Save Our Schools says that the Budget is all ‘bricks and mortar’ and fails to address student learning needs in government schools.
SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, said that the ACT Government continued to ignore major inequities in education and had reneged on its election promise to increase staffing in government high schools.
“The Stanhope Government has made ‘bricks and mortar’ the centrepiece of its education policy instead of funding increases in staff and programs that are needed to improve student outcomes, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The priority should be to improve high school outcomes. Literacy problems almost double between Years 7 and 9. About 20 – 30 per cent of Year 10 students drop-out before completing Year 12. There is a high level of student dissatisfaction about the curriculum, teaching practices and student/staff relationships.
“While the ACT has high average outcomes by international standards, it also has a very large gap in outcomes between the highest and lowest achieving students. The difference for 15-year old students in reading, mathematics and science is amongst the largest in Australia and amongst the high income OECD countries. There is a large gap in outcomes between students from low and high income families.
“These problems will not be solved by a ‘bricks and mortar’ approach. What matters most in improving school outcomes are more teachers and support staff, improving teaching and reducing the impact of poverty, low incomes and broken families on student learning.
“Despite all its rhetoric about social justice, the Government has given up on improving equity in education. In six years of office, it has made only token efforts to reduce the achievement gap in our schools.”
Mr. Cobbold criticised the Government for failing to honour its election promises on high school improvement which, he said, is a key plank in any equity strategy.
“The Stanhope Government has reneged on its election commitment to increase expenditure on high schools by over $12 million to employ additional teachers. Instead of putting an extra two teachers into high schools as it promised, it has cut 2 teachers from each one.
“Overall, the Government has cut 60 teachers from government secondary schools, 35 from high schools and 25 from colleges. These cuts have already been disastrous for schools and students.
Mr. Cobbold said that the Government should introduce a comprehensive high school improvement plan supported by adequate funding and restore staff cuts in colleges.
“The first priority is to increase staffing in high schools. The Government now owes each high school an average of four additional teachers – two to replace those cut earlier this year and two more to honour its election promise.
“In addition, more support staff are needed as well as a systematic plan to improve teaching practice, develop curriculum that engages students, improve student safety and improve student/staff relationships.
“The teaching cuts made to colleges earlier this year should also be restored. These cuts have reduced student access to teachers.”