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The Parents Victoria Annual Conference will take place online this year, on Monday 11 October.

Our theme this year is "Recipes for Great Schools".

Our presenters will be talking about the importance of 'Vitamin C' for a healthy school environment - Community, Caring, Connection, Communication and Consent.

Program summary

  • 10:00am - Conference Opening and address by the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education & Minister for Mental Health, James Merlino.
  • 10:30 am - Caring through Connection with Dr Elspeth Stephenson, University of Tasmania
  • 12:30am - Parents Victoria AGM  A necessary part of the PV program
  • 1:00pm - Collective Conversation on Consent facilitated by Debbie Ollis, with special guests Chanel Contos and Katrina Marson.
  • 2.00 pm - Conference close

Full program

For full details of program and presenters, download the Conference brochure

Registration

It's a free event, but registration is essential.


 

The Herald-Sun reported today on how the staged return to the classroom will work for Victorian school students. 

PV Executive Office Gail McHardy is quoted in the article. 

Gail said some parents would be relieved “and others would’ve hoped for more students to be onsite sooner than later, but unfortunately the virus is the determinant”.

She said that if there was any confusion before October 6, parents should call the DET Covid Hotline on 1800 338 663.

The Herald-Sun article is available online to subscribers only.

A summary of the staged return to the classroom is available in the State Government 'Roadmap' document.


 

As reported recently in the Age, Education Department guidelines for schools have been 'refreshed' to give schools and families clarity and transparency about payments. Schools can continue to seek voluntary financial contributions towards classroom materials, educational programs and operating expenses, and invite parents to buy educational items on a user-pays basis. But the guidelines make it very clear: schools may not pressure parents to make voluntary payments on curriculum essentials such as stationery, devices, camps and excursions.
Earlier this year it was revealed that Victorian parents paid a total of $400 million in levies in the 2019-20 financial year, more than any other state. Perhaps that's because Victorian state schools are the lowest-funded in the country, with per-student funding about 7 per cent below the national average. A 2015 Victorian Auditor-General’s report on school payments found that while school levies began as an adjunct or support to government funding, they have become essential to school budgets (more detail below).

Our view

PV concurs with Education Minister James Merlino’s comments as reported in the Age a year ago that the policy guidelines on school levies had to be "refreshed to give schools and families further clarity, consistency and transparency ".
Mr Merlino emphasised that the policy itself has not changed.
PV understands the ‘refresh’ was a result of an audit of 400 schools which confirmed our long-standing concerns that schools were not applying DET policy consistently.
PV agrees with Principals; we don't want any cuts to any educational programs or services in our State Schools. However, as our Executive Officer Gail McHardy said in the Age article back in September 2020, "We support principals being able to deliver a quality service but they need to be very mindful that you don’t transfer the responsibility onto the community,"

Auditor-General's report

PV would like to remind readers what the Victorian Attorney-General's audit report Additional School Costs for Families 000newtab said back in 2015.

Dr Peter Frost, Acting Auditor-General stated in the report (p iii) covering remarks:
"The audit found that parents payments vary significantly from school to school and in some cases, parents are being charged for items that should be free. While parent payments have become critical to the operation of government schools, DET has little understanding of what an efficient and economical school looks like. It is therefore poorly positioned to shape decisions made by the Commonwealth and state governments about funding for schools.
As part of this audit, I have also produced a Victorian school funding explained information piece. This is a critical piece of work that exposes school funding arrangements to public scrutiny for the first time in Victoria. I hope that this will help to inform public policy debates around school funding and will assist parents to understand how schools are funded and to ask critical questions of their schools about how their funds are used."
Comments from Auditor-General John Doyle include this: "School principals have pointed to the inadequacy of school funding as the main reason for increasing parent payments." (p vii)

The bottom line

School principals have expressed concerns that many innovative and valued programs such as music programs, excursions and camps would have to be abandoned if parents don't continue to pay for them.
In conclusion, PV's question still stands - why are there shortfalls in our public school budgets, which place the burden on our Principals and School Councils to find that money?

PV strategy goal

One of the goals in our Strategy document is:
We advocate for fair, simple and transparent funding of State Schools.
You can download the full strategy document from our website 000newtab

 

 

The Herald-Sun reported today that a Melton secondary school is using retail and movie vouchers as incentives to improve remote learning engagement. 

According to the article, "Kurunjang Secondary College is putting the names of senior students attending for 75 per cent or more of class time in draws to win."

PV Executive Officer Gail McHardy is quoted in the article. 

Gail said incentives to get technology working and students engaged might help by providing rewards and fun.

“PV would expect the school leadership team would know their community to know what supports and incentives are therefore best placed,” she said.


 

This video message from James Merlino is worth watching all the way through. Mr Merlino covers a range of issues that will be 'front-of-mind' for parents of senior students, including:

  • A 10-day vaccination blitz for final-year students starting 7 September - call 1800 434 144 for bookings.
  • Rescheduling of the GAT to 5 Oct
  • Exams taking place 4 Oct - 17 Nov
  • Results 16 Dec

Mr Merlino also discusses the Consideration of Educational Disadvantage process. 

 

 

A recent article in the Age focuses on COVID vaccinations for school-aged children. Titled 'Our only way out': Families relieved about vaccinations for children, the article gives responses from parents and other groups. 

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy is quoted in the article. Gail said schools were an important conduit of government health advice, on vaccines and COVID-safety more broadly, for families and communities.

“Schools are the predominant social institution in our societies, so their communication on this is critically important,” she said.

She said schools and parents needed to work together to give hope to students fatigued by the pandemic now that vaccinations were available.

“We need to change the narrative from fear to optimism. If we can amplify optimism we will get through this,” she said.


 

Most parents are keen to get their children back to on-site learning at school. But there's also concern about the spread of COVID-19, especially the impact of the Delta strain on children. 

This report, from the ABC's AM program, features:

  • Gail McHardy, executive officer, Parents Victoria
  • Correna Haythorpe, President, Australian Education Union
  • Craig Peterson, President, NSW Secondary Principals' Council

The report also covers the issues of priority for teacher vaccinations and improved ventilation in classrooms. 


 

  • Are you a parent/carer who has experience caring for a child aged 5-12 years with a mental health problem while in primary or elementary school?
  • Are you an advocate for better mental health?

University researchers need you to help them develop new guidelines on how to provide mental health first aid to children.


 

 

 

The Herald-Sun published an article yesterday under the headline, "Rapid antigen Covid-19 testing can keep kids in school, experts say". The article explores the use of rapid antigen testing in schools overseas, and quotes experts in support of the method being used in Victorian schools. 

PV Executive Officer Gail McHardy is quoted in the article. Gail said, "Parents Victoria would expect our medical experts and governments would be assessing various models used elsewhere in order to minimise Covid impact on us all,”


 

Remember the Gonski Review, first announced back in 2010? Trevor Cobbold from Save Our Schools (SOS) says, "It made the biggest commitment to improving equity in education in the history of school funding in Australia."

Trevor has just published a Working Paper that tells the story of Gonski: its strengths and flaws, and how it has been 'unwound' by successive governments. 

The paper is available on the SOS website, along with several other papers on the topic.

On the SOS website:


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