Page 2819 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 16 August 2017
our education system is core business for the ACT government, as it is for every other jurisdiction in Australia, and definitely worthy of a motion in this place. It is a big ticket item in our budget and equates to over $1.2 billion in investment from the territory.
However, we have now seen seven sittings in this new Assembly, and while no-one in this place should be surprised to see yet another politically fuelled motion from the Labor backbench, on any subject matter, I am surprised at the level of hubris that is on display with the motion today. Foreshadowing my amendments, my motivation is to ensure that the record shows the true state of affairs in the ACT when it comes to the education of young people.
I will start by saying that Ms Orr is correct in noting the importance of school education as a pathway to employment, inclusion and lifelong learning for Canberrans. She is also correct in noting the contribution of school leaders, teachers and educators to the lives of young Canberrans and the broader community. I have been very privileged in the last few months, as I have made my way around the ACT visiting many schools across all sectors, to have met some of the most inspiring educators who have demonstrated a great deal of dedication to their job that I find wholly inspiring and encouraging for the work that is being done across territory schools.
But this is where I will deviate from Ms Orr’s motion today. The contribution of teachers and support staff is being dramatically impacted by the rise in violence in classrooms. I am also very conscious of the pressures that our educators face on a daily basis when it comes to dealing with increasing violence in their workplace. We know that there has been a dramatic increase—a 26 per cent increase, in fact—in reported incidents of physical violence against teachers or school leaders, with a total of 264 reported incidents for the last financial year. That does not include the level of unreported incidents that would go largely unknown. This level of violence highlights some real issues in the lack of adequate policies, resourcing and support in place to deal effectively with such violence at a school level.
Whilst it is true that the ACT government has made significant financial investments in education, most particularly public education, we must acknowledge the fact that money does not always solve all problems. As we can see from the ACT Auditor-General’s report released earlier this year, significant investment does not equate to significant results. In fact, the Auditor-General elaborates on this by saying in her report:
ACT public schools are performing below similar schools in other jurisdictions despite expenditure on a per student basis for public schools being one of the highest in the country. Since 2014 reviews of ACT public schools have consistently identified shortcomings in their analysis of student performance information and their use of data to inform educational practice. These shortcomings indicate a systemic problem.
This issue does require attention, and, in my view, has needed this attention for some time. I am pleased to see the response to this report provided by the government that was tabled in this place yesterday. I note that there is agreement in part to most of the seven recommendations made by the Auditor-General. This is a positive start.