Research & Evaluation Publications

Recent Research Publications

Lifting Our Game: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions

This independent Review was commissioned by state and territory officials in Australia to complement the Commonwealth Government’s Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools.

The Review was led by Susan Pascoe AM and Professor Deborah Brennan. They were asked to consider and make recommendations on the most effective interventions in early childhood, with a focus on school readiness, improving achievement in schools and future success in employment or further education.

The report finds that quality early childhood education makes a significant contribution to achieving educational excellence in schools. There is growing evidence that participation in quality early childhood education improves school readiness and lifts NAPLAN results and PISA scores. Children who participate in high quality early childhood education are more likely to complete year 12 and are less likely to repeat grades or require additional support. High quality early childhood education also has broader impacts; it is linked with higher levels of employment, income and financial security, improved health outcomes and reduced crime. It helps build the skills children will need for the jobs of the future.

To view the report see:

The views and opinions expressed in the review belong to the review and do not necessarily reflect the views of, or have the endorsement of, any state or territory government, or of any minister, department or official.

Co-location and Integration Strategic Evaluation

The Department commissioned Urbis to conduct a strategic evaluation of co-location and integration investment in early childhood and education settings. The objectives of the strategic evaluation were to:

  • secure an evidence base to understand the impact of integration efforts to date and provide direction for future investment and policy development.
  • gain conclusive findings on the impact of co-location and integration continuum of current investments on improved outcomes for children, young people, families, schools and the community.

In addition to the final report the Department produced two complementary documents: a Summary Report (which is a synopsis of the findings and focuses on the six study sites); and an Evaluation Framework. The Evaluation Framework addresses one of the key findings of the strategic evaluation which highlighted the importance of co-location and integration sites to conduct their own ongoing monitoring and evaluation. This document aims to assist current and future co-location and integration projects monitor their progress towards their intended goals. The following documents are available:

Every Toddler Talking Phase One

The Department commissioned the Centre for Community Child Health and the Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute to investigate how early childhood educators and allied health professionals currently work together in Victoria to promote better language and communication outcomes for children (birth to three); to review international and national programs and approaches that work to promote language and communication outcomes for children (birth to three); and to provide design options for the Every Toddler Talking research trial.

To view the report, see:

For information on the Every Toddler Talking trial, see: Every Toddler​ Talking

Every Toddler Talking Phase Two​

Every Toddler Talking will trial professional learning designed to strengthen early childhood educators' practice in promoting children's language and communication skills, and build collaboration between speech pathologists and educators. It features The Hanen Centre's Learning Language and Loving It program, leadership training, and collaborative working groups of educational leaders and speech pathologists.

The evaluation, conducted by the University of Melbourne will compare the early childhood education and care services implementing Every Toddler Talking with 'control group' services that do not get the training, to find out how effective Every Toddler Talking is. The final report will be available in September 2017.

To view the 2016  interim report, see: 

To view the Final Report, see:

Reaching Year 12: Student and School Influences

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to investigate the factors that facilitate students reaching Year 12. The research found that the main predictors of school completion were prior student performance followed by socioeconomic background. Male students were less likely to finish Year 12 than females and completion rates of students from language background other than English (LBOTE) were higher than that for students from English speaking backgrounds.

Child Health Prevalence and Trends

The Department funded the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health as part of their Research Partnership to investigate the changes in the prevalence of parent-reported health problems in Victorian children on entry to school between 2008 and 2012. The research found that asthma and allergies were the most commonly recorded health conditions across all five years. The prevalence of developmental delay increased slightly (4.4% in 2008 increasing to 5.3% in 2012), and the prevalence for serious accident/injury decreased from 2.2% in 2008 to 1.8% in 2012.

