Early Childhood In brief: early childhood news for Term 3, 2020

Agreements update
After many weekly meetings being cancelled with the Department of Education and Training (DET) regarding the in-principle agreements for the VECTEA and EEEA, a meeting was held on Tuesday 18 August where a proposal was put to the AEU and employer bodies. This has enabled us to start bargaining again.

The reason provided by DET is that the central agencies were not in a position
to reveal the funding they could offer for these new agreements. The main challenge for the state government is its public sector wages policy of 2%, as the in-principle agreement between the AEU, ELAA and MAV significantly exceeds that.

The wages policy does provide capacity to go beyond 2% – and we will continue to argue that the outcomes achieved in the draft agreements meet its criteria. These outcomes – wage parity for teachers, salary increases for educators, removal of validation, and clauses to alleviate workload – in our view fit within the wages policy ‘pillars’. They are also key to the Victorian government’s stated policy of attracting and retaining a workforce to deliver three-year-old kindergarten.

We are obviously frustrated and disappointed that these meetings have been cancelled and it has taken some time to finally receive an offer from government so meetings can recommence. No doubt measures to support the community during COVID-19 are drawing heavily on the state budget and contributed to this delay.

AEU leadership is still having regular meetings with DET and the Minister for Education James Merlino. We understand that Minister Merlino is pushing to finalise the draft agreements. The successful outcome of these negotiations is critical to support the workforce and ensure implementation of three-year-old kinder.

Transition to school
More support will be available to educators to better prepare children for moving from kindergarten to school. Educators will be able to register for online professional development workshops and webinars, to learn how to adapt existing transition programs and statements during coronavirus restrictions.

Educators will also be able to access new resources including guidance for kindergartens and schools on how to best meet the needs of prep students who have had a disrupted kindergarten year due to the pandemic. The professional learning will include:

  • webinars on the importance of transition to school in a time of COVID-19 for early childhood educators and school staff

  • workshops on how to write this year’s transition learning and development statement for early childhood educators

  • workshops on how to maximise transition to school processes and best utilise the transition learning and development statement for school staff.

Registration details for these free online sessions will be released soon. Please look out for them.

Learning from home
Services currently receiving School Readiness Funding (SRF) can continue to access the Learning From Home menu item on the DET website. Services can spend up to $5000 or 25% of their total SRF allocation on the Learning from Home Menu item without seeking formal approval from their local Early Childhood Improvement Branch (ECIB) for amendments to their SRF plan.

Services wishing to spend more than $5000, or 25 per cent of their total SRF allocation, can seek approval from their local (ECIB).

Services that have fully expended or committed their SRF allocation, can apply to their local ECIB for a one-off grant to support them in the delivery of Learning from Home.

Services not receiving SRF will receive an email confirming their learning from home grant. Services do not need to apply for this grant. Services will receive between $500 and $1500 depending on enrolments and whether your service is in stage 3 or stage 4.

Definition of vulnerable children
As a condition of funding, all services that deliver funded kindergarten programs
must remain open and available for on-site learning for eligible children, including vulnerable children, in line with stage 3 and stage 4 restrictions, unless advised by DHHS to close.

Educators are encouraged to use their professional judgement when determining which children are vulnerable according to the categories below:

  • children in out of home care or known to child protection

  • Koorie children

  • medically/socially vulnerable children (for example, children eligible for the Victorian Kindergarten Inclusion Support Program or the Commonwealth Inclusion Support Program; children with complex medical needs who are not at elevated risk from COVID-19; and children from a refugee or non-English speaking background.)

There will be some children and families who don’t fit neatly into categories so please use common sense and take a pragmatic approach. You will know the children and families who are vulnerable and who may need to be at your EC service.

Evidence is not required for vulnerable children and families to attend an EC service. If you haven’t been able to make contact at all with a family or carer of a vulnerable child, consider reaching out to other support services (for example Child FIRST or family services) that may be involved with the family.

It is highly recommended that EC services provide families with a letter – using the template below – stating that their child is attending kindergarten/LDC.

Letter template

This is to certify that (name of child) is currently attending (name of service

and address) and is permitted to attend and travel to the service under Stage 4 restrictions with their (name of parent(s)/ carer/guardian).

If further information is required please contact (name and number of teacher/EL/ director).

Signed and dated

    * mandatory fields

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