Life Education Fixing schools without more money? That’s bad maths, Mr Tudge
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Fixing schools without more money? That’s bad maths, Mr Tudge

School funding and education
A childhood Alan Tudge demonstrates with whiteboard maths how funding schools won't make improvements. Photo: Getty
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Alan ‘Robodebt’ Tudge says schools need higher-quality teachers. He also says schools don’t need more funds.

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

In fact, if our schools had less money – if they copped a 9 per cent funding cut as UK schools have – we’d probably do better – as the UK has. Stiff upper lip and all.

So don’t expect your children’s academic performance to improve until you tell them those UK kids get better marks when their pocket money is cut.

To be fair, Mr Tudge says he can’t cut funding (it’s supposedly locked in), but he did lick his lips.

“We are still not consistently attracting the best students into teaching,”  Mr Tudge says.

OK, let’s look first at Mr Tudge’s schools-don’t-need-more-funds line.

Just as an aside, how are the Tudge children doing academically – at their state schools?

As this piece argues, if you want quality, you have to pay for it.

You know what tradies say – about other tradies, usually – “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

Second, how can we expect even the most gifted state-school teacher do her job in the 35-degree heat without air-conditioning, with the network down for the third time today, the textbooks missing, the office out of staples, and the library closed indefinitely because the librarian was deemed “in excess”. How?

Whingers!

We need more quality teachers. Easy peasey. What we do is… um, not increase funding, but tell quality school leavers to become quality teachers, because … well … it’s a worthy challenge to get less pay and more stress in a dead-end job.

Education Minister Alan Tudge has proposed reforms to Australia’s education sector.

And “I would love to see more engineers and accountants”, Mr Tudge says, “to help us address our critical shortage of maths teachers.”

Yep, that’ll do it. We wait until the quality feels like leaving its highly paid job to get less pay and more stress in a dead-end job.

By the by, Mr Tudge will leave it to the states to do the recruiting bit: “Most of the challenge,” he says, “of quality teaching lies with the states and the non-government authorities who run the schools.”

The feds’ leverage, on the other hand, “is its funding of universities to deliver initial teacher education courses, and … professional development.”

Oh good, there’s no problem there. Everyone knows the university system is rolling in it.

As I mentioned in a recent piece, the fundamental way to attract quality school leavers and industry leavers into teaching is to leave teacher pay and conditions exactly as they are.

It’s called irony, Mr Tudge – and stop licking your lips.

In a recent report, the Grattan Institute says if we want to improve teaching quality, we need to pay teachers more.

But then again, how you solve the problem – not enough quality teaching – depends on why you want to solve it in the first place.

Do you want an excellent education system accessible to all? Or is it the economy, stupid? For Mr Tudge, it’s the economy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like jobs and pay and food and health and education and housing and trains. In fact, I’d like enough to go around.

We want the finest of teachers teaching our students, don’t we? Photo: AAP

Here is Mr Tudge carefully balancing equity with the economy: “We must focus on excellence as well as equity in education. This is about individual opportunity … but it is also about our economy … A world-class school system … will … lift the trajectory of our economic growth … The problem is not a growing divide in student results; it is a decline in performance across the board … certainly not because of a decline in funding.”

No, there’s never a problem with the divide.

The divide helps, not hinders, the economy.

Who else will do the jobs Mr Tudge doesn’t want to do? Such as look after people who need help?

Other low-paid workers can do that bleeding-heart stuff.

Mr Tudge’s old job – hitting the poor with false debts – now that required quality. And there’s never a problem with a decline in funding. Ask any job seeker.

With his comments on equity and excellence, Mr Tudge is putting the cart before the horse. And – surprise, surprise – not paying either of them.

Apart from anything else, carts doing their own thing won’t boost the economy.

The whole point about equity and excellence is that the first fosters the second.

If we paid our teachers more, more bright sparks would enter teaching, and more children would get the chance to brighten their sparks.

As it stands, the further children progress through school, the more the sparks falter.

And, while we’re at it, let’s inquire into improving the quality of politicians. Maybe cutting their funding would work.

I’m licking my lips.

A L Jones, PhD, is a psychologist, writer and educator with academic specialties in educational and gender psychology. Jones is a series editor at Lexington Books and spent 15 years as a teacher educator at Deakin University

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