Page 2976 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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However, I am not convinced that either of these initiatives is likely to come close to solving the broader problem. I believe that a greater focus must be placed on the type of people that are attracted to go into teaching in the first place. We must attract quality, committed people into the teaching profession, and one of the key ways to do this is to reward existing teachers and to remunerate them according to their worth. You simply will not attract quality people to take up any profession, but particularly teaching, unless they believe they can have a career that will provide them with a comfortable living that equates to the importance of the work that they complete.

I recall attending an introductory night when my eldest daughter was admitted to St Clare’s college. In talking to one of the teachers there, he said, “I cannot even afford to take on a mortgage on my income level for my family to have permanent housing.” To me, it was quite a profound comment. Here we were, giving this person an enormous level of responsibility, and they were simply not remunerated enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living in this city.

HECS forgiveness might be a short-term attraction to some, but I seriously doubt that it would be enough for an individual who was deciding, for example, between studying law or embarking on a teaching career. Similarly, I am sure that there are a large number of teaching graduates who get into the classroom, realise how hard it is, look at their friends in the public service or other employment making similar or greater amounts of money with less stress, and they jump ship. Adequate remuneration is a key way to address this issue and it should be a priority for the major parties to look seriously at how to recruit and retain quality teachers.

There has been considerable progress in nursing. I think there are issues with numbers of staff but the improved remuneration in relation to nursing has given Canberra something of a competitive edge, and the same principle should apply in terms of education. Of course, money is not the only consideration. People are more likely to look favourably on teaching careers if they are in an environment that is supported by quality infrastructure and equipment, and that is why, although class sizes are important, it is also important to ensure that schools and classrooms are well resourced.

I welcome much of the Liberal motion. Class sizes are important, but they are not the only measuring stick of a quality education system. Frankly, I believe the key point of this debate can be lost if one focuses purely on class sizes. After all, the Liberal promise extends an existing commitment by Labor by just three schooling years. On its own, it is far from enough to ensure that students in the ACT system receive a quality education. I would be much more impressed if the Liberal Party would present a comprehensive policy that addresses the broader issues facing the public education system rather than cobbling together a few points that are likely to grab a headline.

We must address how to recruit and retain quality teachers and how to best equip and support those teachers to educate our children. We need to consider infrastructure and the sorts of facilities that are available in schools. We have to consider the issue of discipline in public schools. It is not just an issue in public schools, but it is an issue that is coming up. When I go to shopping centres, people talk about it. I know it is

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