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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 492

Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (16:50): I would like to touch on some of my concerns about the government's current economic direction for the future of this country. My concern largely centres around the fact that we have a government that seems to think pouring more money into or throwing more money at every single situation is the panacea for all problems. I want to have a look at that in the context of education in particular. Whilst I have no objection to the intended goals of the Gonski reforms, if we look back through the past 10 years or so, we see that there has been a significant increase in school funding, yet we have seen in that same time a fall in the educational outcomes of our students.

When I go around my electorate and speak to the teachers, one of their concerns is that there is so much more that they now have to do in the classroom that has nothing to do with educating our children. For example, they now do things such as administration work filling out risk assessment reports for school excursions and sports, assigning additional time to spend on extracurricular activities that do not focus on core building blocks of education in reading, maths and writing or the key skills that help our students progress from one year to the next. They raised with me their concerns about onerous professional development requirements to keep registration which constantly take them away from the kids and the classroom and, ultimately, set lessons back. The requirement to have continuing industry experience also disrupts classes and the structure of school terms for vocational education courses.

In all the discussions with respect to the proposed reforms under Gonski—as I said earlier, they have a great deal of merit—there seems to be very little, if any, discussion about these impediments to the teachers focusing on what they are actually trained to do, and that is to teach our kids. I have had this discussion not only with teachers but also with childcare workers in my electorate, who are concerned about the amount of time taken up by regulation, red tape and paperwork that is impacting on their ability to work with the children in their care, and that it is pushing up the cost of child care for parents needing those services.

Ultimately, when we look at these things in totality, the picture they give us is of governments focused on putting more rules and regulations in place to try to solve problems that would possibly be solved by less regulation and paperwork, and by allowing the people who do this wonderful work with our kids to focus on what they have actually been trained to do. Paul Manwaring makes an interesting observation in the context of regulation and bureaucracy:

Bureaucracy is like setting up scaffolding around a house to paint the place, and instead painting the scaffolding for 25 years until the house finally falls down.

We need to focus on reducing regulation and red tape, to allow people to do what they were trained to do. In respect of our schools in particular, we need to allow our teachers to focus on those basic skills of writing and reading and arithmetic. That is where we are going to see the turnaround in educational outcomes for students in all of our communities, which I am sure all of us in this House more than readily agree we want to see, because the results of the past five or 10 years are very disappointing in that regard.