Education and Training Reform Amendment (Senior Secondary Pathways Reforms and Other Matters) Bill 2021 – Second Reading

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree): I too am pleased to rise and speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Senior Secondary Pathways Reforms and Other Matters) Bill 2021 as we continue in our commitment to making Victoria the Education State and transforming Victoria’s education system.

I wish to thank the Minister for Education and the Minister for Training and Skills in the other place for the work that has gone into the development of this significant bill. Thank you to the hardworking ministerial officers, especially Alice Jordan-Baird and Liam Attoe, for the great job they do, as well as the Department of Education and Training for the work that has gone into the preparation of this bill.

I would like to thank the Minister for Education for the massive investment being made in schools across the electorate of Wendouree, including Ballarat High School, Ballarat Specialist School, Mount Rowan college, St Patrick’s College and Delacombe, Forest Street, Black Hill, Alfredton, Macarthur Street, Newington, Dana Street and Caledonian primary schools.

Across Ballarat we have so many excellent schools, and this is because of the outstanding leadership of our principals and the high-quality teachers and support staff—thank you for going above and beyond our expectations to keep our school communities connected and our students engaged during remote learning.

I would also like to just make quick mention of Alfredton Primary School and their community. It was required to close yesterday after someone with a positive case of COVID attended the school on Thursday. These are challenging times not only for our teachers and our students but for our broader school community. I hope that everyone at Alfredton Primary School is going well, and I wish them all the best for the remainder of term 4.

I am very pleased that the opposition is supporting this bill, and I thank the member for Croydon for his detailed explanation of the bill. Thank you very much for that.

We know that Victoria’s economy is rapidly changing and that many of the occupations that will be required in the future do not even exist yet. We need to futureproof our kids by ensuring students of today develop and build the skills and capabilities to fulfil the jobs of tomorrow. I want students to thrive in their learning environment so they can embrace education and training opportunities that will lead to fulfilling careers that they can enjoy and gain satisfaction from, and I am sure the member for Bayswater agrees with me very much.

Mr Taylor: Absolutely.

Ms ADDISON: Thank you. I believe the introduction of this bill will help facilitate this. Last year the Minister for Education announced that VCAL will be merged with the VCE. By introducing the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Senior Secondary Pathways Reforms and Other Matters) Bill 2021 we are creating a single Victorian certificate of education, which will make it easier for students to get a range of skills, both vocational and academic.

I welcome that senior school secondary providers and other education sector stakeholders, including the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, Independent Schools Victoria and the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, are supportive of the proposed senior secondary pathways reforms in this bill.

Senior secondary education is about developing and realising every student’s potential, and our Victorian certificate of education, the VCE, is world class. The changes being proposed in this bill will ensure that students who are able to complete the VCE do so.

I am showing my age, but I am proud to share that I was a member of the very first cohort to undertake and complete the VCE in 1992—and it has served me well to date. A number of changes have occurred since the origin, including the introduction of the Victorian certificate of applied learning in 2003 by Labor Minister for Education and Training Lynne Kosky. Lynne considered the introduction of VCAL as one of her greatest achievements, as it was a hands-on alternative to the Victorian certificate of education. Over the last 18 years VCAL has provided a stepping stone for many students into further education and training as well as jobs in industry.

I worked for Lynne in the Altona electorate office in 1998. She was an incredible role model and a generous and supportive mentor. As someone who grew up in the western suburbs, Lynne attended the University of Melbourne, trained to be a social worker and worked as a community education officer in Sunshine. Lynne knew the transformative power of education from her own lived experience. In a speech made to this place 9 February 2006 during her time as Minister for Education and Training, the Honourable Lynne Kosky said:

Of all the factors that have the potential to increase an individual’s opportunities, education and training is the most enabling. It allows individuals to equip themselves to live fulfilling, productive and satisfying lives.

Minister Kosky went on to say:

A quality education and training system does not respond only to contemporary needs and issues; it should also identify and anticipate future needs and challenges.

It is a fundamental community and social glue, while being a bridge to a more prosperous and harmonious future.

And I must say that I agree.

Lynne was so proud when I went on to become a teacher, as she valued education and the teaching profession so highly. As Minister for Education and Training, Lynne strongly supported legislative reform for vocational training, and 18 years after VCAL was first introduced, I am proud that we are continuing to ensure that Victoria’s education system meets the academic and vocational needs and expectations of our community in the 21st century.

This bill will replace VCAL with the Victorian pathways certificate, the VPC, and the Victorian certificate of education vocational major. The bill enables a new certificate scheme by providing for a separate VPC which will replace foundation VCAL, and for the intermediate and senior VCAL to be integrated into the VCE. There will be a clear delineation between the VCE and the VPC.

As a secondary school teacher for over a decade, a parent of two school-age children and the wife of a tradesperson, I am very pleased that Victorian students will be able to access vocational specialisation streams within the VCE from 2023. Importantly, these changes will enhance the education skills development of Victorian students by enabling access to an increased range of curriculum options, including a combination of subjects that are currently restricted to our VCE or VCAL students.

By establishing a single senior secondary certificate incorporating VCAL into VCE, we are preparing our senior students for success beyond the school gate by creating opportunities for them to shape their own future, determine their next chapter and follow their dreams.

I think it is very important that we remind ourselves of the Liberal-Nationals approach to vocational education and training when they were last in power. In 2012 the Victorian Liberal-Nationals coalition, under the leadership of Premier Ted Baillieu, made large funding cuts of $300 million to the Victorian TAFE public education system, a major deliverer of VCAL courses for young and mature-age students, and cut funding to secondary school VCAL programs. This resulted in students being unable to access many courses and job losses for VCAL providers for secondary schools.

I am proud that the Andrews Labor government has not only rebuilt our TAFE sector but introduced free TAFE. This initiative is not only delivering a modern, skilled workforce but changing lives. I must say that I was very pleased to hear the shadow minister committing his ongoing support to vocational training in Victoria. That is really pleasing to hear.

To our senior secondary students who have faced a very challenging and disrupted final two years due to the global pandemic, I would like to express my absolute admiration to you.

I wish all our year 12 students, who have navigated their final years like no other cohort, all the best for their final assessments and exams. And as someone who taught some of these students when they were in years 7 and 8, I have a very strong vested interest in their wellbeing and success. I could not be prouder of our students across Ballarat and Victoria. Your best times are still to come, and the future is whatever you want to make it.

In concluding, the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Senior Secondary Pathways Reforms and Other Matters) Bill 2021 will give all students the learning opportunities to develop the skills and capabilities needed to achieve positive outcomes in further education and vocational training that will lead to sustainable employment and fulfilled careers.

I welcome this bill, I commend it to the house and I am so pleased that we are going to have a next generation of amazingly supported and educated young people entering our workforce and building an even better, stronger Victoria.


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