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According to a report on 3AW,  new research has found that two thirds of Victorian parents are worried about their child’s education after the state’s extended lockdown.

An Australian National University study found 43 per cent of parents surveyed in other states, which did not experience such lengthy school shutdowns, are concerned about their child’s learning.

PV Execuitve Office Gail McHardy was interviewed by 3AW's Tony Jones on Friday about this topic. The conversation ranged over the differing impact of the pandemic on different families, the way teachers and parents managed to be adaptable in difficult circumstances, and what it means for the future. Gail emphasised the importance of strong relationships between schools and families - where those are working well, both schools and families have benefited. 


 

A delayed Victorian State Budget 2020/21 was tabled in Parliament on the 24 November 2020 and on that same morning media reported the Government’s announcement of accepting ALL the recommendations from a recent review of vocational and applied learning pathways in senior secondary schools, conducted by former Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) chief John Firth. Further detail is available on the DET website.  

Phase-out of VCAL

The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) – the VCE alternative taken by more than 25,000 senior secondary school students in 2019 – will begin to be phased out as a standalone qualification in 2023 and will be scrapped by 2025. Instead, industry-focused subjects will be included within the VCE, with students given more freedom to combine academic and vocational pathways.

Firth’s review found major changes were needed to make sure all Victorian secondary students have access to high quality vocational training that meets their strengths and interests, and gives them the skills they need, and that leads them into further training, education and, ultimately, a great job.

Consultation

PV awaits the detail of the next steps as this will be a long-term reform agenda with Government stating it will be with minimal immediate changes for schools. Adding they will take a measured and consultative approach to the reforms.

Moving to a single certificate to happen in stages - first creating a new vocational specialist pathway within the VCE, with the first cohort of students starting the new certificate in 2023. The next stage to create a fully integrated senior secondary certificate by 2025.

We’ve been advised the Department and VCAA will consult with students, schools, universities, TAFEs, peak bodies, industry and employers and other service providers. Students, schools, families, training providers and employers giving plenty of notice about what these changes mean for us all and providing support in the lead up to the introduction of changes to the certificate.

Interviewed by the Age, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority current chief executive, Stephen Gniel said “the world of work was changing and senior secondary education had to evolve with it.”

2020 has been another busy year for Parents Victoria.  We wanted to bring you a snapshot of our achievements for the year.

Major Events

  • Parents Victoria (October) 2020 online conference - "Brave New World"
  • November Careers Webinar in partnership with Myfuture (Education Services Australia).   

Who we worked with

  • Department of Education
  • Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO)
  • Victorian Institute of Teaching - including Parents and School Council Organisations (PaSCO) quarterly meetings
  • Commission for Children and Young People 
  • Victorian Qualifications and Registration Authority 
  • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
  • School Governance Network
  • Victorian Student Representative Council
  • Victorian Council of Social Service
  • Australian Education Union 
  • Victorian Principal Associations (APF, VPA, VASSP)
  • Several Victorian Universities - including work with Deakin and Monash on a Partners in Parenting Expert Advisory Committee 

Communication

  • 11 Parents Voice Newsletters 
  • Website (being upgraded early 2021)
  • Social Media platforms - Facebook and Twitter
  • Responding to media opportunities 

The PV website and social media platforms were used extensively in 2020 to provide families with the most relevant and up to date information-at-a-glance, in relation to COVID-19.  

Advocacy

We advocated on behalf of parents on a range of school-related topics including:

  • Attendance
  • Bullying
  • Disciplinary (including suspensions & expulsions)
  • School Council
  • Teacher/Principal
  • Student Wellbeing
  • Support for students with additional needs
  • Cybersafety
  • Career Education
  • School Selection
  • Naplan
  • Support for Principals
  • Student Safety
  • School zones and boundaries
  • Covid-19

We also advocated on a range of Parent Club-related topics including:

  • AGMs
  • Constitutions
  • Formation/reformation of clubs
  • Relationship with school
  • PV membership
  • Finances
  • Registration of members
  • Office bearers
  • Managing volunteer groups.   

In 2020 Parents Victoria's support of Parent Clubs has pivoted to online support via zoom and via our regular email and phone support.

Governance   

  • Parents Victoria Strategic Plan - 2021 - 2024
  • Parents Victorian internal Governance training session
  • Working with DET to review and promote policy in support of School Councillors

Relationship Based Education

Parents Victoria promotes the importance of relationships and communication at every opportunity. 

  • Working with John Hendry OAM (Relationship based Education and Parents Victoria's website platform - to support and provide resources for schools and families)
  • Working with Dr David Moore (Relationship Reparation)
  • Working with Universities - especially to promote the importance of relationships and communication for Initial Teaching Educators and Students
  • Melbourne University and University of WA on a research project re how schools engage with parents to inform school decision-making processes

Parents Victoria's Strategic Goal Number 5 is "Successful Relationships":

We promote relationship based education (RbE) because this is how we teach our children and the whole school community to build healthy relationships, resilience and confidence. We believe that modelling respect, positive attitudes and behaviours is how you bring about an exemplary school culture and improved student outcomes in schools. 

We do this by working with all education stakeholders to influence policy and implementation and embed the concepts of RbE in education. 

Submissions & Feedback

  • DET Safety Guidelines for Education Outdoors
  • Parliamentary Inquiry into Managing School Infrastructure
  • Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income Bill 2020)
  • DET Review into vocational and applied learning pathways in senior secondary schooling
  • DET Consultation on proposed school council consolidated Ministerial Order
  • Joint NSW, Queensland, Victoria and ACT Review of Naplan
  • National Architecture Review Taskforce
  • DET review of Naplan
  • DET - VCAL and VET Review Consultation
  • Senate Select Committee Inquiry on COVID-19
  • Engage Victoria - Education State : Lessons from Remote and Flexible Learning
  • Skills for Victoria's Growing Economy
  • PAEC Inquiry into the Victorian Government's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • PAEC Panel Hearing for the above
  • DET Complaints Resource
  • DET Family Engagement Resource
  • Rural Inspire program consultation (Country Education Project)
  • Office of Women (experience of and opportunities for women, given learnings from the Pandemic)
  • DET Review and Update of the Improving School Governance training package for 2021
  • Victorian Teaching Profession's Code of Conduct consultation draft
  • DET re Camps and School Excursions funding extension
  • LGBTIQ Engage Victoria (Youth strategy)
  • DET Exemption from School (support documentation review)

 

 

 

Well, what a year this has been! Nobody could have foreseen the changes to the way we all learn, teach, and connect in education and life in general this year. The pandemic brought many challenges, but it also brought new opportunities, and we at Parents Victoria look forward to exploring these further as we consider methods of teaching and learning we would never have imagined becoming ongoing options even twelve months ago.

Whilst remote learning was new for most students (and teachers), and presented some challenges, it also brought re-engagement to a lot of students. For many, it allowed them to reconnect with their learning. For others, it presented a new opportunity to self-regulate their learning. We will be interested to see how these positives may be incorporated into ongoing education delivery.

Learning from Home highlighted the massive inequity between schools and students in terms of access to dedicated devices, and connectivity. We are thrilled that the State Government provided access to over 70,000 students and has announced that those students will be able to keep their devices and dongles heading into next year.

For many years now Parents Victoria has been lobbying for Family Engagement Officers in our public schools. FEOs would be the conduit between home and school, facilitating engagement in all aspects of learning. The pandemic highlighted the benefits to all areas of learning when there were established partnerships between schools and families. Those schools which already knew their families and their particular dynamics found working with them so much easier from day one than those schools without genuine relationships. We will continue with this push.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the families, teachers, staff and leaders in our public schools for the wonderful job they have done in adapting to a difficult situation in 2020. And to recognise the wonderful parents and carers who continued to volunteer at their schools, albeit in a different format – your efforts are very much appreciated. And of course, a huge thank you to the volunteer 2019/20 State Executive of Parents Victoria, and our staff. Their workloads weren’t reduced by the pandemic, in fact they probably increased, but the output has been instrumental this year in shaping a brighter future for so many public school students.

I hope everyone has a wonderful break and gets the chance to reunite with family and friends around the country, and that we are all back in our schools next year for the continuing journey of educating our children and young people.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year in 2021!

Sharron.

Sharron Healy (She/Her)

Chair/Immediate Past President

 

 

Our careers webinar for parents on 24 November attracted hundreds of parents. Careers expert Michelle Maes from the national careers website myfuture gave us a comprehensive rundown of the resources available on the myfuture website.

Michelle introduced us to the DOTS model of career education, which identifies four key components of career education:

  • Decision learning
  • Opportunity awareness
  • Transition learning
  • Self-awareness

myfuture resources

myfuture addresses all four of those components. It’s certainly a huge resource for young people making career choices and their parents. myfuture includes:

  • My Career Profile – an online survey aimed at Year 9 students. The survey presents students with questions on interests, skills, work conditions, values and their ‘dream job’ and then produces a report with suggested careers, which can be saved and shared with career teachers and parents.
  • Occupation Search – you can search occupations by interest areas and learning areas
  • An overall structure designed to broaden your knowledge of career choices. “Related occupations” are often presented, to take the user beyond their initial expectations.
  • School-to-work pathways – alternative pathways to careers. There are often many pathways to a certain job, this section maps them out.
  • Course search – an easy way to find courses in your chosen area
  • Dedicated Parents and Carers area – special resources aimed at helping you support your child through their courses and careers choices.
  • ... and much more! This is only a very brief summary, myfuture has a lot of resources.

For parents

Michelle made some points of particular importance to parents:

  • “Employability” means much more than a qualification. Employers are also looking for so-called ‘soft’ or ‘portable’ skills – such as ability to communicate, teamwork, leadership, self-reliance. These skills can be gained by a wide range of experiences: sport, the arts, work experience and volunteering.
  • Decision-making is a skill that can be learned from experience. Allowing and encouraging your children to make decisions when they’re younger will build their skills and confidence in decision-making. And parents can discuss and model their own decision-making processes.

Career education in schools

Leela Darvall from the Department of Education and Training joined Michelle in the webinar to give us an update on reforms to career education that have been going on for the last 3 years. Following a review in 2017, schools have started career education earlier and made it a priority. Students now have access to an online Career Portfolio from Year 7 and receive initial career education at Year 9.

Leela also discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment opportunities and again emphasised the importance of ‘soft skills’ in employment.

Full webinar available

A recording of the webinar is available on the myfuture website.

 

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that school banking programs will be banned in Victoria. 

Read the Premier's announcement.

Details and background are covered in this article on the ABC website

There's also a commentary on the decision from the Herald-Sun's 'barefoot investor' Scott Pape, but it is only available to Herald-Sun subscribers. Scott describes the decision to ban school banking as a "massive step forward" and goes on to say, "For far too long schools have outsourced the teaching of essential financial life skills to banks who have used it as an advertising play. But that stops now and the real education begins."


 

 

This media release from Parents Victoria gives our reaction to Tuesday's State Budget.

Budget is great news for our public schools

Parents Victoria (PV) advocates for fair, simple and transparent funding of State Schools because the current school funding model does not provide adequately for our most vulnerable students.

PV is mindful the driving force of yesterday’s budget is predominantly to get the Victorian economy going again and create jobs for all Victorian workers impacted by the pandemic.

This greater investment in public schools is heartening and in keeping with PV's vision "A fully supported Victorian public education system meeting the needs of every student, where parents’ voices are sought, heard and valued” said PV’s Executive Officer, Gail McHardy.

 

PV Executive Officer Gail McHardy has been interviewed by both the Herald-Sun and 3AW about the issue of this year's school reports. 

Herald-Sun report

The Herald-Sun reported that Victorian teachers have been advised by the Education Department that school reports must reflect the tough 2020 academic year.

The article refers to a 5-point scale that teachers will use to report progress in English and maths, and more flexible options for other subjects. 

 

Now that all Victorian students are back to on-site schooling, schools and families will be finding their feet again and schools will be trying to deliver education as best they can within COVID Safe rules. We all have roles and responsibilities to see this year to the end safely so 2021 can kick off as a much better one than 2020.

Right from the outset as the pandemic started to impact, PV liaised with DET and the State Government continually to make sure families were supported and received clear communications throughout the 'learning from home' and 'return to school' phases.

The Victorian Government & DET made sure most students who were having difficulty in accessing a learning device or connectivity, had their issues attended to. DET has advised Principals – “Where students in government schools have been provided with a device and internet access, this must continue until the end of the year.” (Source: DET School Operations Guide Term, 4/11/2020).

PV is mindful that many families have been and could continue to be financially impacted post the pandemic.

