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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3913


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes (CORIO, VICTORIA) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

 


Mr LAMB - Schools complained that effective teaching time was lost due to reduction in the quality of teaching, inevitable when relying on part time and temporary teachers, and imposing ancillary duties on the teaching staff. Because of teacher shortages students were often denied the usual range of subject options. In 2 schools the school week was reduced to 4 days for lower forms. Turnover in government schools was high due to the promotion system and transfers, dissatisfaction with conditions, onerous non-teaching duties, demand for further study and lack of inservice training. The turnover of staff in nongovernment schools was far less. I put that down to sheer dedication.

Funds flowing from the Cohen report and this Bill will provide opportunities for teachers and administrators to upgrade their competence and to enjoy the fulfilment that should be the reward of any profession or craft. There are many impacts in this great and important document - the Karmel report. Chapters 9 and 10 deserve a special mention. They explain the concept of disadvantaged schools and speciallist education. The report establishes beyond doubt the appalling variations in opportunities available to Australian children. All electorates will contain examples of disadvantaged schools and disadvantaged individuals. La Trobe is certainly no exception. Many children of migrants have special problems requiring specialist teaching. None of the secondary schools in the La Trobe survey had class space or specialist teachers to provide special education for migrant children. Each of the secondary schools had about 30 children who required individual specialist coaching in English. One rural primary school of 50 children - all of whom needed special migrant English lessons - did not have one specialist teacher. In another similar school 20 per cent of the children were in need of specialist English teaching.

All secondary schools stated that the provision of remedial teaching and psychiatric or specialist attention was inadequate. Remedial teaching requirements ranged from 50 to 150 in large government schools with an enrolment figure of around 900, but were much higher in government technical schools - up to half the students requiring remedial teaching, in the opinion of one principal. Only 3 of the 30 government primary schools stated that they had adequate remedial teaching. Two primary schools claimed that half their pupils needed remedial teaching and most had 35 or 70 pupils requiring such treatment. All the schools indicated that about 4 or 5 in every 100 students needed psychiatric or specialist attention. There was a wide range in the number of students who required counselling on a range of matters. There were 150 out of 900 in one high school, and ,100 out of 225 in a non-government secondary school. One government secondary school stated simply that all children required counselling as part of their secondary education. However, most stated that about 50 students in an average school population of 700 required this counselling.

There will never be equality in education as long as there is no compensatory education and counselling for children in disadvantaged circumstances. The disadvantages need to be identified as early as possible to prevent the compounding of the handicap. It is comforting, therefore, to see in this Bill the injection of money into disadvantaged schools and for special education.

For the first time in Australia the Australian Parliament will make direct grants towards the recurrent expenditure of government schools instead of non-government schools only, as at present. We intend to do it for all schools, with grants determined on the basis of relative need. In round figures we will be appropriating over the next 2 years $176m for government schools, $65m for Catholic systemic schools and $70m for other nongovernment schools. This procedure is right and proper.

This Government realises, as all responsible national governments should, that it must be its primary obligation to provide and maintain a free and adequate education of the highest standards through the government school system, open to all who choose it. At the same time, this Government recognises the right of choice of a parent to send a child to any school. We not only preserve that right to choose but also go further and make such a choice available to a greater number of parents. This choice is that the school selected should offer adequate education for those who attend it and not be available merely to those who have their choice facilitated by a capacity to pay for that education. It is important to realise that the recurrent expenditures on resources are those that I have outlined as most deficient in the La Trobe survey. At page 56 of the report the Committee has set out the index of resources used to allocate funds on a needs basis to non-government and non-systemic schools. The index is in the following terms:

The recurrent resources used within a school have been taken to comprise the services of teachers, administrators, and support staff (both professional and ancillary), consumables, equipment, and, in the case of schools forming part of a system, resources such as itinerant specialist teachers, guidance and counselling personnel and curriculum advisers, provided at system level for use by individual schools.

One might well ask why parents send their children to non-government schools. Parents who send their children to schools outside the State system have usually done so for 3 reasons. One reason is that the parents have been dissatisfied with the State system. The Karmel report aims to overcome inadequacies in both government and private systems by providing enough money and by developing an educational philosophy befitting our enlightened community. The second reason is that parents have wanted to provide their children with a particular religious background in their education - mainly those going to Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Adventist and similar schools - or they may do so for diversity, an experimental or unique education. Third, there is a small group who do so for social reasons, family associations or business connections. I have nothing to say on this third reason, but if it were possible to identify this group I believe that they should pay the lot.

