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Our structure, processes and leadership support us to deliver the best possible outcomes for Victorians. To achieve our objectives in early childhood, schools, higher education and skills sectors we are maintaining our focus on a high-performance culture, strong accountability and leadership.

Early childhood

There is strong evidence that the period from birth to 5 years of age is vital for children’s development and has a positive impact on their future outcomes. Access to high-quality early childhood services is central to giving every Victorian child the best start in life.

In an Australian first, Victoria is introducing kindergarten programs for 3-year-olds, which will be free for families at participating services from 2023. This gives children access to 2 years of play-based early learning before school. The reform is being implemented through a staged roll-out. From 2022, all Victorian 3-year-olds have access to at least 5 hours of funded kindergarten. From 2023, flexible hours will be introduced and the hours will grow to 15 hours by 2029.

Supporting the continued development of the kindergarten sector is critical to the rollout of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten. This includes working with local government and community-based Early Years Managers to drive reform and support access and quality.

Over the next decade, Four-Year-Old Kinder will transition to Pre-Prep, which will increase to a universal 30-hour per week program of play-based learning by 2032. Pre-Prep will be delivered through kindergartens and long day care centres. It gives 4-year-old children the opportunity to access to free, high-quality early education, socialise and learn through play. From 2023, both Three-Year-Old Kindergarten and Pre-Prep will be free for Victorian families at participating services.

By 2029, there will be about 785 new kindergartens built and 170 existing services expanded. This is being facilitated through the Building Blocks investment program that includes funding to support the development of kindergartens on school sites, grants for new and existing providers, and a new modular kindergarten program.

In addition, the department will build 50 government-owned integrated early learning centres. These will be located in areas with the greatest unmet demand, with the first centres to open from 2025. Where possible, the centres will be co-located with schools, and alongside hospitals, TAFEs and major employers to create convenient access for working parents.

As the early childhood sector continues to expand, the department is increasing its focus on kindergarten participation and engagement for all children across the State. This includes supporting the transition to school for vulnerable and disadvantaged children known to Child Protection, children in out of home care and refugee and asylum seeker children. Key initiatives supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children include School Readiness Funding, Early Start Kindergarten, expanded Early Childhood LOOKOUT and Access to Early Learning programs.

The department also provides a range of supports for culturally and linguistically diverse families. This includes the Early Years Program delivered by Foundation House for children from a refugee background and time-limited outreach worker programs.

Another major reform in Early Childhood Education is the introduction of the Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS). Led by the department, the CISS is a Whole of Victorian Government (WoVG) initiative, enabling authorised organisations to share information to improve the wellbeing and safety of children. The CISS is underpinned by Child Link, a digital register that integrates key information, drawn from existing government and children’s service systems. Through Child Link, key professionals have the consolidated information they need to collaborate with other child and family services professionals to support individual children’s wellbeing and safety.

The CISS includes training prescribed workforces, acquitting recommendations made in its 2-year review, and rolling out a CISS Sector Grants Program and place-based initiatives by 2025.

Our Stories: Fun-filled kinder kits for advancing 3-year-old learning

As part of the statewide rollout of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, the department has provided all children enrolled in the program with a fun-filled kinder kit.

The kinder kits are filled with a collection of bright and engaging resources such as books, toys and activities that suit the developmental needs of 3-year-old children. The resources are selected by a panel of early childhood education experts and are designed to encourage children to continue learning at home, and to help parents support their child to thrive in kindergarten. The activities teach children problem-solving, cooperation and collaboration — all skills that give children the best start in life.

'They are not just one-way activities, they are very open ended and can be anything they want them to be, in their own imaginative world,' Josette Nunn, kindergarten teacher and Early Childhood Teacher of the Year 2020 said.

Josette, who was a member of the panel of experts, also explained what she looked for when recommending items to include in the kinder kits.

'I looked at whether they were Victorian and if they came from recycled products or materials and how durable the materials would be,' she said. ‘It was a real privilege to help put these kinder kits together. There were 150 things to choose from. What I and other panel members did was went through every item and made a shortlist of what I thought was suitable from the eyes of a Kinder teacher.’

