Rockliff learning fast

NEW Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has come into the job at a time when, more than ever, Tasmania needs to make educational improvements that will deliver long-term gains for the state.

Regardless of political persuasion, the Deputy Premier, who is also the Minister for Primary Industries and Racing, is widely regarded as one of the nice guys in Tasmanian politics.

Mr Rockliff says he is passionate about education and  feels accountable for all students in the state but doesn't deny there is a long way to go in addressing aspects of the system, particularly retention rates and improving literacy and numeracy in high school years.

One of Mr Rockliff's pressing tasks will be to come up to speed on issues in the sector, and he has been meeting with key groups.

He also has children in the public education system and a family member in the sector, so he  says he keeps abreast of what's going on.

With the federal budget handed down last week, Mr Rockliff would not reveal the amount of the total education funding pool coming to the state.

He said that despite a number of federally funded school-based programs that look to end,  at a state level the party was about investing in education and not cutting front-line jobs.

``So any shortfall from the federal government is very challenging, presents challenges and is disappointing, but we have to frame a budget in Tasmania under difficult circumstances,'' Mr Rockliff said.

``But from our point of view we're about delivering on all of our election commitments in education, which is a significant investment, a $53 million investment in education over the course of the next four years.''

The minister met  Australian Education Union state president Terry Polglase on Thursday  morning, just hours before teachers heckled Prime Minister Tony Abbott over Gonski funding, but was unable to attend the union's annual convention.

Mr Rockliff said he was supportive of Gonski and was ``disappointed'' that the state would miss out on the final two, most lucrative years of funding, totalling about $70 million.

``We support the Gonski funding, we're committed to the Gonski funding and we're going to work co-operatively with our federal colleagues to make sure that Tasmania get its fair share,'' he said.

Despite concerns raised by   those within the sector about the Liberals' policies to address the extension of high schools to year 12 and declining literacy and numeracy rates in years 7 and 9, Mr Rockliff said the party had consulted before the election and would continue to do so through the implementation process.

He said it was ``not good enough'' that the state had a year 12 completion rate of 43 per cent - almost 30 per cent below the national average -  and year 7 and 9 students fell below other states in all 20 NAPLAN measures.

Mr Rockliff regards the roll-out of the specialist teachers as an ``urgent'' matter, and despite the cost of almost $2.4 million a year over the next four years  all 25 will begin work mid-year.

He said concerns about the program creating a ripple effect in the sector leading to significant staff shuffling, which the Tasmanian Principals Association said would see 150 classes disrupted over two terms, required adequate management.

Mr Rockliff also confirmed that St Helens District High School was one of 10 schools that would be considered for extension.

It was reported last week that nine high schools had put in expressions of interest. However, the application from St Helens was late in arriving at the department's office.

Mr Rockliff said that although details about the policy were yet to be worked out, it was meant to be collaborative with the college system and would see them work together.

``If we're going to lift Tasmania, we need to lift our education, and this is about changing the culture from the K to 10 culture  to K to 12,'' he said.

``The longer we can have young people in education, the better Tasmania will be.''

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff doesn't deny there is a long way to go in addressing aspects of the system, particularly retention rates and improving high school literacy and numeracy. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff doesn't deny there is a long way to go in addressing aspects of the system, particularly retention rates and improving high school literacy and numeracy. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

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