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Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee
Teaching and learning - maximising our investment in Australian schools
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Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee
CHAIR (Senator Back)
Gallacher, Sen Alex
McKenzie, Sen Bridget
Wright, Sen Penny
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Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee
(Senate-Tuesday, 5 March 2013)
CHAIR (Senator Back)
- Senator WRIGHT
Content WindowEducation, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee - 05/03/2013 - Teaching and learning - maximising our investment in Australian schools
WATT, Mr Christopher Gerard, Federal Secretary, Independent Education Union of Australia
Committee met at 9:00.
CHAIR ( Senator Back ): I declare open this public hearing of the inquiry into teaching and learning—maximising our investment in Australian schools, which was referred to the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee on 11 September 2012 for inquiry and report. The committee is scheduled to report on 21 March 2013, although the committee is currently seeking to extend the reporting date to 14 May 2013, and that has now been confirmed.
The terms of reference for the inquiry can be found on the committee's website and are also available from the secretariat. Before the committee starts hearing evidence I advise that all witnesses appearing before the committee are protected by parliamentary privilege with respect to their evidence. This gives them special rights and immunities, because people must be able to give evidence to committees without prejudice to themselves. Any act that disadvantages a witness as a result of evidence given before the Senate or any of its committees is treated as a breach of privilege. Witnesses may request that part or all of their evidence is heard in private. However, I remind witnesses that giving false or misleading evidence to the committee may constitute a contempt of the Senate.
I welcome Mr Christopher Watt from the Independent Education Union of Australia. I thank you for your submission, which we have as number 12. Do you have any amendments or changes to your submission?
Mr Watt : No.
CHAIR: In which case, perhaps you could introduce your submission, and then we will go to questions.
Mr Watt : Essentially our submission falls into three parts. We did not attempt to cover all the elements of the terms of reference of this particular Senate committee. We turned ourselves to what I consider to be three critical parts, the third being consideration of some of the elements of the inquiry, the second being a reflection on past inquiries, and the first—what we believe to be the most important aspect—being the need for us to begin to set some of the educational debate, discussion and policy making in an overall context in a more comprehensive and holistic fashion.
Our concern for many, many years has been that education policy has been provided in bits and pieces from governments of all persuasions, both Commonwealth and state. What we failed to see over a long period of time was a comprehensive policy that aligns all of what we would consider to be the critical elements that would lead to quality teaching and learning opportunities for teachers and the children in the classrooms. Our view is that there are three key elements to that. One relates to quality career pathways for teachers, a second relates to enhancing the development of the capacity of quality teaching, and the third is the provision of quality learning environments. Within those three constructs we believe there are a range of significant elements that need to be addressed.
The second point of our submission goes to the fact that over the last two decades there have been a substantial number of inquiries into education, and a number of very important reports—for example, the report titled A class act. Some very significant recommendations have come out of these inquiries. But, by and large, those recommendations remain unacted upon by governments, federal and state. That is disappointing. Regarding this inquiry, our plea in one sense would be that there would be an appropriate audit of all of those inquiries in the past, and consideration to the development of an overall and overarching framework of recommendations that could come from those. The submissions provided by key stakeholders to most of those inquiries have been based on education research and quality research, and on research that could instruct what quality education in this country could and should look like. And, as I said, the third element relates to specific elements of the inquiry, which I am happy to take questions on.
CHAIR: Thank you very much; I appreciate that greatly.
Senator GALLACHER: Just to pick up on one of the last points you made, why is it that the recommendations of committees have not been acted upon, in the view of your organisation? What are the impediments to bringing at least the points of agreement—
Mr Watt : I think it is a combination of issues, not least of which is the one we are seeing played out at the moment in relation to the school funding debate. We have celebrated and struggled with the nature of our Commonwealth-state relations in this country for 100 years, and education is one of those areas fraught with difficulty. So, whilst there have been inquiries and quality recommendations and reports at a Commonwealth level, the fact is that states run the schools in the government school sector. That is where, until recently, curriculums were decided and developed; that is where teachers have been registered, and that is where the fundamental work of schooling has gone on. And some of the problem has been the disconnect between those arrangements.
