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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 611


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (12:34): Last month my Facebook post about teachers evoked enormous shock with the uncomfortable question being explored of precisely why teachers are doing so much work from home and why it is unpaid. As a profession, my great concern is that teaching has been under union control and this has made it harder and harder for teachers of excellence to be recognised, to advance their career and to be rewarded for it.

Everyone in this chamber, everyone nationwide, agrees that frontline service professionals work incredibly hard—and no-one would deny that—but obviously we need to start asking questions as soon as Australia's educational results flatline. Over the last decade results in TIMSS, PIRLS, PISA and NAPLAN assessments have arguably declined in many areas against improving nations, particularly the Asian economies and the northern European teaching systems, so it is appropriate that we ask questions. Simply because teachers are underremunerated and not recognised satisfactorily for their work is no reason not to ask the obvious question about whether we have a genuine way of recognising excellence. With that question, in that social media bomb, I sought to tear that open—not simply because I might offend some teachers, but because there are 50 parents for every teacher asking this very question about the quality of teaching. I want to know that when a child is going to a school their degree of gain over time is going to be at least the state average, if not more. It is a very sensitive topic. But, if some schools are not achieving the same results as other schools, we need to be able to explore the reasons why.

It is my deep conviction that there are elements of principal and senior leadership effect in schools, unrelated to wealth, unrelated to the social and human capital of those families attending the school, that are leading to fantastic results. That drove me to work with none other than John Hattie from the University of Melbourne, Judy Smeed, formerly of QUT, and David Gillespie, an author and examiner of evidence around school performance, to work out what is going on in my own state. The results were astounding. I looked at 164 high schools in my electorate and the region around it. Of those high schools in South-East Queensland, around one-third of GPS schools are performing in excess of what you would expect, but when you go to the independent and the Catholic sectors those numbers fall significantly. Most surprisingly of all, when we looked at our state schools, I found that, no matter how poor the suburb, there is an incredible disparity in performance. The highest performing schools in our state are state high schools, publicly funded non-selective schools. They are in some of the poorest parts of our neighbourhoods, but straight down the road is another high school achieving less than one-third of what that other school is doing. It is never ever reported nor acknowledged. Staff are never thanked for their incredible work. Principals are never recognised with more pay for their incredible and outstanding leadership.

These 2015 results are basically an analysis of gain—how they took their students from year 9 NAPLAN, adjusted for attendance at NAPLAN, through to year 12 exit scores—and, if they did better than the state average, I think everyone of us in this building would want to congratulate those schools. It is not about embarrassing those schools that do not achieve those results, because, by emulating and disseminating those strategies, those schools themselves could be improved—but not if it is a no-go zone, not if the subject is anathema, not if you encounter rage from unions because I dare to imply that not all teachers are equal. No two students are the same, yet you expect me to believe that every teacher is the same. You expect me to reward a teacher purely on their years of service and to reward the teacher that stays up until midnight cutting out name badges for their students the next day exactly the same as the clock watcher.

Every profession has a variation in energy, ambition, commitment, and those people need to be identified, rewarded and thanked. It is as simple as that. You cannot do that if you fear reporting the underperforming schools. It is quite simple. As long as it is a no-go zone, that is the way we stay. My findings show that in the poorest communities the quality of our schools varies by a factor of three. What do I mean by that? I mean that they have so many kids getting the same NAPLAN scores in year 9, but the number who get an equivalently good exit score can triple in some schools and be reduced in others. That is killing people's futures because we are not monitoring school quality. It is as simple as that.

To every teacher out there: I know how hard you work. To every frontline professional: of course I know how hard you work. But ultimately, unlike nursing, we have a flat career structure in teaching. Two decades ago nursing took it by the horns and developed a professional advancement structure for the ambitious, for the intelligent, for those that worked at home on CPD. Teachers work at home for free, and it should not happen any more. The moment we can get that element disseminated from our best schools to the other schools we have a future of improving our performance.