Teachers Registration and Standards Amendment Bill
Adjourned debate on second reading (resumed on motion).
Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (16:05): Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. I think that is the right terminology. I know everyone calls you something different, but I think you are Acting Speaker today. Thank you for giving me the call, sir, and I rise to support the Teachers Registration and Standards (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020.
The Teachers Registration and Standards (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020 will amend the Teachers Registration and Standards Act 2004. The act came into play some 16 years ago. The intent of this bill is to modify the size and composition of the Teachers Registration Board, expand its functions and support the implementation of relevant recommendations from national reviews related to teacher registration. It will also improve oversight of persons granted special authorities to teach and address various other technical and operational issues with the act.
The initial intent and purpose of the Teachers Registration and Standards Act was to ensure that every teacher working in South Australia is appropriately qualified, competent to teach and a fit and proper person to have the care of children. It also establishes the board and provides it with the functions and powers it needs to administer and oversee the registration of over 35,000 teachers in government and non-government schools, preschools and early childhood services here in South Australia. The bill will amend the act to provide that the welfare and best interests of children is the paramount consideration in relation to the operation, administration and enforcement of this act.
The bill will provide a number of new functions for the board and codify and strengthen some existing activities that the board undertakes. The bill updates the provision for the membership of the board to provide improved flexibility in its size and composition, and that has been explored intently during the course of this debate. The bill will ensure that the board’s membership includes practising teachers in the areas of preschool, primary and secondary education, the expertise of a legal practitioner and the perspective of a parent, representing the community interest. The board will also be able to draw on the expertise of persons who are not members should it be required.
The bill also includes various amendments to improve provisions of the act that enable the board to deal with unprofessional conduct, incompetence, incapacity and issues of fitness and propriety in the teaching profession. There are a number of amendments to the act to improve information sharing where necessary for the protection of children, which of course is paramount. These changes, amongst others in the bill, support the recommendations of the National Review of Teacher Registration and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Teaching is a vocation. It is not a word we use lightly. Of course, it is not just a job. It certainly is a vocation that requires much skill and dedication, and we all know across the board the incredible number of teachers in this state who demonstrate that skill and dedication. Our children of course are our most precious asset. They need to be in the charge of the most competent, capable and instructive teachers to ensure that their education not only is enjoyable but gives them an important grounding for the rest of their lives. Our teachers are entrusted with our children’s education, but it is often so much more than that. It is often said that as parents—and I am a parent, as many of us in this place are and some are yet to be—
Mr Ellis: Even more of us have parents.
Mr TRELOAR: Even more of us have parents. Of course, we all do, member for Narungga. We often like to consider that we are the most important people in our children’s lives, but I do not know that that is necessarily always the case because, when we send our children to school, all of a sudden often their teachers at school become the biggest influence and most important person in their lives, so, as I said, it is an incredible responsibility that we charge our teachers with.
At last count, there are 23 schools in the electorate of Flinders. That is more than most, but not as many as some. It is not as many perhaps as in the seat of Chaffey or in the seat of Stuart, which I think has over 40 schools, both public and private. Certainly, of the 23 schools in Flinders, I have visited them all at various stages in the past. I know all the schools well. They are filled with wonderful teachers and I also know many of the teachers well.
It is a pleasure—and I know regional members will agree with this—to walk into a country school and see it filled with great country kids. I am not taking anything away from their city counterparts, of course, but there is something special about country kids: their approach to education, their abilities in life and their ‘comfort’ in approaching adults, and I am going to use that word. They are comfortable and confident to approach adults, not just their teachers but their parents and the broader community as well, and I think that is a really strong asset that country kids have.
We as a state government are supporting our schools significantly across the state. The Minister for Education was talking today about the continuing rollout of fast internet across the state. My alma mater, Cummins Area School, is being connected today, as it happens, so I know that, as one of our bigger area schools in the seat of Flinders—I think we have well over 300 enrolments there—they will, as of today, be connected to the outside world by a very fast internet connection. The rollout continues right across the state, and it is critically important that our country schools have this superfast connection.
The building program continues, and we have been talking about that in the parliament this week as well. I did some media last week on the $15 million build that is going to occur at Port Lincoln High School. It is really exciting news, as one way or another I have been involved in lobbying for that for most of the last eight years. I am really pleased to see some of these building projects being rolled out and our students and teachers gaining the benefit of improved facilities. Of course, the educational result will be all the better as a result. I commend the bill to the house.