‘When you open that little box, you can just see children's eyes just start to light up. That's what I love about it.’

Schools

The department is focused on delivering a high‑quality, contemporary school system that improves outcomes for every student across Victoria, preparing them for the opportunities and challenges of the modern world. Our work is centred around 4 key pillars:

  • Evidence-based teaching and learning – delivering an evidence-based approach to school improvement, data-driven professional collaboration for teachers and needs-based resources to support students to achieve excellence and equity.
  • Student inclusion, health and wellbeing – providing schools with the right support and structures to focus on each and every student, including their health and wellbeing.
  • Excellence in senior secondary – lifting the quality, perception and access to high-quality applied learning and vocational programs.
  • Modern, vibrant school facilities – working to ensure every school community has access to high-quality infrastructure and equipment to support best practice teaching and a great learning experience for students.

Evidence-based teaching and learning

In the 2021 NAPLAN tests, Victoria achieved the highest percentage of students achieving above the national minimum standards. This result was all the more welcome given the challenges students and teachers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department remains committed to further improving literacy and numeracy through a range of programs and supports. The Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy Support (MYLNS) initiative provides significant individualised support to secondary students who are at risk of finishing school without the literacy and numeracy skills they need for work or further education and training. MYLNS also lifts the capability of secondary school educators by sharing differentiated teaching in literacy and numeracy.

To further improve student literacy and numeracy outcomes, the department introduced the Tutor Learning Initiative in 2021, engaging qualified tutors to provide targeted learning support for students who struggled during remote and flexible learning. The initiative has employed thousands of teachers as tutors and provided small‑group tutoring intervention to approximately 200,000 students across all school sectors. With the extension of the Tutor Learning Initiative in 2022, the department continues to address the lingering impact of the global pandemic on student learning.

The Differentiated Support for School Improvement initiative assists identified schools with complex challenges by tailoring specific supports to build teacher and leadership capacity. This work enables all schools to continue to improve, regardless of their starting point.

Our Stories: Overcoming the odds with strong NAPLAN results

Victorian primary and secondary students achieved the State’s best ever reading and numeracy NAPLAN results in 2021, maintaining Victoria’s ranking as Australia’s top performing state or territory. It is especially positive given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is how Victorian school students excelled in the 2021 NAPLAN tests:

  • Year 3 students are top of the class in Reading, Numeracy, and Grammar and Punctuation, while Year 5s lead the nation in Reading, Numeracy, Writing, and Grammar and Punctuation.
  • Year 7 students improved in Reading, Writing and Spelling compared to 2019 — achieving the highest scores of any state or territory in Reading and Numeracy.
  • Year 9 students topped the nation in Spelling.
  • In secondary schools, more students achieved the top two bands of Reading compared to 2019 and there are fewer students in the bottom two bands.

A mix of resilience and hard work of Victorian educators, students and families and support provided by the Victorian Government, underpinned the remarkable result.

Student inclusion, health and wellbeing

As a department, we remain committed to enabling all students to achieve, engage and be happy, healthy and resilient. Schools play a key role in supporting all students to thrive by providing positive and inclusive learning environments.

Our updated Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO 2.0) places wellbeing alongside learning as a core outcome for students in Victorian government schools, elevating the focus on wellbeing across the system.

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System made recommendations to mental health and wellbeing treatment, care, and support, including a focus on early intervention. In response a School Mental Health Fund has been established, accompanied with a menu of evidence-based programs and initiatives designed to give schools confidence in identifying programs, staff and resources that improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for their students.

The Mental Health Practitioners initiative enables every government secondary school campus to recruit a suitably qualified, school-based mental health practitioner. The initiative includes direct counselling support for students and other early intervention services, coordination of supports for students with critical and complex needs, and the provision of professional support for mental health practitioners.

The Mental Health in Primary Schools program embeds a mental health and wellbeing coordinator within schools to help identify and manage emerging mental health issues in students and provide connections between education, social and health services. The program is expanding from 100 Pilot schools in 2022 to all government and low-fee non-government primary schools by 2026.

