What started out as a mild year in the education sector for Tasmania has turned into a maelstrom.
Teachers, often a mild-mannered bunch, have taken up a cause with earnest, and have waged war against the state government on pay and conditions, after wage negotiations broke down.
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom in the sector, with increased funding and improved NAPLAN and TCE scores recorded in the state.
With the year coming to a close, and students preparing to clean out their desks and say hello to an endless summer, education reporter CAITLIN JARVIS reflects on the year that was in the sector.
A defining characteristic of 2018 has undeniably been the ongoing industrial action facing the sector.
Wage negotiations between the state government and Tasmania’s public servants broke down after enterprise bargaining agreements came to an end on June 30.
Teachers and the Australian Education Union have taken up the fight in earnest, holding stop work rallies and meetings, and escalating industrial action over September to December.
At the time of writing, the dispute is still yet to come to a resolution, with two offers put forward by the government not yet accepted.
The first offer, presented in November, was rejected by the AEU 24 hours after it was put on the table, and was not taken to members for a vote.
However, a more recent offer, put forward on December 7 will be considered by the union and its members.
The pay dispute war has been waged in the public eye, with the union directing its members to stop recording comments on reports, and to stop putting attendance data into a central Education Department system.
In addition, stop work meetings and rallies have caused school closures twice, once with early closure and once with late openings, which caused disruption for families.
PICK UP THE TOOLS
In March, The Examiner launched its Pick up the Tools campaign, which aimed to shine a light on the deterioration of funding to the vocational education sector.
Pick up the Tools ran for four months and was a cross-platform campaign which ran in print, online and as a Meet the Apprentice Instagram series.
The sector aimed to highlight the successes of the VET sector and campaign for a better funding agreement, after it was revealed Tasmania had not signed up to the federal government’s national partnership agreement.
During the course of the campaign, Tasmania did sign onto the agreement, with funding for the sector more secure.
However, the campaign did highlight some issues with community perception of VET and a need for a change in community attitudes and more funding to ensure high quality courses are provided for TasTAFE.
The external audit was sparked after the Integrity Commission investigated a “complaint of an alleged conflict of interest against senior executive officers of TasTAFE”.
A complaint was made in February 2016, which alleged former TasTAFE chief executive Stephen Conway “provided favourable treatment” to his friend Lori Hocking, who was, at the time, a senior executive.
The audit investigated nine different parts of TasTAFE’s operations and backed up the damning findings of the Integrity Commission report.
“The findings from the Integrity Commission are confirmed by this audit and therefore the findings of the report are rated ‘high' the report read.
The report said issues identified in the report were “serious in nature and not confined to any one recruitment process or segment of employees.”
A state government election pledge to recruit 250 new teachers over six years began, with Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announcing the beginning of recruitment in April.
However, the recruitment process was not clear cut, with some scrutiny on the increased role the Education Department had in the process.
In November, it was revealed an Education Department team was shortlisting the applicants for the positions, a job that was traditionally done by principals.
The move was questioned by the Australian Education Union but Tasmanian Principals Association president Malcolm Elliot, said the central team was there to support principals with processing the large volume of applicants for the vacant positions.
More than 600 people have applied for the positions as of December, with applicants deriving from Tasmania and abroad.
The state government has pledged a six-year roll out of the teachers, which will see 358 more staff employed in the public education system. The teachers will be joined by 80 additional teacher assistants.
UTAS INVERESK CAMPUS
Higher education in Northern Tasmania is getting a face lift, and the University of Tasmania made significant progress towards its new campus at Inveresk this year.
In July, UTAS announced a consortium of architects, including three Tasmanian firms and one Victorian firm would tackle the ambitious projects of the Launceston and Burnie campuses.
Tasmanian architects 1+2 Architecture, Room11 and Philp Lighton will make up the state component of the architectural consortium with Victorians John Wardle Architects to head the team.
A DA for the campus was expected to be lodged to the City of Launceston council by the end of the year but that timeline has not yet been adhered to.
In November, a UTAS spokesman did not confirm whether that timeline would still be adhered to.
“This is a once in a generation investment in education in the North and North-West of the state. It is vital that we take the time needed to get that investment right,” he said.
A group of 10 children from Launceston’s Northern Suburbs will be part of the Tasmanian education program piloting pre-school for three year olds.
The Working Together for 3 Year Olds initiative will trial pre-school programs at five pilot locations in Tasmania, allowing 50 children to access 400 hours of free early learning in 2019.
The initiative will be piloted in Launceston, along with Devonport, Glenorchy, Kingborough and Derwent Valley, with the full program rolled out across the state in 2020.
As part of the pilot, pre-school children and their families, along with the child care sector, Tasmanian Council of Social Service, parents and carers, will be involved in the design and development of the full program.
In June, Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced $15 million in funding for Northern schools for improved Kindergarten facilities.
Tasmania has often been maligned of all the states for its low educational outcomes and attainments.
However, in 2018, those results were thrown on their head with Tasmania showing improvement across NAPLAN scores and for TCE attainment.
A Grattan report, published in October showed that when a relative socio-economic index was applied, Tasmania’s educational outcomes were not as far behind other states than originally thought.
In addition, Tasmania has achieved an improvement of 10 per cent for TCE attainment, according to new figures released by the state government.
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff released the Education Scorecard report at Prospect High School in November.
He said the increase in TCE attainment was a sign the government’s plan to extend high schools to year 11 and 12 was working.
Prospect High School is one of five schools that will extend to years 11 and 12 in 2019.
ATAR-GATE MARS END OF YEAR
As schools begin to wind down for the year, the sector has one more surprise in store for 2018.
On December 20, the Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification office revealed it had had to re-send all the ATAR scores for the class of 2018 due to a ‘processing error’.
It appeared a ‘human error’ had lead to incorrect data used to calculate the students’ ATARS.
However, the error had been found early enough to not affect tertiary admission or scholarship applications.
TASC executive officer Katrina Beams apologised for the emotional anxiety the error had caused but praised her staff’s quick and effective response to the issue.
Some students received ATARs that had been revised up or down as a result of the corrections.