November 2020 saw the release of the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning – or VCAL -review.

In this article we look at the review report itself as well as the government’s response.

What the report found

John Firth’s wide ranging review of VCAL sees it ditched in favour of  “a better designed and valued specialist vocational pathway in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE)” with improved access to it for all senior secondary students. The report found that:

“high quality provision is unevenly distributed across the state, poor and inconsistent provider practices have emerged, student access to vocational pathways is limited in some areas and some core activities, such as exposure to work-related learning and school–industry partnerships, are ad hoc.”

A major issue is its status. Despite its many qualities and value, it is just not seen by many to ‘cut it’ in comparison with the VCE. However, a lot has been learnt from its development and delivery that can be carried over into a ‘new look’ VCE.

The answer is to develop a more integrated VCE which is more flexible that it can be ‘personalised’ so that it:

“is aligned with their interests, strengths and aspirations, and to create an optimal subject grouping that exposes them to learning that is most relevant to their desired post-school pathway.”

The first step, Firth says, is to “embed a vocational specialist pathway within the VCE.”

The website related to the review also noted the following recommendations:

Better aligning Vocational and VET training with Victoria’s growth sectors and local industry needs (1); (2) creating a new Foundation Pathways Certificate to formally recognise the skills and achievements of students who are not ready to complete Year 12, especially those with a disability and additional needs, and for students experiencing personal challenges and (3) providing more support for schools to deliver vocational and applied learning, including improving the capability of teachers and reducing schools’ operational and administrative burdens.

Finally: “all students who fully or partially complete vocational and applied learning subjects should receive an enhanced Statement of Results to provide a full picture of their strengths, capabilities and achievements when they finish school.”

How has the Victorian Government responded?

In principle, the Government has accepted all of the review’s recommendations. You can access their response here. Reforms will be aimed at lifting the quality and perception of vocational education in schools across the board, helping more students access high-quality programs, and providing students with a vocational pathway that gives them the skills they need to move successfully into further education, training and jobs.

This process will take some time, though, and will not be without its hurdles. The Government will adopt a staged approach, which they hope to complete by 2025. First there will be consultation, followed by the introduction of dedicated ‘Jobs, Skills and Pathways Coordinators’ as well as “funding new Area-based Jobs, Skills and Pathways Managers [to] help reduce the administrative burden of delivering vocational and applied learning and promote collaboration across schools.”

Finally, development work will begin this year to support the introduction of a new vocational specialist pathway in the VCE, and “a new Foundation Pathways Certificate (currently Foundation VCAL) will also be introduced from 2023 to support students in all settings to make successful post-school transitions.”