Early childhood education is a major focus of the Liberals’ education policy, as part of a projected six-year $324 million spend.
Alongside a pledge of 250 more teachers and 80 teacher assistants, the Liberals want to build six early learning hubs, a “one-stop shop” incorporating all services provided at Child and Family Centres as well as early childhood education and care, and birth to grade 2 education facilities.
The hubs would be built in the East Tamar, Waratah-Wynyard, West Ulverstone, Sorell, Kingborough and Glenorchy.
An additional 358 staff, including 192 new teachers within four years, would also be employed, and principals removed from school staffing formulas.
Infrastructure spend was also listed as a major policy point with $179 million earmarked for school builds and repairs, including a new $20 million school at Legana.
Adding 80 teacher assistants to the prep year, and delaying the amalgamation of the Early Childhood Intervention Service into the National Disability Insurance Scheme were further commitments outlined.
The policy makes brief mention of colleges and high schools, with grade 12 extension rollout to all state schools having been the major policy driver for the Liberals’ throughout their term of government.
Premier Will Hodgman described the “record spend” as part of the Liberals’ push for “life-long learning”.
Opposition Leader Rebecca White said the Liberals “hadn’t articulated how they were going to pay” for the education spend.
“The Liberals need to explain how you can continue to fund colleges and roll out year 11 and 12 to every high school in Tasmania,” Ms White said.
Labor’s policy has focused on increasing teacher numbers, early learning opportunities, and restoring Pathway Planners into schools.
Early Childhood Australia’s Annette Barwick said the Liberals’ policy “reconfirms the commitment to early years”, and Tasmanian Principals Association president Malcolm Elliott was also positive in his assessment.
“We’ve seen the government commit itself to a level of funding that would be required to meet the school resourcing standards required in the Gonski funding models,” he said.
Australian Education Union Tasmania president Helen Richardson said the union wanted details around the Liberals’ policy on TasTAFE, but welcomed the promised increase in teacher and staffing numbers.
“A major concern is the omission of any commitments on additional and desperately needed professional support staff – especially school psychologists and speech therapists,” she said.
Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations president Lisa Gillard said the infrastructure spend promised by the Liberals was “a large pot of money” that was focused on particular schools and questioned how it would be broken down.
Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby founder Kristen Desmond said the Liberals’ commitment to $250,000 for developing a needs-based funding model, and a further commitment of $6 million to implement the recommendations of the Ministerial Taskforce into disability education, was welcomed.