Page 2547 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 9 August 2016

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I have heard of some wacky statements from this man, but this must beat them all. Having complained about the state of our schools consistently for eight years and how we need to do more, does he seriously think anyone would believe such a strategy from the opposition?

I note that the front page of today’s Canberra Times also thinks it is rubbish, with a heading “Labor job cuts flawed”. Enough said on that. The ACT spends more per capita on student public education than any other jurisdiction, but, despite that, we have year 6 classes with 37 students in what is regarded as a high performing primary school. (Second speaking period taken.)

We have for years, and under successive education ministers, seen the predictable skiting about how well our ACT students are doing in NAPLAN testing, despite my warning, on just as regular a basis, that we need to ensure that we are not leaving students behind and also that, on international PISA scales, we are slipping. Last week we saw that NAPLAN results for students across Australia, and most notably in the ACT, have flat-lined. Despite having record high levels of investment in education and a jurisdiction that spends more per head than any other, our results are slowing. Has Labor got its priorities right? We believe not.

In this year’s budget we saw a measly $300,000 over three years in teacher scholarships to support postgraduate learning and additional teacher expertise in science, technology, engineering and maths, the so-called STEM subjects that this government claim they are big supporters of and investors in. I suggest that the scholarships are too little and too late.

While the Labor mantra of “more money fixes all education ills” is clearly wrong, so, too, is targeting well-researched weaknesses in learning outcomes with token amounts of teacher training. We have some inspirational teachers taking different approaches with great success. We need to look at those models and better understand why they are working.

I note in this month’s ACT Educator magazine an article about Campbell High’s teacher coaching program. It is those sorts of approaches, rather than just promises of more money for projects that never seem to arrive, that will make a difference in our schools. And if those teachers are able to work in well-ventilated and temperature-controlled classrooms that are fit for purpose, with sensible class sizes, supported and encouraged to try new things and to undertake more learning, we will be on the right path.

This budget is ill targeted and full of catch-up dribbles of money going to projects that, if they had merit, should have been funded within the current government cycle and not drawn out into another funding year.

This year’s education budget is full of promises to, conveniently, every electorate. But, if Labor is returned to government, how many will really see the light of day? If the 2012 election is any guide, few, if any—and none will be completed before the end of the next term.

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