Pages tagged "Education Training and Skills"
3 August 2023
In reply to the The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (6 July 2023):
Can the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science advise:
1. What are the salaries of the chancellors and vice-chancellors of the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia and Flinders University for each financial year from 2019 to this financial year?
2. What added benefits or bonuses are in the packages beyond salary for the chancellors and vice-chancellors of the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia and Flinders University?
Response by The Hon. K.J. MAHER MLC:
The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science has advised:
The statutes for all three South Australian public universities outline that the councils of the respective universities are responsible for determining the terms and conditions upon which the vice-chancellors and chancellors hold office. The salaries and benefits of vice-chancellors and chancellors are therefore a matter to be determined by the councils of each respective university.
17 August 2023
In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (27 June 2023):
My questions to the minister are:
1. Is the minister concerned about the impacts of teacher shortages on development in the regions, and educational opportunities for regional people?
2. What actions has the minister taken to address the problem?
3. Has she made representations to the Minister for Education in relation to the matter?
Response by the Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN MLC:
The Minister for Education, Training and Skills has advised:
1. A teacher supply shortage is being experienced across Australia, with teacher supply and retention being a focus for all jurisdictions. The Malinauskas Labor government is acutely aware of this issue and has been taking action since coming to government to address teacher shortages in country South Australia.
2. The Malinauskas Labor government made important election commitments to tackle teacher shortages, particularly in the country. We are delivering on our election commitment to make the country incentive zone allowance ongoing for all teachers who are eligible to receive it in the 2024 school year, rather than it cease after 5 or 8 years. This will help attract teachers to work in the country, and support teacher retention in regional areas.
To build the teacher pipeline for country schools and preschools the Department for Education has also developed two new initiatives aimed at pre-service teachers.
Firstly, they are being supported to undertake funded professional experience placements in country sites to increase their visibility of career opportunities and the lifestyle of these locations. This initiative aims to remove a major barrier for pre-service teachers to participate in country professional experiences by providing financial support recognising the need to relocate for a period.
Secondly, the department has developed an employment program to support pre-service teachers who move to country locations in their first teaching appointment. This initiative is designed to support their transition from study to employment, and to support their induction into the local community and teaching.
To support these initiatives we have developed a country campaign to profile what it looks like to live and teach in regional South Australia
This campaign includes the inspiring personal stories of teachers from across the state
The government is also delivering the Country Education Strategy, which aims to provide quality leadership and expert teaching in every country school and preschool; better access to digital infrastructure, student support services and business administration systems for country schools and preschools; and access to quality learning and career, study and training opportunities for country children and young people. A key intent of this strategy is to make our country schools more attractive for staff to work in.
Alongside specific actions targeting country teachers, the Malinauskas Labor government has joined with other jurisdictions in developing the National Teacher Workforce Plan, which sets 27 priority actions the commonwealth, state and territory government are taking to improve teacher supply and keep teachers in the profession.
Our government will continue to make the important investments needed to address teacher shortages, including in the country.
3. I am in frequent discussion with my cabinet colleagues about regional issues.
24 July 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14 June 2023).
Can the Minister for Education, Training and Skills advise:
1. What is the status of the Springbank Secondary College upgrade project?
2. Has the government committed to fund the upgrade of the science labs as part of phase 2 of the school's building works?
3. Can the minister guarantee that there are no plans to merge Springbank Secondary College with another secondary school?
4. What is the Department for Education doing to support Springbank Secondary College's renewal plan to fill its 450-student capacity?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector):
The Minister for Education, Training and Skills has advised:
Springbank Secondary College was allocated $10 million in 2017 as part of the then Weatherill government's $692m Building Better Schools program.
Further funding was approved by the current government in April 2023, increasing the project budget to $11.55 million.
All refurbished areas are now complete with the school occupying the new classrooms. It is expected that the remaining external works, which have experienced a delay due to wet weather, will be completed in July 2023.
The Department for Education has worked with the architects to consider several options for the science wing refurbishment including associated costs. These are currently being reviewed. Once this process is complete the project will be considered for funding through the department's annual capital investment prioritisation process.
