Education System Review
Mr GAUDRY: My question without notice is to the Minister for Education and Training. What is the latest information on efforts to improve the support of the Department of Education and Training for teachers and related matters?
Mr Humpherson: Point of order: Questions to Ministers are supposed to be concise and seek specific action as well as information. My point of order relates to the actual question. The use of the phrase "and related matters" invites the Minister to go into matters well beyond the question, and it then becomes a ministerial statement.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That terminology has been used in this Chamber since long before the member graced it.
Mr Humpherson: I have not finished the point of order yet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order.
Mr Humpherson: Are you going to let me finish the point of order?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The member will resume his seat.
Mr Humpherson: What was the reason?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order for the second time. The member will resume his seat.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order for the third time. His disgraceful behaviour does not befit a member of this Chamber. If he behaves in the same way in the future, his stay in the House during question time will be very short.
Mr O'Farrell: Point of order: What is disgraceful about asking for a reason from you on a ruling from the Chair? What is disgraceful about that?
Mr SPEAKER: I gave my reason.
Mr O'Farrell: You did not give a reason.
Mr SPEAKER: I gave my reason.
Mr O'Farrell: He asked for a reason. What is disgraceful about that?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order. I gave my reason to the honourable member for Davidson and asked him to resume his seat. He defied my ruling and I called him to order for the second time. He continued to defy my ruling and I called him to order for the third time.
Mr O'Farrell: With respect, Hansard will show that you gave no reason.
Mr Knowles: For the edification of the Opposition, it is clearly a matter for the Speaker as to whether a reason is given for a ruling on a point of order. Opposition members know that.
Dr REFSHAUGE: It seems that rumours that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is going Federal to replace Bronwyn Bishop may be true, as all of these leadership aspirants come alive and display themselves around the Chamber. He is blushing! The Government took to the last election more than $670 million in carefully costed, carefully planned commitments for education and training. But, unlike the policies of the Opposition, which relied on tearing $700 million out of front-line child protection, we made a promise to which we are fully committed and which we are able to deliver fully funded.
We will honour every one of the election commitments: commitments that will provide all of our schools with more teachers—1,500 new positions to reduce class sizes and 30,000 casual teachers. Our promises will result in improved classrooms—more airconditioning and increased security fencing—and provide better support for our front-line teachers by providing training for professional development and establishing an institute of teachers. These promises will ensure that our education system provides a multitude of opportunities for students, workers and families to continue to study and train throughout their lives.
In our globalised world the old notion of having the same career for life no longer applies. Today people will change careers regularly. New South Wales needs an education system that can provide families with lifelong learning opportunities. Today I announce proposed changes that will refocus and reshape the Department of Education and Training to get teachers back into the classrooms, to provide greater support to teachers at the coalface, and to bring schools and TAFEs closer together.
Mr Hartcher: Point of order: I draw your attention to a ruling by Speaker Kelly, a well-recognised Speaker—you were in the Chamber when he was here—who ruled that statements of public importance that announce and touch on some policy or a proposed action by the Government constitute a ministerial statement. The Deputy Premier is announcing policy the Government proposes to adopt. In accordance with Speaker Kelly's ruling, I ask you to uphold the dignity of the House and rule that this is a ministerial statement.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Many prominent Speakers, including Speaker Rozzoli, have ruled that the Chair is not at liberty to tell a Minister how he should answer a question. The Minister has the call.
Dr REFSHAUGE: The proposal will go out for consultation with staff and key stakeholder groups over the next five weeks. The shake-up proposes a reduction in the bureaucracy, such as its head office and corporate services, by about 1,000 and would return up to 300 teachers to the State's classrooms. This is about getting people out of the bureaucracy and teachers back into the classroom. Our front-line teachers need and deserve better support from the department. These changes will ensure that the focus is back on helping teachers in our schools and TAFEs. The shake-up includes a proposal to set up eight new regions across the State, which will reduce the bureaucracy and provide greater access to learning by reducing duplication.
Key features of the draft proposal would result in up to 300 teachers returning to the classroom. Of this total, 150 are now in district consultant positions and the other half are in various positions throughout the department. Other key features include the appointment of 64 new chief educational officers to support teachers and schools, which will bring to 104 the total number of chief educational officers in our regions; a reduction in the corporate bureaucracy by 600 positions through the merger of TAFE and Schools Corporate Services; the reduction of more than 130 head office policy positions; the reduction of up to 100 positions in co-ordination support, communications and marketing; the establishment of eight new educational regions across the State, incorporating 10 of the 11 existing TAFE institutes; the establishment of a TAFE Commissioner to strengthen the advocacy of the world-class New South Wales TAFE network; and the establishment of a new online teaching and learning system that will allow all teachers to access state-of-the-art teaching advice and methodology via the Internet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order.
Dr REFSHAUGE: We will streamline the Board of Vocational Education and Training, the Vocational Education and Training Accreditation Board, and the Board of Adult and Community Education. It is important to note that the outstanding New South Wales school sport and performing arts programs will be retained; they will not change under this plan. I want the department to listen to the needs of school communities and to focus on its core responsibility of delivering the highest possible standard of public education.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will come to order.
Dr REFSHAUGE: Under this proposal, eight new regions, broadly aligned with other key State Government service agencies, would be set up to support teachers as they deliver and develop locally based education programs. The new regions, unlike previous regional structures, would not be caught up with the administrative functions of the past but would focus their resources on supporting and delivering education. They will be freed up from paperwork and payroll administration so that they will have more time to focus on helping schools. The regions include northern New South Wales based at Tamworth, western New South Wales based at Orange, Hunter based at Newcastle, Illawarra and southern New South Wales based at Wollongong, Sydney based at Ultimo, south western Sydney based at Miller, western Sydney based at Penrith, and northern Sydney and the Central Coast based at Gore Hill.
The campuses of the Southern Sydney Institute of TAFE would be incorporated into Sydney or South Western Sydney institutes. In addition, educational support centres or new regional offices would be established in all current 40 school districts. These centres would be staffed with a range of consultants and senior chief educational officers who would provide a higher level of support for nearby schools. All schools would have access to more senior expertise to ensure that their programs and courses are of the highest standard possible, and that the needs of the community are better met. Our new state-of-the-art online teaching and learning system would also allow teachers in schools and TAFEs to share their curriculum online and exchange valuable information on how to improve education.
TAFE institutes and schools would continue to deliver their services in precisely the same way that has made them so successful, but they would benefit from a greater sharing of expertise and resources. It is also proposed that the course delivery arm of the department's distance education network—the Open Training and Education Network—become a faculty of the TAFE Western Sydney Institute. Our TAFE institutes and schools already deliver world-recognised standards of education, but I want them to get more support so their standards will be even higher. This plan will go out for consultation with staff and key stakeholder groups over the next five weeks. I encourage those groups to have their say on the future of our education system.