Victorian Department of Education improves access to youth data with online portal

Parents and educators can access information from the VCAMS portal rather than PDF reports

Annual PDF reports on the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Victoria have been replaced with an online Victorian Child and Adolescent Monitoring Systeem (VCAMS) portal run by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).

Speaking at the Tableau conference in Sydney this week, DEECD director of research, evaluation and analytics Joyce Cleary told delegates that it produced annual community profile PDF reports for different areas of Victoria from 2009 to 2011.

"We didn't have an online system to push it out so we developed a lot of PDF reports that were set up in the back-end with a clunky Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that bought all this data together to generate PDF reports," she said.

"It became clear that the big local government areas were using it. However, the shires and smaller government areas had people who were looking after multiple portfolios ranging from child services to road planning.

"They don't have time to get their heads around this information. You put a book on kid's health and wellbeing on their table and it's not a top priority. That was a hard lesson for us but confirmed that we needed to get this website set up."

To do this, the department began working with Tableau in 2013 to create the VCAMS portal.

Starting in August 2013, it developed VCAMs using the vendor's desktop software and the portal went live in December 2013.

The portal contains data from DEECD, the Victorian Department of Health , Victorian Police, Human Services. For example, this information includes immunisation rates. People can download spreadsheets containing the data that they have searched for.

"It gives you various reports that were produced over the years from 2008 to 2014. People want to see the dashboards and visualisations so they can download spreadsheets," Cleary said.

For example, some of the data sets include information on bullying. This is data from student opinion surveys run by DEECD for Years 5 to 9.

"We can select the year, we can draw back and see over time and look by gender so we can see if there are some differences between male and female data," she said during a live demo of the portal.

"We needed to make information accessible to providers who need to know how kids and families are faring on a local level. If they have access to that information, they can start to plan and tailor their services to families."

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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