Page 4046 - Week 09 - Thursday, 26 August 2010

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Schools—relief teachers

MS HUNTER: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training and concerns relief teachers in ACT schools. Minister, is there currently a shortage of relief teachers in ACT government schools?

MR BARR: I thank Ms Hunter for the question and note that someone in the Greens is a subscriber to Crikey. I understand that a few days ago there was a claim broadcast to all Crikey subscribers around Australia from someone who had some alleged links to the ACT public school system that there was a dire crisis in terms of relief teachers within the ACT.

I think it is fair to say that from time to time some schools will have difficulty organising all of the relief staff that they need. That is not unusual. It is not unusual for 2010. It is not unusual for the ACT.

We do recognise that in seasonal periods, particularly during winter when illness tends to be higher, there are increased pressures on the education system and we do note the goodwill of teachers within schools to cover the occasional class where a relief teacher cannot be arranged at short notice, particularly if one of the colleagues goes home half way through a school day. In general, there are challenges in covering every single class in every single school on every single day, particularly if there is a late notice of a teacher absence. However, schools and the department are working effectively to provide comprehensive education for all students in all classes.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Hunter, a supplementary?

MS HUNTER: Minister, how many schools have had to make alternative arrangements to manage classes because they have been unable to get a relief teacher or teachers?

MR BARR: I will take that question as it relates to today. I will seek information from the department on arrangements today and get back to the member.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Le Couteur?

MS LE COUTEUR: Minister, how has the relief teacher system been managed within the ACT education system in the light of the sometime shortages?

MR BARR: We have in fact moved to adopt a new system that makes a lot of these staffing arrangements assessable online so as to reduce the need for multiple telephone calls and for those who are registered as relief teachers to be receiving multiple calls from multiple schools.

There is a more centralised system that the department has put in place in an attempt to streamline these processes. The advice that I have from the department is that this is certainly working more effectively than the previous arrangements.

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