final-year teaching students to Lilydale to tutor students who had fallen behind during the coronavirus pandemic.
But she doesn't need to go it alone anymore. The Victorian government on Tuesday announced it would spend $250 million to put 4100 tutors in every government school and some non-government schools next year.
The Andrews government is calling on final-year teaching students, teachers on leave and casual and retired teachers to work in small groups with the students who have been most disadvantaged by school closures.
It expects more than 200,000 students – about a fifth of Victoria's student population – to take up the tutoring, particularly those with low levels of English or whose home environment was not conducive to remote learning.
Grattan Institute acting program director of school education Julie Sonnemann said the program would make a big difference.
"$250 million is about the right size given the size of the learning losses from remote learning," she said.
"Our review of the evidence found that tutoring can provide an additional three to five months of learning over the course of a term when done well.
Under the package, each school will be funded to engage one or more tutors on a part- or full-time basis, depending on its size and level of need.
More than 3500 tutors will be employed at state schools and 600 at non-government schools.
The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria said the funding would deliver about $20 million to the Catholic system.
Michelle Green, chief executive of Independent Schools Victoria, said about $5 million in funding would be allocated to 90 independent schools.
"The funding will focus on supporting students from economically and socially disadvantaged families," she said.
Most Victorian students spent much of term two and three learning remotely. Almost all year levels returned to classrooms on Monday. Years 8 to 10 are yet to return to school.
Ms Powson said schools were focused on reconnecting students to school and looking out for mental health issues, but she was pleased tutoring was on the agenda for 2021.
"It looks great, anything to support the students,” she said.
Julie Podbury, president of the Australian Principals Federation, said some schools had been "very concerned about how they would deliver on the government promise of catch-up without the resources to deliver the promise."
She said these principals were "delighted with the initiative and surprised with the generosity of the funds committed."
Education expert Peter Adams said the program was "exactly what was needed to combat long-term entrenched disadvantage suffered by many students as a result of the forced closure of schools.
"Tutors need to understand how to elicit concerns students have and to identify gaps in their knowledge, understanding and skills. They need also to be well prepared to respond to students' emotional needs."
The federal government last week committed $25 million to "respond to education priorities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic".