Reforms help students on job path


October 26, 2021

I am pleased to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Senior Secondary Pathways Reform and Other Matters) Bill 2021.

This Bill implements recommendations 1 and 10 of the Firth Review, which proposed reforms to make vocational and applied learning in schools more relevant, higher quality and accessible to students.

There is no doubt that education is a key interest of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. Countless studies link a good education to a better pathway in life, simply because it provides greater opportunities for employment, which then provides stability, fulfilment and endless opportunities

I only want to make a couple of quick points on this bill, because much has already been covered by other speakers.  So for me, for Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, it’s natural to look at this bill through the justice lens.

We know that schools are integral to the emotional and social development of our young people. For at risk children, they play a pivotal role in intervention. Breakfast clubs help children obtain food where they otherwise might not, welfare teams link children and families to external supports; and schools are often the first to detect and report serious concerns about absenteeism, neglect and abuse.

It is generally accepted that keeping young people in school for longer reduces their risk of becoming involved in crime. At a very basic level, it provides time for emotional development and role modelling of positive choices and risk-aversion. For young people on the edge of leaving school, alternate learning settings like Borinya in my electorate are really important in keeping young people engaged for as long as possible.

A study more than 10 years ago by Latrobe University found that 46 per cent of young offenders in custody in Victoria had a previously undiagnosed language disorder[i]. There is a strong link between the severity of offending and the severity of disordered language skills. Building the basic capacity to read is incredibly important to improving the life trajectory of a young person. Intervention is needed at the earliest point, which is the early years of school.   La Trobe’s Professor Pamela Snow described this as needing to ‘meet children at the school gate’.

I say that in relation to this bill, because transforming careers education in Victoria’s schools has to link back to identifying children at risk in the early years, and making sure the support and intervention is available at the earliest possible point.  That way, the reforms this bill makes, in providing more diversity across the curriculum and capturing more pathways for senior students, will have even greater effect.

These reforms seek to lift the quality and perception of vocational education and applied learning and I certainly hope that this will be achieved over time.  Our society is heavily reliant on people with vocational skills – there are great jobs out there and we need to ensure young people are connected to those opportunities. Our regional areas are often challenged by a lack of vocational teachers, so implementing these reforms will require strategies to address the shortages and ensure vocational courses are high quality and engaging for students.

Much of this bill sets the framework and authority for transitioning to the new setting, so I will leave it there, with a quick shout out to students across Victoria, especially in my electorate of Northern Victoria who have just finished their formal senior studies in the last week.  The senior years for students in the last couple of years have been doing it tough, most learning has been done remotely and students have missed out on activities and opportunities that usually make their senior years unforgettably special. I know it has been tough for teachers too, in trying to find engaging and practical ways to teach remotely. I hope students will have a much smoother year in 2022. So, to all of the graduates of the Class of 2021, congratulations! To VCE students, I send my best wishes for your exams and more generally for the future.

I commend this bill to the House.

Image: Wangaratta GOTAFE