Education on the Central Coast

13 September 2017

House of Representatives

13 October 2016

As someone with a background in science and evidence based training, I was really curious to listen to the last speaker! Labor have, for a very long time, backed our schools. We know that, to properly resource our schools so every child in every school has every opportunity, it must be based on need. It is a simple fact that students in some regions face more barriers to success than in others. In my region on the Central Coast of New South Wales, local schools, teachers and teacher aides do an amazing jobteachers like Carinne at Toukley Public School and her passionate commitment to STEM in primary schools. But they do it in spite of the challenges they face from funding cuts, changing socio-economics and a growing community.

Recently I visited the YMCA at Lake Haven Recreation Centre, where their breakfast club currently serves 70 to 90 students four days a week, students who may otherwise start their day at the nearby school without a meal. Those children, some of whom are from families that struggle to meet day-to-day cost-of-living expenses, have just as much right to a great education as any other. There are still too many children missing out due to a lack of resourcesmoney matters, as is how it is spentand this needs to change. But for so long as this government fails do the right thing by our schools and continues to cut the funding they so desperately need, addressing the inequality in the system will continue to be a seemingly insurmountable task.

The government's failure to match Labor's commitment to fully fund the final two years of the Gonski needs-based funding, which is having a real impact on schools in my community right now, has resulted in: schools in New South Wales are now $9.3 billion worse off, over $79 million will not make its way to the classrooms of the Central Coast and $44 million that should be provided to the 44 schools in my electorate of Dobell will not be provided because of this government. Our region will suffer more than most. In the electorate of Dobell, around 62 per cent of working people did not complete high school. Of those, the number of people who left school to pursue a trade is significantly higher than in other areas: 58.6 per cent of people in my community have vocational education qualifications compared to the national average, which sits at just under 46.7 per cent.

But, for a young person on the Central Coast who finds themselves without the support they need to finish school, what does the future now hold? Where once the pathway of leaving school, learning a trade and getting a job was commonplace, we know this is no longer the case. For so many people who live and work on the Central Coast, this traditional pathway to employment will no longer be an option. Yes, times have changed. Yes, technology has changed the way we learn and we work. Some traditional industries are being replaced and job opportunities are changing.

Currently, on the Central Coast, only one in two students in high school goes on to finish high school. In an area with chronically high youth unemployment rates, this is a real concern. Where once a TAFE education was a real prospect for young school leavers, the failure of conservative governments at a state and federal level to protect TAFE education's status and the public provider in the sector has gutted what was, for many families on the Central Coast, a vital provider of vocational education.

In this same context, those families now see their local schools at risk of being left with an alarming lack of resources. Why should students in Toukley, Warnervale, Berkeley Vale or Wamberal be left with under-resourced schools and be denied the support and opportunities they need to reach their potential? Why should teachers in local schools be forced to work in larger class sizes or not have access to assistance and support for students with disabilities or behavioural problems? Why should teachers not have the support they need to be the best they can and receive increased training throughout their careers?

Before the 2013 election, the Liberals talked about their unity ticket with Labor on school funding. They went to great lengths to endorse our policy and they pledged to match our funding commitments. In government, they have done nothing but cut funding for schools. Everything this government says about schools must be taken in the context of their $30 billion of cuts to schools and their failure to commit to the full Gonski funding levels. It does not matter whether it is a public school, like Killarney Vale, who visited yesterday; a Catholic school, like St Mary's Toukley, who are here in parliament today; or an independent schoolevery school and every student will be worse off.