Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has announced a $30 million election promise of upgrading all state schools to grade 11 and 12 by 2022 to improve retention rates.
But opposition education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne said the policy contradicted an independent report commissioned by the state government that said implementing grade 11 and 12 in all schools was unsustainable.
Mr Rockliff said if the Liberal party is re-elected, five schools will extend to grades 11 and 12 by 2019, including Kings Meadows High and Prospect High.
The state government would then work with the remaining 14 state schools to roll out grades 11 and 12 by 2022.
“Providing our students with choice and opportunity is the key and senior secondary colleges will remain open and importantly continue to develop strong partnerships with high schools,” Mr Rockliff said.
“Our extension schools are working - the retention rate has risen to 73.4 per cent, up more than six per cent compared to 2012.”
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey backed the move, saying the policy was “critical” for Tasmania’s education and economic future.
However Ms O’Byrne said the policy of requiring all schools to offer grades 11 and 12 was “an absolute death knell” for Tasmania’s college system and was not necessary in urban areas.
“This is an attendance policy – what we really need is a government that is going to invest in education all the way through,” she said.
“It is unsustainable to have every school go to year 11 and 12, and run a completely separate college system.”
She said an elected Labor government would not roll back extensions already committed for 2019, but would scrap the Liberal policy of requiring all state schools to upgrade by 2022.
Ms O’Byrne said Labor’s education policy matched the independent report commissioned by the state government from the Australian Council of Educational Research, which recommended collaborative school systems to foster retention rates.
Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations president Lisa Gillard also expressed concern about Mr Rockliff’s announcement, saying it would undermine the college system.
She said TASSO supports regional and rural high school extensions, but the move would put urban schools in conflict with colleges.