Jesuit Social Services welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Victorian Government’s review of Vocational and Applied Learning (VCAL) in Senior Secondary Schooling.

In our experience working with young people who have disengaged from education in Victoria, many students benefit from undertaking VCAL as an alternative to the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). We believe it is the shared responsibility of schools, education providers, families and support services to address the discrimination and stigma experienced by many young people doing VCAL which, for some, leads to permanent or long-lasting disengagement from learning and vocational pathways.

Parkville College offers VCAL to young people across Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice centres and other sites. This program is a valuable learning option for some young people while incarcerated. However, a range of challenges need to be addressed to ensure access to quality education for all young people in custody, including that:

  • The highly securitised environments of Victoria’s youth justice centres are not conducive to learning.
  • The challenges of learning for young people with experiences of trauma must be properly understood and addressed by all staff, inside and outside the classroom, using a restorative approach.
  • Young people would benefit from more individual support, such as one-on-one tutoring
  • Every young person should have a thorough, individualised learning plan that reflects their needs, strengths and aspirations and is linked to real and manageable learning pathways and opportunities in the community.
  • Critically, all young people should be exiting custody with documentation of what learning they have undertaken.