Disability Inclusion is a new approach for supporting students with disability in Victorian government schools. The approach is underpinned by a new funding and support model that provides additional investment for students with disability. A Disability Inclusion Profile will be used to help schools identify and respond to the needs of students with disability. This approach continues to build on previous ‘inclusion for all’ initiatives that improved the capability of education workforces to provide inclusive education. The department’s design of new schools and upgrades also ensure that facilities support a learning environment that does not disadvantage children with learning or physical disabilities.

Koorie Victorians can harness the full benefits of the Education State reforms through the Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016–26External Link . This work underpins Victoria’s strong and steadfast commitment to close the gap in educational outcomes between Koorie and non-Koorie Victorians. The department is achieving this commitment by continuing the Koorie Literacy and Numeracy program, expanding the Koorie Pre‑School Assistants program to 4 new locations, and continuing the Koorie Families as First Educators and Koorie Engagement Support Officer programs.

In addition, to prepare the education system for Self-Determination and deliver improved educational outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, the department is supporting Victorian Aboriginal Language Learning, extending the Speaking Out Against Racism program, and establishing a new Aboriginal language TAFE Cert IV to support more Aboriginal people to undertake a career as a teacher.

Excellence in senior secondary

We are reforming senior secondary school to build the aspirations and skills of young people in Victoria, set them up for future careers, and meet the needs of the modern economy. The department, in partnership with the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), is implementing the recommendations of the Review into vocational and applied learning pathways in senior secondary schooling. This includes introducing the new VCE Vocational Major and the new Victorian Pathways Certificate in 2023.

Alongside the changes to the certificate structure, the successful Head Start program will be expanded to every government school in the state. This gives all students the opportunity to do an apprenticeship or traineeship in an in-demand sector while completing their schooling. This will be complemented by improved student access to a core offering of VET certificates across all government schools. A revised funding model will reduce complexity and better reflect the cost of delivery of VET in schools.

Modern, vibrant school facilities

The department continues to deliver its substantial school infrastructure program through investments in new schools, significant upgrades and modernisation projects. This builds on the Victorian Government’s commitment to open 100 schools by 2026. To date, 48 schools have opened between 2019 and 2022, and a further 13 and 14 will open in 2023 and 2024 respectively. In addition, the department is acquiring land for existing school site extensions and 15 future schools, including 11 primary schools, 3 secondary schools and 1 specialist school.

The department protects student safety through the provision of safe and fit-for-purpose education services and facilities. To achieve this, the department is delivering major upgrades of existing schools and conducting essential maintenance and compliance activities. This includes 67 upgrade and modernisation projects that were funded as part of the 2022–23 State Budget to improve the condition of schools across Victoria.

In addition, to keep our students safe as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the department is improving ventilation in schools to slow the virus’ spread. This includes developing relevant guidance and advice, providing air purifiers and establishing shade sail installation grants to maximise the use of outdoor-learning areas for government school and low-fee-paying-non-government schools.

There are 8 education plans that enable the integration of service planning across early childhood, school and post‑compulsory education by bringing together community-based investments. The plans in Bayswater, Bendigo, Flemington, Footscray, Frankston North, Lilydale/Upper Yarra, Oakleigh and Shepparton are designed to accelerate the impact of improvement initiatives and leverage collective responsibility for transforming education in a specific community.

Our Stories: Wuran Senior Campus – Transforming learning through innovative design

The new Wuran Senior campus is transforming senior secondary learning and inspiring students to be innovators while building their 21st-century skills. Shared between Collingwood College and Fitzroy High School, the campus was designed with senior students in mind. The architects have used ideas more common in university and workplace settings. This is a Victorian-first and puts the Wuran Senior Campus at the forefront of Australian school design.

Flexible and adaptable spaces connect indoor, outdoor, and specialist precincts. This interdisciplinary approach is leading-edge and builds community connections. The large variety of learning environments allows all students to find spaces where they feel comfortable.

The campus explores authentic and appropriate ways to acknowledge and embed First Nations history, heritage and culture in the campus and pays respect to the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people and their connection to Country. Installations that feature First Nations history and culture were produced in partnership with the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation. The First Nations interpretive designs featured throughout the campus are rare examples in public spaces of interpretive storytelling about Victoria’s contested and difficult histories.

