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B3 Community Engagement and Support

Connecting with families and the community is a key priority in the Directorate's Strategic Plan 2014-17: Education Capital: Leading the Nation. Associated strategies continue to strengthen parent engagement in education, and both students and their parents in careers  and transition planning. As part of this priority, the Directorate strived to improve the clarity and consistency of communication with families.

The Directorate increasingly used digital communication tools to engage with key stakeholders and the community. This is consistent with the priorities of the Digital Canberra Action Plan 'key areas of Connected Community' with a focus on engaging with citizens through social media and Open Government to transform education services and deliver information  in line with community expectations.

In addition to the Directorate and school websites, community members were able to access updates about school and Directorate events quickly and easily through a range of platforms.

The Directorate's ACT Public Schools Facebook page and the many individual school Facebook pages provided families and school community members with a range of information. In addition, they proved particularly useful for school communication  to families out of school hours. The Directorate's Facebook page had more than 1,100 fans by the end of the year. The @ACTEducation Twitter site continued to double the number of followers each year and at the end of the year had more than 1,400  followers.

The Directorate undertook community consultation using the Time to Talk website, inviting feedback on developments relating to gifted and talented education, services for students with learning difficulties, and as part of Preschool Matters consultations.

The ACT Government 'responsive design' website template continued to be applied to school websites to improve the accessibility of information for people with a disability and to aid viewing on mobile electronic devices.

Major Advisory Groups and Consultations

The Director-General, together with other Directorate staff, met on a regular basis with the executive of the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations; the Australian Education Union; the Catholic Education Office; the Association of Independent Schools; and the ACT Principals' Association  to discuss key issues and progress on major initiatives.

Government and Non-Government Schools Education Councils

The Government Schools Education Council and the Non-government Schools Education Council advised the Minister for Education and Training as required on public and non-government schooling. Community and education members representing significant stakeholder groups form the membership of both councils.  The Directorate provides secretariat support for these Councils.

Review of Non-Government Schools Registration Processes

During 2013, the Minister for Education and Training initiated a review of the approval and registration processes relating to non-government schools in the ACT. Eleven education stakeholder groups contributed to the review through written submissions.

An independent panel identified the key themes from the stakeholder submissions and presented to the Minister on current non-government school approval and registration processes and practices, and those that might be enhanced.

The key themes were:

The 2013 review will result in enhancements to the approval and registration processes for ACT non-government schools and the development of new guidelines for implementation in 2015.

The review considerations are available on the Directorate's website.

Non-Government School Proposals for Development

The Directorate informed the community of applications relating to the in-principle approval and registration of non-government schools in the ACT.

When an application for in-principle approval is received by the Directorate, community comment is invited on the application through a notice published in the Community Noticeboard of The Canberra Times and on the Directorate's website.

When the application is for provisional registration; registration of a provisionally registered school; registration of an existing school at an additional campus; or additional educational levels, community information on the application is provided through a notice published in the Community Noticeboard  of The Canberra Times and on the Directorate's website.

When the application is for the renewal of registration of an existing school, the community is informed through the Directorate's website.

Community information relating to the Minister for Education and Training's decisions regarding applications for in-principle approval and registration is provided through the Directorate's website.

During the 2013-14 reporting period the Directorate notified the community that:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group (the Group) meets with ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, groups and organisations and provides advice to the ACT and Australian governments on education and training programs and initiatives under the National  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan (the Plan).

In 2013 and 2014, the Group and the Chair were actively involved in:

In 2013 and 2014, the Group provided advice on local and national policy and projects. Locally, the Group participated in the development and implementation of Reconciliation Action Plans and Community Partnership Agreements, the Directorate's Engaging Schools Framework, cultural competency and cultural  awareness training for teachers and school staff, and the Directorate's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Action Plan 2014–2017. They were also involved in a review of the Engagement Protocols Booklet for the Catholic Education Office.

Nationally, the Group contributed to the Australian Government's Budget Based Funding stakeholder review, the Learning Communities Project, the revision of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014, and the Focus Schools Next Steps initiative.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultation

During the reporting period, the Directorate consulted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, the Ngunnawal Centre  (University of Canberra), Dhara Dharamoolan (Australian Catholic University), Gugan Gulwan, and Thunderstone (Murungul Gurubung) Aboriginal Cultural and Land Management Services.

