Second Reading: Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Bill 2021
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens to the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Bill 2021. This is a bill that will establish the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership. Great teachers, quality teachers, are just so important to our education system and to the young people that depend on it, and if the last year and a half has demonstrated anything, it is the commitment, the quality, the dedication and the skill of our teachers across our schools as they have adapted to the lockdowns, to remote learning and to supporting students, particularly disadvantaged students, through the last year and a half.
There is certainly plenty of scope, plenty of need, for greater professional development for our teachers and greater use of our highly skilled teachers across our schools and a need for better career paths, and there is much more to do to attract high performers to the teaching profession, so the Greens will be supporting this bill, which, as I said, will establish the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership. Through its teaching excellence program, it will have an intake of 500 teachers a year. Some of those teachers will then be able to take up specialist master teacher roles in the academy, leading the design and delivery of the teaching excellence program, and that will provide them with professional pathways, having those exceptional teachers build expertise across the profession. The academy is due to be operational by 2022.
We support this bill. It is certainly a step in the right direction, but as outlined by others and by the Grattan Institute, who take a special interest in these matters, there is much more that can be done to help create great teachers across our entire education system and make the teaching profession more attractive overall. By way of example, whilst this bill will have a master teacher role contributing back to the academy, master teachers as proposed by the Grattan Institute would be working in schools with teachers and students, with significantly higher pay comparable to the top band of pay in other professions. This would have the effect of increasing the effectiveness of highly skilled and well-trained teachers—having them work directly in our schools—and creating that career path, a well-rewarded career path.
It is not clear in terms of the government’s proposal just what extra remuneration will be available for these master teachers, if any, but this would fill the gap. This proposal would fill the gap between the teacher and the principal. Not every high-performing teacher can or wants to become a principal, and in their research the Grattan Institute found that the most effective way to attract and to retain high achievers to teaching would be that higher paid career path. So certainly I would encourage the government to look at this in expanding the role of those teachers who graduate from the academy, because setting up the academy is one thing and having the infrastructure and the buildings and the program and what have you, but there still is a need to fund higher paid and better career paths for teachers. That is very much required, and we can do this.
I will point out again that Victorian public schools are underfunded to the tune of more than $1 billion a year—$1 billion short of what they would be getting through the full Gonski schooling resource standard—which puts Victorian schools with some of the most underfunded public schools in the country. We had Gonski. We had the school funding debates. They came up with a formula of what public schools needed to operate effectively, and we are falling well short of that here in Victoria—up to $1 billion a year for our public schools. So I would certainly urge our state and federal governments to work together to make sure that our schools are fully funded and that extra funding can go to more teachers, more specialists, better pay and better support for students, particularly disadvantaged students and those with special needs.
We saw what our teachers can do during the pandemic. We all said, ‘Thanks for working during lockdown’, but now it is time to demonstrate that thanks with better pay, more teachers, secure jobs and better career pathways. These are the things that we can get to ensure that we are rewarding our teachers, rewarding our best teachers and attracting those high achievers to the teaching profession, which has such a profound impact on the lives of young people. We know just the power of quality teachers and the impact that they can have on a young person’s education and indeed their life, so we support this bill and acknowledge that there is much more to do to ensure that all public schools and students have great teachers.