The Victorian State Budget 2024-25: VicSRC's Analysis

With last week’s state budget, the Victorian Government has sent a strong message that they plan on slowing down major spending across key areas including health and infrastructure in the coming years.

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Thankfully, the government delivered some encouraging new investments which will help students and families with their learning, health, and wellbeing, including:  

  • $400 credit to help with things like books, uniforms, and camps. Available to government school students and concession card holders from non-government schools.  

  • $139 million to help address the teacher shortage crisis. 

  • $47.3 million to provide extra mental health and wellbeing staff at schools.  

  • $51 million to support self-determination in education for Victorian Aboriginal students. 

  • $63.8 million to help improve the mental health of teachers and give them extra tools to help students with their mental health too.   

  • $12 million to continue place-based community programs to help students stay engaged and receive mental health and wellbeing support.  

  • $37.6 million to improve access to VET, give students more information early on, and challenge stigma and gender bias in vocational pathways.  

  • $14 million to provide access to Tech School programs for rural and regional students and continue the Tech Schools rollout across Victoria.  

  • $39.1 million to support the Respectful Relationships program.  

  • Tripling the Glasses for Kids program to give more students free pairs of glasses.  

  • $1.8 billion to continue building new schools and upgrading existing ones.  

Despite this, the budget underscored the fact that the education system is still under strain, and we are still in need of major reform to get to the heart of these issues.  

Greater investments for Victorian students  

The $400 School Saving Bonus will provide a one-off credit for families with students who attend government schools, as well as concession card holders for students from non-government schools. Each student will be eligible for the payment, meaning a family with three students will save $1,200. The money will be made available by Term 4, 2024.  

The government is yet to determine how this payment will be distributed to families, and they plan on working with schools to find the best solution. They expect more information to be ready by Term 3, 2024. 

Whilst this initiative will provide limited short-term relief to many families who are doing it tough, one-off payments which are not means tested do not go far enough towards addressing the structural limitations impacting equitable access to education.  

Meanwhile, the free breakfast scheme has been expanded to all government schools, which will provide free breakfast for up to 600,000 students, if their school signs up to the program. The Glasses for Kids program has also been expanded so more students can access free glasses without having to miss class to attend appointments.  

Although these investments will provide relief for thousands of families, they also highlight the fact that education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many. Additional policy measures must be considered to improve the affordability of good quality education and guarantee equal access for all Victorian students.  

Addressing the teacher workforce crisis  

The government also announced a total of $139 million over four years to address the teacher shortage crisis in Victoria.  

This money will support lots of different initiatives, including increasing recruitment of teachers from overseas, providing specialist training for new and existing teachers so they can deliver subjects like advanced mathematics and sciences, and facilitating flexible and job-sharing arrangements for school leaders in government schools.  

The teacher shortage is a major concern for Victorian students, who say that the impacts of the shortage are showing up in the classroom and affecting their learning and wellbeing.  

VicSRC believes that these new initiatives will go some way in addressing these concerns. We also hope that the government will prioritise measures which have already been identified by students like ensuring that all teachers have access to trauma-informed, and culturally-responsive practice training. This will work to ensure that classrooms are positive and welcoming places for all students to help alleviate the burden that some students feel when heading to school each morning.  

Student and teacher mental health and wellbeing  

The government is also providing some extra support for mental health and wellbeing, for both students and teachers.  

They will spend $47.3 million over four years on 50 extra wellbeing support staff, and 12 additional nurses to support students across the state, along with $63.8 million over four years to give teachers new tools and skills to manage their own mental health and wellbeing and better support their students’ mental health and wellbeing. 

Included in this spending in $15.8 million provided over four years to support the implementation of the school-wide positive behaviour support framework, which includes providing teachers with training from specialist coaches to improve their capabilities to foster positive and supportive environments for students.  

Whilst these are positive steps in the right direction, this alone will not solve the many issues around mental health and wellbeing which students are experiencing. To make sure these initiatives have a positive impact on students, students need to have a real say by making decisions alongside their schools as to what support looks like.  

For example, students have told us that they often feel like the support they get offered doesn’t match their needs, and it therefore doesn’t have the positive impacts they were hoping for. They also don’t have all the information they need about these supports to make good use of them. Furthermore, they often feel like there is a stigma attached to accessing services, which can pose a barrier for many students who would benefit from further mental health support.  

Student voice provides a solution to these challenges, and VicSRC is pleased to have already begun work with the Department of Education to amplify student voice and ensure that students have all the information they need to access mental health and wellbeing supports when they need them.  

Engagement, inclusion, and wellbeing strategies 

VicSRC is encouraged by the state government’s investments in access to education for students with disability, with $32.8 million provided over two years to introduce six new services as part of the Students with Disabilities Transport Program to provide easy access to school for more students with disability.  

Meanwhile, $15 million over three years has been provided to upgrade schools’ physical accessibility (like the introduction of ramps and handrails) in schools across the state. It’s not clear how many schools these upgrades will reach or whether it will extend beyond specialist schools.  

