Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are encouraged to continue to host work placements and support the completion of qualifications, in line with current settings.
Where placements are permitted to continue, Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers and ECEC services should implement mechanisms to make sure their students know and follow placement protocols, their mentor teachers’ directions, and the .
This advice has been developed with the Department of Health (DH), in line with Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidance.
Why placements are important
Many ECEC students have had their learning journey disrupted by COVID-19. Providing them with a work placement not only helps them to fulfill their aspirations to join or progress in the profession but also supports the availability of skilled staff in the future to work with you in your service.
Placements are an integral component of educator/teacher preparation as they support students to develop essential capabilities. This hands-on experience helps students put into practice what they learn in theory and helps them to develop as confident and job-ready early childhood teachers and educators.
Placements also bring immediate benefits. During placements, students support the day-to-day activities at ECEC services in their interactions with children, parents, and other staff members.
Victoria’s future early childhood education workforce is dependent on the timely graduation and registration of current early childhood, thereby supporting the sustainability of every ECEC service. Disruption to placements has an impact on individual students and the supply of new graduates into the ECEC sector to work in services in the future.
Where VET placements are permitted, services are encouraged to work with VET providers through the Apprenticeship Employment Network site to 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
Where placements are permitted to continue, we encourage you to welcome placement students and demonstrate your commitment to these individuals as part of the future ECEC teaching workforce. Students are eager to learn and support the service’s activities, while acting in accordance with health and safety advice.
Services hosting students on placement should:
- have a strong understanding of the current health advice and COVIDSafe settings for ECEC
- communicate with students your service’s health and safety policies and procedures, information about your placement practices, and advice from VET/ITE providers
- all staff and children at home if experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, and get tested immediately
- 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 where placements are permitted students undertaking 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 placement mentor teacher
Placements provide rich opportunities to learn from mentors. Mentoring practices enable students to reflect on their practice. Mentoring students is a rewarding experience where mentor and mentee can exchange ideas and reflect on practice together. Students can also bring new ideas to the learning environment.
Mentors support their mentees 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, students begin to understand that relationships form the educational core for learning.
Clear communication between mentor teacher and student about safety and wellbeing practices on placement is essential.
Responsibilities of the student on placement
Before starting their placements, VET and ITE providers supply their students 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 students, tailored to meet the specific stage of learning. Support is provided in the documentation that outlines expectations and through the mentor appointed for the duration of placement. All students are expected to immerse themselves in the learning opportunities by being active observers and participants in the learning program design and delivery.
Students 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 at least 1.5 metres away from other adults
Completing ITE 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 (ACECQA) agreed to a modification to supervised professional experience requirements for final year Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) students in 2020.
For final year ECT students in 2021, higher education institutes can apply to ACECQA on an extenuating circumstances basis and demonstrate the extended need for the modifications. Further information can be found on the .
The Department of Education and Training COVID-19 helpline is available weekdays from 8.30am to 5pm on 1800 338 663 if you have questions about the safety, wellbeing and guidance of students on placements. If you need an interpreter, call 131 450 first.
If you have further questions or need help preparing students for placements and procedures, you can contact the relevant ITE or VET provider’s placement experience officers for help.
Reviewed 17 June 2021