For everyone Party lines: Q&A on public education

  • This article was published more than 1 year ago.
  • 7 Nov 2022

We asked each of the major parties what they will do to address the critical issues for public education and its workforce should they win the upcoming state election.


What will you do to address staff shortages and attract and retain qualified staff in the public education system?

LABOR
As a government, we value the profound contributions of our educators – and will continue working with the AEU and its members on how we continue to support and invest in these workforces, particularly as we grow them significantly over the next decade.

Labor has committed to a $209.9 million workforce package to support the attraction and retention of early childhood teachers and educators, on top of the $9 billion Best Start, Best Life reforms. We have implemented numerous measures, including over 2,800 scholarships to study early childhood teaching, and an additional $28.5m to add the early childhood courses to Free TAFE.

For schools, we’re working with education ministers across Australia on the National Action Plan on Teacher Shortage and welcome the direct involvement of the AEU as a partner. As part of the Victorian Budget 2022/23, we are investing $779m to recruit up to 1,900 extra teachers to reduce face-to-face teaching hours and provide teachers more time for planning, preparation, assessment and developing teaching practices.

TAFE teacher requirements, attraction and retention are a national priority. At the most recent skills ministers meeting it was agreed to progress a VET Workforce Blueprint to support, which will support the long-term sustainability of TAFE and the VET sector, and will identify effective strategies for the attraction and retention of a high-quality workforce that is fit for purpose, along with capability and career development strategies and succession planning.

LIBERAL
See response to next question below.

GREENS
The Victorian Greens value the important work undertaken by staff in the public education system. The Greens are committed to significantly increasing funding for public schools. With more funding, schools will be able to hire more teachers and support staff with better pay and conditions. The Victorian Greens support the improvement of career paths for teachers, to encourage and retain more people to take up teaching as a profession. The Greens will also abolish the Victorian government’s public sector wage cap, which is holding back wage increases for teachers.


How will you address the unsustainable workloads of principals, teachers, and support staff in schools?

LABOR
Only Labor is committed to working with the AEU and its members to support workload reductions and cooperatively implementing the Victorian Government Schools Agreement, which includes reducing the maximum number of face-to-face teaching hours by an hour a week in 2023, and a further half an hour in 2024, supported by a $779 million investment to recruit up to 1,900 extra teachers.

LIBERAL
According to the Grattan Institute’s most recent report on curriculum planning, teachers spend up to six hours per week sourcing materials and creating lesson plans. Our Streamlining and Simplifying the Curriculum Policy will overhaul the curriculum to ensure teachers have the classroom time to focus on student learning needs [and] areas of interest, and to provide high-quality sample lesson plans. This will ensure that teachers will be less stressed and have to do significantly less lesson planning each week. Our curriculum policy will help address teacher workload issues to help encourage teachers to remain in the profession longer – in particular, early career teachers.

GREENS
We’re asking our teachers to deliver good academic results, foster well-rounded individuals, with good values and address the many complex individual needs of students. As a state, we can all say thanks, but the best way to demonstrate our thanks to our teachers is through higher wages and better conditions. The Victorian Greens support the improvement of career paths for teachers that allow teachers to continue their classroom work, while still progressing in their careers. This will help retain staff and encourage more people to take up teaching as a profession.


What will you do to support students with additional needs?

LABOR
Labor has invested over $600m to support the mental health and wellbeing of students; we are delivering on every single recommendation from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, including qualified mental health practitioners for all government secondary and specialist schools, the new $200m School Mental Health Fund, and the new $200m Mental Health in Primary Schools program.

Through the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, we are making sure every child has the opportunity to participate in the programs and excursions that make school fun. We’re also helping kids catch up by extending the $738m Tutor Learning Initiative; helping kids stay on track with the Navigator program; supporting high-ability students thrive with the nearly $100m Student Excellence Program; and $82.8m to improve educational outcomes for rural and regional students.

Our government has invested almost $1.6bn to make sure students with disability are supported in the classroom through an Australian-first Disability Inclusion package. The record investment will transform support for students with disability in Victorian government schools – doubling the number of students receiving extra support in the classroom to 55,000.

We have invested in a range of initiatives for preschool children who need extra support, and our most recent announcement to make kinder free from next year will be a game-changer for our most vulnerable kids. The Victorian Budget 2022/23 invests $53.7 million over four years to provide more Kindergarten Inclusion Support packages; continuing the successful Access to Early Learning and LOOKOUT programs; and extending targeted outreach support for children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; expanding Kindergarten Fee Subsidy eligibility; and $160m in School Readiness Funding.

LIBERAL
Our literacy policy, which has been developed in conjunction with literacy experts who have spent decades studying literacy education, will ensure that students learn to read by end of Year 2. Furthermore, 20% of students in Years 9 onwards are functionally illiterate, further challenging teachers to teach literacy skills when they should be teaching secondary school curriculum. Our literacy policy will help students who have fallen behind after so many interrupted years of learning and the 170+ days of school lockdowns to become excellent readers.

We fully expect that there will continue to be a large cohort of struggling students unable to read because of the balanced literacy model being taught, but who fall beyond the years of systematic synthetic phonic instruction, notably Years 3 onwards. We will develop explicit literacy instruction programs based on the very best evidence to ensure these students become readers and we will have dedicated programs for Years 3–6 and years 7+.

Our literacy policy, which includes fully funded teacher professional learning, including the CRT costs, is in addition to the current professional learning opportunities as negotiated in the EBA. Teachers won’t have to choose whether to learn how to teach literacy properly or to experience other learning opportunities, as I will ensure that they can receive both.

