Page 733 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 5 April 2022

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Regrettably the situation at Calwell High School is not an isolated case. With the union receiving staff shortage SOS calls from school staff across Canberra on a daily basis we anticipate further interventions will and must occur.

Minister, why have there been repeated stories of classes of 60 or 75 students in ACT schools, and what is being done right now to address it?

MS BERRY: I do not know where the member has been for the last couple of years, but an international health pandemic—COVID-19—has impacted on the ability of our schools to meet their staffing requirements, on top of what we already know is a teaching shortage across the country, including in the ACT. In the ACT we have worked with the education union to set up a taskforce to understand the teaching shortage before COVID-19. We have worked with the teachers’ union about the kinds of things that we can do within our schools right now to reduce the workload for teachers so that they are being impacted less in a really challenging situation. We will continue to do that, and we will continue to make assessments and review to see what we can do into term 2 and throughout the rest of the year to support our teaching professionals to provide the best possible face-to-face learning environment that they can—or remote if they need to—in the midst of an international health pandemic.

MR PARTON: I have a supplementary question. Minister, how often are teachers taking classes of over 40 in schools across the ACT?

MS BERRY: I do not have that detail with me. I can take that question on notice. What I can say is to refer to my answer to the first question: the education union and Education Directorate have been working on reducing teacher workloads and listening to school communities when they are impacted by COVD-19 absences so that they have the chance to move to remote education. I would encourage schools that are experiencing these kinds of shortages, as soon as they possibly know about them, to get in touch with the Education Directorate because we should not be afraid to return to remote education when we need to. We have excellent systems in place. We should be proud of those. Our schools are well prepared, through the initiative of the Labor government to provide Chromebooks and wi-fi dongles. We were well prepared, and we have excellent and internationally-accessed remote education tools that are available for everyone to use, and we are ready should we need to.

MR HANSON: What other schools in the ACT are currently sending SOS calls for staff shortages to the directorate?

MS BERRY: I do not think I agree with the way that they member has suggested in that question, that it is an SOS—

Members interjecting—

MADAM SPEAKER: Members, allow the minister to answer.

MS BERRY: I do not have that level of detail with me at the moment. I can take that question on notice, but I would say that the Education Directorate, working with stakeholders, the education union and the CPSU around workforce availability in our schools, has directly taken responsibility for the relief pool to provide relief staff to

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