I can guarantee there are no plans to amalgamate or merge Springbank Secondary College with another secondary school. The Labor Party, when in opposition, stood with the school as attempts were made to close it. We continue to support Springbank as it grows.
Growing the enrolments of Springbank Secondary College is a priority for the Malinauskas Labor government. On top of the previously mentioned capital works upgrades, the school's leadership and governing council have implemented strategies to develop and renew the school. This includes refocusing on how the education program was delivered and developing key partnerships with other local educational facilities and universities.
The school's specialist basketball academy continues to be an integral part of the school.
These strategies and programs have seen a steady increase in enrolments in the last few years.
We will continue to look at ways we can further encourage more families to choose Springbank Secondary College.
13 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:06): I move:
That this council—
1. Notes that the Australian Education Union (AEU) (SA Branch) took industrial action on 1 September 2023 in response to the Malinauskas government's enterprise bargaining offer.
2. Acknowledges that 80 per cent of AEU members who voted in the ballot to take industrial action voted in favour of doing so.
3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to commit to supporting South Australian public education by making an offer that meets the AEU's requests for—
(a) reducing face-to-face teaching by 20 per cent to eliminate excessive and unsustainable workloads;
(b) an additional school services officer in every classroom to provide school students with necessary learning support; and
(c) a salary rise of 20 per cent over three years to attract and retain public school educators.
This motion notes that the Australian Education Union (SA Branch) took industrial action on 1 September 2023 in response to the Malinauskas government's enterprise bargaining offer. It acknowledges that 80 per cent of our new members who voted in the ballot to take that industrial action voted in favour of the strike.
The motion calls on the Malinauskas government to commit to supporting South Australian public education by making an offer that meets the AEU's requests for reducing face-to-face teaching by 20 per cent to eliminate excessive, unsustainable workloads; provides for an additional school services officer in every classroom to provide school students with necessary learning support; and a salary rise of 20 per cent over three years to attract and retain public school educators.
It is important for this parliament to discuss the industrial action that was recently taken by public schoolteachers and the state of the ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations between the state government and the Australian Education Union, because teachers and educators were forced to take that action, as the pressure on our teachers is higher than ever and they are facing growing bureaucratic requirements that reduce time for the core work of teaching. Whilst this is happening, they must manage increasing complex needs from students, and we are seeing this right across our education system.
It is worth highlighting a UniSA report, which was released earlier this year, which surveyed 1,600 South Australian teachers and found that our teachers work above and beyond the hours for which they are paid. On average, they are working over 50 hours a week, including just over 20 hours of face-to-face teaching and 30 hours of additional tasks. Shockingly, almost half of all respondents stated that they intended to leave teaching within five years. Almost half of all respondents said that they intend to leave the profession within five years. Imagine what impact that could have on our public education system, particularly when one considers the crisis it is already facing.
It is clear that there is a crisis affecting our schools and preschools right across the state and that our school leaders and support staff are doing their best just to keep the education system running. Indeed, recent Department for Education data indicates that over 35,000 SA students are without a consistent teacher due to staffing shortages.
In the ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations, the Australian Education Union put forward solutions to fix the crisis. These included a reduction in face-to-face teaching by 20 per cent to eliminate excessive and unsustainable workloads, an additional school services officer in every classroom to provide school students with necessary learning support, and a salary increase. But the offer they received from the state government ignored almost every proposal put forward by teachers and their union to fix the education system.
It was hardly surprising, then, that the AEU's statewide ballot to take industrial action saw an extraordinary 80 per cent of its members vote in support. Teachers were simply no longer willing to accept an offer that would have seen this crisis continue. The Greens stood in solidarity with thousands of public school educators when they took industrial action on 1 September, and it was an honour to address the crowd outside the front of Parliament House. We will continue to support them in their struggle for better pay and work conditions.
Although I understand the state government has come back to the table with a revised offer to avert this Friday's planned strike action, it is clear there is still a long way to go between the AEU's asks and the government's new offer. The revised salary increase of just 3 per cent per year is still below the AEU demands for between 5 and 8.6 per cent per year for three years and below inflation before the last strike.
