VicSRC meets with DET and VCAA

Last week members of the VicSRC Student Executive Advisory Committee met with decisionmakers at DET and VCAA to talk about student recommendations and the rest of the 2021 school year. We recognise that decisions are being made working with the Department of Health as the priority during the COVID-19 pandemic is the health and safety of all members of our community. A huge thank you to all the students who provided feedback and insight for this meeting, because of you we were able to bring lots of different student voices and opinions to the table.

We had some very honest conversations about what can realistically be changed in the remainder of this year and what simply can’t be changed at this point. Some of this news will be disappointing for a lot of students and we wish there had been the opportunity to provide more clarity earlier about what options were and were not possible.

Here are the key conversation topics, outcomes and what will happen next.

COMMUNICATIONS
What VicSRC said
  • You are frustrated with the way information is currently being shared.
  • You want to know what decisions are being made, why and how, as soon as possible.
  • You want this information to come to you from the government through a clear website and through social media.
What DET/VCAA said
  • Acknowledged the frustration students are feeling.
  • Information is usually shared directly by DET and the VCAA with schools to be passed on to students and their families. This is to make sure the information is accurate to each individual school and community and so that schools can provide additional supports as required. There is the opportunity for some high-level information that students could hear directly from DET.
  • There is currently a student-focused website housed on the Coronavirus Victoria website – found here – also expressed interest in discussing how to improve the content of that website and how to communicate with students through social media.
What happens next
  • VCAA has committed to launching a dedicated student section on its website within the next two weeks.
  • Webinars for students around big issues – such as the return to school plan.
  • Possible electronic newsletter for students to sign up to.
  • Possible youth advisory group to support communications direct to students so they’re easier to understand.
VCE EXAMS
What VicSRC said
  • You are very stressed, exhausted and frustrated that no accommodations have been made for 2021 other than Consideration of Educational Disadvantage (CED).
  • Many students said that the current VCE system was not fair and wanted the experiences of the past two years to lead to changes.
  • Most of you really wanted something to change about exams, to relieve your current levels of anxiety and distress.
  • A lot of you are confused about what CED actually means and how it will benefit you.
What DET/VCAA said
  • VCE and VCAL students continue to be a priority to support them to complete their studies and graduate in 2021. This has included:
    • getting them back to on-site assessments, exam preparation and learning as soon as possible as well as priority access through the vaccination blitz.
    • Introducing the Consideration of Educational Disadvantage for all students doing VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3-4 again and special consideration for VCAL and non-scored VET units.
  • VCAA has seriously considered the request from students to adjust study content and suggested changes to exams but because the disruptions and lockdowns occurred much later in 2021 than in 2020, to ensure they are as fair and consistent as possible the study content and exams can’t be changed.
  • It’s important to run the GAT and all the exams on schedule so that VCAA get as much information as possible from students, including the CED statement, to provide accurate and fair results to the class of 2021.
  • The CED is, importantly, applied to all students, you don’t need to apply to receive this consideration. It is designed to take into account the impact of the pandemic on each individual student. You also have the opportunity to share how you’ve been affected by disruptions through submitting a CED Student Statement.
  • There is more information on the VCAA website about how CED works.
What happens next
  • VCAA has committed to running a webinar in partnership with VicSRC to explain how CED works and provide dedicated information to students on the new student section on the VCAA website.
  • The current senior secondary reforms that are taking place will create a new VCE vocational certificate and foundation pathway certificate in 2023. There is also a commitment that by 2025 there will be a fully integrated VCE. VicSRC and VCAA will work together to ensure students are meaningfully consulted on the new integrated VCE.
MENTAL HEALTH
What VicSRC said
  • You are experiencing enormous levels of stress.
  • You want to see two state-wide mandated mental health days to make the government’s commitment to student mental health and wellbeing clear.
  • While many of your schools are working hard to maintain student mental health and wellbeing there is a lot of variation in the support you are receiving across different schools.
What DET/VCAA said
  • This late in the year it’s not possible to mandate two days off for mental health.
  • Acknowledged the importance to send a system-wide clear message to schools that they are prioritising mental health.
  • Also acknowledged that it’s been harder for some students to maintain good mental health in 2021 than it was in 2020.
  • Have been working hard to communicate to schools that mental health and wellbeing are the top priority and set the expectation that schools are checking in regularly with students.
What happens next
  • VicSRC will follow up with DET about possible mental health days in 2022, whether on a set day for all schools or just two days a term that individual schools can set the date of.
  • VicSRC will work with DET and Department of Health to share more information about mental health services available to students through school and through the health system and how to navigate both systems.
RETURN TO FACE-TO-FACE LEARNING & POSSIBLE CONTINUATION OF REMOTE LEARNING
What VicSRC said
  • You want to see a return to school in cohorts a few days a week rather than some year levels having to wait while other return full time because school as a community is really important both for learning and mental health.
  • If remote learning has to continue you want less screen time, a reduced workload and more support to keep or catch up. You also want more consistency and communication between teachers to keep the workload and assessment schedule balanced.
What DET/VCAA said
  • Unable to confirm any details of the return to school plan as it is still being put together.
  • Acknowledged the student perspectives on both the return to school and possibility of continued remote learning.
What happens next
  • The Premier announced that cohorts of students would return to school for two or three days per week initially before everyone returning to full time on site learning early November (indicative timeline). This includes final year and students studying units 3&4 of VCE to return to on site learning from the start of term 4, the day after the GAT.
  • VicSRC will continue to work with the government to ensure students continue to be heard in decision making as the roadmap is rolled out.

 

VicSRC was able to share the recommendations and your responses with Minister Merlino and other key decision-makers before plans are finalised, so that your voices fed into the discussion. There is nowhere else in Australia where students get regular input into state level decision making like this.

However, there are many voices at the table and many competing priorities. The severity of the COVID Delta outbreak was unexpected and decisions about school and assessments have had to be made very quickly based on lots of factors, including health advice. VicSRC continues to ensure students’ voices are always at the table and will keep updating Victorian students on opportunities for feedback and changes to education.