We have a double inequality in the outcomes from the Tasmanian public schooling system. First, and as in the rest of the country, students in our more advantaged schools are achieving much better outcomes than students in schools at the other end of the scale. That is the Gonski Gap, the problem Gonski funding is designed to fix. But then we also have inequality between the senior secondary attainment of students in our government system compared with students attending similar schools in other states, regardless of whether they are attending an advantaged or a disadvantaged school. This is the TASki Gap. That is a problem we in Tasmania need to fix.
We’ve all used the old saying ’Pigs might fly’ when some one suggests something might happen and we don’t believe that it can. In some – just a very few, actually – of our discussions with people about Tasmania’s low rate of year 12 completion, and what might be done to improve it, we have got the sense they really wanted to say ‘Pigs might fly’, but were too polite to do so. But we can show – in pictures – that many more Tasmanian high school students are well capable of getting their year 12 certificates than do so now. Just look at their year 9 NAPLAN performance, compared to other states, and then at our year 12 completion rate, compared to other states. The others are all close together, while there is a gulf between ours as wide as – but surely not to be explained by – Bass Strait. We need to look at this data, learn what we can from it, and fill that gap as fast as we can.
As both the Mayor of Latrobe and MLC for Mersey, I’ve been able to put into practice my firm beliefs that our schools are most successful when they are actively supported by the community, and that one of the most important roles of community leaders is to be powerful champions for our schools. Community based learning is definitely a two way relationship and a strategy of engagement which I am passionate about.
Nothing is more important than education to our local communities’ health, economic competitiveness and resilience. Education is the most powerful, the most effective and in fact the only way to reverse a cycle of poor health, poverty, underemployment and disadvantage into an upward spiral of hope, jobs and achievement, for individuals, for communities, and indeed and for the State as a whole.