Tuesday 23 June 2009
Legislative Council
Estimates Committee B  (David Bartlett)

Output group 1
Pre-compulsory and compulsory education

CHAIR - Mr Finch, I think you had a question in the area of grants and financial assistance.

Mr FINCH - That is right.  Output 1.5 provides for students' assistance, bursaries and allowances.  Given the problems that many Tasmanian students in rural and remote areas have in getting their education, do you think the system is adequate?  I realise that it is sort of flat-lining - it is $8 427 000.

Mr BARTLETT - Well it is flat-lining because I recognise that in a place like Tasmania we need to do two things to support regional and remote students in gaining a post-year 10 qualification.  We need to deliver more courses in regional towns - and that is what Tasmania Tomorrow will do.  From next year the Polytechnic and the Academy will be delivering more courses in more towns through district highs, through LINCs, through learning centres and through other formats.  That is one thing so that you keep kids at home to start their post-year 10 education.

The other thing we invested in was many millions of dollars in new student accommodation and refurbished student accommodation. At Newstead College we are building a whole new set of student accommodation, and more innovative programs in student accommodation as well - increasing home stay and those sorts of things across the State.  And thirdly at that time we increased the student accommodation allowance for senior students by 33 per cent in that year.

Mr FINCH - And that comes into this budget item?

Mr BARTLETT - Yes, I believe so.  The other things in this budget item are: accommodation allowance for tertiary students; childcare grants; senior secondary accommodation allowance; special bursaries; spectacles allowance-

Mr FINCH - Students making spectacles of themselves?

Mr BARTLETT - That is it - the student assistance scheme for disadvantaged students; and the sundry educational grants scheme.  I am happy to give you details of what they are as well, if you want them.

Mr FINCH - What form might that take in the future in an ideal world?  Do you feel the program is adequate at this time?

Mr BARTLETT - It grows with the number of students.  We have increased it by 33 per cent.  That was a good thing to do.  But ultimately the number of students who are eligible for it will get it.  I want to see more and more students eligible for it, because that will mean we are retaining more students and getting more students with qualifications.

But having said that, the flip side of delivering more courses out into regional Tasmania means that fewer students will have to actually travel.  As a hypothetical example, the polytechnic will be delivering more vocational courses through the NEET centre at St Helen's.  Therefore, a student who previously at 16 years of age would have had to go to Launceston College or Newstead College will be more likely to be able to stay home for another year or two and get to certificate II or certificate III in a particular qualification.  Then if they want to go on to the diploma they might need to travel for three days a week into Launceston but stay at home two days a week.  Ideally my utopia in this area of where we want to head is that Tasmanian students for the most part have opportunities post-year 10 in their home town which are aligned to the economic opportunities in that home town.  In St Helens those opportunities might be around tourism, hospitality, aquaculture and forestry.  In Oatlands they might be around agriculture, stonework, heritage, stonemasonry and tourism.  And in Strahan they might be around something very different again.  But we will be tailoring through the Polytechnic and the Academy the delivery of those courses to the economic conditions of any given region so that students gaining a qualification are then also able to gain employment in their home town.  I also believe it is good for students to get out of their home town but have an opportunity to return to it.

As they progress through, not every course is going to be offered in every town to every student to the highest possible level so they will have to travel to urban centres to complete a diploma or to go to university.  At the other end what I would like to see is better student accommodation and supervised student accommodation, because that is what our consultation with the parents of isolated children told us they wanted so that you are not sending your 16-year-old on the bus to live in a flat in Hobart or in Launceston for the first time.  Our capacity for supported accommodation for students in 2005 was 142; in 2008 it was 238; and in 2009 it is 267.  So we are significantly growing the capacity of supervised accommodation for students across the State who have to travel.

Mr FINCH - Thanks, Premier.