Page 2929 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008
big ticket item is the promise by the Liberal Party to cut class sizes in upper primary school.
Yesterday’s discussion on this matter was illuminating. The Liberal position appears to be that there is some research which, if not looked at too closely, shows that smaller class sizes in general are good for educational outcomes and that more teachers would be a good thing. The Liberal Party believes it has its costings right and that the government must have its figures wrong, and anyone who disagrees with the Liberal Party’s approach just does not care about kids and education. At least I think that is what was being said.
The government’s argument appears to have been that the research on smaller class sizes in upper primary is not convincing and that getting and keeping good teachers—for which it hopes the federal government will come to the party—and new and reorganised schools is the best way forward. I have to say that hearing Minister Barr invoke the expertise and insight offered by ACT educationalist Trevor Cobbold is rather galling given that he has specialised over the last couple of years, in my mind, in making unfounded derisory and personal attacks on Mr Cobbold for daring to analyse the impact of ACT government schools policy and question the thinking behind it. I believe Mr Cobbold’s work over the past 15 or 20 years has been extremely important to our understanding of school education in the ACT, and the government has certainly benefited by his support for quality public education. In fact, he has been one of the government’s advisors, and it is a pity that his advice on some matters is rejected while his advice on other matters is used to support the government’s position.
I was very pleased to read Mr Cobbold’s considered response to the Liberal Party’s smaller class size initiative. His analysis supports my view and those of other educationalists that the Greens work with. I seek leave to table the paper entitled “Do smaller classes make a difference and is it cost effective?”, which is written by Trevor Cobbold, spokesperson for Save Our Schools and taken from the Save Our Schools website.
DR FOSKEY: I table the following paper:
Smaller class sizes—Do smaller classes make a difference and is it cost effective? by Trevor Cobbold, Spokesman for Save Our Schools, dated 27 July 2008.
Education debates in this place rarely get to the point of an overall assessment of where we are now and what we need to do not in terms of the system—the buildings, the facilities, and attracting and retaining good teachers, although all these things are vital—but in terms of the experiences we offer our children in the world they will live in and the outcome they achieve. So, in the five minutes or so left to me, that is what I will focus on.
In the first instance, I do not think it is accurate to talk down our education systems or the basic capacities in terms of literacy, numeracy, scientific understanding and the