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A report for the NSW Department of Education on Vocational Education and Training delivered to secondary students (PDF, 2.14MB)

This report presents the findings of an external review and analysis of relevant recent practices, research and data on the delivery of Vocational Education and Training (VET) to secondary students. The review and analysis were commissioned by the NSW Department of Education and were conducted by the Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy at the University of Melbourne to identify best possible practices and make recommendations for future practice.

Research questions

• What do the VET programs offered in Australian schools look like?
• Who participates in these VET programs and why?
• What are useful measures of VET program effectiveness?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current VET programs in NSW government schools?
• What recommendations are made for improving VET programs in NSW government schools?


What works best summary tiles (PDF, 357.8KB)


Practical strategies for embedding high expectations in teaching and learning

  • Consistently challenge all students to learn new things.
  • Establish clear and consistent expectations for learning and behaviour.
  • Guide and support students towards meeting expectations.
  • Engage with parents and carers to encourage them to hold high expectations of their children.


Practical strategies for using data in practice in teaching and learning

  • Regularly dedicate time to using data effectively.
  • Collect meaningful data.
  • Analyse the data to monitor student learning and progress.
  • Make teaching decisions based on data analysis goals.


Practical strategies for supporting student wellbeing

  • Select and develop strategies to proactively teach healthy coping mechanisms, resilience and self-regulation.
  • Initiate strategies to build a positive learning environment characterised by supportive relationships and regular contact with each student.
  • Target support for different phases of student development and for students who may be at risk.
  • Use collaborative strategies and share with staff, the school community and other agencies as required, to support the wellbeing of students.


Practical strategies for effective teacher collaboration

  • Seek professional learning opportunities to share and gain expertise in evidence-based teaching practices.
  • Regularly participate in structured lesson observations that focus on how different teaching approaches impact on student learning.
  • Regularly dedicate time throughout the school year for working with colleagues to plan, develop and refine teaching and learning programs.
  • Work in partnership with colleagues to achieve shared collaboration goals.


Practical strategies for embedding explicit teaching in the classroom

  • Prepare for explicit teaching by planning lesson scope, assessing data, reviewing prior learning and balancing teacher-directed, teacher-guided and student-directed learning.
  • Explain, model and guide learning.
  • Monitor student progress and check for understanding.


Practical strategies for embedding effective feedback in teaching and learning

  • Reflect and communicate about the learning task with students.
  • Provide students with detailed and specific feedback about what they need to do to achieve growth as a learner.
  • Encourage students to self-assess, reflect and monitor their work.
  • Ensure that students act on feedback that they receive.


Practical strategies for using assessment to improve student learning

  • Make student assessment a part of everyday practice.
  • Use assessment to provide students with learning opportunities.
  • Design and deliver high-quality formal assessment tasks.
  • Carefully structure group assessment activities to ensure that students are supported, challenged and able to work together successfully.


Practical strategies to support teachers in managing their classrooms effectively

  • Develop high-quality student-teacher relationships.
  • Provide structure, predictability, and opportunities for active student participation in the classroom.
  • Actively supervise students to keep them on task.
  • Respond to disengagement and disruptive behaviours and support students to re-engage in learning.
Monday, 30 November 2020

Phonics Screening Check

Phonics Screening Check (PDF, 1.3MB)

Phonics Screening Check (PDF, 1.3MB)

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check is a short assessment that takes 5-7 minutes and indicates to classroom teachers how their students are progressing in phonics. The Phonics Screening Check is designed to be administered in Year 1, after students have had time to develop phonic knowledge, but with enough time left to make sure interventions and targeted teaching can still make a difference.

The Phonics Screening Check complements existing school practices used to identify students’ progress in developing foundational literacy skills.
This document provides a summary of information and data from the Phonics Screening Check trial delivered in 2020.


Professional learning – effective reading instruction in the early years (PDF, 872.6KB)

One page summary (PDF, 142.5KB)



Effective reading programs have six key components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and oral language. Reading programs are also most effective when these components are taught explicitly, systematically and sequentially. Based on this evidence, the NSW Department of Education developed an evidence-based two-day professional learning (PL) course on effective reading instruction, with a strong focus on explicit teaching of phonemic awareness and synthetic phonics. The PL was provided in 16 locations in NSW in terms 2 and 3 of 2018. The department funded all NSW government schools with a kindergarten enrolment to send up to two teachers to the PL. In total 2,288 staff from 1,089 schools attended the PL.

The evaluation measures the impact of the PL on teachers’ beliefs about the most effective practices for teaching reading to students; and confidence in implementing these practices; and their practices in the classroom.

