Page 843 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022

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(2) this Assembly calls on the ACT Government to:

(a) respond appropriately to the WorkSafe notices;

(b) consider the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students as the foremost priority when making decisions about the operation of schools;

(c) continue to take steps to address the work safety risks identified by staff in ACT public schools, including properly resourcing schools according to their needs, ensuring that class size limits are respected and addressing unsustainable workloads;

(d) report regularly and in a timely manner to unions on staff absences, including split, collapsed and cancelled classes, in a way that minimises additional reporting workload for schools; and

(e) continue to work with unions to ensure the safety of public school workplaces and to reduce workload for teachers and school staff.”.

MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (3.13): I am speaking today in place of Mr Davis, the ACT Greens Spokesperson for Education, who is unwell and unable to be here today. The ACT education system is facing several significant and intersecting systemic challenges that have been exacerbated over the last two years by the impacts of widespread COVID-19 infection in the community. The Greens will be supporting the amendments moved by Minister Berry today that reflect these challenges and commit the government to ongoing work with teachers, student communities and the union to manage and rectify these issues, with a prioritisation on worker safety and occupational hazards.

The issues outlined by Mr Hanson’s motion are currently before two inquires of the Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, of which Mr Davis is also a member. These are the school infrastructure inquiry and the inquiry into the Auditor-General’s report into teacher quality. This work is thorough and ongoing, involving school visits, dozens of written submissions, and hours of public hearings. While it is Mr Hanson’s prerogative to deploy the evidence provided in these hearings today in the chamber, what these committee inquiries demonstrate is that these issues are being taken seriously by the government and by the Assembly as a whole. However, this work is necessarily time consuming and will be reported on later this year by that committee.

It is undeniable that our schools are experiencing significant staffing shortages, as are schools in our region and across Australia. Last year, the local branch of the AEU published a member report, which found that schools throughout the ACT are being seriously negatively impacted by teacher storages. We know these shortages lead to grave workplace concerns for teachers, including those covered in some detail earlier today during debates. In response to the AEU’s report, the Education Directorate and the union have established the teacher shortage task force, which is the first of its kind in the country and is tasked with trying to limit the impact of national shortages here in the ACT. A necessary part of this work is the development of accurate workforce estimates and projections of the numbers, distribution and expertise of teachers across the territory—work that has been necessary for some time. The work of the task force will inevitably take time, and systemic actions to alleviate the impact of shortages will need to be implemented in parallel with the task force’s work.

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