Consultation topics included:

Minister's Student Congress

The Minister's Student Congress (MSC) is the Directorate's peak student leadership body. It provides ACT public school students the opportunity to discuss educational issues important to them directly with the Minister for Education and Training.

In May 2014 the Congress Executive provided the second report to the Minister on behalf of the MSC. The Executive Report reflected the considerable achievements of the MSC in the previous year and recommended that the MSC continue to be used to further empower youth and provide student voice to public  school students.

Key achievements for MSC members throughout the reporting period included presenting at the International Women's Day breakfast; launching the new Careers and Transitions website; facilitating workshops for the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence - the Student Voice in Preventing Bullying  Conference; representing public school students on the Government Schools Education Council; and providing student consultation on a number of new policy documents.

Disability Education Reference Group

The Disability Education Reference Group (DERG) is a community consultative forum convened by the Director-General. DERG provides an opportunity for the community to have a role in formulating advice on the education of students with a disability in public schools.

Membership of the DERG is comprised of principals, the Australian Education Union, parent associations and other government and community organisations involved in the support of people with disability and their families.

In the reporting period, the DERG considered a range of national and local activity. This included:

ACT Safe Schools Roundtable

The Safe Schools Roundtable (the Roundtable) was inaugurated in 2013 to provide advice to the Minister for Education and Training on matters relating to achieving the National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) vision of: 'All Australian schools are safe, supportive and respectful teaching and learning communities that promote student wellbeing'.

The Roundtable provided valuable cross sectoral community consultation about Safe and Supportive Schools policy development and the implementation of the NSSF in ACT public and non-government schools.

School Boards

The Education Act 2004 (the Act) requires each public school to have a school board as a way of sharing authority and responsibility with the local school community. The Act prescribes the composition of general school  boards, boards of small schools and also school-related institutions and other schools in special circumstances, which may require a different structure due to the needs of the institution or school.

Most public schools have a general school board with provision for a principal, an appointed member representing the general public, two staff members, three parents and citizens members, two student members (in high schools and colleges) and up to two board appointed members. The board appointed member  positions can be used by schools to strengthen a desired skill set on the board and to ensure that all constituent groups in the school community are involved in school decision-making. All appointments, apart from board appointed members, are made by the Directorate's Returning Officer on behalf of  the Director-General.

Some public schools have specially constituted school boards. The Act details the functions of public school boards. These functions include establishing the strategic direction and priorities for the school; monitoring and reviewing school performance; establishing educational, financial and resource-related  policies; developing relationships between the school and the community; encouraging parent participation in student learning and making recommendations to the Director-General on issues affecting the school.

During the reporting period, the Directorate provided training and support for members of school boards.

Schools Capital Works

During the reporting period, the Directorate continued stakeholder consultation on the planning, design and construction of capital works projects for new and existing schools and childcare centres. The Directorate engaged with external stakeholders on the following capital works projects:

Internal consultations were also undertaken with school principals, school boards and school Parents and Citizens Associations on planned works at schools and master plans, and with childcare centre operators on planned works at childcare centres.

These projects are discussed in detail in Section F3.

Training and Tertiary Education Consultation

The Directorate is committed to ongoing reforms of the ACT vocational education and training system that further enhance quality, responsiveness, agility, access and equity. Central to these reforms are strategies that improve community and industry engagement with the vocational education and training  sector.

In 2013-14, the Directorate continued its Training and Tertiary Education (TaTE) Quarterly Stakeholder Forums and implemented a range of new engagement initiatives, including:

TaTE Quarterly Stakeholder Forums provide an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with the Directorate on current and future skills development activities. During the reporting period stakeholders attending the forums included:

The four forums held in 2013-14 covered a range of topics including:

Industry and Community Consultation on the ACT Skills Needs List

The Directorate developed the Forecasting of Industry Needs and Entitlement (FINE) model to identify areas of skills shortage within the ACT. The FINE model established priorities and levels of relative need for all ACT occupations and the vocational education and training qualifications typically  required for employment in these occupations.

Between June and August 2013, the Directorate presented the FINE model at six industry consultations. At these forums, industry representatives and employers provided feedback on the model and identified issues affecting the availability of appropriate skills within their sector.

