Questions without Notice: Schools

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (15:05): My question is to the Minister for Education. What action is the Albanese Labor government taking to make our schools better and fairer?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (15:06): I thank the sensational member for Newcastle for her question. I announced a few weeks ago that 10 schools in her electorate would get funding from round 1 of the Schools Upgrade Fund, amongst 1,300 schools right across the country that will get funding for everything from iPads and laptops to air-conditioners to outdoor learning areas. And that’s just the start. There’s more to come. I can advise members that round 2 will open later this year.

There’s also funding in the budget to help to encourage more young people to become teachers and to keep the fantastic teachers that we’ve got. That includes university scholarships worth up to $40,000, to encourage our best and brightest young people to leap out of school and want to be a teacher rather than a banker, or a lawyer, or—God forbid!—a politician. Applications for those open later this year as well.

We’ve also got to do a better job of preparing teaching students to become teachers. Ask most teachers and they’ll tell you they never really felt prepared when they left university; that prac wasn’t up to scratch; that the practical experience they got when they were a student wasn’t really enough; and that university didn’t give them everything they needed to teach children to read or write or to manage a disruptive classroom. Fixing that is important. I think I’ve told the House before that up to 50 per cent of teachers quit in the first five years. And what’s happening at university is a big part of that.

So, when education ministers meet in the next few weeks, we’ll look at the reforms that we need to make to fix teacher training. We’ll also look at two other things that cause problems in our schools. And, if you’re a parent of a school-aged child, then I suspect you’ll know what I’m talking about: mobile phones and vaping.

Mr Joyce: No!

Mr CLARE: They’re not at school yet, Barnaby, but they will be soon.

If you’re focused on your phone, then you’re not focused on the teacher, and so you’re not learning. Some states have banned phones in schools; others are thinking about it. At the next meeting with education ministers, I’ll put on the table a proposal for a consistent national approach to the banning or restriction of mobile phone use by students in our schools.

On vaping: ask any parent with a child in high school—the member for McMahon tells me about this all the time—and they’ll tell you they’re worried about it. Catherine does, as well. Principals will tell you it’s a behaviour issue. And it is blindingly obvious that the companies that make these things are targeting school students, with fancy flavours, like bubble gum. They’re designed to look USBs and highlighters, so you can hide them in the pencil case. And remember: these things include the sorts of chemicals you’ll find in weedkiller or bug spray. That’s why parents are worried about it. That’s why I want to thank the health minister for his leadership on this: getting rid of the flavours, getting them out of convenience stores—helping to get them out of our schools.

So we’re focused on the things that teachers and parents and students are worried about, but also the big reforms that we need to make to build a better and a fairer education system. (Time expired)