Over the past two years, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development through the Victorian Deaf Education Institute has been working to address each of the reform areas identified in the Deaf Education Review. Change takes time, but step by step and with the assistance of many in the sector, considerable progress has been made.
The Deaf Education Review identified five areas of reform. These are:
To provide high quality educational support: through ongoing professional learning opportunities, strengthened partnerships and knowledge sharing between specialist experts and mainstream professionals.
To deal with the undersupply of teachers of the deaf: improve workforce numbers by expanding training opportunities and facilitating employment opportunities.
Equity and fairness: to improve access to educational services through best practice strategies, through the strategic location of resources and the utilisation of assistive and inclusive technologies.
Monitoring and intervention: to strive for improved outcomes through the provision of optimal acoustic environments, the implementation of new evidence based practice teaching and learning strategies and by supporting access to curriculum.
Early diagnosis: whole child focus and family centred support – the provision of non-biased support to assist families to make decisions about their child’s learning pathways.
Let’s look briefly at the work that has been covered in each of the reform areas:
Reform Area 1 - High Quality Educational Support - Workforce Development
The Deaf Education Review identified the need to provide opportunities for knowledge sharing, strengthened networking and partnerships between specialist and mainstream educators and education support staff. Much has been happening in this area. The VDEI has an extensive annual professional program covering many areas from bilingual programs to using technology in classrooms, to speech and language development in the early years. VDEI also worked in a partnership to develop mentoring services for people who are working as classroom education support staff.
Reform Area 2 - An Undersupply of Teachers of the Deaf - Workforce Sufficiency- Workforce Numbers
The Review identified that teachers of the deaf were an ageing workforce. Since then, DEECD in partnership with VDEI have initiated a scholarship system to train more teachers of the deaf. Thanks to this initiative, there are scheduled to be 75 brand new teachers of the deaf in Victoria by 2014.
Reform Area 3 - Equity and Fairness - Access and Inclusion
The VDEI has been working collaboratively across Victoria with key partners to improve access and inclusion for deaf and hard of hearing students. Some of the initiatives include: a classroom real-time captioning program; the establishment of a captioning centre to caption all digital/DVD resources; video conferencing to enable Auslan students to participate in those classes and subjects in which they are interested, regardless of location; optimal acoustic projects; and the creation of the OpenMi excursion project.
Monitoring and Intervention - Individual Pathways and Smooth Transition
This has been a large focus area for DEECD and VDEI. VDEI is working on the development of an Auslan assessment tool – a first in Victoria. The partnership with The University of Melbourne in relation to individual learning plans will lead to a mentoring program for educations and peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge and practice to support the pathways on which children are embarking in education. VDEI has also partnered with the Northern Metropolitan Institute of Technology (NMIT) to examine the type of supports that are needed to help students transition into post school situations.
Early Diagnosis and Family Centred Support
Significant steps have also been taken in this area. In 2010 DEECD developed a partnership with the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program (VIHSP) to support an Early Support Service pilot. This enabled a case management approach to families with newborn babies diagnosed with a hearing loss. This was a significant step forward in the provision of new services at the point of diagnosis. Most recently, the Transition into Primary School (TIPS) project is a project between VDEI and early intervention service providers - Aurora, Taralye and VIHSP to ensure families and children have the right support to enter and plan for their education experiences. In addition DEECD through VDEI continues to work with the VIHSP to collect and a share data that will help with planning future support and provision for newly diagnosed families.
As you can see, much has happened in Victoria and the outcome of the Review that led to the establishment of VDEI has enabled this work across so many domains. While some of the project areas are ongoing, there are a number of new projects that will commence in 2013, 2014 and beyond.
The challenge will be in continuing the hard work that needs to go on, having influence and communicating the needs and evidence for change that is required to meet the needs. For this, we will require your ongoing partnership, participation and collaboration. We encourage you to regularly communicate with us your feedback and participate in dialogue about how we can most serve the needs of deaf students around Victoria.