To seek broader community input, the Directorate also sought responses to its draft ACT Skills Needs List through an online survey. The survey was advertised through the Directorate's vocational education and training stakeholder communication network, the ACT Government's consultation website Time  to Talk and the Canberra Business Council. The survey closed in August 2013 with 302 responses received.

Industry Liaison Field Officers

The implementation of skills reform in the ACT included the establishment of a specific industry liaison function in the Directorate. This function facilitates improved linkages between the ACT Government, training providers, employers, employment service providers, schools and the community.

In 2013-14, the Directorate's vocational education and training liaison function was expanded to include field officers. Directorate field officers made contact with every employment service provider and every high school and college (both public and non-government) in Canberra.

The focus of the field officers' visits was to increase awareness of, and access to, information about the range of opportunities available in the ACT vocational education and training system.

The Better Linkages between Employment and Training Initiative

The Better Linkages between Employment and Training Initiative (Better Linkages) seeks to encourage information exchange, collaboration and innovation in service delivery to achieve better outcomes for ACT job seekers. Better Linkages projects funded in the ACT in 2013-14 facilitated improved links  between RTOs, employment service providers, employers, community organisations and Centrelink.

ACT Vocational Education and Training Think Tank

In April 2014, the Deputy Director-General established the ACT Vocational Education and Training Think Tank for consultation, collaboration and communication with vocational education and training stakeholders. The objectives of the ACT Vocational Education and Training Think Tank were to:

Membership of the ACT Vocational Education and Training Think Tank included representatives from RTOs (including public and non-government school RTOs); AACs; GTOs; ACPET and APTS. During the reporting period, the ACT Vocational Education and Training Think Tank met three times to discuss initiatives  to improve access, equity and quality in the delivery of vocational education and training to Canberrans.

Canberra CareersXpo

The Rotary Club of Canberra City coordinates the CareersXpo in term 3 each year. The Directorate supports the CareersXpo by facilitating school visits, subsidising transportation to and from the venue and organising the Try'aTrade and Planning Future Pathways exhibits.

In 2013, approximately 7,500 students from the ACT and regional NSW visited the CareersXpo held at Exhibition Park in Canberra. More than 100 exhibitors represented universities; employer groups; RTOs; apprenticeships; trades; private providers and government agencies.

Part of the program for 2013 was Planning Future Pathways, an event which provided school leavers with a disability and their parents and carers with information about the services and pathways available.

'Try' a Trade' was available to students who wanted to try their hand at trades and skills ranging from plastering to hospitality. The CareersXpo also incorporated a walk through by the Minister for Education and Training and the presentation of the Deanne Reynolds Career Development Award.

In addition to international keynote speaker, Mr Sam Cawthorn, presenting throughout the day on building career resilience, other seminars were presented by the following organisations:

ACT Training Excellence Awards

The ACT Training Excellence Awards were the ACT's premier vocational education and training community event. The 2013 Awards presentation, held on 5 September, recognised the outstanding achievements of apprentices, trainees, school students, employers, colleges, RTOs and industry within the VET sector.  A new venue, the Canberra Southern Cross Club Woden, provided the venue for the 460 guests to celebrate the Awards.

The ACT Adult Community Education (ACE) Grants Program

The ACT Adult Community Education (ACE) Grants Program was designed to support quality adult community learning opportunities in a range of formal and informal settings using flexible and learner centred activities. The ACT Government allocates funds annually for innovative adult community learning  and development activity in the ACT.

Core aims of the ACT ACE Grants Program included:

Many of the organisations receiving ACT ACE Grants Program funding in 2014 provided pre-vocational, bridging, entry-level and foundation skills.

Details of recipients of ACT ACE Grants Program funding in 2014 are provided in Table B3.1.

