Education and Training Reform Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 - Legislation

04 February 2021

I too rise to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, and it is fantastic to speak just after my colleague and good friend over there, the member for Nepean, because he is 100 per cent right when he says that building state-of-the-art education facilities is not what will give a child the very, very best of education. You need the facilities, but you need something else, and that other bit of magic that gives children a first-class, world-class education is their teachers. It is the person at the front of the classroom.

I do have to say it is probably quite an appropriate time of year to be able to stand here in this place and debate this bill as our schools return for their 2021 school year. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all of the amazing kids in the outer west back to school and their very hardworking and dedicated teachers, as they have gone back to school over the last couple of weeks. I know that everyone in this house and in my local community is hoping that this will be a much better year than 2020 was. We faced many, many challenges last year in the midst of a global pandemic, with Wyndham having the highest number of active COVID cases there at the peak, and that presented a lot of challenges for teachers, for students and for local families. So welcome back to all of you, and I hope this year will be a bigger and brighter year.

I think it is fair to say—modestly say—that our government has an incredibly impressive track record when it comes to education. Now, I have always said that a person’s postcode should not define their future; it should not define the opportunities that they receive in life. Today I have talked about how it is not just about postcodes; it is about the burbs. It is about the neighbourhoods that kids ride their bikes around. It is about what side of the bridge that you live on and you grow up in. Where you grow up should never define the opportunities and the education that you receive early on in your life.

That is why I am really passionate about making sure that kids in my local community have the ability to be able to receive that first-class education in world-class facilities. I have to say, we have been receiving some fabulous, fabulous education facilities in the outer west, but equally important—and I say this not only as the local member for Tarneit but also as a mum of two primary school aged kids—is the quality and the standard of the teacher, of the adult there at the front of the classroom that our kids are looking up to. Not only are little minds feeding off all the wonderful things that the teachers are able to teach them, teachers also explain a lot of the learnings and the important things in life.

What strikes me about the teachers in the outer west—and we have some fantastic teachers; this bill will make the standard and the quality of the education programs that teachers go through in getting qualified even better, but we have some great teachers in the outer west—is that they are not just passionate about delivering great maths and science classes, teaching kids how to read and all of these other wonderful things that we do at school; they are also committed to teaching kids in the outer west some of the basic lessons and learnings of life. Sometimes it is called ‘Tarneit time’ at particular schools. Tarneit time is about learning how to be a good human being, learning how to be a good citizen, learning how to contribute in a meaningful way to our local community, and it is stuff like this that matters. It really matters in areas where there is a lot of social disadvantage. In my community unfortunately there are a lot of families that suffer from generational social and economic disadvantage. There is a circuit-breaker to that generational cycle, and that circuit-breaker is an absolute dynamite of an education.

I feel very pleased to be able to say that on Monday I was handing out prep bags after joining the Deputy Premier last week out in our wonderful community of Truganina to open the newest and most amazing school, Garrang Wilam Primary School. I still cannot wipe the smile off my face about how fabulous that school is. It makes me smile because it makes me think about the standard of schools that we are continuing to build in electorates like mine—very fast growing areas in Melbourne’s west. Having spent time with Garrang Wilam’s principal, Natalie Nelson—and I met some of the leadership team there this week as we were welcoming all those little preppies and their families coming through the school gates—I know that those kids at that school will get a first-class education, not because their classrooms are just unbelievably amazing but because the school leadership team and the teaching staff are committed and dedicated to those children’s lives and getting them through that primary school and then into high school.

Garrang Wilam is one of 100 new schools that are being built by this government. We know that we absolutely need every single one of them—let me tell you, there are a hundred babies being born in Wyndham every single week. This could not be any clearer than in places out in my patch in Tarneit and the outer west. We need schools, and we need them pretty quickly, but we are also going to need great teachers. We need great teachers to be teaching in those classrooms, standing in front of our kids, helping build that foundation right from prep that will contribute to a wonderful life of learning.

This bill does make changes to the powers of the Victorian Institute of Teaching, the VIT, in relation to initial teacher education programs. I am sure I can speak for every family in Wyndham and in my patch of Tarneit: parents want to see the very best teachers there standing in front of the classroom because they know that no matter how glamorous the classroom is, their kids are not going to get that first-class education unless the teacher at the front of the room is of the highest quality and the highest standard—and that is what this bill is all about.

Now, a key area of this bill will enable the VIT to have greater certainty on what they can and they cannot regulate when it comes to that initial teacher education program, the ITE. The best example would be minimum entry requirements for ITE courses. This includes minimum ATAR requirements for Victorian universities that administer education courses. The changes in this bill will facilitate the VIT to raise these standards in the future.

Our government has a really good record of ensuring that our teaching educators are strong, I am very pleased to say. In 2017 we introduced the Victorian selection framework, which sets out the entry requirements for ITE programs. This included the introduction of a minimum ATAR requirement. I note that in 2019 the minimum ATAR requirement for year 12 students entering an undergraduate teaching program was raised to 70, up from 65 the previous year. For comparison, just five years ago school leavers who scored in the bottom 50 per cent—that is an ATAR of less than 50—made up half of teaching degree offers in New South Wales and the ACT. Victoria can only be the Education State with its first-class facilities, which I am very proud of, with incredible teachers, high-quality, high-standard teachers, teachers that are driven to giving our kids the very best education they can possibly get. So it is very reassuring to see that our government has taken this trend in New South Wales and the ACT very seriously and has made sure that these trends are not replicated here in Victoria.

I do talk a lot about our government being determined to deliver that world-class education system for all Victorian students because it matters. It is life-changing for students, for families and for future generations, the future faces of Victoria. It is life-changing for these people. Not only are we investing heavily in making sure that students are learning in first-rate schools, but we are now going to make sure that their teachers are trained to the best and highest possible standard.

The changes in this bill will strengthen the VIT in regulating courses for those wishing to seek a career in teaching, and in doing so it will ensure courses properly equip teachers with the skills they need to deliver the education that our kids deserve. I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the house.