|The Victorian Government has continued its strong track record in education investment, with the 2018/2019 Budget outlining support to build new early learning facilities and schools, upgrade existing early learning facilities, schools and TAFEs, and support more young people to remain engaged in education and become ‘job ready’.
In particular, VCOSS welcomes the Budget’s significant focus on vocational education, which will equip more young people with the skills they need to prepare for the jobs of the future. There was also welcome investment in skills development through Technical and Further Education (TAFE). With youth unemployment across Victoria at 13.1% (and as high as 18.7% in parts of Victoria), this renewed focus on vocational education is particularly pleasing. New initiatives include: improved careers education, a new pilot model for school-based apprenticeships and traineeships, rollout of the successful Navigator program state-wide, and increased funding for student health and wellbeing.
For young children funding is being provided to meet growing demand in the Early Start Kindergarten program and kindergarten enrolments, new languages program and expansion of the successful LOOKOUT program, which will now support children in out-of-home care to access kindergarten and assist their transition to school.
In the lead up to the state election in November we will be looking for commitments to bolster early childhood education, setting children up for success later in their education journey by extending kindergarten to all three-year-olds. We will also be looking for much-needed reform of the Program for Students with Disability, and an extension of the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund.
Positive initiatives in early childhood development
- Maintaining universal access to kindergarten for four-year-olds
Funding will be provided to help maintain universal access to 15 hours of four-year-old kindergarten per week in 2019.
- Early Start Kindergarten for vulnerable children
Continued support for Early Start Kindergarten, which provides free or low cost kindergarten for three-year-olds in contact with child protection. The LOOKOUT program will also be expanded to support access to kindergarten for children in out-of-home-care.
- Build and upgrade early learning facilities and integrated children’s centres
Grants will be provided to local councils and eligible providers to construct new and upgrade existing early learning facilities and integrated children’s centres.
Cost: $10.5m ($34m/3 years)
- Government and local communities working together to protect children
New ways for communities, service providers and government to work together to build strong families will be supported. Child and family service providers will be embedded in universal services to provide early help to families as soon as parenting problems arise.
Cost: $0.3m ($9m/4 years)
Positive initiatives in school education
- Supporting young people’s engagement in education through the state-wide rollout of the successful Navigator program
More young people will be supported to re-engage or remain engaged in education through the extension of the Navigator outreach case management program across Victoria.
Cost: $4.9m ($43.8 m/4 years)
- Head Start apprenticeships and Traineeships
A new Head Start program will support up to 1,700 teenagers in 100 secondary schools to undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship while finishing high school.
Cost: $6.6m ($49.8 m/4 years)
- Tech schools
Continued funding for 10 Tech Schools across regional areas, which will connect students to the skills and jobs of the future.
Cost: $2.3m ($28.6m/4 years)
- Enhancing secondary vocational pathways
Funding will be provided to develop a Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) Quality Assurance Framework that will assist schools in purchasing high-quality VETiS. Additional funding will support the delivery of VETiS programs and increase the provision of VETiS by TAFEs.
Cost: $6.8m ($25.9m/4 years)
- Constructing new and upgrading existing schools across Victoria
Cost: $294.6m ($824.1 m/4 years)
- Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD)
With growth in school enrolments there is additional funding to meet demand for the PSD program, providing support to an additional 3,700 students with disabilities.
Cost: $46m ($93.3m/2 years)
- Additional language and transitional support for students with disabilities and support for students with disability moving into secondary school
Continuation of the Language and Learning Disabilities Support Program, which provides schools with resources to support the delivery of teaching and learning programs for students with autism, dyslexia, language or other learning disabilities. Funding will also continue to support around 500 students with disability moving into secondary school who will no longer be eligible for the PSD.
Cost: $5m ($10m/2 years)
- Support for special needs
The existing Outside School Hours Care demonstration program for children with a disability will be extended for 2019. There will also be a further 100 scholarships per annum for teachers to undertake VIT-endorsed post-grad courses in special education, and additional funding for inclusive schools grants (such as playground equipment, outdoor sensory areas and quiet re-engagement spaces) and assistive technologies for learning irrespective of disability in the classroom.
Cost: $26.4m ($41.6m/4 years)
- Student transport
Additional support will be provided to meet demand, cost growth and bus replacement within the Students with Disabilities Transport Program.
Cost: $6.9m ($22.5m/2 years)
- New student health and wellbeing initiatives
The health and wellbeing of students will be supported through enhanced funding for school nurses and allied health services, including speech pathology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Funding will also deliver additional mental health support for students, a suicide prevention pilot and a positive behaviour support program. The Geelong Project will also be expanded to more schools in the region to address student wellbeing, homelessness and disengagement. Funding is also provided for programs, tools and resources to respond to bullying in schools.
Cost: $13.3m ($65.5m/4 years)
- Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund
There will be a recommitment to the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund to support eligible students to attend activities including school trips, sport programs and education excursions in 2019.
- English as an Additional Language
In line with population growth, more government schools students who don’t speak English at home, are newly arrived migrants or are from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds will be supported through the two-year extension of the English as an Additional Language program.
Cost: $20.6m ($39.3m/2 years)
- Excellence and equity in literacy and numeracy
Professional development workshops and teaching tools will be provided to teachers and school leaders to improve literacy and numeracy teaching practices. A Professional Practice Leader will also be appointed to support Koori students’ literacy and numeracy.
Cost: $5.6m ($22.2m/4 years)
- Careers education in government schools
Career education in government schools will be redesigned to assist students to make better career and pathway decisions and to meet the needs of business and industry. Year 9 students will have access to a new careers e-portfolio and will be assisted by professional career diagnostic assessment and guidance.
Cost: $24.9m in 2018/2019 ($108.7m /4yrs)
Future policy directions
- Fully fund and deliver 15 hours of early learning for all three- and four-year-olds
Participating in high quality early childhood education and care helps children’s social and emotional development and improves life-long learning outcomes. Despite evidence that children who attend at least two years of preschool are more likely to perform better than their peers at age 15 in international tests, Victoria currently only provides universal funding for 15 hours of preschool for four-year-olds. This should be changed, with all three-years-olds being able to access universal funding.
- Make the Program for Students with Disability (PSD) needs-based and provide targeted funding support for students with low to moderate needs
Around 15% of Victorian students require additional help to participate equally in the classroom. However, current rules mean that only 4% of students qualify for specialist funding support under the PSD. This means that approximately 60,000 students are missing out on specialist funding, risking underachievement or dropping out. A comprehensive review of the PSD recommended delivering a new tiered funding model that includes base funding requirements, a teaching and learning load to help schools support all students needing extra assistance, and targeted funding to students with disabilities who have high needs.
- Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund
VCOSS will also continue to advocate for ongoing funding for the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, as it has only been funded for a further year. This important program helps to support families meet the rising costs of education by enabling students to attend activities including school trips, sport programs and education excursions.