Colin Barnett

Colin Barnett


    Coalition to revolutionise technology learning and teaching in WA schools

    30/01/2001 2:39 PM

    A Coalition Government, if elected, will revolutionise technology learning and teaching in Western Australia’s Government schools.

    WA students will be educated to ensure they meet the challenges of a dynamic technology-driven world.

    The Coalition will also build on its past achievements and visionary policies, setting the agenda for this important area for the next four years.

    Premier Richard Court and Education Minister Colin Barnett said today the Coalition’s education policy was well thought out, comprehensive and covered every aspect of education in WA.

    They said a good, solid education defined the future for most people.

    Mr Court said the Coalition’s record on education was second to none.

    “Since coming to Government eight years ago, the Coalition has built 47 schools - 11 secondary and 36 primary,” the Premier said.

    “We have undertaken the most significant expansion of early childhood education ever seen in this State. Kindergarten has been extended to four half-days a week and pre-primary to five full days.

    “Class sizes in the early years have been reduced and will be further reduced.

    “The Coalition has spent $395 million on school maintenance and will spend $20 million ensuring all asbestos cement roofs are replaced by next year.

    “We’ve boosted technology in schools by allocating $100 million for technology in WA Government and non-Government schools bringing the average computer-to-student ratio across the Government system to one in five in secondary schools and one to nine in primary schools.

    “Funding has also allowed for networking, training and support for technology in schools.

    “The Coalition will build on this significant investment in technology in schools by maximising the potential of technology in teaching and learning.”

    Mr Barnett said if the Coalition was re-elected it would allocate a further $100 million for information technology in schools to implement the Education Link (Ed Link) strategy which would place the WA education system at the forefront of technology in teaching and learning.

    He said it would enhance learning opportunities in schools and ensure students were well equipped to meet the challenges of a new information age.

    “Technology is driving a fundamental change in the way we live, interact and learn,” the Minister said.

    “It is our duty to ensure young people can use information and communications technology effectively to enhance learning and prepare them for further study, training or work in a knowledge society.”

    Mr Barnett said the Ed Link Strategy would deliver:
    • faster electronic communication between schools and wider and more efficient access to the Internet and other on-line information sources for teachers and students through an improved telecommunications network;
    • digital services to replace the existing HF radio network for remote students giving them unprecedented communication abilities, access to information and contact with teachers;
    • new technologies for students including ‘smart cards’ and ‘thin client’ computers which can be upgraded instantly giving them a longer life;
    • responsibility for maintenance and support for technologies removed from schools to free up teachers to focus on teaching;
    • laptops and appropriate training for all teachers;
    • a secure on-line teaching and learning environment, connecting students, teachers and parents;
    • enhanced individualised learning opportunities for students through on-line lessons;
    • on-line school information and services for parents;
    • a WA-developed digital library of appropriate curriculum resources for use by teachers, students and parents;
    • a minimum standard of technological literacy set for students; and -
    • opportunities for post-compulsory students to gain an industry accredited ‘Drivers Licence’ in information technology.

    “The Ed Link strategy will take technology in WA schools to the next level,” Mr Barnett said.

    “A fast and reliable network, and the latest technology for students and teachers will allow for the delivery of on-line education that will greatly enhance opportunities for individualised learning.

    “The Ed Link strategy represents a major step forward using technology in schools.

    “It will place WA schools as the leaders in the use of technology in teaching and learning in Australia and equal to the best in the world.”

    Mr Barnett said the Coalition recognised the early adolescent years could be a critical time in education as young people struggled with new intellectual, social, emotional and physical changes and pressures.

    The Government had committed to providing $3 million a year to reduce class sizes in Year Eight in targeted schools where there were significant student behaviour difficulties.

    This would be the start of a phased reduction of maximum class sizes in Years Eight and Nine from 32 to 28.

    In addition, the Coalition would trial single sex classes in the new Kinross Middle School to open next year.

    “Parents will be able to elect to have their child learn some subjects in a single sex environment or remain in the traditional co-education model,” Mr Barnett said.

    “Students will be able to change environments if their parents and teachers believe this would better suit their educational needs.

