4. every young person needs
A good education
"[We need] A more flexible and accepting schooling system (primary and secondary) to give more students the ability to grow and learn their own way. Classroom learning does not suit all students."
– Young participant at YACVic Rural Regional Youth Forum.
“I'd like services within schools so that students can speak to a qualified specialist in a confidential setting. I'd like students to be encouraged to also go to TAFE or seek employment, rather than the constant push to University and stress regarding ATAR.”
– Young person telling YACVic what matters to them
We all want every young Victorian to have a quality education at a school where they are welcomed and valued, where they can study a range of subjects which are interesting and meaningful to them, and build their skills, knowledge and confidence.
In recent years, there has been welcome investment in our schools, including steps to break the link between disadvantage and disengagement from school. Good initiatives have included the Navigator program, LOOKOUT Education Support Centres, and the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund.
But challenges remain. Only one third of secondary students report feeling a positive connection with school, and one in 10 young Victorians have not completed a year 12 or equivalent qualification by age 19. Rural and regional schools face greater pressures when supporting their students to do well, as do schools in Melbourne’s outer (or 'interface') suburbs. Meanwhile, many students with disability are still not being educated on an equal basis with their peers; fewer than one in four students with a profound disability finishes year 12. A 'public' education can cost families thousands of dollars each year, and too many schools continue to exclude or expel students for behaviours linked to disability, trauma, or poverty.
Every young person can access a wide range of excellent, affordable study pathways and extra-curricular activities.
First steps by 2020
Ensure every student can explore a range of high quality VET and VCAL options if they wish. These should be affordable to all students and promoted on an equitable basis with academic subjects. The Head Start school-based apprenticeship program should be evaluated, and (if found to be effective) embedded and expanded.
Fund schools to make sure every student can access a “standard basket of education goods”, covering all the activities and items (including technology) which are necessary to provide free instruction to all students. (See the Stronger Schools campaign.) In the interim, continue to fund State Schools’ Relief and the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund to meet the needs of all eligible students.
Increase investment in rural and regional schools so their students have opportunities equal to those of their Melbourne peers. Rural schools must have enough staff with adequate qualifications, time, and professional support. (Funding 'programs' or 'events' alone is insufficient.)
Work with students to create more opportunities for 'life skills' education in areas such as financial literacy, taxation, voting and citizenship, self-care, and household labour.
Every student with disability and/or additional needs is educated on an equal basis with their peers.
First steps by 2020
Continue to develop a new funding model based on a strengths-based functional needs assessment for students with disability and/or additional health and development needs, as recommended by the Review of Program for Students with Disability and Stronger Schools. A pilot was recently announced to develop such a model in 100 schools; this work should be evaluated and, if successful, extended state-wide. Supports for students should address all the factors that affect students’ learning, not just their disability diagnosis.
Ensure all schools, TAFEs and flexible learning providers have adequate access to qualified staff who can assess learning difficulties and arrange effective responses, including for students with English as an additional language. Some schools (notably in rural, regional and interface areas) will need increased access to occupational therapists, speech therapists, other specialist staff and assistive technology.
Reduce and eliminate the restraint and seclusion of students. Policies and procedures must be based on current research and human rights principles, with guarantees that schools will comply through data collection, monitoring and public reporting. (See Stronger Schools.)
All schools are supported to keep all students engaged and prevent problems from developing and escalating.
First steps by 2020
Provide a suite of programs to help students stay engaged with learning, including LOOKOUT Education Support Centres, School Focused Youth Service, Local Learning and Employment Networks, and literacy and numeracy programs for students who are more than one year behind their peers. Initiatives should be evaluated and (where effective) embedded and expanded. Program guidelines should allow schools and providers the flexibility to meet their own communities’ needs, notably in rural areas where student populations are smaller and face specific issues such as isolation.
Implement all recommendations of the Ombudsman’s Investigation into Victorian Government School Expulsions (2017).
Monitor, reduce and prevent informal exclusion of students, including part-time attendance where it is enforced by schools. Where part-time attendance is initiated by students or families, ensure there are planned pathways back to full-time attendance.
Develop a strong transition framework from grade 5 to year 8, to help students make the move to secondary school successfully. There should be strategies to engage with families, respond to signs of disengagement, and support students with additional learning needs. (See Stronger Schools.)
Strengthen English-language support to students from refugee and migrant backgrounds, by delivering recurrent funding to the English as an Additional Language program and increasing resources to English Language Schools and Centres. (See Stronger Schools.)
Ensure young people with caring responsibilities are educated on an equal basis with their peers. Implement Carers Victoria’s recommendations of for improving support and pathways for young carers.
Every student who leaves school without a year 12 or equivalent qualification is supported to re-engage with education, training or employment.
First steps by 2020
Ensure all students facing school disengagement can access the Navigator program, wherever they live. Some Navigator sites are struggling to meet the extent of demand; funding should respond to this.
Extend supports comparable to Navigator to vulnerable young people up to age 21, in recognition of the importance of education and the amount of time it can take to re-engage with study, training or employment. Some groups of young people need expert support to re-engage. Examples of such work include the Springboard program for young people from residential care aged 16-21, and the Education Justice Initiative for young people in the justice system.
Ensure no student is excluded from the state school system as a whole. If a student is expelled, regional engagement coordinators should coordinate supports for the student for as long as it takes to find them a real point of re-engagement, in collaboration with community sector organisations.
Identify flexible learning models which align with the Framework of Quality Flexible Learning Programs, which have the support of the local community, and which have demonstrated genuine results for students in engagement, attainment, wellbeing and post-school pathways. Invest in these models in mainstream schools, TAFE and community settings, with a focus on the needs of rural, regional and interface communities. These models must be funded to work sustainably.
How you can take action
Ask your local candidates these questions in the lead up to the 2018 state election:
1. What will they do to increase young people’s access to high quality vocational education and training in schools?
2. What will they do to make sure every family can afford a good education for their children, including the costs of technology and extra-curricular activities?
3. What steps would they take to help schools keep all their students engaged, including students who have struggled with school in the past?
4. How would they make sure that every student with disability or additional needs has the supports they need to thrive in school? (At present, only a minority of these students access the Program for Students with Disability.)