Pre-service teacher placements in early childhood education and care

Advice on taking and completing placements and ensuring health and wellbeing.

Pre-service teachers completing their placements are permitted employees so can be on-site for all services across Victoria.

Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are encouraged to implement mechanisms to make sure students adhere to placement protocols, their mentor teachers' directions, and the health and safety advice for early childhood services.

This detailed advice has been developed with the Department of Health (DH), in line with Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidance.

Taking student placements

Student placements in early childhood services can continue where this is safe and possible. Disruption to placements has an impact on individual students and the supply of new graduates into the early childhood education sector to work in services in the future.

It's understandable that some service providers may not be able to support student placements at this time.

In line with placement protocols, mentor teachers' directions, and the health and safety advice we have developed with DHHS, placements should resume where possible.

Why placements are important

Placements are an integral component ITE as they support pre-service teachers (PSTs) to develop essential capabilities. This hands-on experience helps PSTs put into practice what they learn in theory and helps them to develop as confident and job-ready early childhood teachers.

Placements also bring more immediate benefits as PSTs support the day-to-day activities at ECEC services in their interactions with children, parents and other staff members.

Victoria’s future early childhood teaching workforce is dependent on the timely graduation and registration of current early childhood PSTs, thereby supporting the sustainability of every ECEC service.

VET student placements

Student placements for vocational education and training (VET) courses can now resume. This includes Certificate III and Diploma courses in early childhood.

Services are encouraged to work with VET providers to re-establish placement opportunities for these students to enable them to complete their studies and, importantly, support the ongoing delivery of Victorian early childhood education and care.

Ensuring safety of students, children and staff

We encourage you to welcome PSTs on placement and demonstrate your commitment to these individuals as part of the future ECEC teaching workforce. PSTs are eager to learn and support the service’s activities, while acting in accordance with health and safety advice.

Services hosting PSTs should:

Services should also read and abide by the DHHS guidance for children and staff including PSTs to maintain good health and hygiene. Key information includes: 

  • all staff and children who are unwell must remain at home
  • hand hygiene, cough etiquette and environmental cleaning and disinfection are the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Managing parent and carer expectations regarding placements

Parents may have concerns regarding their children’s wellbeing. It's important to reassure families that risk-mitigation strategies are in place to help keep their children safe.

ECEC services should inform parents that PSTs on placements are equivalent to essential ECEC service staff, are well prepared, and understand their responsibilities and what is expected of them, including staying at home if they are unwell.

Student and mentor teacher responsibilities

Responsibilities of the mentor teacher

Placements provide rich opportunities to learn from mentors. Mentoring practices enable PSTs to reflect on their practice. Mentoring PSTs is a rewarding experience where mentor and pre-service teacher can exchange ideas and reflect on practice together. Pre-service teachers can also bring new ideas to the learning environment.

Mentors support PSTs by offering timely, ongoing feedback and by demonstrating theory in practice in terms of policies, procedures and planning. As the mentor teacher’s passion and insight is shared, PSTs begin to understand that relationships form the educational core for learning.

Clear communication between mentor teacher and PST about safety and wellbeing practices on placement is essential.

Responsibilities of the PST student

Before starting their placements, ITE providers supply their PSTs with detailed information to prepare them for what to expect and how best to support the service.

Preparation classes and online resources are available for all PSTs, tailored to meet the specific stage of learning. Support is provided in the documentation that outlines expectations and through the ITE mentor appointed for the duration of placement. All PSTs are expected to immerse themselves in the learning opportunities by being active observers and participants in the learning program design and delivery.

PSTs must act in line with risk-mitigation strategies and practices including:

  • practise good hygiene – wash your hands and cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
  • keep your distance – stay 1.5 metres away from other adults
  • carry a face mask at all times and wear a face mask when not teaching, including common areas such as staff rooms and reception.

Completing student placement

Completing an accredited program of study requires completion of all approved activities (including professional placement).

The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority's (ACECQA) agreed modification to supervised professional experience requirements for final year Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) students in 2020 are that:

  • Undergraduate ECT programs must include at least 30 days of supervised professional experience in early childhood settings, including a minimum of 10 days with children aged birth to under three-years (0-35 months)
  • Postgraduate ECT programs must include at least 20 days of supervised professional experience in early childhood settings, including a minimum of 10 days with children aged birth to under three-years (0-35 months)

These regulatory measures are temporary and have been applied as a result of matters arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. ITE providers can implement the regulatory measures according to their context and to the needs of their pre-service teachers on a case-by-case basis.

For combined early childhood and primary ITE programs, this must include at least 45 days in a school setting (primary context, visit Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT)) and must meet ACECQA's minimum requirements of supervised professional experience in early childhood settings.

Further advice

Call the dedicated COVID-19 advice line during business hours on 1800 338 663 if you have questions about the safety, wellbeing and guidance of pre-service teachers on placements. If you have further questions or need help preparing pre-service teachers for placements and procedures, you can contact the relevant ITE provider's placement experience officers for help.

Reviewed 18 February 2021

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