and Remote Education - Tasmania
Queenstown public meeting,
4 November 1999 - notes
School health and
'On the West Coast
we don't have any welfare worker, any social worker, any speech pathologist,
any nursing sister. They just come when they can. We get a school sister
once every 6 months. It is just not good enough. I always thought that
kids needed medicals at the end of grade 6, but they've had none.'
'There is a new child
health person attached to the Community Centre here in Queenstown, but
she has only just started.'
'There are no routine
checks of the children in schools. Health services do not come to the
school unless it is absolutely urgent.'
'When health services
are wound back, you get used to carrying on without them. If the school
sister has a presence there is a good routine, but when her position is
taken away and someone comes to visit and they are just an itinerant worker,
it just falls away.
'There used to be
a team of health workers and most of them were based at my primary school,
but they have been eroded away. Now they exist, but they are scattered
around. The guidance officer and the social worker are based at Rosebery,
speech pathology is in Queenstown and our special research teacher is
at Zeehan. They service all of the schools on the West Coast and some
of the schools at Burnie. Given that you've got a minimum of 45 minutes
travel before you start work, the actual time with students is very limited.
'The strategy now
with speech pathology is not for the pathologist to work directly with
the students, but to set up programs so that other people can. That's
an effort to reach as many children as possible.'
'There's also kids
going without being assessed because the frontline professional is not
available to them.'
'Because the health
professionals are less available other people are taking on the health
checks. An example of this is that we [the classroom teachers] are making
the nits checks. Now, we are not supposed to do this, but we have a duty
of care so someone has to do it.'
Parents in Tasmania
pay an annual fee of $35 dollars per child for dental services. In Queenstown,
however, when health practitioners such as the only dentist take holidays
or long service leave there are no services for school children.
'My daughter had
a tooth chipped and we had to wait for about 3 months. This is a state-wide
thing you know, but to charge you and then not give you access, well that
is just not on.'
'My school has had
a 100% turnover of the teaching staff twice in the last 4 years. And
that' reasonable. In 5 years the teaching staff have changed twice.'
'Prior to [current
principal] coming, we had a new principal every year. One year we had
2 principals in the one year.'
'The staff that we
attract here are almost always first year out. Then after 3 years they
change over. So we train a whole lot of staff to be literacy coordinators
or numeracy coordinators and then after 3 years they go and a new lot
come and we have to reinvent the wheel all over again and end up spending
lots of money on professional development.
'This is the problem
with being such a small high school. I attracted a music teacher here
4 years ago, but he is going this year. And the other thing is that being
such a small school I had to tell him that he would be teaching music
0.4 and English and sociology 0.6. So in order to give students the benefit
of specialist teachers, I have to ask teachers to teach out of their areas.'
'That is a concern
for me as a parent in having teachers teaching in areas that they are
not really qualified in. Other schools have teachers that are trained
in the subject areas that they teach in.'
'If you have a teacher
teaching in 3 areas, do they get professional development for those 3
'It tends to work
that teachers get professional development in their specialist areas and
then we form a buddy system at the school so that teacher can share their
utility subsides and the cost of living
'Three years ago
I could tell first year out teachers that they would live in a hostel
or a unit, and it would cost $20 and their power would be free. The Department
in 1998 put in meters and so the teachers now pay up to $300, $350 per
quarter is the usual cost.
'Basically we are
provided with accommodation but it is costing an arm and a leg to live
here. It is about $20 a month to live here but it is very basic housing
and we had the union official here only last week to complain about the
state of the housing.'
'The cost of food
is much higher here. The real cost though is travel. It is travelling
back and forward to see families and friends and going out to the cinema
'Really if a job
is going in Hobart or Burnie you are going to take the job where there
are services rather than coming here.'
'This doesn't apply
at all to the TAFE college. We get cheap accommodation just like the school
when I was living in Hobart it cost me the same amount of money as it
does to live here.'
'The monetary incentive
is about $20 and a few cents for single teachers per fortnight and $40
and a few cents for married teachers, or teachers with families.'
'There are transfers
after 3 years to a district of your choice but not the school. And our
system divides schools into 'hard to staff' and 'not hard to staff schools'.
If you work in a category A school you are eligible for a transfer after
3 years, whereas if you work in an urban school you are eligible for a
transfer after 5 years.'
'We have a high turnover
of young inexperienced staff in the Catholic system. There is no incentive
for more experienced teachers to come here to teach. There are also no
relief teachers. The state system has access to some relief teachers -
actually there is no primary relief teacher in town. For the Catholic
system there is no system.'
The social context
The other thing about
going out here is that if a teacher goes out and has a few drinks, everyone
would know about it tomorrow. It is not as bad as it used to be but it
is still pretty hard. Teachers are entitled to a life too. I used to tell
the teachers that if you go out and have night, the students tomorrow
would be able to tell you how many Baccardis you had.
'It used to be really
divided here when we had the Franklin incident. And it didn't matter whether
you were a greenie or not, if you were a teacher you were labelled a greenie.
Staff found it very hard to go out in large groups because of it.'