Table B3.1: ACT ACE Grants Program funding in 2014

Provider Course Outcomes Amount ($)
Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre Ltd Introduction to Diversity Mentoring Leadership knowledge, skills and networks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants; and skills for working more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants. 15,000.00
Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre Ltd Introduction to Indigenous Leadership and Governance Leadership and governance skills for members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. 15,000.00
Belconnen Arts Centre Incorporated Artspace Inclusive creative visual arts workshop for emerging artists living with a disability and mental health consumers. 8,670.00
Canberra Blind Society Incorporated Let Your Senses Lead the Way Braille literacy skills for people who are blind or have low vision. 15,000.00
Canberra Institute of Technology Skill Set in Hair and Beauty Introductory skills in hairdressing, retail make-up and skin care combined with foundation skills training enabling participants to confidently perform routine salon functions and demonstrate and sell make-up and retail skin care products. 15,000.00
Community Connections Incorporated Inclusive Drama Improved social competence leading to better social integration and participation. 14,200.00
Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT Inc. (MARSS) English for Living Program Functional literacy helping migrants and refugees with little or no English proficiency achieve greater independence in their day-to-day life. 15,000.00
Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT Inc. (MARSS) Home Tutor Program Improved English language skills and knowledge about Australia and the Australian way of life for migrants and refugees. 15,000.00
Music For Everyone Incorporated Mixed Abilities Music and Drumming Groups Learning and social inclusion opportunities for people with a disability through a special music program. 15,000.00
Real Corporate Partners Pty Ltd The SPARK Program Job readiness skills coupled with either a Certificate II in Warehouse Operations or a Certificate II in Retail for unemployed/underemployed adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 15,000.00
Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT Incorporated Family Friends and Lovers: a Sexuality and Relationships Education Resource for People Working with People with a Disability 'Train the Trainer' program and manual on sexuality and relationships for people who work with people with a disability. 14,900.00
Southside Community Services Inc. Skills for Work Foundation knowledge and skills in the participant's chosen workplace context. 15,000.00
Southside Community Services Inc. Links to Learning in 2014 Links to learning for socially disadvantaged ACT residents with low language and literacy/numeracy proficiencies and people from diverse backgrounds. 15,000.00
Southside Community Services Inc. Developing e-Learning skills program e-Learning skills for socially disadvantaged ACT residents with low IT skills and who are participating in a vocational course that has an E-learning component. 5,549.30
Support Asian Women's Friendship Association Incorporated Learning Basic Computer and English Skills in other Languages for CALD Backgrounds Adult Learners Basic computer and English language skills for adult learners with limited English and limited or little knowledge of computers. 14,968.80
Support Asian Women's Friendship Association Incorporated Stepping Up - Learning Computer Skills and Workplace English in the Workplace for CALD Backgrounds Adult Learners Improved English language skills and modern communication technology computer skills for adult learners with some grasp of English and some knowledge of computers. 14,911.90
Tuggeranong Community Arts Association The Tuggeranong PATHWAY to Creativity Engagement in creative and artistic activities that lead to further education possibilities for adult members of the community. 15,000.00
Vietnam Veterans and Veterans Federation ACT Incorporated Metal Manglers and Old Soldiers and Computers New skills for veterans.  11,800.00

Major Partnerships

The Directorate has a range of specific partnerships with business and community groups. These provide for an active wider involvement in the delivery of programs that support education and celebrate excellence among our schools. Major partnerships in 2013-14 included:

An inaugural partnership was launched between the Directorate and the Public Education Foundation for the provision of scholarships for public school students, teachers and principals in the ACT.

Twelve scholarships programs covering a diverse range of opportunities were offered. Of these, one student attending Gungahlin College was successful in being awarded the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust scholarship for a student with a disability attending university in 2014, valued at $6,000.

Capital Chemist awarded scholarships of $1,000 each to three year 11 students from each public college for their demonstrated commitment to academic endeavour, citizenship or for special recognition. The scholarships provided assistance to students with the completion of their senior secondary education.  A total of 32 scholarships were awarded, valued at $32,000.

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment Canberra offered in-house study scholarships to year 12 students from ACT public senior secondary colleges. Successful recipients could use the scholarships to off-set costs of attending the first year of any of the four selected courses provided by the Academy.  Further, the Academy provided a one-off cash grant towards IT equipment as well as cash prizes awarded to selected students attending colleges. In 2014, a total of eight scholarships, 20 prizes of $500 each and two grants were awarded by the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, valued at $113,500.

The Molonglo Community Bank Group Student Awards recognised citizenship and altruistic qualities of year 11 students from public and non-government schools. A total of 10 awards were presented, valued at $1,000.

