Help every child succeed in education
The 2015-16 Victorian State Budget funds a range of welcome key initiatives in the areas of early childhood, youth engagement and school education. These include the funding of key pre-election government commitments to help cover the costs of school for students from low-income families, including the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund and the State Schools’ Relief Fund.
In the lead-up to the 2014 state election VCOSS, in partnership with members of the Education Equity Coalition, called for funds to support families facing disadvantage to meet the rising costs of education and help ameliorate the previous government’s decision to redirect funding away from the Education Maintenance Allowance. We welcome the government’s budget commitments, and also the confirmation it has given that funding for the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund will begin to flow through to schools this school year.
Because prevention and early intervention is so important for setting young children on a strong development trajectory and their lifelong outcomes, funding contained in this budget for new integrated early childhood centres is also welcome, along with the continuation of funding for Early Childhood Intervention Services. VCOSS looks forward to working with the government in future years, through further initiatives to support lifelong learning and support for families and vulnerable children from birth, ensuring disengaged students are reconnected with education, and to help attract and retain a high quality professionalised workforce in the early years and beyond.
“The budget contains important initiatives to keep young people engaged in education and training. VCOSS is pleased to see new initiatives that will help families meet spiralling school costs and help ensure children and young people do not miss out on educational opportunities,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.
“The funding boost to TAFEs announced today, along with the review of Vocational Education and Training currently underway, will help keep young people engaged in education and create important pathways to employment for Victorians facing disadvantage. It will also provide a boost to local regional economies.”
“The renewed $32 million commitment to Local Learning and Employment Networks will boost job prospects for young people in regional Victoria. This is an important platform for expanding future support for young people to stay engaged in jobs and training.”
Initiatives at a glance
- $50m over four years to build and upgrade early learning facilities and integrated children’s centres, with $5m to be spent in 2015-16 – providing welcome capital investment in kindergartens
- $9m over four years for Early Childhood Interventions Services (ECIS) and Flexible Support Packages, with $2.2m to be spent in 2015-16 – for 150 ECIS places and 150 Flexible Support Packages to provide special, tailored support for children with disabilities or developmental delays.
- Continued investment in universal access to 15 hours of four-year-old kindergarten – under the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education.
- $178m over four years – to help address students from low-income families meet the costs of education, including:
- $148.3m over four years for the Camps, Sports and Excursions fund, with $36.3m in 2015-16 – and funding set to begin flowing through to schools this school year. This fund will assist families facing disadvantage to cover the costs of primary and secondary school trips and activities.
- $15.7m over four years for affordable school uniforms, with $4m for 2015-16. This additional funding to support the State Schools’ Relief fund will provide additional school uniforms, textbooks and other essential items for children facing disadvantage who attend government schools.
- $13.7m over four years for school breakfast clubs, with $1.5m for 2015-16. Foodbank organisations will be funded to serve free breakfasts at 500 of the most disadvantaged government primary schools, providing meals to 25,000 children every day.
- $400,000 over four years to provide vision screening and glasses, with $100,000 in 2015-16. SupportingPrep-Grade 3 children in the state’s 250 most disadvantaged government primary schools
- $1.4b over four years for the Gonski School Funding Agreement – reconfirming the state government’s commitment to this state-federal funding agreement through to the end of 2017. The state government has commissioned a review of Victorian education funding, including how it will be allocated. VCOSS welcomes the reconfirmation of state government Gonski funding and looks forward to working with the government to ensure adequate funding is allocated to students, based on their specific needs.
- $10m for school capital upgrades – to make them more accessible and inclusive for students with disabilities.
- $16.5m over three years (starting in 2014-15) – to provide transport assistance for students with disabilities who attend specialist schools. The additional funding will help meet increased demand for this service.
- $1.6m over two years, for a mentoring program for secondary school students facing disadvantage, with $1.3m of this allocated for 2015-16. This is positive initiative and VCOSS will continue advocating for the government to build on this by renewing and expanding programs to support young people to stay engaged, or reconnect with education.
- $8m over four years for youth participation and engagement initiatives, with $2m of this allocated for 2015-16. This funding will support the continuation of several programs that enhance youth participation and engagement, as well as some new initiatives to help reconnect disadvantaged young people to education and employment pathways.
- $32m over four years to continue funding for the Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) to help support youth educational engagement and pathways to employment.
Future policy directions
- The state government’s continued investment in universal access to four-your-old kindergarten contained in this year’s state budget is welcome. Children facing disadvantage benefit most from high quality early childhood education, and so supporting vulnerable children’s access to, and participation in early years education is crucial.
- The state government can further support early years learning by funding the early learning sector to cover salary increases required to attract and retain a high quality professionalised workforce, while preventing cost-shifting to families in the form of higher fees or reduced service provision. The importance of high quality early childhood education has been recognised through the setting of worker qualifications and minimum skill requirements through the National Quality Framework and the National Quality Standard.
- The $10m state budget investment to make schools more accessible for students with disabilities is welcome. VCOSS will continue to advocate for the government to build on this investment and support students with additional health and development needs, by broadening the classification framework for the Program for Students with Disabilities. Ensuring this framework is based around children’s functioning, risk and protective factors, and school progress, rather than solely on diagnosis, will support a broader range of children with significant support needs to access services.
- The investment in youth engagement programs in this state budget is a positive start to supporting disadvantaged young people to remain engaged in education. However, the decision by the Federal Government to cut funding for the successful Youth Connections program has left a significant gap in services for young people in Victoria. VCOSS looks forward to the state government building on its initiatives to help prevent vulnerable young from disengaging in school.