The need for students to catch up is due to the Labor government’s decision to lock down schools. In terms of students with additional needs, it is apparent the current government does not acknowledge or accept the challenges for teachers in managing these students. I will commit to working with schools to develop a model that is a far more suitable than the current one.

GREENS
The Greens are committed to advocating for an increase in the Program for Students with Disabilities funding to ensure that support based on a functional and educational needs-based approach meets the requirements of all students with disabilities and other learning needs.

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic caused great disruption to students and that there continues to be a need for additional support to help students recover. The Greens support an extension of the Tutor Learning Initiative beyond 2022, to meet the needs of students who still require additional support with their schooling. The Greens would also ensure continued access to digital devices and the internet at home for all students. Increasing school funding will ensure that all students have access to the technology required for learning.


Will you fund our schools to at least 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard?

LABOR

The Andrews Labor government remains committed to funding 75% of the SRS and will continue to advocate to the federal government to fund the final 5% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) for government schools to bring the funding to 100%. [The previous federal government capped its SRS funding for public schools at 20%.]

The Andrews Labor government will continue to advocate to the federal government to fund the final 5% of the Schooling Resource Standard for government schools. We have welcomed the Commonwealth’s commitment to a pathway to full funding, a pathway which would lead to fairer funding to Victorian government schools and make sure they get the resources they need to give our students the best chance to achieve their goals.

LIBERAL
We believe that delivering a high-quality education to our students is fundamental to a functional education system. That means we need to invest in what we teach, how we teach, support teachers to teach in a myriad of ways, and invest in buildings and upgrades to ensure the facilities for teaching are appropriate. This is our plan for education in Victoria, one that will see our children the winners.

GREENS
Victoria has the lowest-funded public schools in Australia. This means our public schools don’t get the funding they need to meet everyone’s needs and the cost of what should be a free education is rising. The Greens will invest more in our local public schools with quality teachers, genuinely free public education and better support for disadvantaged students. Our commitment for more funding for public schools means all Victorian public schools will be able to hire more teachers and support staff with better pay and conditions and reduced workload.

The Greens will invest more in public schools and push the federal governments to fully fund Victorian public schools to 100% of the recommended Gonski school resource standard by 2023. The Victorian Greens will advocate for any increased funding through the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA) to be delivered directly to schools.

Genuinely free schooling that would mean no out-of-pocket school expenses for families. With increased funding, schools will have sufficient funding to cover all the materials, texts, devices, uniforms, camps, excursions and curriculum costs that are currently passed on to parents and carers.


Will you direct 70% of total VET funding towards TAFE?

LABOR

Yes, the government will introduce legislation guaranteeing 70% of vocational education and training funding goes to TAFE each year. Free TAFE courses will also become available to all Victorians, regardless of their prior skills or qualification, if the Labor government is re-elected. We will also invest up to $170 million to build new TAFE campuses at Sunbury and Melton and improve existing sites across the state.

Since 2014, the Andrews Labor government has provided over $3.5 billion of targeted investment into the TAFE, training and higher education sector, benefitting staff, students, industry and communities. The recent Victorian Budget 2022/23 confirmed a new funding model; the activity-based funding model links funding to TAFE ‘public provider’ activities and associated costs, and provides the funding upfront to TAFE. It supports better outcomes for staff, students and industry by more explicitly funding TAFE’s unique role in providing broad access to courses, particularly in regional Victoria, and wraparound services to support students, including for communities facing barriers to participation.

LIBERAL
No response.

GREENS
The Greens will invest more in TAFE, with increased recurrent funding for TAFE to ensure a quality, affordable, accessible vocational education system.


Will you guarantee the recent investments in early childhood?

LABOR
The Andrews government will deliver a massive $9 billion investment over the next decade to boost the early learning of young children, help families save money and empower women to return to the workforce. This builds on our Best Start, Best Life initiative, which began in 2018 with a $5bn investment to deliver 15 hours of three-year-old kindergarten to all children.

Our recent $9 billion investment significantly expands early childhood education with three major new initiatives: free kinder for three and four-year-olds from next year; 30 hours per week of play-based learning for four-year-old kindergarten by 2032; and 50 government-owned childcare centres in areas that need them most.

LIBERAL
No response.

GREENS
The Greens know how important early childhood education is for the development of children. In addition to free kinder, the Greens will provide further support to community not-for-profit kinders.


What is your party’s position on state government industrial relations policy, including public sector wages policy?

LABOR

The Labor government will review its current wages policy next year. We will continue to require that principals in schools must be registered teachers – this is already enshrined in legislation through the ETRA.

LIBERAL

We understand the pressures that our teachers are under, and if elected to government next month we will continue to work with all stakeholders, including the AEU, to ensure that all teachers are valued and respected for the important roles they play in the lives of our children.

GREENS

The Greens will abolish the state government’s public sector wages cap. The Greens have advocated strongly for the public sector wage cap to be removed. Low wage growth hurts everyone. If public sector workers face cuts or stagnation of their wages, then it will depress wages for everyone else. Essential workers helped us through COVID-19. We should be thanking them with higher wages and secure work. Cutting the real wages of workers, like healthcare workers and teachers, is the wrong thing to be doing as we come out of the pandemic. Victoria needs to lift wages and provide secure work for our essential public sector workers.


Will you promise that performance pay will not be introduced for teachers, principals and support staff in public schools, and commit to ensuring principals continue to be registered teachers?

LABOR

The Andrews Labor government rejected performance pay for teachers in 2015 and this has not changed. We will continue to require that principals in schools must be registered teachers – this is already enshrined in legislation through the ETRA.

LIBERAL

No response.

GREENS

Yes.

 

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