$31.1 million has also been provided to continue and expand educational support for students in out-of-home-care and those who are in, or at risk of becoming involved in, the youth justice system. These investments include an expansion of the LOOKOUT program which delivers specialist support to teachers, schools, carers, and others to support students in out-of-home-care to remain engaged (or re-engage) in education.  

VicSRC was looking closely at the state budget to ensure that it continued to deliver support for community-based organisations which deliver place-based support for students across the state to support their engagement, inclusion, and wellbeing at school.  

We’re pleased to see that $12 million in funding over four years has been continued for key programs including Project REAL, Beyond the Bell, the Academy Movement, the Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE), One Red Tree, and others, which provide students with additional and targeted support delivered by their own communities.  

Whether it be to support students’ engagement (or re-engagement) with education, post-school pathways, or mental health support, students have been clear that taking a place-based approach is critical because the needs of students will always be dependent on their broader context.  

Aboriginal self-determination  

As the experts in student voice, VicSRC recognises how important self-determination in education is for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities. That’s why we’re pleased to see that the government will be investing $51 million over four years to support self-determination by increasing Aboriginal-led decision making in education and boosting partnerships between schools and local Aboriginal communities.  

Aboriginal students and their communities know what they need to thrive at school, and we hope that this additional investment will go some way in achieving true self-determination for Aboriginal students in their education.   

Rural and regional students and Tech Schools  

VicSRC is also focused on making sure that rural and regional students have the same access to high quality education opportunities as their peers in Melbourne, which is why we’re glad to see $14 million provided over four years for programs like Mobile Tech Schools, which help regional and rural students access STEM education.  

Ensuring that these programs reach students and achieve their intended outcomes will rely on working closely with them to understand their learning preferences. VicSRC knows that many rural and regional students aspire to access vocational and STEM education but do not feel like they have equal access to those opportunities compared to their peers in Melbourne. VicSRC hopes that these continued investments will not only boost access to these opportunities, but will do so in a way which is responsive to the needs of those students, further underscoring the need for student voice in deploying these initiatives.  

VicSRC are also pleased to see that $6 million has been provided over four years to extend the Curriculum Access Coordinators, who work to improve curriculum choice and quality for rural and regional students. It is promising to see the government continue to invest in initiatives that aim to bridge the gap between the schooling experiences of rural and regional students and those in Melbourne.  

VET and Senior Secondary Education  

Like STEM, VET pathways offer students a diverse range of options for their post-school success. Unfortunately, lots of students still struggle gaining access to information about their options, and feel held back by stigma, biases, and misinformation.  

We’re pleased to see that the government is investing $37.6 million over four years to respond to these problems by supporting new initiatives to address stigma and gender biases around vocational education, while trailing a new program to allow more pre-senior secondary students to plan for and participate in vocational pathways opportunities.   

We are also encouraged by the close collaboration between students and the government in the senior secondary space which have come about because of Victorian students’ strong desire to address these issues. VicSRC’s Senior Secondary Pathways Reform Student Advisory Panel, which is made up of 14 students with a diverse range of aspirations from across the state, is already feeding into the government’s reform work in this space and will continue to do so in 2024-25.  

Respectful Relationships 

The budget also delivered $39.1 million to continue and expand the government’s support for Respectful Relationships. This funding will provide professional development for teachers and school staff and to help evaluate the impact of the program.  

The funding will also help to upskill early childhood educators to deliver the Respectful Relationships curriculum earlier on, and support community outreach related to the program.  

These are things VicSRC have been advocating for since hearing from students that teachers needed to be better equipped to teach sex and consent education in ways that are relatable, appropriate, and informative.   

What’s next 

Altogether, the Victorian Government has continued to invest in important areas in response to some of the biggest concerns of Victorian students. But there are still some major gaps when it comes to structural reform that addresses the root cause of inequitable access to good quality education for all students.  

When it comes to making sure that this investment translates into good outcomes for students, the government must work collaboratively with students to build a better understanding of their needs and ideas for improvement.  

Students know best when it comes to what they need. When they are left out of the process, the government can only guess what might work. Student voice can help to solve this problem and ensure that the Victorian Government is investing in initiatives that will make a positive difference.  

We also need to recognise that the system is under strain, looking at the mental health of students, the teacher shortage, and the cost of living. If we want to achieve long-term solutions, we need to make sure that the Victorian education system is strong and resilient by addressing the long-standing need for a new deal on school funding.  

Victorian schools miss out on around $1.7 billion dollars compared to the agreed standard for student support. We’ll continue working with the rest of the education sector in calling for the federal and state governments to reach a long-overdue deal, which finally delivers 100% of funding according to the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) for every student in Victoria.  

VicSRC will be offering an exclusive webinar on the budget to all active Partner Schools. If you want to become a Partner School, you can find more info here.