The second element of it is a recognition that implementing any recommendation arising from an inquiry is very expensive. Education in this country is a huge industry, and any implementation of any change, as we well know from what we have seen of the debate around school funding at the moment, represents a substantial increase in investment. If I could take just one element of the current inquiry—say, consideration of something like induction for beginning teachers—I am sure it is something that most people would nobly regard as an important element of the beginning teacher's career to support them to ensure that the training they have had is built upon and capitalised upon and that we do not lose those teachers in early years, where we see a drift of teachers out of the profession. But to do anything in that space is expensive, because it means you have to release those teachers from their day-to-day duties so they can have the experience of other classrooms, mentoring with other teachers. As soon as you take a teacher offline from their classroom work, you have to replace them—put another body in that classroom. A simple recommendation and work around something like that is, we recognise, expensive. But at some point we have to accept the fact that expense and resources are going to be required to do that and to act upon those as we see in the national interest.
CHAIR: You are talking about induction training of a new teacher once they are in the school.
Mr Watt : That is correct.
Senator GALLACHER: While we are on the subject of new teachers: we have heard evidence in two states, and from both public and independent schools, that there is a misalignment of the graduates with the jobs. There are a lot of humanities and physical education graduates but there are no maths, science or English teachers—or, if there, there are sometimes multiple interview processes to get a successful candidate. Is that the union's view?
Mr Watt : Again, there have been a number of reports and inquiries into the teacher workforce. It is quite complex across the country. In some jurisdictions the shortage is not just in maths and science; it could be in other areas. For example, it could be in IT. It could actually be in the humanities, depending on whereabouts in the country you are. In some jurisdictions there is a very large oversupply of primary school teachers; in other places that is not the case. The issue is multifaceted. In one sense, one of the problems is that there is no alignment of workforce requirements with enrolment into preservice training. So, if the universities can enrol students in whatever discipline—primary, secondary, humanities, maths or science—as they see fit, there is no reflection going on and no expectation put upon those training higher education institutions to only enrol certain numbers, given the workforce requirements. That is something we believe should be being looked at, particularly given that those HEIs are of course being funded by the Commonwealth government.
Senator GALLACHER: If I could just butt in there: is that what people mean when they talk about capped places? And the uncapping of places means that there can be 100,000 people doing a diploma of education, but if there are only 20,000 jobs, that will be their problem when they graduate, but the university has made money on the way through?
Mr Watt : That is correct.
Senator McKENZIE: I have a question on that issue. Are there any other professions where that level of workforce planning occurs?
Mr Watt : There are by default, in a sense. Some of them are market-driven mechanisms. I am not aware of any structural mechanisms implemented by the Commonwealth government, except in the past where it has been directed at trying to get particular enrolments in particular fields—for example, in maths, science or nursing, where the incentives have been provided to increase enrolments but not capping.
Senator McKENZIE: So we are seeking to do something to the teaching profession that we do not do to any other profession?
Mr Watt : Well, I think we need to have a conversation about the things that could work. I made reference to the fact that there are some market mechanisms in some of the other studies, often driven by the capacity, once you are graduating, to get registration. The fact is that to be registered as a teacher you only have to qualify as a teacher and be able to teach. In some other professions there are restrictions, effectively, on how many will be registered, so the market within that profession drives the cap. So I think there needs to be a conversation about what happens in other professions and whether those things work and whether they are transferable to education.
Senator GALLACHER: There must be plenty of other professions where a diploma of education, or whatever qualification people get, underpins useful employment. They are not lost to the economy just because they do not go into teaching.
Mr Watt : That is absolutely correct, and we do not have a problem with that notion of people using the training and skills they have in other areas. Our concern is more that there is some evidence from various inquiries, including the recent Productivity Commission inquiry last year, that reports on the fact that there seems to be a large exodus of teachers from the profession in the first couple of years. We have to look at why that is the case. Some of the stuff we do not know is: what happens to those when they do leave. For instance, a number might leave one system and go to another system, and currently we do not have data around that—on what happens when they leave the government system and go to the non-government system; they may not actually be lost. Equally, they might take a year or two off and go and work overseas. In fact, they may teach overseas, and they may return, but we do not have data in relation to that mapping. So part of what we need to do—and, again, it was part of the evidence we gave to the Productivity Commission—is a decent mapping of what is going on in this regard, to see how big the problem is and whether the concerns that are within the profession are justified and whether anything can be done. But at the moment we just do not know.
Senator GALLACHER: So, going back to the universities, are there simple levers the government could use to move people into the urgent areas of need, like maths and science?
Mr Watt : One of the issues with maths and sciences is that, anecdotally, it is believed that for some of those students who might otherwise enrol in those—or who do enrol change their pathway—other careers appear more attractive, perhaps. That goes to issues not just around salary but around expectations and understandings about what the workload of a teacher looks like. This in part is a conversation that needs to be had, and, again, we have been talking about this for two decades—how we improve the status of teaching and the way it is perceived within the community and therefore the way students who are finishing their studies in year 12 and looking at enrolling in a course are thinking, and what their expectations are around teaching.