The Country Women's Association awarded scholarships of $350 to students commencing year 12 in 2014. The students (from public and non-government schools) were selected on the basis of their aptitude and commitment to completing their schooling in the face of adversity. Six scholarships were awarded,  valued at $2,100.

Paperchain Bookstore Manuka supported, through a contribution of book vouchers to the value of $10,000, the 2013 Chief Minister's Reading Challenge. Book vouchers were awarded to participating schools from public and non-government sectors. Seventy schools registered for the Challenge, with more than  12,000 students completing the Challenge.

Paperchain Bookstore Manuka also supported the 2013 Year 10 Excellence Awards with a $5,000 contribution, as well as book vouchers, valued at $3,150. A total of 63 awards were presented to students.

Inspired by the late Fred Hollows (1929-1993), The Fred Hollows Schools Award acknowledges the positive contributions and small acts of kindness to peers made by public and non-government primary school students. A total of 98 (non-monetary) awards were presented to students from 16 schools.

Canberra Refugee Support presented scholarships of $250 to students at the Directorate's Introductory English Centres. The scholarships recognised the outstanding achievements of refugee students and offered encouragement for the pursuit of personal and educational goals. Twelve scholarships were awarded,  valued at a total of $3,000.

Other community partnerships supporting public education included ACT Children's Week, the Returned and Services League of Australia Woden Valley Sub-Branch Incorporated and the School Volunteer Program - ACT Incorporated.

The Directorate was again proud to be a sponsor of ACT Children's Week, held from 19-27 October 2013, providing an opportunity to identify, raise awareness and celebrate the requirements, rights and achievements of children and young people in our community. The ACT Children's Week Committee provides  small grants and awards to people 'making a difference' in the lives of children and young people. ACT schools hosted a range of activities during the week and several teachers received awards for their contribution.

In partnership with the Directorate, the Returned and Services League of Australia Woden Valley Sub-Branch Incorporated held its annual Combined ANZAC and Peace Ceremony on 9 April 2014, inviting all Woden Valley primary schools to participate. More than 800 students and teachers attended the ceremony  at Eddison Park, Woden. The ceremony included an essay writing competition based on an ANZAC theme with three cash prizes awarded to students.

The School Volunteer Program of the ACT is a registered voluntary organisation which places volunteers in ACT public schools as mentors, confidantes and communicators. In the reporting period, up to 115 volunteers mentored students in 28 primary schools and three secondary schools. In the past year,  the Program contributed more than 6,000 voluntary hours in support of students.

The Directorate's Corporate Sponsorship policy provides guidance on corporate sponsorships, either cash or in-kind.

For further information contact:
Governance and Assurance
(02) 6205 9329

ACT Training Excellence Awards 2013: Rewarding Excellence in our Territory

The 76th annual ACT Training Excellence Awards were held on Thursday 5 September 2013 at the Canberra Southern Cross Club. The Awards recognised the achievements of apprentices, trainees, vocational students, trainers, employers, schools and registered training organisations committed to vocational  education and training.

The Australian Training Awards are the peak national awards for the vocational education and training sector, recognising organisations, training providers and individuals for their contribution to skilling Australia.

Photo showing winners at ACT Training Excellence Awards 2013 as described in accompanying text

Organisation Winners 2013

Individual Winners 2013

Congratulations to all the winners.

100 Stories of Education - a Centenary of Canberra Project

100 Stories: Celebrating Public Education in Canberra was launched at the National Portrait Gallery on 10 June 2014 by the Minister for Education and Training. The book was the culmination  of a Centenary of Canberra project undertaken to document the rich history of ACT public schools.

It profiles teachers, support staff, volunteers, parents and students who have influenced or been influenced by the schools and workplaces of the ACT public education system.

A project group comprising public school principals together with central office staff, coordinated writing, editing, design and publication of the book, which can be viewed online on the Directorate's website.

Photo showing cover of '100 Stories: Celebrating Public Education in Canberra' publication, with photos of attendees at launch

Photo showing cover of '100 Stories: Celebrating Public Education in Canberra' publication, with photos of attendees at launchPhoto showing cover of '100 Stories: Celebrating Public Education in Canberra' publication, with photos of attendees at launch