I turn to the words of an old friend who told me that the common denominator of religious faiths was the belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind and that those professing religious affiliations cannot show a better attitude to others than by application of brotherly love in positive discrimination on a needs basis to children who must overcome financial, social and even family background problems, among their own, other religions and non-believers. For those who seek diversity and up to now, because of our impoverished government school system, have found it in the non-government system I say this: Diversity should not be the prerogative of those at nongovernment schools but should be available to all school systems both government and nongovernment. Of course the adequate quality of education should also be a feature of all schools. Four out of five primary school pupils and three out of four secondary school pupils attend government schools. Of the remainder at non-government primary schools, the Catholic systemic schools provide for 78 per cent. The Karmel Committee found a wide disparity among standards in schools. Using an average base of 100 units for government schools, non-government schools offered teaching resources from as low as 40 to as high as 270 units.

In its discussion of per capita grants for independent schools, the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission kept in view its main objective, which was to achieve acceptable standards for all schools by 1979. Having regard to the overall assessment of needs and priorities the Committee felt that the payment of recurrent grants on a per capita basis could not be justified. Hence we have inserted and emphatically support clause 66. However, the Interim Committee recommended that the phasing out of such grants to schools with recurrent resources higher than the 1979 standards should take place over 2 years to avoid placing the schools in difficulties. We have made this minor change in case the difficulties are too much for those who have the least resources. It was judged however, and I quote:

Given the limited funds available and the wide differences existing among non-government schools, uniform per capita grants would be an expensive way of bringing about acceptable standards in all schools and would unduly delay their attainment.

We cannot delay it any longer. To give per capita grants across the board would not result in equality of opportunity to all students. This is the kernel of this debate. Clause 66 of this Bill will terminate at the end of this year the across-the-board per capita grants. But all nongovernment schools will continue to receive per capita grants from the continuing efforts of the States.

The arguments against per capita grants are irrefutable. It should be remembered that the Commonwealth per capita system has applied only to pupils at independent schools and not to state school children. The per capita system disregards needs and gives the same grant to the children of poor parents as to the children of wealthy parents. It therefore increases rather than diminishes inequalities and increases rather than diminishes freedom of choice of school. The per capita system enables large wealthy schools indirectly to improve their facilities, for example, by providing indoor heated swimming pools, while smaller poor schools are struggling to maintain themselves. This must not be allowed to continue and schools and school systems will be accountable on their spending. The state school system is free and available to all. Parents who wish to educate their children outside the system should be free to do so, but their choice should not be subsidised beyond that needed to provide adequate education. Finally - and this has been pointed out constantly in this debate - the per capita system has been tried and has been shown to be inadequate. One need look no further than at the condition of the Catholic systemic schools revealed by the Karmel Committee. I hope that the examples I have referred to arising from the La Trobe survey will make it even more indelible on the minds of the Opposition.

In conclusion, the Karmel report does not aim to reduce all our schools to mediocrity. It encourages diversity and a broadening of education experience as well as equality of opportunity. It recognises and discusses in depth the role in education of the teacher, the parent and the community. This Bill will put that report into effect. The great majority of parents and teachers are united in their acceptance of the report. Never before has a Federal government tackled the huge problem of education with such enthusiasm and with so much concern for all children as has been exhibited by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). This Bill puts into effect the Karmel Committee's recommendations designed to provide a general upgrading of facilities, special consideration for the needs of disadvantaged children and improvements in the quality of education. It has implemented a decentralised system of education, public accountability by non-government schools receiving assistance, and provision for evaluation of the assistance programs.

Mr Deputy Speaker,I can go no further than to repeat what I have said and to exhort the Opposition to drop its sham amendments, to realise that per capita grants will never mean equality of access to education and that the report of the experts who formed the Interim Committee and the legislation that has been carefully and thoroughly drafted around that to put it into effect is the only way we can uplift the standard of all school children to a high level by the end of this decade. I commend the Bill to the House.







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