Teacher trauma training could transform learning


Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Bill 2021


September 9, 2021

Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (10:40):

I am pleased to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Bill 2021. I will just make a few comments regarding our support for the bill.

Continuing education and training is crucially important in every profession, not least of all a profession that is so formative in setting young Victorians on their life pathway.

This bill facilitates the establishment of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership and importantly includes regional areas, with the establishment of regional learning centres. The government says that staff at the academy will provide regular, impartial expert advice to the Minister for Education to ensure that ongoing changes and improvements are made to teacher learning and training. This commitment to ongoing shared dialogue on improving education systems in our state is really important and I hope will affirm for teachers their critical voice in this. I imagine the academy will strategically work with the existing Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership—the existing professional learning arm of the Department of Education and Training—and other organisations in the sector to maximise the potential and ensure we are strategic and supportive of what is already in place.

There is an ambitious time frame, I must say, for the academy to be operating by January 1, 2022, particularly in this current (COVID) environment. There is also not a great amount of detail on the record yet about how the seven regional learning centres will operate and exactly how they will practically interact with the academy, but the inclusion of centres in Bendigo, Mildura and Shepparton will no doubt be welcomed by regional teachers, and likewise Ballarat and Geelong in my colleague Mr Grimley’s electorate of Western Victoria. There is probably some hope that this will extend further, such as establishing a centre in Wodonga.

I know from my previous interactions with schools that many find it particularly challenging to try and schedule the gamut of professional development opportunities needed for their schools and their teachers. We need to be mindful to ensure that offerings are indeed deliverable and fit for purpose. Following the Victorian Auditor-General’s audit of professional learning for schoolteachers in 2019 the Department of Education acknowledged they needed to enhance their understanding of the costs to develop and deliver professional training. I note that the teaching excellence program, billed as the flagship of the academy, will be built on evidence-based teacher practice. It is this that I will focus on now.

Absence of trauma-informed training

Advanced professional learning is obviously important to raising the bar in our system, but also critically important is the foundation of training. I have been extremely surprised—in fact, for many years, shocked—at the absence of trauma-informed training for emerging teachers in their foundational studies. I would hope that in the future this changes, because we know that childhood trauma has direct impacts on the ability of a child to learn. The ability to recognise, understand and address the learning needs of children who are impacted by trauma can be transformational, not only for children whose needs will be better understood but also for teachers who are often very frustrated by the associated behaviours that children with trauma can exhibit. We have for a long time seen the impact that has had on children. They have often been sent home from school—suspended—for those behaviours. Teachers without that trauma-informed practice do not know what to do with these children other than to suspend them, to remove them from the classroom. That is not benefiting our children. We must ensure that our teachers have those skills.

I met earlier this year with Dr Anne Southall of La Trobe University, who has developed a six-week online program in mental health and wellbeing in schools to develop in teachers an understanding of trauma-informed practice, and I certainly hope that that online learning will continue.

Disappointingly, their ‘Hard Yards’ conference for August 13 was postponed due to current restrictions. The model was based out of allied health and modified for schools, and I congratulate Dr Southall for her commitment to this very important work.

Finally, I note the government says the academy will continue to evaluate their programs and their effectiveness. This should happen for every program in every arm of government and is something that I wish was more transparent and publicly available. I will end my contribution there, and I look forward to seeing the impact the academy has on the education of our young people in the future.

Image: Abhi Sharma | Creative Commons via Flickr