This in turn will impact on how families are able to pay for goods and services in the future – including costs of schooling for the remainder of 2020 and in getting prepared for 2021.

Financial assistance

It won't be long until parents and carers will be receiving 2021 school cost information and we don't want families feeling any more stressed or anxious about family budget pressures than they may already be. So it's important that families are familiar with:

Camps, Sports and Excursions

Please don’t forget the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund – there have been some recent policy changes for 2020 ONLY on how you may want to allocate your payment - please communicate with your school directly.

State Schools Relief 

Note we are incredibly fortunate in Victoria to have organisations such as State Schools Relief and many other giving welfare agencies who all do their bit to support Victorian children to enable access to their education. It would be a great day if these agencies did not have to do this education cost provision - and our future Federal and State Government Budgets funded public education to cover the costs of schooling for those who are the most disadvantaged, without having to seek the support themselves.

PV encourages our readers to watch out for the Victorian Council of Social Service helpful resources – they recently promoted information in regard to rent relief.

If you're still not sure...

PV always encourages parents and carers to speak with their school directly in the first instance. If there is reason to speak beyond the school please contact your relevant DET regional office for assistance. If no joy, then contact us.

Joan Kirner Award

The Joan Kirner Award is an annual award given to a Member Parent Club, Parent, or Individual Member who has demonstrated, encouraged, or facilitated parent or family engagement in their school.

2020 Winner:  Catherine Kirby, Sandringham College Community

From Catherine's nomination:

Catherine’s commitment to the Sandringham College Community, over many years, has helped to form the inclusive culture of our school; she has built community and encouraged parent engagement across many facets of the school’s operations. Catherine has worn many hats: President of the Parents Teachers and Friends association, Wardrobe Mistress for our renowned Performing Arts Theatre Programs and Truck Driver for the Great Victorian Bike Ride participants. In performing these roles, Catherine has frequently called out to the community for assistance, building teams of parents to participate in the life of our school.

Many of the established, ongoing opportunities for Parent engagement that have become entrenched at our school were instigated or encouraged by Catherine. She assembled the dedicated team required to run the second hand uniform shop, which raises funds but also frequently provides free uniforms to families in need. Our annual book and uniform swaps, similarly raise funds and provide an opportunity for parents to access cheaper items.

Parend Champion During Covid Award

In 2020 our school landscapes have changed dramatically due to Covid-19.  Every parent has likely been engaged more than ever in their children’s education.  The opportunity for parent clubs to meet has been greatly diminished, or forced into a new format.  This Award recognises the positive contribution parents have made during the “learning from home” periods this year.

2020 Winner: Nikky Edwards — Croydon Hills Primary School

From NIkky's nomination:

At Croydon Hills Primary School, we have been blessed by a strong and vibrant Parents' Association: Croydon Hills Association of Parents, or CHAPS.
In 2020 that connectedness has never been more important and difficult to maintain. At Croydon Hills Primary School it has been held together for parents almost single-handedly by Nikky who, as a longtime school parent and CHAPS stalwart, now moderates the CHAPS Facebook page.
During her time at CHPS Nikky has been a mainstay of the school's community and social fabric.
Nikky has been instrumental in organising and delivering a range of social events each year that have brought together the school community.
In short, it is impossible to think of anything over the past eight years that Nikky has not been willing to have a go at, if it benefits our school and students.

This year her efforts have reached a whole new level. CHAPS has run a closed Facebook page for the last couple of years and it has been a valuable tool in keeping the school community informed about and engaged with school life.

With this year's lockdowns it has been an indispensable part of our school communication chain, providing timely information, reinforcing school policies and procedures and giving parent members the opportunity to engage with each other on a social level while unable to meet and talk in the flesh.
As a public forum in the context of a primary school community, it needs careful moderation with a clear eye on its aims and outcomes, if it is to fulfil its purpose and contribute positively to the life of our school.
This was a job that needed to be done and in typical fashion, Nikky understood it and took it on with commitment, diligence, an irrepressible sense of humour and a light but firm hand.
Croydon Hills Primary School Council and Leadership Team is indebted to Nikky Edwards' leadership and commitment to our school community. In this moment in history, Nikky has embodied our school values of Responsibility, Resilience, Respect, Care & Compassion and Integrity. She is an inspiration to both staff and parents, with genuine care for the wellbeing of other parents, staff and students.”

 

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