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A good education
A good education improves a young person’s chances of finding rewarding work, enjoying good health, and making positive contributions to their community. Over three-quarters of young Victorians agree that they place a high value on school or study satisfaction.
In recent years, we’ve seen strong investment in building better schools for all young Victorians and breaking the link between disadvantage and disengagement from education. Initiatives like the Navigator program, Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, LOOKOUT Education Support Centres, and School Focused Youth Service have been very welcome.
But challenges remain. Only one third of secondary students report feeling a positive connection with school, and one in 10 young Victorians do not have a year 12 or equivalent qualification by age 19.
For many students, a history of disadvantage makes it hard to stay engaged in school and reach their potential. By the time students reach year 9, there is a 'learning gap' of more than two years between students with highly educated parents and students whose parents had little education. Higher rates of disadvantage, as well as geographical isolation, make it harder for students in rural and regional communities and interface suburbs to finish year 12. (Interface communities also report high demand for things like flexible learning options, and educational supports for students from refugee and migrant backgrounds.)
The costs of a 'public' education can be high. Schools often charge families for digital devices, uniforms, textbooks, camps, excursions, elective subjects, and speech or occupational therapy. Recent research suggests the average cost of sending a child to a state secondary school is $5,170 a year. This places some families under great stress. Many families are also under pressure to contribute financially to their children’s schools, sometimes to cover 'gaps' in school funding, and sometimes because schools do not adhere to parent policy guidelines.
The education system has struggled to support some students in particular. For example:
- Fewer than one in four students with a profound disability completes year 12, and students with a low-level disability complete tear 12 at a rate 25% lower than their peers. Some have not been properly supported; for example, while 15% of students require reasonable education adjustments, only 4% of students qualify for funding under the Program for Students with Disability – leaving 60,000 students without the funds they need to take part equally in school.
- Many schools struggle to work well with students with caring responsibilities; on average, young carers are two years behind their peers in educational attainment.
- Schools are much more likely to expel or exclude Aboriginal students, students with disabilities, and students in out-of-home care than their peers. In 2016, 278 students were expelled from Victorian state schools; many more were informally excluded.
We endorse the advocacy of the Stronger Schools campaign (Victorian Council of Social Service), which urges that a good education be affordable and accessible to every student