We have not come to terms with any of that, in my view. There is still a generally negative perception, and I think some students see that some of the work that their teachers were doing was way beyond them—there is an excessive workload and a feeling that that is not what they want to do—and they are therefore not attracted to the profession. So it is part of that conversation that needs to be had about how we make the profession more attractive. Part of it is a conversation around salary, but the other big part is around the conditions of work.
Senator McKENZIE: I may be paraphrasing here—it may be my own frustrations—but in your submission a sense of frustration came through, and it came through in our hearing yesterday as well: there have been 30 inquiries, and what is happening? I think your comments around auditing the recommendations, for instance, of what work has already been done and where we are at are essentially quite valid. I am just wondering whether you want to flesh that out. Are there areas that you specifically believe need to be focused on or that have been overlooked?
Mr Watt : I suppose I come back to my opening comments. I think the audit needs to be in the context of a holistic approach. Too often it has been bits and pieces. For instance, there was quite a bit of work done around girls in education in the nineties, and then it became boys in education. There is a risk sometimes with the nature of those things. Both were good inquiries and both came up with important findings, but there is a risk that at times we move the pendulum from one side to the other without finding a comprehensive ground for all students.
It is clear that there are different learning needs at different times for boys and girls. There are different learning needs for all children, and yet we have these inquiries from time to time that would suggest that one particular approach needs to be implemented. In my view, we have to consider those reports from a holistic perspective but absolutely make sure that they are grounded in some education research. There is plenty of quality research out there and people would generally agree which researchers have been doing that quality research over a long period of time—researchers like Michael Fullan. We do not need to be going to people who have done a single study and promote their package which you can purchase online for X dollars and it will solve the problems of education. It is not the case, but we do know in general what the lie of the land is. So I would not pick one element; I would say that, across the board, there are recommendations that we need to seriously review and put together in a whole package.
Senator McKENZIE: Did Gonski do that, or was that only about funding?
Mr Watt : He couched his recommendations in terms of the provision of quality education on an equitable basis. Data was showing that students from, for instance, disadvantaged backgrounds or Indigenous backgrounds or students with disabilities were not being fairly resourced in their learning needs. So he did look at that element, but he did not necessarily look at how you go about undertaking the work that needs to go on.
Senator McKENZIE: I am interested in your perspective on the question of school autonomy. Several submissions state that it has no effect or very little effect on teaching and learning outcomes; others claim a great effect. Your membership are obviously part of a very autonomous sector of our schooling system. Would you comment on the importance of school autonomy.
Mr Watt : I think school autonomy needs to be seen in the context of ensuring that there are significant resources and capacity that those independent or autonomous schools can access. There are a range of strong arguments and evidence to support the idea that, where you have a high-quality principal who is leading the education change that is going on in the school and is able to bring their staff along with them, tapping into the needs of the community and doing a range of things that move outside the usual historic structures, it can work and be supported. Simultaneously, you have to ensure that those people have access to the provision of resources and capacity of resources to enable them to focus and do those things.
Whilst we have what might be argued to be a reasonably autonomous system in the non-gov sector, it has a huge spectrum of autonomy. You have a Catholic system that provides some autonomy, probably more, historically, than the government school system. In Victoria, for example, there is a huge level of autonomy of the Catholic principal who is responsible for their school budget and a whole range of things but is supported centrally. So you have a semi-central system with some autonomy, and then you move into the independent school system, where you have some systems, such as the Anglican system, the Seventh-day Adventists or the Lutherans, that have a much greater degree of autonomy at the local level. Then you have some entirely independent stand-alone schools that operate with total autonomy. Across all of them, from time to time you will see issues of management difficulties or industrial matters, or schools may not necessarily be delivering the best quality education, however one wants to measure that. So autonomy of itself is not the answer; it is what is packaged around that. It is where those people can go for support.
A totally autonomous independent school nevertheless needs to be able to access high quality support services, advice and professional learning opportunities because the principal of the school cannot do all those things as well as deal with the day-to-day administration, building works, maintenance, communicating with the local community and what have you. So it is about working out what actually does work and what central resources and capacities those schools need to ensure that they can focus on the quality of the learning and the work their teachers are doing in the classroom. Autonomy does not just mean greater responsibility for the red tape, reporting requirements and the financial stuff; that is not what a principal should be doing. I can understand, as we move to the autonomy agenda, the lack of understanding about what it does mean at the local level.
