THE sun came out on Wednesday on Phillip Island and so did the school leavers, in their hundreds, down at Cowes and surrounding beach areas for their end-of-school celebrations.

And they were clearly a happy young group intent on enjoying themselves.

“Yes, well we’ve done lots of things: mini-golf, tenpin bowling, the beach and we’re going go-cart racing as well,” said a Melbourne visitor on behalf of a group of 10 friends.

“We’ve had a few parties too but yes, we’re behaving ourselves.”

According to police more ‘schoolies’ than previously are believed to be headed for the Island this year with Queensland and overseas options ruled out.

“They’ve been forecasting that up to 5000 school leavers could be headed this way but that will depend very much on the weather, plus the Mornington Peninsular area has a number of main events, concerts and the like, that will attract visitors,” said Acting Senior Sergeant Scott Morrison this week.

“We have been allocated additional police and we have the Proactive Response Unit coming over from Morwell, the youth resource group, and we’ll be out talking to people and having a presence, with patrols and also in the Jetty Triangle area which is a dry area.

“We’ve been compiling a list of locations where the school leavers are staying and we’ll be keeping an eye on those areas.

“But we are aware that the school leavers of 2021 have had to put up with a lot this year, learning from home, Zoom classes and the like and not able to enjoy their usual social life during their last school year so they deserve to be able to enjoy themselves at end of what has been a difficult year.

“This week is sort of outside the main school leavers time, which starts on November 27 running through to about December 12 but there are already a few groups down here already.”

Act Sen Sgt Morrison said the police were happy to hear from residents who wanted to provide addresses of holiday houses and Airbnb’s where young school leaver groups might be staying, to be added to the watch list, call (03) 59522037.

As well as the police presence being ramped up locally, various support groups, including Red Frogs and Dancewise are also here to help.

The Bass Coast Shire Council has put in a lot of effort to make the visitors feel welcome while also ensuring support services are in place.

Have a great time; you’ve earned it.

This group of schoolies were having a great time in Cowes today (Wednesday, November 24).