Comprehensive approach to maintaining and lifting practice quality

What we heard

Teachers and educators are focused on ensuring the quality of play-based learning is maintained, particularly as the workforce grows and changes are made to the way kindergarten programs are structured as a result of the Best Start, Best Life reforms.

The workforce told us that the additional hours will enable teachers and educators to enhance their knowledge of children’s learning needs and increase learning opportunities. But to navigate these changes effectively, and maintain the quality of programs, the workforce needs to be better supported. There is an opportunity to develop a more coherent approach, shared between the sector, experts and the department, to improving the quality of programs and maximising the learning and development outcomes of children.

We also heard that professional learning to support practice quality is important and should be geared to areas of need that are identified by the workforce. This includes support to develop team teaching skills, which can help to reduce workloads and will become a more common way of working across some settings, as well as improving capabilities to support inclusive practice.

What we are doing

We know that the quality of child-staff interactions, and how teachers and educators structure children’s activities, are the primary ways early childhood education benefits children.

This is why we have continued to invest in quality initiatives such as the Kindergarten Quality Improvement Program and School Readiness Funding.

Since the release of the 2021 strategy, rollout of the online observation-based Early Years Assessment and Learning Tool has commenced. Teachers and educators in selected services are using this new Tool to support assessment of children’s strengths, interests and abilities, and target teaching strategies accordingly.

A new coaching program has also been implemented to support teachers and educators returning to, or joining, the Victorian early childhood workforce. Through a partnership with Gowrie Victoria, the Returning Teachers and Educators Coaching Program provides tailored wraparound supports and helps teaching staff to align their kindergarten programs to current curriculum, national quality standards, practice and reforms.

As the Best Start, Best Life reforms roll out we will keep working with all parts of the sector to support the continued delivery of high-quality kindergarten programs.

Building on our existing efforts, we will:

  • Revise the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) to align with recent revisions to the national Early Years Learning Framework and ensure it continues to best meet the needs of children and their educators through this period of reform. This revision will be led by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, in partnership with the Department of Education and other stakeholders, and will be undertaken concurrently with revision of the F–10 curriculum, offering an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen the continuity of learning between early childhood and school.
  • Work with the sector to focus our collective attention on factors that will make the biggest difference to lifting children’s learning and development outcomes through the development of more holistic supports for Kindergarten and Pre-Prep quality, underpinned by the revised VEYLDF.
  • Support new and existing early childhood teachers respond to changing kindergarten teaching environments by establishing professional development on effective team teaching. While common in some primary school settings, team teaching is less common in kindergarten services and professional development will support teachers to implement this effectively.
  • Guide teachers and educators on ways to best welcome all children and families in kindergarten programs, through the development of new professional learning on equity and diversity.
  • Assist teachers and educators to embed quality practice across the increased hours through the creation of new supports to drive quality teaching. These supports will cover key aspects of kindergarten practice, including resources to guide intentional and impactful teaching, reflective practice, and a deeper understanding of children’s learning progression pathways.

New online tool boosts everyday practice

Victoria’s new Early Years Assessment and Learning Tool is already supporting services across the state. The tool provides teaching teams with a consistent, evidence-based approach to observing, understanding and responding to children’s unique strengths, interests and abilities.

It gives that opportunity to observe the child and have a really good look at where the child is at,” says experienced early childhood teacher Emily Fotiou. “It’s given me a better understanding of children’s learning and development … How are they progressing? Where to next? How can we extend their learning?”

The Tool is not an interview or test. Rather, it supports teaching teams to undertake, for each child, ongoing cycles of observation, assessment, analysis, planning, implementation and reflection.

“It strengthens teachers’ understanding of children’s learning progressions,” says Dr Jane Page of the Research in Effective Education in Early Childhood (REEaCh) Centre. “It generates evidence to support discussions with other professionals. And it improves observations and assessment of young children to support intentional teaching practices in the everyday.”

The tool is part of the Victorian Government’s investment to support quality practice. It was developed over three years by the Assessment Research Centre in partnership with the REEaCh Centre at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne.

The development process included gathering evidence from more than 300 early childhood teachers and co-educators, who made over 5,000 observations of children across more than 150 services.