Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan):
I wish to make my contribution on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Bill 2021. The bill will amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 to establish the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership as a statutory entity in the education portfolio. It will provide a dedicated pathway for established exceptional teachers to contribute to school and system improvement.
The Andrews government has led the country when it comes to investing in education. Our vehicle numberplates read ‘The Education State’ for that reason. Victoria has been able to build a strong education infrastructure and through this bill we will be able to make it even better. We want Victoria’s kids to get the best education. Education is the key to a better and sustainable future. The problems we will leave behind will be solved by the kids who will be in school. Education plays an important part in our state’s economy and, through this bill, our government is investing further in making our state’s education system better. The most important way this can be achieved is through having the best teachers. In Indian culture, teachers are given the utmost respect. This bill sets ambitious excellence and equity targets for meeting the needs of the whole student.
Our government has ensured that every single person in Victoria has access to the world-class education, that is at the cutting edge, with modern amenities. We believe that schooling is not only to develop students’ literacy and numeracy skills, but also to build their dispositions, resilience, wellbeing, and critical and creative thinking skills. This is about taking a holistic approach to development of a student. The world is changing, but there are elements of our education system that have not changed for decades. This bill will deliver one of the most critical reforms of the Andrews Labor government. It also addresses one of the significant elements that are currently missing from the school system. It is a very high priority reform that is much needed. It will help us deliver specialised and professional teaching staff across Victoria. This bill will see the creation of a specialist entity which will help develop teaching and school leadership skills in the teachers. This will raise the calibre of our teachers and improve the status of the Victorian teaching profession. The Andrews Labor government has invested $148.2 million to establish the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership—a multi-site academy that will develop high-quality teachers and foster a pipeline of emerging leaders. This bill will lay the foundations for a coherent, whole of system approach to professional learning for the entire Victorian teaching profession, from all school sectors at every stage of their careers. Investment in high-quality teacher professional learning not available elsewhere is critical for lifting the capability and status of the profession and, in turn, improving student learning outcomes.
To talk about the specifics of this bill, it will establish the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership as a new statutory authority within the education portfolio to achieve the following objectives:
a. to improve outcomes for students through the provision of specialised teaching and leadership excellence programs for exceptional teachers and school leaders
b. to increase equity and access to professional learning to lift the quality of teaching and school leadership across Victoria
c. to use the expertise of established exceptional teachers to further develop the capabilities of emerging exceptional teachers through the provision of a dedicated professional pathway, and
d. to raise public awareness of the capability and status of exceptional teachers and school leaders in the science and practice of teaching.
The new Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership will develop our teachers, helping them advance their potential further. It is an Australian-first program of advanced professional learning for high-performing teachers in government, Catholic and independent schools. This program will sharpen their expertise and knowledge, and then they will be able to share their skills with their own school communities, ensuring every classroom receives the benefits of this multimillion-dollar investment. Expanding and strengthening a high-calibre pool of new principals through investment in emerging school leaders is also vital to address principal supply issues and ensure that new principals bring to their new role the expertise necessary to achieve school improvement. It is not just an investment for our teachers, it is an investment for the future of Victoria and it is designed in a way where the impact will be felt across the broader communities. The bill is strongly aligned with and will support the achievement of the Victorian government’s broader school workforce reforms by increasing access to specialised professional learning programs and pathways for teachers and school leaders. Since 2015, the Victorian government has delivered unprecedented levels of investment in the knowledge and skills of our teachers, recognising and promoting the best of the profession to lead improvement in our schools.
VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT’S INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION IN THE WEST
The Victorian government is making record investment in education across the state. The Andrews Labor government has promised to build 100 new schools across the state by 2026 and we are ahead on the schedule. 62 news schools will be opening between 2019 and 2024. Many of them are in the Western Metropolitan Region. The Victorian budget 2021–22 has seen $1.6 billion invested to build new schools and improve existing schools to make sure our kids have the bright futures they deserve.