Key findings


While some beliefs about the most effective practices for teaching reading changed, as anticipated, after the PL, other beliefs did not show this anticipated change. The largest changes were in beliefs about the explicit and systematic teaching of phonics and reading skills. These beliefs aligned with key concepts that were a focus of the PL.

Other beliefs showed little change after the PL, with two alternative explanations:

  • First, some participant beliefs about effective reading instruction already aligned with the PL content and therefore did not need to change.
  • Second, some beliefs about effective reading instruction, in particular those related to a whole language approach to teaching reading, appear to be deeply entrenched, and more work may be needed to change these beliefs.


Participants reported increased confidence for all measured areas of effective reading instruction after the PL and these changes were maintained over time. There is still room for further improvement in participants’ feelings of confidence in teaching a comprehensive and effective reading program.


Areas of practice that had the largest positive changes after the PL were the reading of decodable texts, teaching phonic knowledge and reviewing phonemic awareness. In contrast, developing reading fluency and comprehension strategies had the smallest change. This was expected as these components of reading were not a key focus of the PL.

The majority of participants shared what they learnt from the PL with their colleagues. This tended to happen through informal conversations rather than more formal sharing practices.

Key considerations

Our key learning is that the department should continue to offer targeted, engaging, evidence-based PL on learning and teaching topics. This evaluation shows that educators’ beliefs, confidence and practice can be positively changed through high-quality PL.

Based on these key findings, we have five key considerations for future professional learning offered by the department on learning and teaching topics

  • Link the PL more effectively to existing practices, systems and interventions.
  • Use baseline data to more effectively differentiate PL content to the needs of participants.
  • Ensure PL is focused on a smaller number of targeted concepts and a specific audience.
  • Support staff after the initial PL to see long-term changes in practice.
  • Leverage the school executive more effectively to support school-wide changes in practice after PL.


Literacy support for schools and related resources

Since 2017, the department has undertaken a range of strategic activities and developed a suite of new resource to support schools with early literacy instruction:

Professional learning


Check-in-assessment-thumbCheck-in assessments – Years 3, 5 and 9 (PDF, 600KB)


What are the Check-in assessments?

The Check-in assessments are optional online reading and numeracy assessments designed to assist schools following the disruptions to schooling in 2020. The assessments cover similar aspects of literacy and numeracy as in NAPLAN reading and numeracy tests.

These formative assessments are offered for schools to:

  • supplement existing school practices used to identify how students are performing in literacy and numeracy
  • help teachers tailor teaching to meet student needs.

This page provides a summary of information and data from the Check-in assessments delivered in 2020.

Each assessment in 2020 was designed to be quick and easy to administer, consisting of approximately 40 multiple choice questions. Suggested completion time was 50 minutes, however, teachers could use their discretion based on the needs of their students.

Students in Years 5 and 9 completed the assessments during Term 3, Weeks 5 to 7 (17 August–4 September). Students in Year 3 completed the assessments during Term 3, Week 10 to Term 4, Week 2 (21 September–23 October).

Initial results were available to schools within 48 hours of test completion, enabling teachers to rapidly move to use the results in addressing learning gaps.

To assist teachers in using the results, test items were aligned to the NSW syllabus, National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions and teaching strategies.

Student assessment feedback and mapping against the syllabus and learning progressions indicators was made available in the department’s reporting platform, Scout.

Features of the school reports included:

  • information at item-level with links to the questions and strategies related to the skill being assessed
  • information at syllabus stage and progression level for each student
  • feedback on strategies students may have been using if they got the answer correct or incorrect alongside how each student responded.

Records of student achievement of learning progression indicators were also available in the department’s PLAN2 platform, where teachers could monitor student progress and create ‘Areas of Focus’ for targeted teaching and skill development.


Professional learning and assessment support was available to all teachers in participating schools for 2020 assessments. This included how best to make use of the assessment package for each school context, administration of the assessment, how to access and use feedback to help inform planning and strategies for teaching.

As at 10 November, more than 4,700 teachers had accessed:

  • online support, including live chat and sessions with other teachers to ask questions and share ideas
  • a range of online courses including guided professional learning to support the analysis of their students’ assessment information using a ‘data pathway’ (Terms 3 and 4)
  • strategies to identify areas to focus attention in aspects of literacy and numeracy
  • teaching strategies to address these areas specific to Years 3, 5 and 9.

