Tuesday 12 July 2011
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Mr FINCH - At budget Estimates I asked a specific question about the reports concerning Summerdale Primary School, where a lot of the students come from my electorate. I asked the question about the loss of $100 000 a year under the new funding arrangements. At the budget Estimates I did not receive an entirely satisfactory reply but we have received further information from departmental officers. It says:
'Although the Department of Education cannot forecast the precise enrolment levels at Summerdale Primary School in 2012, based on the school having similar enrolments in 2012 to their current 2011 enrolments then the removal of the class-size funding arrangements would reduce the school's 2012 school resource package allocation by approximately $103 000.'
To find that $103 000 in a school budget is going to take a lot of re-jigging for the Summerdale Primary School. That is a big impost on the school, to my way of thinking. I was thinking about the Summerdale Primary School in the question, but how many other schools are affected because of this class-size funding strategy?
Mr PARKINSON - In relation to the honourable member's question as to how many schools are affected, my advice is that all schools are affected, but in terms of total resourcing available to the schools it amounts to a reduction in the order of 2 per cent. The Government has tried to minimise this reduction and the effect on individual schools will depend on how schools reorganise their own resourcing priorities. In terms of overall resourcing available, it a reduction of 2 per cent or thereabouts.
Mr WILKINSON - Presently there are caps on classes in primary schools of 25 and I wonder whether those caps are going to be taken away and therefore what I am looking at is class size. The first question is, is the cap at 25 going to be taken away? Secondly, if it is, is there going to be another cap? Thirdly, what will that cap be or, alternatively, is it just going to be no cap at all so we could have class sizes of 35, 40 or whatever it might be?
Mr PARKINSON - In relation to the cap removal, the cap itself is a notional thing in any event and the policy surrounding the removal of that cap really relates to flexibility for individual schools as far as their ability to negotiate around either class size or teachers is concerned. For example, they might prefer an additional specialist-type teacher and allow the class size to increase by one but, in any event, class sizes are below the 25 and it is anticipated that the cap removal would not make any more of a difference than one in schools. In prep to year 1, for example, the average class size is 22.1 and in years 2 to 7 the average class size is 23.5 and, in any event, it is known that the number of teachers has a much more profound effect on learning than does the number of students.
Mr WILKINSON - That is that Hattie Report but it is a bit of both. Am I right in saying that there is no real policy on it or even no real notion of policy because it is 22.1 students from prep to year 1 and it is 23.5 students from years 2 to 6, therefore would schools entertain, with the budget restrictions that must be provided, class sizes up to 30 to 35 at most? What would be and what is the Education department's present belief in relation to the optimum size for classes? I think it is Hattie Report, the report relating to class sizes and learning et cetera, but I wonder what the Education department's view is in relation to the optimum class size and what class size they would not go over.
It would seem to me to be a situation where schools are still being looked at. My understanding was, there was more than one list, there were two lists and some deny that is the case but I have been spoken to by people who have seen that second list and, if that is the case, what are the Government's ways of dealing with the reduction of schools because it is obviously going to happen and there is a number of schools out there that are on tenterhooks? I think there should be some certainty given to those schools when they look into the future, especially when they are speaking with parents and those parents will be asking, will this be a school that will remain for the duration of my child's education? Students have been mucked around for long enough with ELs, Tasmania Tomorrow and a number of different changes.
Mr PARKINSON - Mr Chairman, the preferred number is still 25, that remains, but allowing for the flexibility within schools that I already mentioned. As far as school closures is concerned, that is now back to square one with the establishment of the reference group. That is where that is.
Mr DEAN - I thank the member for Nelson for raising it, but I think the position regarding the schools is still there and there are a number of questions that I would like answered in relation to it.
Mr Parkinson - The position, what do you mean by that?
Mr DEAN - In relation to what happened.