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NSW Liberals and Nationals
Providing a universal, high quality education to every child — regardless of race, religion, circumstances or background — is at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the NSW Liberals and Nationals education policy platform. In years gone by, the regulation of teachers by governments has been characterised by distrust and hostility (the 1872 the Rules for Teachers even dictated how many nights per week could be used for "courting", and required teachers to clean chimneys).
Our government is doing the opposite. We are reducing the administrative burden on teachers, providing unprecedented levels of support to public education, liberating the curriculum, and recruiting record numbers of new teachers.
Our education vision is founded upon four pillars: ensuring equitable funding for all students, ensuring excellence in the teaching profession, providing world class school buildings and resources, and easing the administrative burdens on our teachers.
So what have we done so far in these priority areas? For the past eight years we have led the nation in public school funding. NSW was the first state to sign up to the Gonski principles of needs based school funding. We provided the full six years of funding for the original Gonski agreement, even though the Federal Government dishonoured the deal. We are the only state — Liberal or Labor — that has recognised the explicit inequity in the Federal Government’s recently announced Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and independent schools by creating our own fund exclusively for government schools — the $712 million NSW School Equity Program.
We have also fought alongside you to maintain and strengthen excellence within the teaching profession. We have worked with the Teachers Federation to set the highest benchmarks in the country for graduates looking to get a job in a public school — and have made it a priority to stop the commodification and debasement of Initial Teacher Education (ITE).
From this year, all teaching graduates wanting a job in NSW government schools will need to meet the criteria of a new “teacher success profile”. Among other things, graduates will need at least a credit grade point average, will have the entirety of their practical classroom experience assessed, will need to show superior cognitive and emotional intelligence, will need to have a one on one behavioural interview and, recognising that teaching is relational, will need to undertake an undergraduate degree “face to face”, rather than entirely online.
Additionally, we have developed a school leadership strategy, providing $50 million in flexible funding so that schools can hire administrative staff to enable principals and teachers to focus more on being instructional leaders, and less on time wasting administrative chores.
We have commenced the largest school building program in NSW history, committing $6 billion over the next four years to build more than 170 new and upgraded schools across the state, delivering more than 2000 new air-conditioned classrooms. We have also created School Infrastructure NSW to effectively and efficiently deliver this unprecedented building program and reduce school maintenance backlogs to zero. However, in spite of all that we have achieved in partnership with our teachers and their representative bodies such as the Teachers Federation, we recognise there is more to do.
So what are the challenges we are going to confront over the next few years — and what are our proposed solutions?
Well first, we recognise the growing importance of supporting mental health in our schools. We know that both teachers and students are struggling with anxiety and depression at unprecedented rates. This is why we will commit to ensuring every NSW public high school will have a full-time psychologist to provide students and teachers with an access point for vital services, as part of a record $220 million investment into mental health programs in schools.
We also recognise that the public school system will face surging enrolments over the next couple of decades. But we also understand the importance of keeping class sizes small, which is why we will commit to ensuring that class sizes don’t increase by hiring an additional 4600 teachers.
We know that too often teaching practice gets subverted by needing to stick to a bloated and prescriptive curriculum. This is why last year I announced the first comprehensive review of NSW Curriculum in 30 years — and it is why we will finalise this review to ensure that our curriculum in NSW supports effective teaching.
When establishing the new American Republic, John Adams, later first vice-president and second president of the United States, declared that: “Laws for the liberal education of youth … are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.” The NSW Liberal Party agrees, which is why the government will continue investing record amounts in public education by spending an additional $6.4 billion in government schools over the next 10 years.
While expressed in anachronistic terms, the essential truth of Adams’s sentiment is timeless. It is an essential truth that defines the educational philosophy of the NSW Liberals and Nationals, and it will continue to characterise our efforts in government to support teachers in providing a quality education for all.
— Rob Stokes, NSW Minister for Education