Education and Training Reform Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020: Second Reading Debate

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (10:48): I too am pleased to rise to make a contribution on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 and to speak about our Education State, the importance of our teachers and the importance of strengthening our Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT). I am very pleased to follow the member for South Gippsland—

Mr D O’Brien: Gippsland South.

Ms ADDISON: Sorry, Gippsland South—and thank him for his contribution. And I am very pleased that the opposition, including the member for Rowville, is supporting this legislation that will really make our VIT stronger and more effective in our state.

Many people in this chamber know that I am a former schoolteacher. I have been a card-carrying member of the VIT for the last 12 years, so when this legislation came up I certainly put my hand up to speak on it. I have a passionate interest in teaching and a genuine and ongoing interest in the teaching profession, the role of our teachers, robust curriculum, the strengthening of quality teaching across our schools and, very importantly, the professional conduct of our teachers and educators.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Deputy Premier in his capacity as Minister for Education for his strong commitment to the Education State and his strong advocacy that has delivered record investment into new schools, transformative upgrades and redevelopments as well as record spending on our school maintenance program.

Most recently I was very pleased to announce school funding grants for Alfredton Primary School, Ballarat North Primary School, Black Hill Primary School, Dana Street Primary School and Macarthur Street Primary School. These funding announcements were welcomed by the principals when I got to ring them to share the good news, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the upgrades getting underway.

We have also invested record amounts at Mount Rowan Secondary College, which is a magnificent secondary college in the suburb of Wendouree; Ballarat High School; Delacombe Primary School and—I note that the member for Ripon just walked past—we are doing an amazing job at Miners Rest, which is a primary school just out of Ballarat in the electorate of Ripon. Another school that we recently opened in Ripon—12 months ago—was Lucas Primary School, and that is a growing, prosperous primary school just on the outskirts of my electorate in the suburb of Lucas.

So I genuinely thank the minister for his commitment to and support for Ballarat schools and the whole of the Andrews Labor government for choosing to prioritise education as something that is so important to this government. Tens of thousands of teachers are probably in the staffroom at the moment—looking at the time, it is probably recess—after teaching some of our littlest learners to our senior year 12s. It is such an important job that they do, educating our children.

Teachers are highly regarded and respected members of our community, as they should be. And I would like to acknowledge that my friend the member for Hawthorn is in the house, one of our great educators, a principal who showed such leadership not only in New South Wales but also in Victoria for decades, shaping the minds of young people. It is people like the member for Hawthorn who have done such an exceptional job that really encourages us all to be the best teachers that we possibly can be.

Every day parents and carers send their children to school to learn the curriculum, but also to develop social skills, to learn about values, to learn about responsibility, respect, and there is a really strong focus at the moment on resilience. These are really important things that we need our children to learn about, and teaching is one of the most significant professions in our society because teachers are actually shaping our future.

Throughout history many of the core elements of the role of the teacher have remained constant. If you look back to the civilisations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, where learning and the quest for knowledge were the foundation of those civilisations, the traditions of Socrates and Plato continue today, with teachers continuing the important roles of mentoring, educating and guiding students to develop understanding and build knowledge.

However, the role of teaching is also changing, and we need to ensure that our teaching and learning are innovative, engaging, and relevant for the education needs of students to face the challenges of the 21st century and our rapidly changing world.

Those who educate our children are developing the minds and shaping the attitudes and values of future generations, who will be our future leaders of business, of the public service, of our unions, entrepreneurs, our health workforce, academics, engineers, judges, and those who will be future parents, raising their own children. Today’s teachers are even influencing those who will ultimately sit on these benches in the future.

I taught for over a decade and found it to be a very fulfilling career. My colleagues were hardworking and committed professionals who cared deeply about their students getting the best outcomes in and out of the classroom. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to teach and learn from students. The benefits of a quality education are well known, not only for individuals, but more significantly an educated citizenry creates a stronger and better society.

At the heart of a quality education is effective teaching and learning, and for this to occur we need our teachers to have strong pedagogic training. We place a huge amount of trust in our schools, from principals as leaders to our graduate teachers and even our student teachers on rounds, and the influence that teachers have on students cannot be underestimated. I am sure that despite the decades that may have passed since some members of this chamber were at school, they could recall the names of their best and worst teachers. I know I certainly can.

We expect our teachers to keep our children safe, and that is the key role of the Victorian Institute of Teaching: to ensure that Victorian schools and early childhood services are safe places for students. From our earliest learners attending kinder to our senior students nearing adulthood, all children and students need to be and must be safe.

The top priority of the VIT is the health and safety wellbeing of Victorian students. Ultimately the VIT is responsible for determining who can and who cannot teach in our schools and establishing professional standards for our teaching.

The Education and Training Reform Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill will build upon these reforms of the framework by clarifying and enhancing the role of the VIT, the Victorian Institute of Teaching. This bill follows the milestone Victorian selection framework first introduced in 2017, which put in place minimum standards for entry to initial teacher education programs in order to ensure the continued quality of our children’s education.

The VIT plays an integral part in the provision of education in this state, and this bill will allow it to regulate the program which certifies teachers entering our schools as well as confirm its oversight in ongoing education and professional learning programs for both school and early childhood teachers.

It will also facilitate the institute’s role in accrediting initial teacher education, or ITE, programs by enabling the VIT to set requirements, criteria or standards for the pathway courses that lead into those ITE programs, therefore ensuring that the institute has oversight of all routes into teaching.

These pathway courses allow those unable to directly enter teaching programs to access the support and to develop the skills necessary to go on to a teaching qualification. This amendment will provide for the necessary oversight guarantee that all teaching students in pathway programs can provide a verified high-quality education so that they can go on to better educate their own future students. It will safeguard the quality of our schools by ensuring the education of our teachers.

Other additions to this amendment include better facilitating the work of the VIT by clarifying their inquiry and investigation processes, as well as introducing commonsense improvements to the regulation of teacher registration. The institute will be empowered to reinstate expired registrations, when appropriate, over a broader 12-month period, as well as to ensure provisionally registered teachers follow to full registration within a period of six years, with exceptions for special circumstances. The VIT will also be able to delegate responsibilities within the organisation so that these responsibilities can be filled efficiently and effectively. The amendment also further clarifies the power of the minister in relation to the VIT, bringing it in line with other statutory authorities.

These improvements will allow the Victorian Institute of Teaching to get on with the job of ensuring that prospective teachers are provided with the highest quality training for their profession and that Victoria’s classrooms in turn are led by qualified and experienced teachers.

I wish all the students and teachers a very, very successful 2021.


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