Written by Steve Doszpot - Liberal Sitting Member & Shadow Minister for Education
There is much to be proud of in the ACT education system. We have first class schools, many with state of the art technology; we have dedicated principals and teachers and we have students who are tracking well above average in national testing. Our teachers and our students win national awards for excellence.
But it is also true to say we have overcrowded classrooms, schools with dangerous and ageing infrastructure, classrooms that are freezing in winter and unbearably hot in summer and unsafe playgrounds.
Over the past four years we have had fires in switchboards, asbestos scares in several schools, gas leaks, leaking roofs, mouldy classrooms and dirty and broken toilet blocks.
During my time in the Assembly I have visited many schools and seen firsthand the great work that is being done. I have also heard and seen the broken promises about additional classrooms, fixed roofs, cooling system installations, as well as the long and drawn out wage negotiations for staff.
I don’t think it is satisfactory for schools to have classes with over 35 students because there is nowhere else to house them; I don’t think it acceptable for music, language, science and craft rooms to be turned into home classrooms because that is the only space available and I don’t think it is fair for parents of preschool children to not know whether their child will have a place at their local school.
For years we have seen a decline in maintenance of our schools, an increase in class sizes and poor planning for growth. We have also witnessed trauma for schools, teachers and parents in dealing with students with challenging needs and complex behaviours. In his report Schools for All, Professor Shaddock has outlined 50 recommendations to make our schools a safer, more inclusive place for everyone. Those recommendations must be delivered and in full. We will need to see what Labor’s 2016 budget commitment of $21m will deliver insofar as engaging professional staff and we will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the outcomes and standards sought by Professor Shaddock are met.
The problems we have experienced in our public schools have come about in part because the Labor Government closed 23 schools with a promise that the savings would go to upgrading and growing other schools. Those upgrades and growth haven’t kept pace with growing student enrolments and ageing schools and neither has the funding. Repeated election promises to fix the problems have not been delivered.
In October Canberra families have a choice, a very clear choice.
The Canberra Liberals want to invest in education, we want to ensure our schools are safe and pleasant places to be; that teachers feel appreciated, respected and supported to try new ways of teaching and striving for excellence. We want parents to feel they are an important link with and to their child’s schooling.
And above all, we want to ensure that all schools in the ACT are for all students, able to offer an education that parents want for their children. A Canberra Liberals Government will work closely with principals, teachers, parent groups and unions to ensure we have the right mix of funding support, so that students are learning in the best environment and that teachers are supported to also be the best they can be in their chosen profession.
School infrastructure and maintenance has needed more support for some time, and the Canberra Liberals will deliver that critical need for the community. We will provide $60 million to give our public schools and classrooms the very best services and facilities. This is in addition to any announced expenditure already in the Budget.
This can be used for new capital works and much needed maintenance and upgrades. Including heating and cooling, additional classrooms, repairs, equipment upgrades
The four special schools in the ACT face on-going and very significant challenges. The Canberra Liberals will offer more support for our special schools through a $7.5 million funding injection. As part of this policy we will provide a $1 million grant for each of the four special schools to provide capital upgrades and equipment purchases. This can be used for specialised infrastructure based on the needs of the school and their students. In addition, an extra $1 million per year will be provided in recurrent expenditure to allow for such things as special programs to hire additional resources and run additional programs.
CIT is Canberra’s public provider of technical and further education delivering vocational education and training to the ACT and region. The Canberra Liberals will continue to support and encourage it to operate in a contestable and competitive market - locally, nationally and internationally.
The Canberra Liberals understand that to deliver the best education for our children all aspects of the school environment need to be considered and that’s why we have also announced an $8 million program to install flashing lights at school crossings. This policy is about ensuring the safety of children from the moment they enter the school environment.
The Canberra Liberals have a clear commitment to local education and I look forward to implementing these exciting new policies and working with the community to get the outcomes our children deserve.
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