Higher education and skills

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education, skills and training are key to the State’s economic, social and health recovery. Employers are looking for people with the right skills. Government organisations need workers to support major infrastructure projects and expansions in social services to deliver benefits for all Victorians. These challenges require a skills and training landscape that adapts to the changing needs of students, employers and the Victorian community.

To meet these challenges, the department is changing the way VET providers, industry groups, unions, local community organisations, Learn Locals, universities and government connect to create a landscape that is easier to navigate for employers, workers and local communities.

The Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy Review was presented to the Victorian Government in 2020. In response, the Victorian Skills Authority (VSA) has been established to plan future skills to support Victoria’s industries and build career opportunities for Victorians through skilling opportunities. In planning Victoria’s future skills, the VSA develops an annual Victorian Skills PlanExternal Link . The Victorian Skills Plan is a new approach that provides a ‘skills roadmap’ that connects industry, learner and community insights and evidence to the provision of training and skills services across Victoria. The Victorian Skills Plan identifies actions and the further work required to build a robust skills base and provides detailed insights to revise and develop new national qualifications.

The VSA also facilitates skills innovation and develops strategies to enhance teaching quality across vocational education. An Advisory Board also guides its work.

TAFEs remain critical to Victoria’s training and skills sector. These organisations have underpinned the economy through education and training for decades, helping individuals contribute to their local communities. The Office of TAFE Coordination and Delivery (OTCD), together with the VSA makes our skills system easier to navigate and creates clear, effective structures to plan for and respond to skill demand.

The OTCD drives collaboration across the TAFE network and helps TAFEs share services, enhance quality, and better meet the training needs of students, employers and communities. TAFEs are being supported to sustainably transition to the new funding model announced in late 2021 and continue the practical placements for TAFE students. In addition, we are strengthening the OTCD’s capabilities and resources to deliver the agreed TAFE network priorities.

TAFEs are central to the Big Build Apprenticeships program. The Big Build Apprenticeship program enhances the impact of the Major Projects Skills Guarantee, supporting the employment and training of up to 1,500 apprentices and trainees each year and secures a pipeline of skilled workers in critical areas. This approach leverages group training organisations’ and Victoria’s infrastructure program to create high-quality skills pathways for apprentices and trainees on major government infrastructure projects, including for under-represented and disadvantaged cohorts. The Big Build Apprenticeships program also includes new skills and jobs centres and on-site support to provide workers with skills advice and address project-specific training needs.

Similarly, TAFE Demonstration Projects, such as the North-East Link, New Footscray Hospital and Warrnambool Learning and Library Hub address skills and job needs through policy coordination and information sharing.

The Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund supports Victorian universities by contributing to capital works, applied research, and research infrastructure projects. To improve benefits for all Victorians, the Victorian Government and the 10 universities operating under State legislation have signed partnership agreements that outline their shared objectives and principles for achieving joint benefits. This includes achieving a stronger alignment between education pathways and industry demand, where the Victorian Government is a significant employer.

Our Stories: Improving lives through learn locals

Omer Ntunzwenimana arrived from Burundi (located in eastern Africa) in 2018 as a refugee. Upon arrival in Australia he had no family and did not feel confident in his English language skills.

In January 2020, Omer started attending the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council Learn Local Conversation English and Reading Café class. The weekly class gave Omer the opportunity to practice his English by talking to volunteers in 10-minute rotations.

'The Conversation English and Reading Café class was helpful for me in having confidence to speak English and build my vocabulary,' Omer explained.

Omer surprised his trainers by quickly developing from a shy learner with low confidence in his English-speaking skills to a confident speaker and rapidly improving reader. His improved English skills gave Omer the confidence to progress in his education by studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in sociology at La Trobe University.

His main goal is to help people and he proudly talks about what he would like to do when he finishes his studies.

'I am thinking about the poverty, the people who use drugs and alcohol, the people in conflicts which put many countries in war, and about working with refugees,' Omer said.

'Now, my dream is to become a peacemaker, and I am learning to find which things can be fixed to help establish peace.'

In recognition of his hard work, Omer received The Ro Allen Award — Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (skills for study and life) at the Learn Local Awards on 10 December 2021.

Reviewed 30 August 2022

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