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Early childhood, primary and secondary education

Our schools are in crisis. Over many years, state and federal governments – both Labor and Liberal – have refused to put in the required resources. Victoria’s state Labor government still spends less per student in government schools than any other state or territory. Parents on average pay around $2,000 per child per year on fees, camps, electronic devices, uniforms and textbooks for what is supposed to be a free education for their kids.

Teachers also have a crushing administrative burden, which adds little or nothing to educational outcomes and student welfare. The result is schools in which staff don’t get the time they need to plan classes, evaluate student learning or spend extra time with students.  It’s a different story in exclusive private schools, whose funding is increasing at five times the rate of government schools. Some already have double or more of the resources they need, yet still receive taxpayer money. Our school funding system is unfair for students, for teachers and for parents. We need a radical shift – in funding and in power – to address the crisis.

What we think

  1. Governments have a responsibility to provide high-quality and comprehensive public education for all; no child is more deserving, or less deserving, of a quality education than any other child.
  2. Access to quality early childhood education is a key foundation of a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development.
  3. State education must be free.
  4. Funding to schools should be on the basis of need. After applauding the principle of “needs-based funding” set out in the Gonski review released a decade ago, governments have not followed through with the funding needed.
  5. The attempt to create an artificial market between schools by using NAPLAN and the My School website (rather than giving extra resources to the schools that need them) has been a disaster for educational outcomes and for equality. These experiments should be scrapped. 
  6. The level of resources for a child’s education should not be determined by the wealth of the child’s parents. 
  7. School staff working conditions are students’ learning conditions: work in schools should be personally fulfilling, professionally enriching and financially rewarding. 

What we'll fight for

  1. Hire 10,000 additional teachers and support staff for the state’s 1,600 public schools.
    1. New staff to be allocated across the sector on a needs basis.
    2. Student support staff should include administrators, counsellors, educational psychologists, nurses, doctors, lawyers, disability workers, youth workers and social workers. In particular, schools need to be provided with the necessary staff and facilities to properly cater for the special needs of students with disabilities.
    3. Existing school staff should decide on the balance between new teachers and support staff, based on their evaluation of the relative importance in their school of measures like reducing class sizes, reducing face-to-face teaching time, reducing teachers’ administrative loads, and increasing resources to deal with welfare and behavioural issues.
  2. Make the state government fund all schooling costs – including excursions, buildings, maintenance, devices and uniforms. 
  3. End “voluntary contributions” from parents in state schools. 
  4. Boost state and federal government funding to bring every school up to at least the level recommended in the “Schooling Resource Standard” from the Gonski review. This would mean increasing average funding for government schools in Victoria by around 15 percent (in addition to pay increases).
  5. Stop taxpayer funding of exclusive, wealthy private schools, and fund poorer Catholic, Muslim and other private schools up to the level where their total funding (including fees) meets the SRS. 
  6. Fully fund the cost for each state school to implement the Victorian Government Schools Agreement (enterprise agreement for school staff). 
  7. Immediately grant teachers and support staff a pay rise of inflation plus 2.5 percent, and again in 2023; thereafter, fix school staff annual wage rises at 2.5 percent above inflation. 
  8. Pay teachers for overtime performed.
  9. Reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20 (currently 25 in secondary, average of 26 in primary, average of 21 in P-2).
  10. Abolish labour hire firms for school staff and casual relief teachers; make all school staff including cleaners and casual relief teachers employees of the Department of Education and Training.
  11. Ensure schools provide breakfast and lunch to all students who need them. 
  12. Where “streaming” exists within a school (the pooling of higher-achieving students into advanced classes), provide extra resources to non-streamed students to make sure that they do not fall behind.
  13. Ensure universal access to free, quality early childhood education or childcare services.
  14. Provide additional funding to other early years programs to ensure all children and parents/carers can access the type and level support they need (e.g. supported playgroups, parenting support programs, early language development).
  15. Increase wages and improve conditions of early childhood education workers.
  16. Introduce additional conditions for non-state schools to qualify for state funding, including phased distribution of ownership and control of schools to teachers, workers, local communities and governments.