Phoebe Wong is trying to experience teaching in a kinder classroom via her laptop.
The second-year early childhood education student is among the Victorian teaching students who can no longer do practical placement in schools because of the state's coronavirus lockdown and move to remote learning.
Phoebe Wong’s early childhood studies have been disrupted by coronavirus.Credit:Jason South
"When I first got the news it was kind of hard to believe; we need hands-on experience with children and learning [to work with] different children in different settings," Ms Wong said.
Victoria University, where Ms Wong studies, moved to help their students by organising one-on-one virtual placements using Zoom, often with children of university staff.
Working with her tutors, a mentor and five-year-old Sadie has helped Ms Wong feel she is making the best of a bad situation.
"I didn't know how it would work but it has been a good experience," she said.
"I'm lucky I got Sadie. I just talk to her and I can engage with her. It's challenging but better than not doing it."
Sadie, 5, shows her dolls to her educator Phoebe Wong over Zoom.
Professor Joanna Barbousas, president of the Victorian Council of Deans of Education, has worked in partnership with universities, education bodies and the state government to have students' required placement hours reduced and online supervision given priority.
A bachelor's degree in teaching now requires 60 days of placement instead of 80 and online experience counts towards that. The requirement for early education and care degrees has been cut from 80 days to 30.
"The anxiety in the beginning was whether they would be able to fill the requirements and that was really felt by students," Professor Barbousas said.
"The reduction of placement days has allowed schools and universities to focus on quality placement opportunities, both remotely and on site during this time."
She said the move would also have a positive effect on staffing levels in schools next year.
"The professional pipeline is really important."
James Desmond, who is studying teaching at Monash University, said there was a lot of angst for students losing classroom time, even when they supported lockdown restrictions.
"It's definitely the No.1 concern for education students at the moment," he said.
"The cornerstone of our degree is our placement days and our classroom experience; it can't be understated how important that is."
Mr Desmond said many students in their final year were worried the reduced in-school training would hurt their job prospects. He urged schools not to discount 2020 graduates.
"If those students can navigate this situation then that puts them in good stead to navigate through other hard situations," he said.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said that earlier in the pandemic, during the switch to remote learning, many teachers felt overwhelmed and unable to offer placements but that that was changing.
"The work of schools in developing pre-service teachers to classroom readiness is an important part of our work," she said.
"A lot of people have worked hard to make sure people are not going to reach the end of the year and not be able to qualify."
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