Noely Neate

Noely Neate

Columnist at No Fibs
Female, Mother, Partner. Day job: small business owner, co-founder and community site co-ordinator on a regional portal. Doonan (the land of the dam and franken–spiders), Queensland.
Noely Neate
I am not a journalist, nor am I a writer. I don’t belong to any political party, though I will admit that back in the day I was a paid-up Democrat until Meg Lees screwed us over. Now, I don’t believe in political parties at all; I find them terribly UN-Democratic. In my preferred world I would have actual elected representatives whose primary responsibility was to accurately represent their electorates – not the party, not men in grey suits – the punters, then get together with all the other reps to compromise and work together to run this country/state/council. I know, I know … but a girl can dream!

By Noely Neate
Mach 31st, 2013

Yesterday on Sky News Australian Agenda @vanOnselenP raised the question of tertiary education. What should have been a good segment discussing policy for a change ended up with Craig Emerson getting cranky while defending the right of kids less privileged than others to attend Uni as the so-called team of experts sat there decrying the ‘class-warfare’ Labor was promoting via Mr Emerson.  It was a little bizarre…

I will state upfront that I actually enjoy Peter van Onselen’s analysis on Sky. I don’t often agree with him and feel he brings too much of the elitist academic to his view, but he he backs up what he says, ‘owns’ what he says and doesn’t flip flop around repeating mantras. It was a good question that he raised with Mr Emerson (who is now responsible for that portfolio) with regard to University numbers being up but the standard of student bering down. With my daughter going to University last year, even as a mum I could see that, though that does not mean they should not be given the chance, which is what Mr Emerson was trying to say.

The so-called conversation that followed really got up my nose.  I wonder the journo’s around the table even had kids, and if they did, if they went to an average State School?  The standard of the kids getting into Uni now and the increased numbers were due to more lower socio economic kids getting in means that yes, there is a lower standard than the days the ‘good old boys’ at the table were talking about.  It will improve, but the schools themselves need to improve first – and that’s a hell of a lot more complicated than tossing out the old ‘Class-Warfare’ mantra.

Piers, Troy and Paul solemnly agreed that the class war on university education was well and truly over.  Well boys, it is NOT.  Kids may be able to get into university from a lower socio-economic background now, but they are still nowhere near educated to be prepared for that university education!

The fact is the average standard in State Schools is not all that good. Some are very good, but in general they are lagging behind.  The Libs love to chant about ‘choice’ in education, but the fact is, most people do not have a ‘choice’ – they get the local State School only.

I can only speak for my area, northern Sunshine Coast in Queensland. The number of kids staying to senior has increased massively in recent years. Part of this is the sheer number of kids moving to south east Queensland and the other part is the ‘Earning or Learning’ that came in during the Bligh Government. So you have a hell of a lot of kids in school, yet the funding by State Governments has fallen.

Only a few days ago I was talking to a journalist in Wide Bay who tweeted:

@yathinkn spoke to a Principal today who’s losing 100 collective years of experience on Thursday, when 4 mature teachers take redundancies

— Caitlin Holding (@CaitlinHolding) March 25, 2013

@yathinkn can replace permanent mature teachers on 80k with new contract teachers on 50k, but can’t replace experience.

— Caitlin Holding (@CaitlinHolding) March 25, 2013

The hits just keep coming for the State School system.

The above is happening everywhere all over this state and is getting worse.  That is not good for the kids, yet they are in a system where you have to either get  a job or stay at school.  My area has massive youth unemployment, so basically kids have to stay at school.  They have the option of doing Certificates through TAFE whilst doing senior or going the OP route to university.

Now TAFEs are closing down, courses being cut back and TAFE teachers being made redundant. We recently lost the trainer for our trainee in our business,  who was a bloody good, very experienced IT Teacher. Three months later we’re still waiting for contact from TAFE – UGH!  So not only is TAFE not helping the kids now, they are stuffing around small businesses like ours, giving us no incentive to take a trainee on.

So what are kids to do?  Unlike a private school, if you have an issue because you come from a broken family it is not so easy to get extra tutoring after school to catch up. Tourism Noosa doesn’t like to promote it, but there is an awful lot of housing commission at Sunshine Beach (where our largest State School is), a lot of broken families and a lot of lower socio-economic families.

Many many kids trying to finish senior at this school are struggling big time, combining the personal background difficulties with an over-crowded school with limited resources. You are not going to get the best standard of student entering University from here.

The thing is, the average standard may not be that high BUT some will hit uni and flourish; they will put past issues behind them and make something of their lives.  As Mr Emerson was saying, in the past these kids would not have been able to get their nose in the door at University.

The class war when it comes to education is not over, as the pontificating experts on Sky announced this morning.  Until the average State School has good resources, a consistent standard of education across the nation, teachers with experience (more than one bloody professional counsellor per 1000 kids would be nice) and some sort of equality in the education system, Mr van Onselen will still be complaining (rightly) about the lower standard of students entering University being lower.

Unlike Mr van Onselen I don’t believe that not accepting them is the answer, because that means the kid who can maybe get their life in shape at uni miss out.

The answer is raising the level in the state education system so that the level of student entering University is higher.  Families move all the time and kids go to uni in other states, so it is time for the Federal Government to take Education and Training off the States entirely.  Put one system in place nationwide (with a small allowance for local learning content), fund it directly and work in with TAFEs and universities for seamless education and  training.  The system we have is broken.  Gonski should be the start of education reform, not the end game.

Then again, what the hell do I know. I am just a mum of a kid who went to the local state school and then university hundreds of kilometres from home, joined P&C and gives a rats about the future of ALL the kids in my region, not just the privileged few whose parents can afford to pay for better educational opportunities for their kids.
Noely  @YaThinkN

PS: I am not an ALP voter, and have not voted for the ALP since the state election when Goss got in.  I am just a punter who values education and feels that a decent education gives every child the opportunity to advance in life, regardless of the circumstances they were born into. The image promoted for Noosa is not the reality for most people the who live here. Go to the ABS stats – once you look past Hastings Street & Gympie Terrace you find an area of very high youth unemployment, below average wages and a massively high percentage of single parent families.

MARGO NOTE: I recommend a piece by my sister @Gay_Alcorn on the need for Gonski’s education funding reforms Going, going, Gonski: Time running out for education reform:

What’s happened is that our funding system has led to a clustering of disadvantaged children in schools that aren’t well enough resourced to bridge that gap. This system – ”unnecessarily complex, lack[ing] coherence and transparency” – was well intentioned, but it has failed. Even our best students are falling behind their overseas peers, and we have turned our back on fairness.

Gonski’s solution is simple enough: end the funding of schools based on whether they are government, Catholic or independent. Be sector blind. Fund according to need, with state and federal governments responsible for all sectors…

The Coalition doesn’t see inequity as a big deal. Education spokesman Christopher Pyne insisted last year that ”you can have very bright children from low SES [socio-economic status] backgrounds who have every opportunity to get ahead”. To suggest otherwise was ”dramatising the situation”.

Gonski didn’t dramatise anything – it just laid out the facts, and proposed a solution. So it’s over to the struggling Julia Gillard. If she survives as leader, and if she can get this up – find the money through ”structural” savings, as she puts it, and arm-wrestle the states – she’ll have her legacy.

She recalled in her maiden speech that Labor luminary Barry Jones would often say that your expectations of success in life depended on your postcode. ”It will be one of my priorities in politics to ensure that in the Australia of the future the famous quiz master is, for once, wrong,” she said.

Now’s your chance, Prime Minister.