Annual Conference 2017

Student need sacrificed
for tax policy and data

Kerri Carr

Maurie Mulheron: “The Department has an extraordinarily unhealthy obsession with data.”

Frustrations over disappearing support for teaching and learning in schools and the extraordinary obsession with data featured in Federation President Maurie Mulheron’s keynote address on the opening day of Annual Conference.

Mr Mulheron said education was a casualty in the war against public provision, a consequence of 30 years of neoliberal economic orthodoxy.

Governments’ failure to maximise tax revenue had a negative effect on schools funding, the conference heard.

Mr Mulheron said students were being asked by government to “sacrifice your needs, compromise your future and lower your expectations in order to ensure that the wealthy, powerful corporations preserve their privilege and influence”.

“That’s unacceptable,” he also told delegates.

Mr Mulheron said the NSW Department of Education was “disappearing”, thus changing the nature of teachers’ work. He said that while there had been a net increase of 1600 teachers in schools in the past three years, there had been a reduction of nearly 700 people in state and regional offices, whose primary job was to support schools in teaching and learning.

“This has left us with a Department that doesn’t have capacity to support schools … so it can’t impact on teaching and learning in a supportive way; there’s no curriculum expertise anymore … that responsibility has been heaped onto schools.”

He said that, instead, “the Department has an extraordinarily unhealthy obsession with data”.

Mr Mulheron said the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation section of the Department has about 90 staff and “you’d be hard pressed to find a Dip Ed among them”.

“Data is not information and information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom and we need a lot of wisdom back in the Department and we know that resides in the teaching service,” Mr Mulheron said.

His speech also touched on workload, schools funding and commercialisation of education, which were debated during the three days of the conference.

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