Second Reading-EDUCATION AND TRAINING REFORM AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS) BILL 2020
Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:08): What a great delight to be able to stand up and talk about education and our teachers again. We do it very often in this house because our teachers and our educator assistants in our schools are such a crucial part of our society—in our lives, in our children’s lives and going on. Investments we make in the education sector, in the quality of our teachers, like this bill goes to, are investments that we will reap the benefit of for generations to come. So when we talk about the billions of dollars that the Andrews government has put into education over the last five years, we know that that is an investment of so many billions of dollars in the future of our state. That is a legacy that I believe we will all be very proud of sitting on the Treasury benches, because we can look back when our time is over and say that we contributed to the beneficial nature of the education of our kids.
This bill amends the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 to clarify and enhance the existing powers of the VIT, the Victorian Institute of Teaching, with respect to the approval of initial teacher education programs that lead to qualifications for entry into teaching in schools. I am quite familiar with the VIT—not personally. I am not a member of the VIT and I am not a teacher, but my wife is a teacher. Rebecca is a teacher and has been for years. As I have said before in this house, my mother was a teacher, my mother-in-law is a teacher and my brother-in-law is a teacher assistant. My family gatherings are so full of teachers that I cannot help but learn.
A member interjected.
Mr FREGON: I am sure they do love me; they tell me so, and I tend to believe them—it is easier that way! But I would say that I think I require that many teachers because I am probably a slow learner. When I get onto something I stick with it, but sometimes it takes me time.
On that, it was actually interesting to see the member for Ferntree Gully here; it is good to see him. I grew up in the district of Ferntree Gully, and a school that is in his district is Fairhills High School, which is the high school I went to. When we are talking about teachers and we are talking about teacher quality, as we are today, we all remember that teacher in our life—and if we were lucky there were a few of them—that changed the way we think about the world. Whether it be light-bulb moments on aspects of science, arts, the law or finger painting—it does not matter—there will be teachers that we remember.
Now, I remember a certain teacher from Fairhills High School, Mr Henderson. Mr Henderson lived relatively close to us in Ferntree Gully; he was across the park down at Sandgate Boulevard. I was one of those students who spent the first four or five years of high school doing pretty well. I did not really have to work that hard. It sort of just all worked. Then I got to the HSC, which it was at the time, and things got very serious all of a sudden, so it took me a little while to catch up. I remember getting the September tests, as they were then, and my maths B teacher was Mr Henderson. My results were not good. I think I got 22 per cent or something thereabouts—not a great score. So this sort of woke me up. I do have a feeling that the teachers put this in to wake us up, which is probably a clever idea. Obviously I was a little bit nervous about this.
I spoke to Mr Henderson and said, ‘I probably need to lift my game a little bit’. He said, ‘Look, I tell you what, Matt: you come over to my place on Saturday and Sunday at 3 o’clock for the next few weeks; you can run practice exams on my kitchen table while I’m mowing the lawn and working in the garden, and when you’ve finished I’ll come and mark them for you and we’ll go through it’. Now, he did not have to do that, but that is what we did, and it ended up that maths B was my best subject in HSC. So forever I will thank—and Mr Henderson, if you ever listen to this or read this—Mr Henderson for that attention.
So many times our teachers go above and beyond the call of duty. It is not just a job, it is a vocation. We all remember the old film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and how everyone loved Mr Chips. Well, there are so many Mr or Mrs Chips in the Victorian education system, and we need to back them. And this bill does back them, because what this bill is doing is in part making sure that the qualifications of our teachers are not in doubt. Now, I do not doubt them at all, but sometimes people will wonder, so having these levels that we are talking about in the bill today makes sure that the level of respect that our teachers deserve they will receive.
I was delighted to see that Fairhills got some money in the previous budget as well, on the side, and I should also mention the fantastic schools in my area, which also have fantastic teachers—in Mount Waverley—that are also as well deserving of every praise as Mr Henderson and many other teachers that I had are.
The Andrews Labor government is further strengthening the regulation of school teaching qualifications to ensure Victorian students get high-quality teachers and a high-quality education. When it comes to learning, as I said, the importance of those great teachers cannot be overstated. A number of us have talked about learning from home. I did hear one of my colleagues—I did not actually see who it was, but I heard while I was in the office—say they were not quite sure about the idea of calling it home learning, and I agree. It was learning from home. Having watched my kids all learn completely differently, I know at times keeping them on track at home was a little difficult. So I put my mind to our fantastic teachers, who have 20-odd of these kids all learning differently in the same classroom, doing a fantastic job of not only keeping them in line but teaching them all the things they need to learn. If there is an easy way to learn that skill, I am in line. That would be good to know.
We know intuitively that highly effective teachers can have an enriching effect on the daily lives of children, and I think we are all in this house the product of that. Using data from about 500 000 studies Professor John Hattie, director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne and a lead investigator at the Science of Learning Research Centre, conducted a mirror analysis and ranked various influences on student learning and achievement. He found that the impact teachers have on student learning is greater than other factors that often dominate our public debate, such as class size, technology and individualised instruction. It is the teachers that make a difference, and the influences with the most effect by far are those teacher-related expectations for their students, their level of expertise and their training.
We can also—as I mentioned, this was acknowledged by the Minister for Education—recognise the great work of our tertiary sector in preparing our aspiring teachers, and we are looking forward to working with these providers to develop the next generation of teachers for our schools. The next generation—when I think about education, and it is my favourite subject to talk about in this house, it is always about the next generation. What do we leave for them? I would say with this bill and with a series of education measures and investment in our education system year after year from this government I think we are leaving them with some pretty good options, and I commend this bill to the house.