Written by Shane Rattenbury - Greens Leader & Minister for Education
The ACT Greens believe that a high-quality, free and equitable education is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy and is fundamental to the ACT’s continued prosperity. We believe that everyone should have access to education that meets their needs and aspirations.
We believe in a needs-based funding model for education for Canberra public schools. We committed to the Gonski funding model in our last Parliamentary Agreement with the ALP and we remain committed its implementation in the ACT to invest in schools where all our students can achieve their potential.
The ACT Greens are committed to ensuring that Canberra’s public schools are able to meet the learning needs of all students in our classrooms. That is why we have committed to the full implementation of the Schools for All report, with an ongoing independent oversight for an additional 2 years, and to support ACT educators to be the best they can possibly be.
We know that many of our students will struggle with some aspects of learning, and we know that each and every student has different needs in the classroom. Right now too many students are finding themselves having to get out of school tutoring to “catch up” or overcome their learning difficulties.
ACT’s public school teachers and principals have been working in 2016 to implement the recently released Great Teaching By Design in their day to day practice, and face increasing pressure to develop individual responses for children in their classes. The ACT Greens have committed to funding four executive teachers with expertise in pedagogy, learning difficulties, and literacy and numeracy programming, who will support teachers in schools using a coaching and mentoring approach.
The ACT Greens will also fund four additional psychologists in 2017 to build the capacity to undertake educational assessments for children with learning difficulties to take some of the load off school based psychologists, and ensure that families don’t need to spend thousands of dollars undertaking tests privately. In addition, we will facilitate additional support for new and existing teachers by ensuring that the skills and training that they need are supported by the Teacher Quality institute, in collaboration with the ACT’s teacher education institutions.
We know that student wellbeing is at the heart of ensuring our students achieve their goals. We believe that teachers and schools need somewhere they can reliably refer students and families for additional support, and get the assistance they need in a timely manner. That’s why the ACT Greens have committed to invest $4m over 4 years to fund counselling and mental health services in the community specifically for children and young people, so that every student, no matter which school they go to, can get the help they need. This will include the development of a common referral pathway for schools.
The ACT Greens recognise that to get the best possible education our children need the best possible teachers and great leadership from our principals. However, modern schools are increasingly complex environments and teaching is a sophisticated profession with many new challenges and pressures. Teachers must be supported and professionally valued throughout their entire career, not just when they start out. Principals face challenges both in regards to their own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of their staff and students. They also need support with the increased administrative tasks that come with their jobs.
To provide better practical assistance to principals and to support teachers who have been in the profession for some time, the ACT Greens will fund the development of a practical professional mentoring strategy and financially support an ongoing peer network to support principals. We are committed to seeing the realisation of the 2015 Enterprise Agreements recognition of the need for real action on Principals Wellbeing; and will ensure that starting in 2018, at every 10 years of service, teachers can develop a Professional Learning Pathways Package, and are supported to access advanced skills professional development opportunities.
Further, the ACT Greens believe that we must balance the ability of schools with the best practice and efficiency that a cohesive schools system can bring. That is why we will be reviewing school based decision making to ensure that it’s working for the whole community.
Finally, ensuring that our school buildings and grounds are modern and comfortable is an important part of delivering a high quality education for our students. In Canberra’s public schools we are seeing the impacts of population growth and ageing schools buildings in some of Canberra’s older suburbs. Building new public schools and maintaining our old ones will require investment, which is why the ACT Greens will commit an additional $40 million over 4 years for capital upgrades to address our ageing schools and improve heating and cooling. We will also commit an additional $10 million to work collaboratively with school communities to manage urgent pressure on school capacity. The ACT Greens commit to working closely and cooperatively with schools to enhance the existing ‘School Modernisation Program’ to face the challenges of ageing infrastructure and population pressures.
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