Bills : Education & Children's Services Bill

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Published Thursday, September 28, 2017 | Share:

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (17:50): I rise to make a brief contribution because this has been well covered by the Liberal member for Morialta. In my time as a teacher I have been very fortunate to teach in different parts of South Australia—initially in Port Augusta for five years and then in Mount Gambier for a considerably longer period, 14 or 15 years I think—and to have been involved in the establishment of flexible learning centres, as well as working with a range of practitioners.

One of those was Garry Costello, who took Mount Gambier High School from a significantly underperforming school to one of the best in the state. Unfortunately, Garry's wife, Liz, passed away last week. The funeral was on Monday, and it was pleasing to see that it was full of love but also full of humour, and a large contingent from Mount Gambier attended. I was privileged because I spent a number of years working with Garry both at Mount Gambier High School and in the regional office, and what he brought to education were high expectations. He also brought care for every student in his school, regardless of their background.

I could go on for quite a while about expectations. If you actually set high expectations, it is amazing how often students will achieve those expectations and, in many cases, exceed them. It disappoints me when expectations are set too low in the misguided belief that that is an assistance to students when, in fact, it is the complete opposite. Teachers and schools are doing those students a disservice.

In terms of recognising a wide range of abilities, I think our schools do an amazing job. Within the department, I have undertaken a number of different roles—from attendance officer right the way through to apprenticeship broker, and of course teacher, coordinator, counsellor, etc.—but it is my time as an attendance officer that probably brings home to me the importance of attendance and what schools can do and what they do do to support young people who may come from backgrounds that are perhaps different to those many in this place have come from.

What I found a little bit disappointing was how government departments operated in silos. We had this family where I would go and pick up the kids and take them to school. They were primary school students. I had 120 on my attendance list and, when you think about it, one family can take up a number of hours every day. The school in question was McDonald Park Primary School (I still communicate with the front office staff there) and we would get these young children to school, the school would provide fresh clothes and a shower, wash their hair, give them breakfast and get them into school.

It probably struck me the hardest when, as we were getting on top of this situation, I was working with a single dad who had the power cut off, water cut off and pretty much everything cut off in the house. I think there were at least 10 cats and four or five dogs in the house as well. As soon as we started getting a grip and getting on top of some of those issues in collaboration with Families SA, the family up and moved interstate, and it is very hard to track where they are and what progress those children are making in their schooling.

Bringing it back to the bill, I think there is a lot of very good stuff in the bill and I will be listening with interest throughout this debate. One area of concern I will be raising, and I am flagging it early, is on page 77 concerning the termination of staff. The chief executive is able to terminate employment under subclause (1) by giving 12 weeks' notice in writing prior to the date of termination.

Of course, we understand the reasons why they can terminate: misconduct, unsatisfactory performance, the officer's lack of an essential qualification or if the teacher is physically or mentally incapable of performing their duties, but the one that is of most interest to me, and certainly to my previous colleagues, is if the teacher is excess to the requirements of the teaching service. In metropolitan areas that may be easier to address, but in some regional areas it may not be. I would like some further information and clarification around that area of termination of employment. With those brief remarks, I will conclude my statement, and I look forward to the passage of the Education and Children's Services Bill 2017.