In July 1959 what was called an 'experimental year' marked the formation of the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English. The purpose of the Association was to 'stimulate interest in the teaching of English and background studies' and three meetings were planned. By October 1960 the Association had become established enough to hold its first AGM and it had 160 members.
In her annual report in 1960 the first secretary of the Association Wilma Hannah wrote that 'the year had been quite a successful one. The first meeting for the year was on the examination theme'. After a panel of Leaving Certificate examiners lead a lively discussion, the members present 'decided to ask that more time be made available for students taking this examination.' So the work of being an advocacy group was not long in starting. The first meeting for second term was 'a delightful talk by Professor Ian Maxwell which introduced members to Iceland and Icelandic Literature'. Ian Maxwell was the president and there will be current VATE members who will remember the attractively eccentric Professor and his interest in Scandinavian literature and his lecture on T S Eliot which was 'more of a recital than a lecture'. Poet and academic Professor A. D. Hope was the speaker at this 1960 AGM.
The plans for the 1961 program as outlined at the AGM ranged from 'a report by the examiners in Intermediate English Expression to a lecture on a literary topic by one of the lecturers in the English Department here at the University ... and a study of the problems connected with teaching grammar'.
Since 1960 VATE has gone on to support its members as they have initiated and coped with the various changes to the teaching and learning of English over the last fifty years. In 1994 Margaret Gill described the capacity of English teachers to accommodate or 'mildly subvert' revisions of the subject and she associated this with 'a generally resilient English teaching profession'. By contrast with the 1960-61 program the 2009 state conference program included sessions on Podcasting, radio and year 10 English; Digital learning resources: using and evaluating multi modal resources; Global issues: Asian influences; and The future of the book. But there were echoes of the 1960 meetings in the conference sessions Preparing Year 12 students for the English exam; Grammar at the Chalkface and the many sessions on 'literary topics'.
On Friday 18 June 2010 VATE hosted a Jubilee Dinner to celebrate 50 years of English teaching.