CHAIR: The criticism was placed before us yesterday that autonomy may lead to a concept whereby when problems are going on centrally they get dumped on the autonomous principal, and if the autonomous principal is not handling them too well they get dumped on the teachers. You are well versed to be able to answer that question for us. Is it the case in general that when they move from a centralist to a more autonomous circumstance it is the blame game that ends up at the teachers' feet?
Mr Watt : We have certainly had those experiences, yes. On the other side of the coin we have seen where it actually works very well. Again, it comes down to the quality of the resourcing. The resourcing is not just about the bodies you can go to or the dollars that are available; it goes to the way in which the structure actually supports itself within and between. So yes, I can tell you horror stories of where a student who has particularly high special needs is enrolled in a school that is part of the system. The system tells the school what its staffing is and what its allocation is. The school enrols the child understanding it has certain needs but finds that the needs are much greater. It goes back to the system and says, 'We've got a problem and we can't deal with this. The system says, 'You've got the child. We have told you what your staffing is. You deal with it.' The principal either deals with it or tells the teacher they have got to deal with it. The teachers in the classroom are the ones who finish up dealing with it day to day—unless the kit gets shunted off to the principal's office; that is really good educational practice!
CHAIR: That could happen whether it is a centralised system or an autonomous system.
Mr Watt : Absolutely. So it is a question of the quality of the management process.
Senator McKENZIE: Following on from Senator Gallacher's comments around the levers that are available, some of the submissions have suggested greater remuneration for certain disciplines or putting great teachers into disadvantaged schools and certain locations—for instance, rural and regional locations. Similarly, they have suggested providing financial assistance to young teachers to get experience in rural and regional schools. Do you have a view on that? You said earlier that, if we take that great teacher out of the class to do something else with the mentoring et cetera, we have got to put a body back into the classroom. I would argue that we cannot just substitute teachers for teachers, within the classroom context, as their usual teacher would probably know them best.
Mr Watt : But we do that all the time. In a secondary school they move from one teacher to another teacher; that is part of daily life. In primary schools almost every system school and most independent schools, have release from face-to-face teaching for primary teachers so they can do some professional learning, preparation, marking or what have you. So they are replaced in their classroom by another teacher, who teaches part of the program. Or they might have a specialist come in for music or something else. Classrooms across the country, from kindergarten to year 12, have teachers moving in and out. So I do not see how it is any different. We are not talking about a huge amount of time; we are talking about some capacity time to do it.
Senator McKENZIE: My question also went to remuneration according to discipline or location.
Mr Watt : Again, some of these things have been tried by systems and are still in existence. There are additional allowances and provisions—opportunities to fly out to remote areas if you take a job in some of those. There is a Catholic school at Wadeye, in the Northern Territory, which is very remote. Allowances are provided for accommodation and to fly back to Darwin a couple of times a year or to wherever their home city is.
Senator McKENZIE: Do they work?
Mr Watt : So we already do have some of those mechanisms in place. We also have some allowances in some government systems for teaching in not so remote areas. So some of those things have been tried. And there are also things other than allowances: you might get credit for teaching a certain number of years in a place and then be able to transfer to a school that is perhaps in a leafy suburb or closer to the sea. So some of those things have been tried. They are obviously not working. So it is not as simple as just providing those allowances.
On the question of providing more money for certain subject areas, I come back to the comment I made earlier on: it depends where in the country you are as to what the shortage is. Why should a maths teacher in a particular school in a particular city be paid a lot more than a maths teacher in another city just because in that particular area you have got that shortage? I mean, you might also have a shortage of IT teachers 100 kilometres away. So you come up what in my view is a rather disjointed model for remunerating teachers. There has been a conversation about how you move from an annual progression to recognising standards—'highly accomplished' and what have you. This seems to be another element that I do not think is consistent within either of those models. If you want to recognise 'highly accomplished'—and we have not got there yet—how do you marry that with shortages in some areas? I am not a fan of it. I cannot see how it would actually work. And I do know that, within staff rooms, it would cause major problems in terms of morale for teachers sitting around the table.