It is especially concerning that some teachers in some schools will not receive a reduction in their workloads until 2030. Teachers are already working above and beyond the hours for which they are paid, and seven years is simply far too long for them to wait. It is the responsibility of governments to adequately invest in and provide a quality public education for all. It must provide working conditions that ensure that our educators can deliver the best outcomes for South Australian students irrespective of where they live and whatever their postcode may be. The government needs to sit down in good faith, listen to our teachers and support South Australian public education by putting an offer on the table that actually meets their needs.
I think it is worth reflecting on the journey we have been on during these COVID years. If I look at the focus on healthcare workers, there has been an appropriate focus on the contribution they have made, and I think their contribution has been celebrated and rightly so. They were working at the frontline in terms of keeping our communities safe.
But what about our teachers? What about our teachers, who were also working through those really challenging conditions, trying to negotiate online teaching, or who were accommodating students back into the classroom, keeping our children safe in the middle of a pandemic? Where has been the recognition from government for their work? Where has been the recognition from the former Liberal government and now the Malinauskas Labor government for their work?
It is not acceptable in my mind for the government to say, 'We can't afford it. We don't have the money to make this happen.' Budgets are about choices, and this is a government that was willing to throw half a billion dollars at a university merger without even reading the business case. They were happy to do that, yet they expect the community to believe that they cannot find the money to pay teachers what they are worth.
We have a government in Canberra that is going to be spending $250 billion on tax cuts for the megarich, yet we cannot afford to pay teachers what they are worth. We are going to be seeing $360 billion being spent on war machines that are going to be made in South Australia, but, again, we cannot afford to pay teachers what they are worth.
This is a government in South Australia that is shelling out $15 billion on a road project that has blown out. Talk about tunnel vision—quite literally tunnel vision. What are they going to do about the teacher crisis? They cannot keep saying they cannot afford it. It does not wash. The government needs to do something about it.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.
29 August 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:56): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector on the topic of teachers in the public sector.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In November last year, the University of South Australia presented a report to the Australian Education Union (SA Branch), titled 'Teachers at breaking point'. The report claimed that teachers work well above the hours for which they are paid, with South Australian public school teachers working an average of 50 hours per week. Thirty hours of time worked is spent on tasks beyond face-to-face teaching. The proportion of teachers satisfied with their wages has dropped to 37 per cent, a majority of teachers are now working on temporary contracts and almost half of the respondents intend to leave teaching within the next five years.
The Australian Education Union are calling on the state government to allow teachers to be able to spend more hours engaged in face-to-face activities with students, provide a school services officer in every classroom to support staff and students and to offer a salary that actually reflects the work that they do every day. The union have indicated their intention to strike this Friday 1 September to ask for better support for teachers in schools.
My question to the minister therefore is: as the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector, is he concerned about the workload and wages of public school teachers, and is the minister satisfied that the government is actually meeting its obligations to teachers as key public sector employees?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:58): I thank the honourable member for his question and his support and interest in public sector workers, particularly those who are very public facing, like teachers. We have a great deal of respect for and value workers in many of these areas, teachers included, as we do for other of those public facing, public sector workers, such as ambulance officers, or nurses, or firefighters. Teachers do an incredible job and are at the frontline of making sure our children get the best possible start in life.
We made a commitment from opposition that we have carried into government to negotiate and bargain in good faith with public sector unions when the industrial agreements come up for negotiation. We have started doing that as part of the negotiation with teachers. The sector of the government that deals with the public sector unions has had a number of constructive meetings—I think the latest today, from memory—to talk about some of the views of the union and what the union is requesting.
I think it's on the public record that the initial request from the union was just under a 25 per cent pay increase over four years. If my maths is right that would be somewhere around 6 per cent a year. We are considering that, but it would be almost double other recent outcomes that were achieved for public sector workers like firefighters, nurses and ambulance officers. We do understand how valuable teachers are, but we still are a fair distance apart given the outcomes that have occurred for other public sector workers.
