National Public Education Summit
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 5, 8 July 2022, page no.12
The National Public Education Summit has explored the issues facing the new federal government and heard a variety of suggestions of how it can approach them.
The AEU summit, which took place in Melbourne on Public Education Day (26 May), was an opportunity for teacher unionists, academics, economists, education experts and allies to identify the immediate actions the new Labor government should take in the first 100 days of its term and beyond. The QTU was represented by Honorary Vice-President Jenny Swadling, Assistant Secretary – Education Leaders Paige Bousen, Andrew Beattie and Andrew Thompson.
David Edwards (General Secretary of Educational International) told the summit that, with Australian aid to overseas countries dwindling and the world increasingly polarised, the new government’s task is to ensure that there is “no one left behind and no one held back”. This involves quality climate education, Indigenous people’s rights and their voice in education, and restoring Australia’s positive role in shaping a different world through increasing our foreign assistance commitment.
Sally McManus (ACTU Secretary) asked us not to be complacent and reminded the government that the time to rebalance the bargaining power of the working people of Australia and to rebuild the public sectors of health, aged care, emergency services and education is now.
Pasi Sahlberg (Southern Cross University) gave us a picture of global education pre-pandemic and shared three trends that must be turned around: educational outcomes vs spending, growing inequalities, and neglect of wellbeing. Increased spending over the years has not led to progress and has actually increased inequality. Over the past 20 years, children’s sedentary time has gone up and wellbeing down. Exacerbating this is the fact that Australian children have up to 11,000 hours instruction during their education, while OECD countries have an average of 7,638 hours. At the age of 16, our students have had five years more schooling. Pasi suggests that the new government:
- keeps past promises – addressing the Alice Springs Declaration 2019, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child 1990, and the Review of Funding (Gonski) 2010 before any new agenda
- puts an end to growing inequalities – removing barriers, funding state schools to the schooling resource standard and stopping the waste of money on schools that don’t need it
- understands the teaching profession – we do not have a teacher shortage, we have a teacher crisis, and that to address it we must improve working conditions and pay teachers what they are worth.
Georgie Dent (writer, commentator) spoke about the need for early years reform. This includes paying teachers and carers at a teacher level, and introducing universal childcare to allow parents to work and children to have quality early years play-based care.
Adam Rorris (economist) described federal school funding as a train wreck, with skewed funding across all states except the ACT, and $21.5 billion going on capital works to private schools in the first six years the Coalition was in power. Our post-election survival strategy must include:
- the SRS as the minimum amount required, with all students receiving 100 per cent and resourcing parity ensured across systems and jurisdictions
- a joint commitment between the states and the Commonwealth with consistent accounting methodologies – the accounting tricks must go
- learning from other parts of the world, with an international council established to advise on what to do and what not to do
- committing to the profession and trusting the profession – “Teaching is not something you do on the way to another profession.”