Senator WRIGHT: I would like to pick on one aspect of your submission which we have not talked about a lot in this inquiry, and that is ICT—not so much having adequate equipment and resources, which has been canvassed, but some of the issues around that, which I found very interesting in your submission, around initially the stress of the additional responsibility that came in with the introduction of ICT for teachers who were perhaps not trained adequately in terms of dealing with it and incorporating it into the curriculums. You might like to address that. Also, I would like you to talk about the additional stresses and the change in culture and expectations of parents and schools in relation to the ability to communicate with teachers at all hours of the night and day. That is something we can possibly relate to in all sorts of professions, but, having been in classrooms with my kids, I am aware that that is an issue for teachers in particular. Would you like to talk about that more? You are suggesting that there need to be clearer boundaries and protocols to protect teachers. I can imagine that affects morale and their ability to carry out their core job.
Mr Watt : In terms of the first one, you are absolutely correct: there has been significant resourcing of IT in the classrooms. But the IT itself—whether it is computers, tablets or whatever—is only as good as the quality of the pedagogy that is going on. IT devices are an incredibly powerful and useful aid if they are used well; otherwise, they do not improve learning, and there are plenty of studies that have shown that. But what goes hand-in-hand with that is the need to ensure that there is capacity at the local level to make sure that equipment is functioning. Whilst equipment has become more portable and robust, in most schools where I talk to teachers the fact is that from time to time the stuff just does not work. Maybe things are different here, but I know that in my office on a regular basis the IT does not work, for whatever reason—the net goes down or the printer does not work. In a school, which is a fairly large organism, whose responsibility is it? Who is resourced to make sure that the server is working? If the internet is down, how and why is it down? Teachers want to access it and they have got lesson plans based on doing something on Google maps, for instance, on that day and you cannot get the internet—and the printer does not work and the electronic whiteboard is not working. There is a whole raft of high quality IT going on, but not necessarily the support structures to assure that it keeps going. So that is one element of stress in terms of resourcing.
Going to your question about the changing nature of work, you are absolutely correct: all of us now are working longer hours, though not necessarily smarter hours, because of the way IT has impacted upon us. We are regularly checking emails after hours and we probably should not be. We are on Twitter accounts or whatever. And teachers face exactly the same issues; there is an expectation that they should be available all the time, as the rest of the world seems to think is an appropriate thing. On top of that there are the risks that come with being online after hours, including making inadvertently wrong comments. The text that is used in emails and text messages is abbreviated and shortened, and the capacity for misunderstanding is hugely problematic. It is not just teachers who suffer from that; we know that the wider community suffers when people say, 'That is not what I meant in my email,' but you cannot easily express tone. And somebody suggested that we need new brackets called 'sarcastices' that we can put around words to make it clear that we are making a sarcastic comment!
So I think there are real issues about how we communicate—the when and the where. We are aware of schools that basically have a policy that teachers must respond to a parent's email within 24 hours. In an average situation, that is possible. But if you have had football training that afternoon, and then some other function, when you get back to school the next day it is quite possible that you go past the 24 hours. The expectation has been created with the parent body as well, because that has been published: 'Your teacher will get back to you.' I do not necessarily think it is the best way of dealing with a range of issues. As we all know, for most issues, meeting with the teacher face to face is the best way to go. You can probably deal with questions like 'Is it a mufti day tomorrow?' But if there are concerns about how your kid is going, it should be the old fashion face-to-face conversation.
CHAIR: We have had comments made in submissions that student behaviour is the greatest interference in providing quality education. We have no way adequate way to deal with extremely poorly behaved students. They rob a class of significant learning time, disrupt the teacher's credibility, cause terrific psychological harm to other students, bring destruction et cetera. Could you please tell the committee your views, your union's views and the views of the teachers you represent. This issue must be addressed by this committee. I am very keen to hear your views on this question. Are teachers frustrated? What are teachers saying to you about how we can address behaviour that is robbing teachers of the right to teach and students of the right to learn?
Mr Watt : Absolutely our teachers are saying that to us, and they have been for a number of years. The whole issue of classroom management and student behaviour is a conversation at virtually every gathering of teachers in relation to any conversation when they are talking about their industrial needs, work conditions and what have you. As soon as you open up a conversation about what your needs are in the classroom, this will come out. How do you deal with it? Again, there is no one simple answer with. But let me start with one of the things we put in our submission: I am not sure we have got the funding of the early years of school right. My view is that if we put more appropriately targeted resources into those early years to make sure that every child is able to read and write and do basic numeracy then some of the issues that I have encountered as a secondary teacher would be mitigated. When they are in year 8 or year 9 they have become totally disconnected from their learning. They have not been able to do much learning for the previous five or six years because they did not learn to read well in the early years because there was no reading support or reading recovery teachers provided. If we did that, those would be engaged in learning because they can learn. I think some of the disconnect in terms of kids in the classroom is because they missed out along the way and it was not addressed.