The honourable member mentioned a couple of the other requests at the start of negotiations. I think it included a student support officer in every classroom, which would equate—if I remember correctly—to something like 6,000 extra SSOs, and the request for a 20 per cent reduction in face-to-face teaching would either be one day of school less for students every week of the year, or something like 3,000 extra teachers.
The non-wage components, the reduction in teaching time and the extra SSOs, equate to something like a billion dollars a year of extra funding that would be required. Whilst this is the start of negotiations—we will negotiate in good faith—we are still some way off and there is a gap between what the union has initially put forward and obviously what we are going to be able to sustain as a government, but we will continue those discussions.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:01): Supplementary question: if the government has so much respect for teachers why have they put forward such a meagre offer, and why aren't they ensuring that they are being appropriately reimbursed, particularly after so many years of COVID?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:01): I thank the honourable member for his question but, as I have outlined, what we put is in line with the outcomes in terms of pay increases that were achieved for other very, very hardworking public sector workers like nurses, like ambulance officers and like firefighters.
1 September 2023
The Greens are urging the Government to provide a better deal for SA’s public teachers as thousands of educators prepare to take industrial action today.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) has called on the Government to offer a deal which ensures sustainable teacher workloads, provides a School Services Officer in every classroom, and includes a salary rise of 20 per cent over three years to attract and retain public teachers and other educators.
The AEU’s calls come after a recent report by UniSA found that half of all educators will leave the profession in five years.
“The current offer is a slap in the face to public school teachers. After years of COVID, the pressure on teachers is higher than ever, yet they continue to be undervalued and underpaid,” said Greens Education Spokesperson Robert Simms MLC.
“Given that the government was willing to throw half a billion dollars at a university merger without even seeing the business case, it’s a bit rich to for them to argue that they can’t afford to pay teachers what they are worth.”
“The Greens stand in solidarity with all those public school educators taking industrial action today. We support them in their struggle for better pay and work conditions.”
Robert Simms will speak at today’s rally for public education on the steps of Parliament House at 11am.
6 July 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:56): I move:
That the motion be amended by inserting after 'Adelaide University' the words 'with the following amendments:
In subparagraph 1(b) leave out 'non-commercially confidential' and after subparagraph 1(d) insert a new
paragraph as follows:
(da) the consequences for Flinders University'.
I take this opportunity firstly to indicate our position on the Liberal Party amendments, which we will support. They are sensible amendments. I will talk a little bit about those amendments and indeed about the amendments that we are putting forward, but first I want to make some general remarks about this process and convey my profound disappointment to the government for the way in which they have dealt with this matter.
The Hon. Nicola Centofanti highlighted the background to the push for a parliamentary inquiry. It was last week when I heard that there was the potential, there was certainly a lot of media speculation, that there might well be an announcement that the two universities were keen to start up a merger. I began canvassing with my colleagues support for the idea of a parliamentary committee to look into the proposal. It was very clear from the government's comments in the lead-up to the announcement that they did not support having any parliamentary scrutiny of the proposal. I think the terms that were used were 'denial', 'delay' and 'this has got to be dealt with quickly'.
On the weekend, I came out and indicated that the Greens would be moving to establish a parliamentary inquiry into this. I was joined at that announcement by the Hon. Frank Pangallo from SA-Best, who was supportive of the call, and also, on the same day, the Liberal Party came out and supported it as well. The Premier subsequently, a day later, indicated that he was initially against an inquiry because it would be a delay. Then he was in favour of an inquiry, but only if it was six months.
I think, as I pointed out in media interviews, it is for the parliament to determine how long such an inquiry should progress for. All members of this place were aware of the crossbench's intention to establish an inquiry. I was totally transparent around that and around the issues that would be canvassed by such an inquiry.
Rather than picking up the phone and talking to me and providing an opportunity for all of the parties to get together and nut out the terms of reference for a joint parliamentary inquiry, instead the Labor Party plays a political game where they spring this on everybody unawares in the other place and then try to ram it through here today. That is disappointing because actually I think all of us would have agreed to a joint parliamentary inquiry.
