Unique Individuals, Broad Skills - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Unique Individuals, Broad Skills

I recently spoke in Parliament in relation to the latest report of the Employment, Education and Training Committee - Unique Individuals, Broad Skills: Inquiry into school to work transition.

You can read the full speech below.

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (09:55): by leave—This Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training report is important because it focuses on how to best prepare young people as they transition out of school and towards work, whether that be directly into the workforce or into postsecondary education. As the chair has said, this inquiry covered a significant amount of ground. I can't do that justice in making this brief statement today, but I do want to touch on a few issues that I think are really important in understanding where the committee was coming from in this report, the submissions that were made to us and the general views that we heard.

It is very important when you consider people's preparedness for the workplace to think about the quality of teaching and schooling as they were being prepared. That means looking at a number of things. Of course, it means looking at funding, as the chair has said, but we were very interested in what might be done to make sure that teachers could, one, continue to improve the quality of their skills as they practise their profession and, two, be given the freedom to actually practise their profession. One recommendation we made that I want to mention is that the government look at what can be done to free up teachers to teach. They're doing a lot of non-teaching work as teachers—work that might be better described as social work or youth work. We need a situation in Australia where teachers are free to teach, to be educators. That, of course, means continuing to update their knowledge and skills. In a profession you don't finish your formal education and have your skills set in stone forever. Of course, in all the professions we do see continuing professional development. In teaching the workload and pressures are such within teaching hours that often teachers find it quite difficult to just have the capacity, time and ability to undertake ongoing professional development in an organised way. So one of the recommendations we made was that the government look at providing more non-teaching support for kids in school, whether that be social work, youth work or others forms of support, to allow teachers to be given that time and opportunity to teach and to engage in continuing professional development.

I also want to mention the importance of raising the status of the profession of teaching. It's something the chair has spoken about as well. It is important that we continue to raise the status of teaching as a profession. There can't be really too many more important professions than that of teacher when you think about the fact that we are relying on teachers really—and, of course, parents as the child's first and most important teachers—to make sure that future generations are able to be not just wonderful workers with great skills and knowledge but also very good citizens and participants in our democracy. It is an incredibly important job, and the more that we can do to raise the status of the profession of teaching the better. That's certainly mentioned in this report, including, as the chair said, in relation to the question of remuneration for teachers, which, of course, remains a significant marker of the esteem in which the profession is held by the community, the Commonwealth and state governments as well.

I also want to mention very briefly an issue that the committee touched on but felt were not in a position to really do justice to. That's the question: how do we make sure that there is adequate support for students with a disability and for students who are themselves carers for people with a disability as they transition from education into postsecondary education or into work? There are some recommendations in relation to students with a disability and in relation to students who themselves are carers, but we also acknowledged in the report that we did receive significant evidence and submissions in respect of these very complex issues and that it's a matter that would benefit from further investigation and inquiry.

The other couple of things I wanted to just briefly mention in respect of this report go to a couple of other important cohorts. One is First Nations children, or Indigenous children. We have a situation where the outcomes are not as they should be for kids from Aboriginal backgrounds or from Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. The committee made some recommendations in respect of improving support and outcomes for those kids. Similarly, for children from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, we've made some recommendations as to what might be able to be done to improve their ability to transition out of education and into postsecondary education or work.

The only other thing I wanted to briefly mention is the importance of work-integrated learning in schools. It's a topic that, as you know, the previous Chief Scientist has had a lot to say about, and the current Chief Scientist as well. We are very interested in what can be done to make sure that work experience continues and also, as the chair said, to make sure that there is good career advice. It was a consistent theme throughout the inquiry that career advisory services in schools need improvement. I hope that the government takes that issue on board very seriously so that kids and their parents can be given some confidence in making the decisions that will affect their future.

So I commend the report to the House. I thank the chair for his collaborative approach to this inquiry. The chair and I were able to engage in very constructive conversations and to incorporate each other's views into this report, so I thank the chair, and, of course, I thank all of the members of the committee, all of the submitters, all of the people who gave evidence and all of the staff who assisted.

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