NAPLAN Scores as Predictors of Access to Higher Education in Victoria

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to examine the extent to which Year 9 NAPLAN performance predicts access to higher education as determined by subsequent achievement in Year 12 VCE outcomes. The research found Year 9 numeracy and reading scores to be strong predictors of students’ Year 12 VCE outcomes. Students scoring in the bottom 20% in Year 9 numeracy and reading have a 9% chance of achieving an ATAR of 50 or above, whereas students scoring in the top 20% in Year 9 on both tests have an 86% chance of achieving an ATAR of 50 or above.

Peer Effects and Achievement in Victorian Schools

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to analyse the effect of a child’s peers on their achievement. The research found positive and significant peer effects across all NAPLAN domains (reading, writing, numeracy, spelling, grammar and punctuation) in Years 3 and 5. That is, a child’s achievement is positively affected by higher average peer performance.

Evaluating the Impact of the Smarter Schools National Partnerships on Student Achievement

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to examine the impact of the Smarter Schools National Partnership (SSNP) on literacy and numeracy achievement in primary and secondary school students.

The research found that the SSNP program successfully raised student achievement beyond typical growth between year levels in NAPLAN tests. Compared to their peers in non-SSNP schools, secondary school students gained an additional 12 points in reading and 34 points in numeracy NAPLAN scores. Further analyses of varying groups of students (i.e. from different SES backgrounds) in SSNP schools, found large improvements in secondary school students compared to primary school students. In secondary schools, growth in low-SES students’ numeracy score was 13 points higher than that of students in the highest SES quartile. A similar differential of 14 points was found in reading.

Post-compulsory education and training: do young people know what pays?

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to look at whether young people (aged 20) have an accurate picture of the impact of education and training on their future incomes and occupations.

The research found that young people aged 20 were overly optimistic about their future jobs and incomes. They expected to work in much higher skilled occupations and earn higher incomes than current 30 year olds. In particular, the research found that young people without post-school qualifications had the greatest difference between expectations and realisations in occupation and income.

School Provision Plan for the Romsey Area: Demographic Study

The Department recently commissioned an independent study to analyse secondary school provision in the Romsey area. The Secondary School Provision Plan for the Romsey Area involved a detailed demographic analysis and an assessment of long-term enrolment forecasts and capacity.

Educational Achievement and the Allocation of School Budgets

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to analyse the relationship between student achievement and the allocation of budgets in Victorian government schools.

The research found that across Victorian government schools as a whole, the autonomous decisions of school principals have resulted in a resource allocation that is broadly efficient. Spending on school leadership and management (primarily professional learning for principals) resulted in positive growth in literacy levels of students in Years 5 and 7.

School Provision Plan for the Prahran Area: Demographic Study

The Department recently commissioned an independent study to analyse secondary school provision in the Prahran Network, as stage one of the Prahran Feasibility Study. Stage one involved a detailed demographic analysis and an assessment of long-term enrolment forecasts and capacity at all schools in the wider Prahran Network. Following on from the recommendations of this demographic review, a second stage of the study has now been initiated.

The formal scoping of stage two is underway and is expected to involve a broader review of the secondary school offerings in the Prahran Network to identify any gaps and opportunities in secondary education provision. This will include consideration of both service delivery and infrastructure options to address local challenges and improve education offerings.

Early Bird Catches the Worm: The Causal Impact of Pre-school Participation and Teacher Qualifications on Year 3 NAPLAN Outcomes

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as part of their Research Partnership to look at the causal impact of attendance at pre-school in the year prior to starting formal schooling on Year 3 NAPLAN outcomes. They also examined the effect of specific pre-school teacher qualifications on Year 3 NAPLAN scores.

The research found that attendance at pre-school has a significant positive impact on later NAPLAN outcomes, particularly in the domains of Numeracy, Reading and Spelling. There is a direct causal effect of pre-school attendance are equivalent to 10 to 20 NAPLAN points or 15 to 20 weeks of schooling at the Year 3 level, three years after attending pre-school. Furthermore, children whose pre-school teacher had a diploma or degree in early childhood education or child care gained the most from attending pre-school – the level and specialisation of pre-school teacher qualifications matter.