I do not think anybody in this chamber would have said, 'Don't have a joint parliamentary inquiry.' If you had wanted to do it, why not sit down and talk to us? Pick up the phone. That is all they had to do is pick up the phone and have a chat with me, maybe have a chat with the Hon. Frank Pangallo, who had also been working on the terms of reference, engage with us in a respectful way and we could have all worked out something, rather than coming here today with terms of reference that miss the mark and with a short-term reporting process.
This really, I think, typifies the arrogant way in which the Malinauskas government have approached this issue, the way in which they have politicised this whole merger process. It is profoundly disappointing to me, and indeed the Greens, that members of university staff across the two universities found out about this plan through a media story that was reported on Saturday night. No-one from those universities had the courtesy to actually let their staff know before Saturday evening. How disrespectful is that?
Then, to add insult to injury, you have our two vice-chancellors being politicised by the Premier holding a joint press event where the Premier takes ownership of this whole proposal, and then the government is too arrogant to lower themselves to actually talk to the crossbench before today around crafting some terms of reference for an inquiry and a process. So what we have, when we step into this chamber, is a shambolic dog's breakfast, which actually typifies the botched approach that the Malinauskas government has taken to this whole process.
It is interesting to remark that during question time I asked the Hon. Clare Scriven about the government's commitment during the last election. They indicated they were going to have a commission of inquiry into this proposal—that is an independent process—but instead what we have is the Malinauskas government running their own process, taking ownership of this, and the role of the parliament is just to rubber stamp. The parliament is seen as an inconvenience, an obstacle, to them pursuing their agenda, and that is disappointing because actually it is this parliament that is going to have to change the law.
If you want to make friends and influence people on the crossbench, this is not the way to do it—just a little tip. If you wanted to try to win people over to support your bill, this is a really curious strategy. We will see how it plays out, but it is a really curious strategy that they have embarked upon, rather than the strategy of collegiality and engagement with one's colleagues in this small chamber. It is disappointing, but anyway this is where we are at.
Enough about the process. What about the substance? All of the amendments that the opposition are putting forward we will support. I want to indicate in particular why I think the extension of the time frame is important. It has never been my intention or the intention of the Greens to try to frustrate on this issue. All we have said is that we have concerns about the impact on jobs, we have concerns about the impact on staff, and those concerns are shared by the NTEU, they are shared by a number of academic staff, and they are informed by the experience of what has happened in other jurisdictions around the world where there have been mergers—look at Manchester university.
Indeed, there was a survey that came out today that demonstrated that Australia's largest universities fail to deliver good outcomes for students and that the highest student satisfaction was among our nation's smallest universities. It is against this backdrop that the Greens wanted to have an inquiry to consider the issues.
This idea that we need to proceed with this at breakneck speed I find really bizarre. If the government needed to get this done in this quarter of the year, why did they only announce it on Saturday? Why did they not work to do it in the early half of the year, so that there was appropriate time for the parliament to work through the issues? Why was the engagement of the parliament at the end of the process rather than at the beginning? Why has the government's approach been: this is a fait accompli, sign along the dotted line, rather than giving the parliament the opportunity to consider the implications in a thorough way?
That is why I think it is quite reasonable for the opposition to propose an extension. It would be my hope we could get the committee done earlier than the Leader of the Opposition has proposed, but why not give enough time to appropriately ventilate the issues? We are supportive of those amendments.
To speak to the amendments that I am putting forward, one of the key issues in the media this week, which I found really astounding, has been that it seems no-one in the government has read the business case underpinning this proposal. The Premier has not read it. The minister for higher education, the Deputy Premier, has not read it. We know the Hon. Clare Scriven has not read it, but that is not unusual, with respect. She often does not indicate whether or not she has read reports, but I do not think she has read this one. It is not her portfolio, she will say—the catchcry in this place.
I know a lot of people in the community will ask, 'Why haven't they looked at that information?' At the very least, I think the people's representatives in the parliament should actually have an opportunity to access that information and that is why I am moving this amendment, because I think it is appropriate that the parliament consider those issues.
