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Literacy Outcomes Monitoring Group and Structured Literacy for Primary Schools

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Tags: Education, NAPLAN

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, I thank the member for bringing forward this motion. It is calling for very simple update from the Government and the status of its commitments. We support it, noting the minister's response to the questions and his commitment to look at in more detail, assuming it passes.

I hear the member acknowledging her education and what it has given her. I echo that at the personal level.

The year's NAPLAN results are a serious concern. NAPLAN is not the be-all and end-all of measuring student performance. We have some serious concerns about it. Nonetheless, it is a measure that is important, it is a measure that is applied consistently across the country and as a result it is a measure that we cannot ignore. The only domain where Tasmania is performing at the national average is reading. For writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation domains, Tasmania is below the national average in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. For numeracy, we are below the national average in years 5, 7 and 9. It is clear that much more needs to be done.

One of the things the Government should be looking at doing immediately is employing speech pathologists. We understand there are only 42 full time equivalent speech pathologists employed by the Department of Education. That is three full time equivalent positions less than in the 2014-15 financial year. That is one speech pathologist for every four-and-a-half government schools and one speech pathologist for every 1450 government students. This is of serious concern and is appalling.

More than 70 per cent of the state's primary schools in which 60 per cent of our students attend have an average ICSEA that is the Index of Community Socio Educational Advantage Score of disadvantaged or very disadvantaged. If the Government is serious about improving literacy outcomes it would double this number of speech pathologists.

More also needs to be done to make funding allocations for schools fair. Current funding allocations for Tasmanian schools are through approved establishment staffing and a school resource package, an SRP. The SRP includes the fairer funding model, the FFM, allocation which is a methodology established under Gonski reforms, facility funding and discreet funding. The Gonski allocation takes into account the occupational-educational needs index score of students as well as the school's accessibility remoteness index of Australia rating. OENI is a simple index that solely measures parental occupation. There are five occupational groupings that are given a weight between zero and one inclusive at 0.25 intervals.

The OENI index is very crude compared to other measures such as the ICSEA, which accounts for the parent's education, geographic location and proportion of Aboriginal students as well as parental occupations. As of 2014 the OENI score made up 20.2 per cent of the FFM, ARIA plus made up 4.7 per cent and 75.1 per cent was core funding, that is a base allocation with a per capita component attached. This formula is reviewed every four years and is developed between state and commonwealth governments. The agreement allows Tasmania to adjust the FFM component as long as the commonwealth is notified of substantive changes.

While the number of students in a school is accounted for in the formula, this part of the formula is not disadvantage adjusted. As a result, while disadvantaged and very disadvantaged ICSEA-scoring schools received more per student funding at lower enrolment levels, the additional funding per student diminishes at high enrolment levels. It is virtually eliminated when enrolment levels reach 400 or more.

Further to this, the disadvantage-adjusted part of the FFM funding is around 20 per cent which, depending on the school, accounts for around 30 to 70 per cent of funding. This means that disadvantage is only factored in to about 6 per cent to 14 per cent of a school's overall funding allocation. Clearly, there are some glaring issues with how funding is allocated to our schools and there is a dire need to improve disadvantage weighting in resource allocation.

The Greens took a policy to the last election to fund 30 hours of tutoring for each student who falls below the national standard for each domain they fall below. The proposal is for an optional program. It would not be subject to means testing or other requirements. Studies have consistently found tutoring to be a highly effective form of instruction, including specifically for mathematics and literacy. A 2016 international assessment of educational interventions determined that high dosage tutoring has the largest impact of all interventions, more so even than early childhood intervention. We invite the minister to consider such a policy in the lead up to the next budget.

I am pleased to hear the Government support this motion. The minister is not going to support the motion?

Mr Jaensch - No.

Mr BAYLEY - It is unfortunate the Government is not going to support this motion, noting there was some information provided. I hope it considers the solutions we have put on the table today. We will certainly support the motion and hope the minister looks at it carefully, reviews his answers today and adds to it where there needs to be additions.