Participation rates

Participation in the Check-in assessments was high, with 83% (1,775) of department schools participating (of schools with students in Years 3, 5 or 9). Participation was higher among primary schools than secondary schools, with 88% of all Year 3 students, 86% of all Year 5 students, and 61% of all Year 9 students participating in the Check-in assessments.
Participation was largely representative across various student and school groups.


Table 1: Number of schools and students participating in Year 3 Check-in assessments




Table 2: Number of schools and students participating in Year 5 Check-in assessments



Table 3: Number of schools and students participating in Year 9 Check-in assessments



*Note (for tables 1-3): Remoteness area is based on ASGC2016 remoteness area classifications. Inner regional and outer regional Australia are combined, as are remote and very remote Australia. Percentages of schools participating are calculated based on the total number of schools with enrolments in the relevant scholastic year, for each school type. Figures are based on the test participation data extracted from the test platforms on 10 November 2020.


Summary results

For each 2020 assessment, a quarter of the test items were NAPLAN items with known psychometric properties and difficulty estimates on the NAPLAN scales. This provided the possibility of linking the Check-in assessments with these scales to assist with further analysis.

After scaling and equating exercises for available results from Year 3, Year 5 and Year 9 tests, five assessments in Year 3 reading, Year 3 numeracy, Year 5 reading, Year 5 numeracy and Year 9 numeracy were able to be equated to the NAPLAN scales. Year 9 reading was not able to be linked to the NAPLAN scale due to a range of factors including test design differences between NAPLAN and the Check-in assessment.
As the Check-in assessments were optional, results were weighted (at student level and by prior performance band in NAPLAN test for Year 5 and 9 or prior performance band in Best Start Kindergarten assessment for Year 3, and remoteness) to arrive at population estimates.
Table 4 presents the estimated proportions of students in NAPLAN bands based on Check-in assessments measured in August-October 2020.


Table 4: Estimated (weighted) proportion of students by band, Check-in assessment (August-October 2020)


Note: Check-in assessment results were weighted to arrive at population estimates. Results need to be interpreted with caution as they have larger uncertainty than typical NAPLAN results.


Table 5 presents the mean scaled scores for each assessment, for 2019 NAPLAN and as estimated from Check-in assessments measured in August-October 2020. This table shows the August-October results in 2020 were similar to previous years’ NAPLAN results, assessed in May for Year 3 reading, Year 5 reading and numeracy, and Year 9 numeracy. In contrast, Year 3 numeracy Check-in results in September/October were substantially higher than previous years' NAPLAN results assessed in May (note that NAPLAN did not take place in 2020 due to COVID-19).


Table 5: Weighted mean scores of students in the Check-in assessments, compared to NAPLAN 2019


Note: Due to differences between the Check-in assessments and NAPLAN tests (e.g. test design, purpose of tests), caution is needed when comparing Check-in results to NAPLAN results.


The response from schools as to the diagnostic value of the assessments has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers have commented:
“the rich data gleaned is simply amazing!”
“as a class we use the Check-in assessment feedback to talk about how we solve number problems and what strategies we use”.


The 2020 Check-in assessments demonstrate the feasibility of conducting formative assessments that provide schools with rapid insight and highly targeted support in a short timeframe and reduced administrative complexity. The high take-up and strong support across schools demonstrates the willingness and ability of schools to use formative assessment to support their professional judgments in rapidly identifying gaps in student learning. The inability to equate Year 9 reading also demonstrates to some degree the limitation of a fast deployment in single state context. In the longer term the availability of pre‑calibrated assessments for use by teachers would further increase the uptake and usability of check-in type assessments.

At the system level, the comparison with 2019 NAPLAN demonstrates that students were generally performing in August-October 2020 at the same levels previously seen in May (with the exception of Year 3 numeracy). This indicates that on average students have fallen approximately 3-4 months behind in Year 3 reading, and 2-3 months behind in Year 5 reading and numeracy and Year 9 numeracy.

Formative assessment practices in early childhood settings: evidence and implementation in NSW (PDF, 5MB)



This paper aims to support early childhood education (ECE) practitoners and policy-makers by bringing together the available research on formative assessment, contextualised to early childhood education in NSW. Formative assessment is an educational practice that has broad applicability and support.

In this paper, several aspects of formative assessment are discussed:

  • What formative assessment is and how it can be used in ECE settings
  • Current and emerging evidence supporting formative assessment practices in these settings
  • How several NSW ECE services have embedded formative assessment in their practices
  • The implications of the research for fostering greater application of evidence-based approaches in the NSW ECE sector.