The final amendment that I am seeking to advance today is one that considers the implications for Flinders University. A fair point that has been raised with me is: what about people from low socio-economic backgrounds from Flinders University? I grew up in the southern suburbs, I am a graduate of Flinders University, and I know that a lot of people from Flinders University will ask what role they are playing in this process and whether they will get access as an institution to the same support that is being afforded. I think it is worthwhile adding that into the terms of reference, so that some of these implications can be considered.
It is disappointing that this is the process we have landed on. The Greens welcome an inquiry. We were the ones calling for it. We would have been happy to achieve a joint parliamentary inquiry. I just wish that the government had sat down and had a chat with me. I am not that difficult to deal with. I am actually quite nice.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, I think we will be the judge of that.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I would have been very happy to sit and have a chat with them. Everybody knows I am really easygoing, and they could have sat down and had a chat with me and we could have nutted something out. Instead, what we have is this booby trap that has blown up in all of our faces today, the exploding cigar that one pulls out of the drawer and it has blown up in everybody's face. There could have been a different process that was adopted. I hope there is some collective learning from this, so that we do not do this in the future.
There are legitimate questions that need to be ventilated through this process, questions for students and questions for academic staff. I have to laugh when I see the debates about mergers and so on. There is often very little discussion around students and their interests. It is like the old saying that a hospital would be great if not for the patients. The universities do not work without students. They are a fundamental stakeholder group. They need to be consulted. They need to be engaged. I hope that the government starts to engage with them, starts to talk with them, starts to talk with the broader community, rather than just simply announcing these things as a fait accompli.
6 July 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question without notice of the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional students.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, the Malinauskas government announced plans for a new university to be created by the merging of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. The announcement was coupled with a commitment from the Premier for a $100 million perpetual fund to support students from low socio-economic groups to enrol in the new university.
According to the demographic data resource .idcommunity, 1.5 per cent of regional people in South Australia are attending university compared with 5.6 per cent of their metro counterparts in Greater Adelaide. My questions to the minister therefore are:
1. What proportion of the perpetual fund will be allocated to regional students?
2. What role has the minister played in ensuring that the perpetual fund will meet the needs of people from low socio-economic backgrounds in the regions?
3. Has the minister read the business case for the university merger?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for his question. First, we have had some very productive discussions within various forums of the government around the need for support for people from low socio-economic backgrounds, including those from regional areas—I certainly have raised the specific issue of regional students within those discussions.
The $100 million perpetual fund is a huge achievement, assuming the creation of the new university does proceed. It is a huge achievement in addressing some of the inequities that exist within our communities, including between metropolitan and regional residents. The ability to access high-quality education is something we as a government are absolutely committed to.
One of the things I am very pleased about is that the proposed new institution is being formed with a view to growing, and that may well result in growth into regional areas, either by expanding what is there or by expanding into new areas that do not currently have campuses. Of course, that will be the specific decision of the institution concerned, as decisions of the existing institutions are at the moment, but it is something I think is very exciting for our state and I look forward to seeing that further develop.
Since the honourable member also mentioned, in his opening remarks, that this was about regional students, I might take the opportunity to draw members' attention to another recent announcement we made, which was around the Regional Skills Fund, and specifically about enabling students in regional areas to better access TAFE courses.
Prior to now there has been a requirement that there be a minimum of 12 students to be able to run a course in a regional area, but that has now been reduced to five students. That means there is a real opportunity for more courses to be run in regional locations, and that is an additional boost for people living in our thriving regions.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:45): Supplementary: with whom has the minister had these discussions regarding regional students, have these discussions involved Flinders University, and has she read the business case?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. In terms of the discussions I have had, that has been particularly with my cabinet colleagues. Clearly, this is a very important topic for our state, and it is something that has been the basis of numerous discussions in various fora.