In the past seven years, the government has invested more than $10.9 billion in building new schools and more than 1700 school upgrades, creating around 13 500 jobs in construction and associated industries. A further $20 million was also allocated to the Minor Capital Works Fund in the 2021–22 state budget, bringing the total investment to $90 million. Applications for round 2 of the Minor Capital Works Fund are now open. Every student should have access to a great school, regardless of where they live. The Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership will be based in a purpose-designed CBD site, as well as across seven regional academies. This will ensure that the rural and regional teachers will be able to access high-quality professional development regardless of their location. These regional centres will be located in Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Moe and Shepparton.
Our Victorian kids will get the best opportunities, through the efforts of their teachers. The physical presence of the academy in these locations will contribute to addressing long-standing challenges for these communities in attracting and retaining teachers and school leaders. The CBD location is expected to be open early next year and the Geelong site by mid-2022—with the rest of the locations operating by the end of 2022. This marks a transformative approach to the professional learning and support available to our teachers across Victoria.
THE OBJECTIVES TO ESTABLISH THE ACADEMY
Once established, the new academy’s programs will provide an unprecedented opportunity for our best teachers to further develop their skills and become recognised as statewide leaders in teaching excellence. The academy’s flagship offering will be the teaching excellence program, a one-year intensive program for up to 500 teachers per year across all sectors, which will cover core curriculum areas including English, mathematics, science and the arts. Other programs will focus on developing a pipeline of emerging leaders and aspiring principals. Our teachers will be able to access the latest research in epistemology, the science of learning and knowledge, through the academy. This will add to their skills to ensure that Victorian students grow up to be critical thinkers and creative. The academy will also create an environment for collaborative learning between the teachers. They can share their experiences, ideas, resources and best practices. The Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership aims to build on the existing Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership with a new focus on professional learning for Victoria’s highly skilled teachers. The Education State vision is to provide outstanding teachers and school leaders in every classroom, delivering excellence and equity in learning for every Victorian child and young person. Investing in the knowledge and capabilities of teachers is the best way to improve student outcomes. And the quality of school leadership is second only to quality teaching as the biggest in-school influence on student achievement.
MEASURING THE IMPACTS OF THE ACADEMY
The academy will make a positive impact in the quality of teaching and student outcomes. To make sure that we transparently show the impact of the academy, professional learning programs and their impacts on teacher practice and student outcomes will be monitored, evaluated and published. Given the academy’s expanded remit for all school sectors, monitoring and evaluation will seek to understand differential impacts for different schools to ensure programs are responsive to the diverse needs of the profession and local school communities.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
Our teachers have shown a great effort in the last 18 months. We all saw the immense pressure on them and their students because of the pandemic. Teachers, schools’ staff and students did work that was unprecedented. They spent time and effort, beyond what they are required to. Their efforts should be enshrined in the history books.
I wish to commend the extraordinary efforts our teachers, school support staff and students put in during the pandemic. Building on top of the amazing foundation that we have in the education system, this academy will do wonders for our education system. We need more teachers in Victoria, and we know that the presence of this academy will motivate more people to choose teaching as a profession. This is an investment in the future of Victoria, and it will be having long-term effects. Up to 500 teachers will participate in the teaching excellence program each year drawn from the government, Catholic and independent school sectors. The department is working in close partnership with Catholic Education Commission Victoria and Independent Schools Victoria on the design and delivery of the Teaching Excellence Program, including the recruitment and selection process for the program. It is expected, over time, that program participation will reflect the breadth of the education workforce across all three sectors. Other teachers and school leaders will have access to existing and new professional learning programs delivered by the academy.
Teaching is a noble profession. It is a profession that not only changes lives, but it shapes the lives. We want to help our teachers sharpen their skills, expertise and develop professionally. This is a celebration of the profession of teaching. This academy is a game changer and it will take Victorian kids towards a brighter future. There is wide recognition of the benefits of a system-wide approach to the delivery of high-quality professional learning for teachers and the leadership of the school.
I commend this vital piece of legislation.
I support this bill and I wish it a speedy passage.