Related resources

Investigating post-school education, training and employment pathways for secondary students who enrol in vocational education and training (PDF, 1.8MB)

Investigating post-school education, training and employment pathways for secondary students who enrol in vocational education and training (PDF, 1.8MB)

One-page summary (PDF, 153kB)



Vocational education and training (VET) programs have featured in the Australian secondary school curriculum since the mid-1990s. Around this time, the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling specifically recognised the provision of VET programs as a national goal. These programs were targeted at upper secondary students and originally aimed at increasing retention of less academically engaged youth in school and preparing students for employment and further training. However, about 20 years since the introduction of VET programs in schools, there is inconclusive evidence about the extent to which their aims and vision have been realised.
The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation has conducted an investigation into the post-school education, training and employment pathways of NSW students who recently enrolled in at least one VET course as part of their senior secondary education. In this report, we investigate four research questions:
1. What are the characteristics of the secondary students who enrolled in VET and how do they compare to those of students who did not enrol?
2. Which characteristics independently predict secondary student enrolment in VET?
3. What are the post-school destinations of the secondary students who enrolled in VET and how do they compare to those of students who did not enrol?
4. Which features of VET delivery were associated with post-school destinations?


Key findings

• We found that the characteristics of the secondary students who enrolled in VET were somewhat different to those of students who did not enrol. For example, there were substantial differences in Year 9 NAPLAN Numeracy and Reading scaled scores and student and school measures of socio-educational advantage.
• When we used a multivariable model to investigate the second research question, we found that most of the assessed characteristics independently predicted student enrolment in VET. That is, when we accounted for the relationships between the explanatory variables, we still
found independent relationships between most of the assessed characteristics and student enrolment in VET.
• When we compared secondary students who enrolled in VET to a group of students who had similar characteristics but did not enrol, we found that the students who did enrol were equally likely to much less likely to be not working or studying. These results provide evidence that the provision of VET as part of senior secondary education may help some students transition into work or study after they leave school.
• We found that differences in features of VET delivery (external provider versus VET at school, undertaking a work placement, and certificate level II versus III) were associated with different post-school destinations. For example, undertaking a work placement as part of a VET course decreased the likelihood that a student enrolled in VET would not go on to work or study.

Language, Learning & Literacy (L3) review (PDF, 1.1MB)

Language, Learning & Literacy (L3) review (PDF, 1.1MB)

One-page summary (PDF, 208kB)



Language, Learning & Literacy (L3) is a pedagogical approach to teaching reading and writing (not a collection of curriculum resources or a programmed scope and sequence). L3 Kindergarten was developed first as a Tier 2 intervention to provide personalised instruction for individuals and small groups of students within a whole class setting. L3 Stage One was developed later not as a tiered intervention, but as a professional learning program for Stage One teachers.



The aim of this review was to examine the design, content and implementation of L3. We used three methods to achieve this: document review, quantitative survey analysis and qualitative interview analysis. This review does not include an outcome evaluation.

In this review, we addressed seven research questions:

      1. What was the original research base for L3?
      2. How was L3 originally designed and implemented?
      3. To what extent does L3 reflect current departmental policies and publications?
      4. How is L3 currently designed and implemented?
      5. Why did NSW government primary schools choose to use L3?
      6. What aspects of L3 are perceived to be working well?
      7. What aspects of L3 could be improved?


Main findings

          • While L3 drew on some research, it did not draw on the full range of available research into early literacy teaching, especially research that emphasised the use of code-based approaches to early reading instruction through explicit and systematic pedagogies.
          • L3 provides only limited ‘systematic’ teaching and a form of ‘explicit’ teaching that is not consistent with current best practice. L3 does not adequately reflect the phonemic awareness or phonics components in CESE’s ‘Effective reading instruction’ literature review. L3 did not include a scope and sequence to systematically structure the introduction of alphabetic code-breaking skills.
          • Over time, L3 shifted away from being a closely monitored and targeted intervention to being perceived as a general literacy pedagogy suitable for any school. This shift was exacerbated by a lack of alternative departmental whole class literacy programs from which schools could choose. As the use of L3 expanded to reach an increasingly large and diverse range of schools, departmental oversight and implementation monitoring were reduced. This impacted on the department’s ability to identify which schools were using L3 and to monitor program fidelity, and therefore hindered the ability to evaluate of the impact of L3 on student learning.
          • The demand for teacher professional learning in literacy has driven the use of L3. L3 filled knowledge gaps in both pre-service and in-service training in the fundamentals of teaching reading and writing. Many reported that they were impressed with the training model, especially the in-school coaching.
          • Three in every five schools reported using L3 in 2019 and implementation of L3 varied considerably between schools. In addition, 84% of these schools reported adopting other programs alongside L3. Two-thirds of schools reported modifying L3.
          • Teachers reported that a key strength of L3 was a substantial change in their knowledge, practice and confidence. L3 promoted the use of quality texts and provided specific procedures for talking with students about texts. The five-weekly goal setting and use of data to inform practice supported teachers’ reflective practice.
          • Teachers reported that some of the L3 strategies were time consuming and challenging to implement, with some students needing more support than L3 offers. Implementation of L3 also presented challenges for classroom management, with some schools reporting that students struggled with the requirement to work independently during L3 lessons.