Remembering that this was, if not the first—I think the Voice was the first commitment we made while were in opposition in terms of new policies—then it was certainly amongst the first few commitments we made while we were in opposition to encourage and promote the creation of a new institution that would better serve our university cohort and better serve our state, both in terms of offerings in the near future but also in establishing the sorts of skills, qualifications and future workforce we need for the many exciting projects occurring as a result of investment support and initiative by the Malinauskas Labor government.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:46): Final supplementary: the minister referenced the Labor Party's election commitment. Was the government's commitment—or the then Labor opposition's commitment—to hold a commission of inquiry into establishing a new university or was it to simply do it?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:47): I am sure most members would recall that the commitment was to establish a commission of inquiry. What eventuated after the election, as I understand it, was an approach by the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide indicating that they wished to progress the possible creation of a new university, essentially between themselves. Obviously, there is government support that is offered and provided, but that is what they were wanting to do.
As a result, our government put on hold the commission of inquiry given that was the stated desire, in terms of pursuing it under a different mechanism, from the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide. It will be interesting to see whether those opposite, in particular, support the establishment of a new institution, if they support the opportunity to increase the capability here in South Australia, whether they are actually interested in the future of our state—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —or merely in its past.
28 June 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this council—
1. Notes the release of the Teachers at Breaking Point report commissioned by the Australian Education Union (South Australian Branch) which found:
(a) South Australian public school teachers work on average over 50 hours per week, including 30 hours of tasks beyond face-to-face teaching;
(b) fewer than one in 10 teachers feel that their views are valued by policymakers in South Australia and only one in five teachers view departmental policy demands as reasonable; and
(c) almost half of all respondents intend to leave teaching within five years, double the rate recorded in the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey.
2. Acknowledges that South Australian public school students deserve teachers who can fully exercise their commitment, knowledge of learning and learners in their context, understanding of complex relationships and needs, and love for teaching.
3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to commit to supporting South Australian public education by:
(a) increasing time and support for teachers to manage increasingly complex student needs;
(b) reducing administrative demands on teachers to make workloads healthy and sustainable;
(c) addressing shortage of staff to reduce workload pressure;
(d) increasing the voice of teachers and leaders in decision-making and co-construction of policy; and
(e) increasing support for early career teachers to sustain the profession.
I will speak very briefly to the motion because the focus of it is fairly clear. This is noting the release of the Teachers at Breaking Point report, which was commissioned by the Australian Education Union (South Australian branch), which found that:
South Australian public school teachers work on average over 50 hours per week, including 30 hours of tasks beyond face-to-face teaching;
fewer than one in 10 teachers feel that their views are valued by policymakers in South Australia and only one in five teachers viewed departmental policy demands as reasonable; and
almost half of all respondents intend to leave teaching within five years, double the rate that was recorded in the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey.
The motion goes on to acknowledge that South Australian public school students deserve teachers who can fully exercise their commitment, knowledge of learning and learners in their context and understanding of complex relationships and needs. It then calls on the Malinauskas government to commit to supporting South Australian public education by increasing the time and support for teachers to manage student needs by reducing administrative demands on teachers, addressing the shortage of staff to reduce workload pressure, increasing the voice of teachers and leaders in decision-making, and increasing support for early career teachers to sustain the profession.
I am a proud product of public education. It is an issue I am passionate about and I want to see our state's public schools getting a fair go. The Teachers at Breaking Point report, which was commissioned by the Australian Education Union, was published in November last year and it really looked at what is the shifting nature of teachers' work in public education, in particular the growing complexity and increasing professional demands and the impact that has on teachers' wellbeing and their ability to focus on their responsibilities.
The report found there has been a significant increase in workload and that also the work is becoming more complex. I did ask the Minister for Regional Development some questions about this yesterday in question time, looking at the impact this is having on the regions in particular. I do just want to pull out a few key elements from the report.
One of the problems that teachers are experiencing is a growing bureaucratic requirement and an increase in the top-down initiatives that are reducing the time they have available for core teaching. They report that they are not experiencing the time and autonomy they need to undertake appropriate planning. Teachers are feeling undervalued and underappreciated. The workplace conditions of South Australian teachers do not provide them with the time they need to do appropriate planning. Teachers care deeply about their students and they are frustrated they do not have the time they would like to be able to spend with them to meet their needs.
