Education act to be tabled this week

Education will be on the agenda in parliament this week, when the government tables its new Education Act. 

The act sets the framework for education in the state and will include the government’s proposals around lowering the school starting age and leaving requirements. 

Following public outcry about lowering the school starting age, the changes now include a voluntary school starting age of four and a half, rather than the prior proposal of a mandatory starting age. 

Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said this allows parents to decide when their child is ready for school. 

Greens education spokeswoman Andrea Dawkins is looking forward to seeing the legislation. She welcomes the change to a voluntary starting age, but thinks there may still be unaddressed concerns. 

“It doesn't remove the serious concerns about children of different ages and developmental levels being in the same classes,” she said. 

“Three and a half years old is vastly different to five years old. These are children who have very different needs, and we're yet to hear what Education Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, plans to do to tackle it in the classroom.”

Shadow Minister for Education Michelle O’Byrne said deciding when children should be starting school is an important conversation, but it should be handled appropriately and be backed with more research. 

“We don't need to be having it (discussion about starting ages) in parliament, it should be led by experts in the community,” she said.

Also in the act are changes to school leaving ages, which will make school attendance compulsory until either the end of grade 12 or the age of 18, in an effort to improve school retention rates.

Ms O’Byrne said these measures are simplistic and do not acknowledge complex situations. “Once again, I think this is looking at quick fixes and bandaids,” she said.

Also in parliament this week, Greens MP Andrea Dawkins will put forward a motion calling on the government to include mental suffering and distress in animal cruelty laws. 

A review of the Animal Welfare act in 2013 recommended mental suffering and distress be included in the act as forms of cruelty. 

“Incidents of animal cruelty and neglect continue to shock the Tasmanian community.  We need strong animal welfare standards and laws in place to deal with them,” Ms Dawkins said. 

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