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By Carly Nowell.
Published on the VCOSS Voice on 3 May 2017.
The 2017 Victorian Budget includes many positive investments to improve learning and educational outcomes for children and young people, including substantial infrastructure funding and initiatives to address disadvantage.
In particular we welcome funding to provide targeted assistance to three and four-year-old children facing disadvantage and funding to help kindergarten services engage families who are isolated or in need of more support. More children and young people will also be able to access high quality education through investment in early education services most in need of support, and additional support for schools that are underperforming.
The extension of the Navigator pilot program will continue to assist young people aged 12-17 who have disengaged or are at risk of disengaging from school, to stay engaged or reconnect with education. Additional resources are also being provided to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people.
Increased investment to meet growing demand in several programs, including Early Start Kindergarten, the Kindergarten Inclusion program, the Program for Students with Disabilities and English as an Additional Language will help more children and young people facing disadvantage receive support.
However, we are looking for further funding and reform of the Program for Students with Disabilities, because too many students with additional health and development needs do not receive adequate support. In future, the government could also build on strong investment in the early years to provide universal access to three-year-old kindergarten and increase the hours of four-year-old kindergarten for children facing disadvantage.
High quality learning and development for three and four-year-olds
This initiative will help improve educational outcomes for children facing disadvantage in three and four-year-old kindergarten. This includes $55.3m in ‘school readiness’ funding to provide targeted support to children who need additional help, such as access to speech therapy, literary and numeracy training for staff, one-on-one learning, community outreach or parenting support. $22.8m will help improve the quality of services, with grants available to provide intensive coaching, observation and feedback for services to improve outcomes.
Cost: $4.3m in 2017-18 ($87.1m over four years)
Early Childhood Intervention Service
An additional 500 children will have access to Early Childhood Intervention Services ahead of the NDIS.
Cost: $4.8m in 2017-18 ($7.2m over two years)
Early Start Kindergarten for vulnerable children
This investment will help meet growing demand for the Early Start Kindergarten program. This program provides free or low cost three-year-old kindergarten for children in contact with child protection services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Cost: $3.1m in 2017-18 ($6.3m over two years)
Ensuring children with significant disability can participate in kindergarten
This investment will help meet growing demand for the Kindergarten Inclusion Support program. This program assists kindergartens to support children with disability by providing specialist consultancy, training and additional staff.
Cost: $2.5m in 2017-18 ($5m over two years)
Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan
Funding to help implement the Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026, including maintaining the Early Years Koori Literary and Numeracy Program and development of an accredited Aboriginal languages program for schools and kindergartens.
Cost: $1.8m ($8m over four years)
Addressing underperformance in schools
This initiative will help improve educational performance in almost 350 of Victoria’s lowest performing schools. It will provide tailored support to each school to build the capability of teachers and principals.
Cost: $12m in 2017-18 ($50.7m over four years)
English as an Additional Language
Targeted support will be provided to newly arrived students to develop their English language proficiency. This will help meet growing demand.
Cost: $10.5m in 2017-18 ($19.6m over two years)
School and early childhood development facilities
This investment will help build nine new schools, acquire land for 11 new schools, update 114 existing school facilities and provide relocatable classrooms to meet demand. This includes $10m to plan and build early childhood development facilities co-located at new primary schools.
Cost: $254.2m in 2017-18 ($685m over five years)
Extension of the Navigator Pilot Program
Funding enables the continuation of the Navigator program in the existing eight pilot regions until the end of 2018. The program assists young people who are at risk of, or who have disengaged from education, to help them reengage in learning.
Cost: $4.5m in 2017-18 ($7.8m over two years)
Excellence in teacher education
To raise the quality of teacher education and training. $3.1m of this funding will help train 250 high-achieving teachers to work in disadvantaged schools through participation in Teach for Australia and National Exceptional Teacher for Disadvantaged Schools programs.
Cost: $3.6m in 2017-18 ($9.7m over five years)
Support for students with disabilities
An additional 2,600 students with disability will be assisted by the Program for Students with Disabilities in 2018, in line with growth in school enrolments. Funding will also help more students with disability travel to and from school.
Cost: $27.4m in 2017-18 ($79.5m over two years)
Extension of student mentoring
Funding enables the continuation of the student mentoring program. The program helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds become more engaged in learning and post-school aspirations.
Cost: $0.8m in 2017-18 ($1.7m over two years)
Education State 2018
As part of the Education State initiative, the government will provide additional funding to schools in 2018. The government will make further announcements about how this amount will be allocated.
Cost: $90m in 2018-19
Reform the Program for Students with Disabilities
Under the current Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) model too many students with additional health and development needs do not receive adequate support. The narrow focus on diagnosis does not adequately address the educational needs of students or take into account their risk and protective factors. We urge the government to fully implement the recommendations from the PSD review to reform the program so all children with additional health and development needs are given the support they need to succeed and fully participate in school.
Provide universal access to three-year-old kindergarten
In future years the government can help give children the best start in life by fully funding universal access to three-year-old kindergarten, and by providing more early learning hours in four-year-old kindergarten for children facing disadvantage. Participating in high quality early childhood education and care promotes positive learning and development of all children, and is particularly beneficial for children experiencing disadvantage.
Invest in a statewide reengagement program
We are pleased to see the continuation of the Navigator Pilot Program to help young people remain engaged or reengage with education. However, this program will continue to only operate in 8 of the 17 regions, leaving many young people without valuable support. Following the program evaluation we hope a flexible and intensive case management program will be made available statewide so all young people can access tailored support.
Help families meet education costs
VCOSS members report many families continue to face difficulties meeting the costs of education, including travel to and from school, IT devices and home internet, books, uniforms, camps, excursions and sport activities. In future budgets, VCOSS would like to see more resources to assist families facing disadvantage, along with strong monitoring and compliance for the new parent payment policy.