One thing that is really interesting to note from the report is that full-time teachers reported working on average 52 hours in the most recent full week of employment—52 hours—and over a third of teachers reported that they did not feel safe at work and did not find their workload manageable. Just 52 per cent of respondents reported being satisfied with their job overall. The current level of satisfaction of South Australian teachers, therefore, is in significant decline.
Workplace dissatisfaction was compounded by a sense that educators' voices are not heard and only 7 per cent of respondents said they felt they were being listened to by policymakers. Close to nine in 10 teachers considered leaving the profession and among those considering quitting teaching the most common reason was workload.
The report made five key recommendations. They relate to increasing support for teachers, reducing administrative demands, increasing the voice of teachers in decision-making, addressing a shortage of staff and increasing support for early career teachers to sustain the profession. You will note that the elements of the motion I have proposed today address those components. I urge the Malinauskas government to take this seriously. We are about to head into the mid-winter break, and I hope that they use that time to appropriately resource our teachers.
27 June 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:28): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on the topic of teacher shortages at regional schools.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On 4 April, The Advertiser reported that our four regional schools were struggling to fill teacher vacancies for any longer than 19 days, which is the maximum length of a relief teaching contract, and that one of those schools, Lucindale Area School, has been unable to find a permanent replacement to teach its year 8 to year 10 maths and science since the start of the year. My office has also been advised that Whyalla secondary school has been carrying three unfilled vacancies in 2022 and that there have been as many as eight unfilled vacancies during 2023.
The problem is not limited to Whyalla. I understand some reports have been heard from Port Augusta and the broader country regions. Across the state there are between 40 and 50 unfilled teacher vacancies, according to the Department for Education.
The Advertiser quoted the Australian Education Union of South Australia's President, Andrew Gohl, who said finding qualified educators was a widespread problem and that 'most country schools will be experiencing this now or have experienced it in the last 12 months'. He went on to say that short-term solutions such as offering $10,000 extra as an incentive to find a qualified maths or science teacher are proving ineffective, and that the excessive workload for teaching needs to be addressed.
He has also added that there needs to be additional country incentives, such as access to quality housing, as some teachers are starting their teaching career living in a caravan or in a motel room. I note that the official government of South Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regions website states that the minister is committed to regional development, improving educational opportunities, along with supporting small business and promoting the importance of primary industry sectors. My question therefore to the minister is:
1. Is the minister concerned about the impacts of teacher shortages on development in the regions and educational opportunities for regional people?
2. What action has the minister taken to address the problem?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:30): I thank the honourable member for his question, and certainly I echo some of the quotes that he made in there that attracting qualified educators is a widespread problem, and in common with other professional occupations in regional areas it is a widespread problem. It is something that we have been acutely aware of and have been working in a number of ways to address.
Specifically in terms of the teacher workforce, one of the initiatives that I know that our government has done was make the country teachers retention allowance—forgive me if that is not the correct name—permanent. Previously, as I understand it, it was only available for the first five years of someone's tenure in a country area, teaching in a country school, so that was one step that was an important part of encouraging those teachers who had been in regional areas for five years to continue their stay, and hopefully to actually become permanent.
Secondly, housing, as the honourable member mentioned, can be a limiting factor, and certainly I have told in this place stories of schools that have attracted teachers and have unfortunately then seen those teachers living in a caravan park for two terms, resulting in them returning to Adelaide. That type of experience is one of the reasons the Malinauskas Labor government has implemented the program for regional housing for essential workers, which we announced last year and then alluded to also in this year's budget.
The importance of that can't be underestimated. That is about ensuring that regional professions, be they healthcare workers, be they police, be they teachers, or a number of others, can access housing. The program has been established in such a way as to hopefully make it self-sustaining in the sense of long-term leases being taken on, which gives confidence in building housing in some of those regional areas where perhaps the market by itself would not provide that. In terms of other issues, I am happy to refer to the Minister for Education in the other place and bring back a response.