Another element of it clearly goes to quality teaching practice. I think teachers by and large have recognised that the old models of teaching do not work and did not work for a range of kids. Teachers have been retraining themselves and there are quite different approaches going on in classrooms now to ensure that teachers are better engaged. But teachers need continued assistance with that because, as we know, it is quite an aged workforce. Many of them started on average over 20 years ago when some of the child centred project learning work was not understood, was not taught in pre-teacher training and certainly was not developed in their early years. So I think there is work that can still be done with the profession.
Another element goes to the basic resourcing within classrooms, with respect to those students' behaviours. Sometimes they are behaviours that relate to the child themselves, rather than the learning environment, so we need resources around that. There is significant work underway in terms of students with a disability, and some additional resources are being put in there—and new standards and what have you. I do not want to confuse that work with these students who have particular behavioural needs, but we need a similar body of work around these kids to assess what their needs are.
It is quite clear, however, that all of this was under the umbrella of a rather changed nature in society. The way in which parents often expect schools to deal with these issues, rather than it being parent/caregiver/community need, has been a substantial shift. Schools are expected to deal with a range of things now that historically would have been dealt with by what I would call 'the village'. I think that is a problem for all of us. Until we actually get our heads around that fact that there is a really high expectation on parents, caregivers, the local community—the village, as I will call it—then schools are not going to be able to deal with some of these inappropriate behaviours that are manifested by some students at school.
We have had members—and I have seen it in my own teaching—who, when they challenge a child's behaviour and say, 'You wouldn't do that at home', they are told, 'Yes, I do' or 'Yes, I can'. And if you ask the parents to be engaged with some of that, they are not interested—they just say, 'That's the school's issue; they're your responsibility while they're at school—you deal with it'. I think that has been a significant shift in the way the expectations placed on schools have moved. It is manifest in a range of other things, for example all of the additional curricula requirements, whether it is bike education, driver education, drug education, stranger danger—all of which are important and good things, but more and more things seem to be put onto schools that historically have been the domain of the broader community.
CHAIR: Can I ask you your view—and if you can't definitively tell me you don't have to answer—on the fact that, on this particular inquiry, the secretary put onto the website that any teacher who did make a submission, although we wanted them to be named so we could establish their bona fides, would not have their name or the name of their school made public in this inquiry and in any submission. I think we had two. So the whole thing is about teaching and learning. We have heard in submissions and in material presented to us that teachers want the opportunity to have their say, and right across Australia, with hundreds of thousands of teachers, we got two submissions—even though they knew that their name and the name of their school would not be made public. Why do you think that is the case? Is it just that they have no faith in these inquiries? They and their schools were protected. I understood that. When we asked them, 'Why won't you', they said, 'Well, it wouldn't be fair if my students knew that I was making this submission'. So we told them we would eliminate their name and the name of their school—and we got two submissions.
Mr Watt : Again, there are a number of issues. One of the points I made earlier was that there have been dozens of inquiries—
CHAIR: Yes, but not dozens of—
Mr Watt : No, it doesn't matter: we go to our teachers on many occasions saying, 'We have this inquiry'—whether it is about this, whether it is about elements of the new national curriculum, whether it is about the teacher standards debate—and ask them for their feedback on a whole range of things. I think there is massive fatigue out there amongst the teaching workforce about how many more things they have to fill in. They complete the PIRLS questionnaire in relation to the international testing—there is this raft of things they are expected to do on top of their work. They do not see the outcome of things; in fact, all they see is work intensification. I do not think they would be any different from the broader community in terms of their expectations of a result out of a parliamentary inquiry. That is perhaps a bit harsh, but I think there is a negative perception about what work goes on in parliamentary processes—leaving aside their understanding of the existence of committees like this as opposed to what happens in the House or in the Senate on national news. So there is a combination of elements, but I think the biggest one is fatigue. If we ask them to make a submission we would have to give them incredibly strong grounds. And if they ask us, 'What is going to come out of it', I would say, 'Look at all these other submissions—not much'.
CHAIR: Thank you. Finally, on notice perhaps: if you are aware of any surveys of exiting teachers, the committee would be very interested to see the results of any such exit surveys.
Mr Watt : Sure.
CHAIR: I thank you on behalf of the committee for your submission and for your appearance here today, Mr Watt.
Mr Watt : Thank you.