          1. Consider key elements of the L3 professional learning model for future training.
          2. Clarify how best to program and implement the K-6 English syllabus.
          3. Clarify how best to differentiate phonics instruction in different contexts.
          4. Clarify the purpose of different assessment tools and how to use the data they generate.
          5. Develop a logic model and an evaluation plan for a comprehensive outcome evaluation of future programs.


Literacy support for schools and related resources

Since 2017, the department has undertaken a range of strategic activities and developed a suite of new resource to support schools with early literacy instruction. These are available via the links below.

Effective reading instruction in the early years literature review

Professional learning

Data collection and analysis for evaluation – reference guides for teachers (PDF, 316kB)

Data collection and analysis for evaluation – reference guides for teachers (PDF, 316kB)

This guide provides practical tips on data collection in the context of evaluation. It covers good survey design, running effective focus groups, conducting effective interviews and the process of document analysis. There is more information on data collection on the Evaluation resource hub.

All school leavers fact sheet (PDF, 315kB) All school leavers fact sheet (PDF, 315kB) or read online below.

Go to the main post-school destinations 2019 report.



This page provides a high level overview of findings from the 2019 NSW Secondary Students’ Post-School Destinations and Expectations survey of students who left school in 2018, including early school leavers and Year 12 completers. In 2019, a total of 24,912 school leavers completed the survey.

Post-school destinations of all school leavers in 2019

In 2019, 88.5% of all school leavers were in education, training or employment. The remainder were either looking for work or not in the labour force, education or training.


The proportion of recent school leavers involved in higher education, training or employment has remained stable since 2014.


Bachelor degree
36.5% (down 5.1 percentage points since 2014)
VET Cert IV+
5.3% (down 2.1 percentage pointssince 2014)
3.4% (up 0.3 percentage points since 2014)
1.6% (down 1.3 percentage points since 2014)
11.2% (up 1.9 percentage points since 2014)
4.7% (down 0.1 percentage points since 2014)
Full time work
8.7% (up 1.8 percentage points since 2014)
Part time work
17% (up 4.6 percentage points since 2014)

Looking for work
8.3% (up 0.3 percentage points since 2014)

3.2% (down 0.2 percentage points since 2014)

Top three areas of education school leavers enter post-school

1. Business management (6.1%)

2. Building (5.9%)

3. Teacher education (5.0%)

Top three post-school work roles for school leavers

1. Sales assistants and sales workers (19.8%)

2. Hospitality workers (16.8%)

3. Storepersons (8.6%)

What are the subgroup differences in destinations?

Female students were more likely than male students to undertake a bachelor degree, traineeship, VET certificate IV+, VET certificate III or part-time work.

Male students were more likely than female students to be in an apprenticeship, full-time work, looking for work or NILFET.

• Students who speak a language other than English at home were more likely than those who do not, to undertake a bachelor degree or VET certificate IV+.

• Students who do not speak a language other than English at home were more likely than those who do, to be in VET certificate III, VET certificate I-II, an apprenticeship, traineeship, full-time work, part-time work or looking for work.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were more likely than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to be in a VET certificate III, VET certificate I-II, a traineeship, looking for work or NILFET.

Non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were more likely than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to undertake a bachelor degree or VET certificate IV+.

Higher parental socioeconomic status (SES) students were more likely than lower parental SES students to undertake a bachelor degree.

Lower parental SES students were more likely than higher parental SES students to be in a VET certificate III, an apprenticeship, traineeship, full-time work, part-time work, looking for work or NILFET.

• Students living in Greater Sydney were more likely than students living in the rest of NSW to undertake a bachelor degree or VET certificate IV+.

• Students living in the rest of NSW were more likely than students living in Greater Sydney to be in a VET certificate III, VET certificate I-II, an apprenticeship, traineeship, full-time work, part-time work or looking for work.


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