    ”Students’ progress will be monitored and the results used to decide whether to extend the initiative to other emerging schools.”

    Mr Barnett said the Coalition realised children’s learning did not stop once they left school for the day.

    Helping to consolidate at home what children had learnt at school was an invaluable activity.

    “The Coalition will set guidelines for parents on homework for children,” the Minister said

    “These guidelines will stress that while setting homework is the teacher’s responsibility, parents have a responsibility to provide an appropriate and encouraging environment for children to finish homework.

    “By 2002, every school in WA will have developed its own homework policy in consultation with parents and teachers.

    “The introduction of schemes such as ‘Switching on to Reading’ and ‘Playing with Numbers’ will help parents play a vital role in their children’s learning in the early years.”

    Mr Barnett said the Coalition would also introduce after school homework sessions for students who did not have the appropriate facilities or environment to study at home.

    “Students will attend voluntarily and parents will be encouraged to become involved and volunteers from the School Volunteer Program and the wider community will be asked to become involved,” he said.

    “Retired or part-time teachers will be asked to be paid co-ordinators and $100,000 will be provided annually for this initiative.”

    Mr Barnett said the Coalition would build on the successful implementation of vocational education and training courses in schools.

    He said in 1996, 683 students in 36 schools across WA were enrolled in the vocational program.

    In 2000, more than 7,600 students in 137 schools were participating in the program at school - an increase from three per cent to about 27 per cent in four years.

    An additional $1.2 million a year would be allocated to the program to ensure every Government school student in years 11 and 12 was able to access it.

    Mr Barnett said Perth’s first Aboriginal Government school would open next week.

    He said the $4.2 million Moorditj Noongar Community College in Midvale would open as kindergarten to Year Three school, eventually growing to include Year 10, and possibly Years 11 and 12.

    Mr Barnett said other initiatives in educating Aboriginal children included:
    • implementing co-ordinated preventive and early intervention strategies to help Aboriginal children whose learning became impaired by Otitis Media (middle ear infection);
    • refining Aboriginal Studies curriculum materials to incorporate more recent history and contemporary topics which reflected Aboriginal culture such as issues affecting urban Aboriginal people and political and land rights issues; and -
    • developing a strategy - in consultation with the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Council - to deliver relevant secondary education in remote communities.

    Mr Barnett said the Coalition would establish an Education Assistance Fund to help schools disadvantaged because they had a low proportion of contributions or charges collected.

    He said the fund would provide $1 million each year to support schools with families in need who were finding it difficult to make voluntary contributions or did not qualify for Government assistance for payment of compulsory charges.

    The Secondary Assistance Scheme - available to parents who hold a Family Health Care or Pensioner Concession Card - would be increased to cover the compulsory charge of $235. This would be in addition to the clothing allowance.

    The Public Education Endowment Trust will become the School Education Foundation.

    Through the foundation schools, the community, business and industry will form stronger links.

    “Many individuals, community groups and businesses want to contribute to education but need help and encouragement to link with schools,” Mr Barnett said.

    “The foundation will provide a vehicle for them to enter into partnerships with schools or make tax-effective contributions to schools.

    “Over the next four years, the Coalition Government will adopt an Open Schools Policy which will help schools to accurately report and evaluate their performance to the wider community.

    “Within three years all schools will be presenting information to their communities via annual progress reports so the community can make a balanced and well-rounded assessment of a school’s strengths and achievements and gauge improvements.”

    Mr Barnett said the Coalition would continue to develop leading Government schools in regional centres offering students the highest quality education, with a particular emphasis on improving secondary education delivery through middle schools and senior campus structures.

    He said the Coalition had already committed more than $30 million for a new middle school and senior campus at Mandurah, $12 million for the redevelopment of secondary education in Kalgoorlie, $14 million for primary and secondary upgrades in Albany, $2.5 million for Geraldton Secondary College and upgrades to high schools in Karratha and Kununurra.

    The Coalition would continue to negotiate with the Commonwealth Government for additional funded places at regional university campuses and ensure the State Government funding complements recent initiatives announced by the Commonwealth in higher education.

    Media contact; Diana Callander 9222 9699