This year’s Victorian State Budget delivered an 11% increase to overall education spending in the state. At a time when there is a lot of pressure on the budget, and the state’s focus shifts to repaying COVID-era debt, we are pleased to see that the State Government has chosen to protect and prioritise funding for Victorian students and schools.
While we didn’t see any substantial new commitments to supporting students’ mental health, or improving consent education in Victoria, the budget did deliver strong investments to support student engagement and wellbeing, as well as new investments to support existing student mental health initiatives.
We also saw new investments to further support students of refugee backgrounds and improve career education in Victoria, which will work to address VicSRC’s recent advocacy to improve the state of career education and perceptions of VET in schools.
Improving access to education
The government will provide funding to support equal access to education, especially in regional and rural Victoria, with initiatives to provide regional students with new learning opportunities in science and the arts, expand access to school experiences like camps and excursions for students who might not be able to afford them, and improve students’ goals and aspirations through mentoring and improved exposure to post-school pathways.
Support for disengaged students
The government will provide funding to support students who are disengaged from school by providing additional, targeted support to encourage those students to re-engage in learning or enter a career pathway.
There is also additional support included in the budget to boost school engagement among the African and Pasifika student communities in Victoria, including through a continuation of Navigator, a program which works directly with disengaged young people to identify the root causes of disengagement and helps them get back on track.
Supporting student wellbeing
The government will provide funding for a number of student wellbeing programs including the expansion of I CAN, an autistic-led program which helps autistic students build a stronger sense of self-acceptance, confidence, optimism and belonging. The government will also support the continuation of the Safe Schools program.
On top of that, the government will also continue to provide free period products in all government schools for the next four years. The government is also providing $2.8 million over four years in additional funding to support the implementation of the School Mental Health Fund.
Better career education for students
Funding has been provided to provide high-quality career education for students through the training of school staff and new targeted investments for disadvantaged students who are missing out on career opportunities.
VicSRC has been advocating for improvements to career education with a special focus on the need to improve access and perceptions of VET pathways in schools. We’re hopeful that these new investments will work to address these concerns.
New builds and upgrades for Victorian schools
Funding has been provided to build nine additional new schools, opening in 2025-26, as well as funding for early works for three more new schools set to open in 2026. The investment is worth $573 million over the next four years.
Meanwhile, $266 million over the next four years is also being provided to upgrade classrooms and facilities across 43 schools in Victoria, with an additional 54 schools receiving $20 million dollars to develop plans for future upgrades.
The government will also provide $3.6 million to establish a new school at the Royal Children’s Hospital to support students who are receiving long-term care at the Hospital.
No funding for Student Voice improvements in schools
The budget did not include any specific initiatives to support the empowerment of students in education decision-making. We remain hopeful that the Victorian Government will continue to work closely with VicSRC and the student community to make Victoria the national leader on Student Voice and empowerment.