A new campaign detailing what is critically needed to improve public education in Tasmania has received a groundswell of support from key Tasmanian and national advocacy groups.
The Australian Education Union Tasmania Branch’s Lifting Learning paper, launched today, presents solutions to the state’s overstretched education system which is leaving Tasmanian students the most disadvantaged nationally.
The campaign has been described as “carefully designed to directly improve the learning outcomes for Tasmanian students” by College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists National Chair Gerald Wurf.
AEU Tasmania President David Genford welcomed the widespread advocacy for the campaign which he said reflected the dire need for Tasmanian education reform.
“The scale of support for our Lifting Learning solutions reflects the scale of improvements needed within Tasmanian schools and colleges to lift learning for all students,” he said.
“Tasmania is in the grips of a glaring teacher shortage and it’s our students who are missing out on quality education because of it.”
“Tasmanian children and families need more in-class support, solutions to the teacher shortage, increased school psychologist and social worker numbers and support for all students which includes those with a disability. The time for change is now.”
The Tasmanian Government must show its commitment to Public Education by addressing critical and complex issues faced by teachers and students, campaign supporter and Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby founder Kristen Desmond said.
“TDERL continues to work collaboratively with the AEU to ensure students with disability and the teachers who teach them receive appropriate support,” she said.
“The State Government needs to immediately initiate a review of the implementation of the reasonable adjustment funding model to ensure students with disability are receiving the support they need to participate in schools on the same basis as their nondisabled peers.”
The 28-page plan details the fixes needed to lift student learning. Central to the plan is the need for professional support staff in schools, such as school psychologists and social workers, to meet the ever-growing needs of students.
The Lifting Learning push for one school social worker and one school psychologist for every 500 students is supported by Australian Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools and Australian Association of Social Workers.
Tasmanian senior school psychologist Sally Rayner has said students and their families were now turning to schools for help and crisis support for a range of mental health problems.
“We are seeing lots more young people present with suicidal distress and complex emotional and psychiatric needs for which there are few other services available to support them,” she said.
“These mental health issues severely impact on a student’s capacity to engage and participate at school.”
The calls for more professional school support staff are echoed by Anglicare Tasmania’s Better, Bigger, Stronger report whose first recommendation is to “strengthen early responses to childhood adversity through expanding social work capacity in primary schools”.
Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations (TASSO) President Natham Reynolds said the AEU Lifting Learning prospectus document provided valuable solutions to a range of issues and challenges in today’s public school system.
“It is imperative that we resolve the current problems to help give our children the education they deserve, provide the support to staff, and make teaching a preference as a career choice,” he said.
“Schools reflect how our future communities will look; our children are our future leaders. It’s not about spending more for today, it’s about investing for a more stable future of the next generation.”
The desperate need for more in-class support from additional Teacher Assistants and Education Support Specialists is described in the AEU Lifting Learning prospectus by an anonymous teacher who explains that even their most challenging student currently receives no additional support.
Recently retired Ulverstone Secondary College Principal Glen Lutwyche outlines the teacher shortage in the campaign prospectus: “Currently there is a crisis in teacher recruitment in Tasmanian Secondary Schools due to the lack of subject trained teachers in areas such as English, History, M.D.T, Home Ec, Maths and Science. This is especially evident in isolated schools and schools with additional complexity.”
Mr Genford said student learning would suffer and teacher burnout would increase along with more new educators leaving the profession, unless the State government joined community advocates in supporting and implementing the Lifting Learning solutions.
Tasmanian education – the facts
- Tasmania has the highest levels of disadvantage compared to the rest of Australia, with more than two-thirds of children and young people living in areas of relative disadvantage; characterised by low income, low educational attainment and high unemployment.
- One in five (21.5%) Tasmanian students are assessed as being “developmentally vulnerable”, meaning they need intensive support early on at school if they are to catchup with their peers.
- On average, Tasmanian teachers do about 11 hours per week of unpaid overtime with principals regularly working 60-hour weeks.
- Tasmanian teachers are the lowest paid in Australia.