2012 Docklands School Feasibility Study

The 2012 Docklands/North Melbourne Feasibility Study (Inner City Government School Provision) was commissioned by the Department of Education and Training (DET) in 2011 to examine the future school provision requirements for the Docklands area. The report, by Ernst & Young was finalised in 2012 and reflects on the data and possible school sites available at the time.

The report canvasses three key issues:

  • A review of demographic need for a new school according to existing and forecasted resident populations.
  • Identification of the optimal size and design for a primary school having regard to an inner urban environment.
  • Identification of the preferred locations for a new primary school (based on an assessment of sites against socio economic criteria, developed as part of the study).

The Government is committed to restarting the planning process for the Docklands. This will include a refresh of the demographic projections in this report and an assessment of the options for meeting enrolment demand for Docklands and surrounding areas.

Feasibility Study into Secondary Education in the Broader Sandringham Area: Summary Report

An independent and comprehensive feasibility report by CUBE Management Solutions into the sustainability and viability of secondary provision options in the Sandringham area.

Demographic Study: Sandringham College

An independent and comprehensive demographic report by Spatial Vision into the sustainability and viability of secondary provision options in the Sandringham area.

Reading to Young Children: A Head-Start in Life

The Department funded the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to explore the connections between parents reading to their young children and their child’s later reading and other cognitive skills. The study found that reading to children at a young age has a direct effect on their schooling outcomes regardless of their family background and home environment. Reading to children at age 4-5 every day has significant positive effect on their reading skills and cognitive skills (language, literacy and numeracy) later in life.

Higher Apprenticeships Scoping Report – Victoria University

The Department commissioned Victoria University to undertake a scoping report investigating what a “higher apprenticeships” model might look like and whether there is demand for apprentices with broader or deeper skills than a traditional apprenticeship can deliver. The report found that the current system is not necessarily precluding high achievers and that motivated individuals can obtain rewarding and fulfilling trade careers, when given a head start from employers with a positive apprentice culture and support for ongoing skills acquisition. However more could be done to broaden the scope, awareness and take up of these opportunities so that they become more prevalent and potentially less limited to particular types of employers.

Learning spaces research

The Department is coordinating a research program on learning spaces to understand better the relationship between built spaces and student learning outcomes, given there is a real paucity of empirical evidence in this field. This webpage highlights recent activity and publications of relevance to schools.

Assessment in online learning environments

The third paper in the Digital Learning Platforms Research Series focuses on assessment in online learning environments. It discusses the importance of teachers providing feedback to students as well as creating situations for teachers to receive feedback on their teaching as a way of influencing learning and achievement. It discusses how the variety of technology today enables giving and receiving feedback and keeping records for reflection and review.

Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes

A literature review commissioned by the Department identifies the current state of research into the connections between learning spaces and student learning outcomes. It uses a conceptual framework of four phases (design, transition and implementation, consolidation, and sustainability/re-evaluation) to map the literature across the three domains of practitioners, learners and spaces.

Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on students' outcomes to identify teachers’ needs

This paper outlines a ‘cycle of inquiry’ which systematically builds teacher knowledge to improve teaching practice for students and teachers. The paper shows how principles of student assessment can be applied to evaluate not only student outcomes, but also the learning needs of teachers. The inquiry cycle asks teachers to evaluate their own performance through evidence gathered in the classroom and then assess whether their current teaching practices are meeting the needs of their students. Through this process, teachers are better equipped to identify their own needs for professional learning.

Powerful learning: taking education reform to scale

This report captures how the Northern Metropolitan Region (NMR) developed an improvement model using ‘bottom-up and top-down’ approaches to improve the outcomes of all students. The paper shares what is known about high performing education systems and systemic approaches to school reform. The paper presents NMR as a case example where a concerted strategic attempt at reforms was made at scale within the broader context of system improvement policies and initiatives.