'I sat on a selection
panel this year and I can say that the expertise of applicants has improved
and the number of applicants has increased. Four years ago I sat on a
panel and there was only one applicant for the job and it was for a senior
'It is relatively
easy to get young teachers here, but the challenge is to get experienced
teachers. How do you get experienced teachers here when they have mortgages,
lives and families in the cities?'
'Executives are given
a 5 year contract. It is a 5 year appointment but it is not binding, you
can leave if you get another job.'
'The principal who
was here before me did not come with his family. He came over here and
left the family back in the city. As a principal I have come here with
'It is a big thing
to relocate the family when they are entrenched in a school and a life
'Then the local community
gets the view that the community is not good enough here.'
Transport and travel
Teachers spoke at
length about travel for themselves and for their students.
'With the travel,
too, it's 45 minutes travel, but that's distance travel, not like city
travel. And then there's the ice. I don't think a year has gone past without
one teacher having some sort of accident on the roads due to the ice.'
'One of the problems
that we have got in TAFE is transport. There is no travel assistance whatsoever
for the lads who come from Rosebery. They travel to the Zeehan turn-off
where they are back-loaded onto a school bus both ways which they have
to pay full costs for and I think it costs them about $50 per week. This
is probably not 100% legal but it is the only way.'
'At the school we
have students coming from Zeehan. There are more students than will fit
into one bus so we have got 2 buses but one of them is half empty so the
TAFE students can travel in that bus with the school students.'
'The school bus is
a privately run bus and that is why the students pay $50 each week. If
they lived on the North West Coast they could get a students' pass for
travel and it would cost them $3 per week. Here they can't get anything.'
'Last year a lot
of the parents sent the TAFE students away because it was cheaper to have
them board rather than pay the cost of transport to take them to the West
'My son goes to high
school from Strahan to Murray High School [in Queenstown]. He leaves at
7.15am on the bus every morning 5 days a week and he gets home at 3.50pm.
If they miss the bus there is no transport. The kids can't stay on after
school for any activities and it makes a very long day for them.'
'The cost of boarding
is also increased because as a parent you have to visit the child and
then when they get sick you have to pick them up. It all adds to the cost.
I think we were paying $125 each week for the boarding, but that in no
way reflects the real costs of boarding. Then you have pupil free days
and public holidays. What do you do then? So you bring them home. But
transport is a big problem. Sometimes you can't get them back to school
and they miss out on a week of school. Transport is such a big problem
here. The whole point of having the children live away from home is so
that they will get a good education. You don't want your child to miss
out on anything.'
'In Devonport they
have 4 to a room for the boarding accommodation. At the TAFE facility
in Burnie it is difficult to determine how many kids will be there at
any time because you have people coming and going all the time.'
'There is an issue
with student accommodation. It is a big cost to keep the accommodation
'I think the low
retention rates on the West Coast are due to the fact that the kids go
away to Hobart or elsewhere to finish their school studies or to go on
to further education. There are not too many kids roaming the streets
around here or doing nothing so I would dispute those statistics about
the poor retention rates on the South West Coast.
'We have individual
children who are away from school a lot at the primary school, but generally
the attendance rates are pretty standard.'
'If you work at the
mine and they are on a pretty good income. Now they might have 4 children.
Even though they might have a good income they don't get the Youth Allowance
and they have to put all the children through boarding school. Now they
might get that Assistance for Isolated Children subsidy but it still makes
the whole thing very expensive.'
and student numbers
'In an isolated area
like this we need a little bit of flexibility on class sizes. Our teachers
need to be able to teach across a number of subject areas to give the
students a balanced education. At my school I am entitled to 13 + 0.9
teachers. Now no-one is going to come down here for a point 9 position
so I have had to find the money from the school resource package to make
up the difference of the salary and it is not cheap. It has cost about
$5,000 in order to offer that person a full position.'
'We had a similar
situation. We have to find money out of our school budget to keep the
teacher student ratio down.'
'The idea of running
these smaller classes is to develop the talent in the community. We need
some champions in the community.'
'Our numbers have
dropped dramatically over the years, we don't run the pre-tertiary courses.
This is not about the quality of staff it is that we just don't have the
students to run the pre-tertiary. We have Year 11 but we don't have Year
12. Buses can take students to places where they can do pre-tertiary in
cities. They leave on Sunday afternoon to take students to the hostels
where they can stay for the school week.'
'I don't think it
is very good if we train kids too young at TAFE because we don't have
the facilities for it. We are better off taking the kids at Year 11. That
way they can start their certificate courses and then go on to further
'There are 82 children
at the school in Strahan. That means 4 classes. We have a music teacher
but we share him with Zeehan. He comes down about 3 days per week. One
of the things about Strahan [is] there are no male teachers. This means
that the boys really miss out. There is no-one to kick the football with
'In the high school
system we have been supplied with one extra teacher, over establishment
to fill in when teachers are away and to take classes. This has been an
absolute Godsend. The department has decided to continue with it for one
year at least.'
'The Aboriginal students
here attend school and seem to be coping OK.'
'There is ASSPA [Aboriginal
Student Support and Parent Awareness] funding available but as you know
you need to have a committee and we had no interest in setting up the
committee so we had to send the funds back. We run some Indigenous education
programs at the high school but not many.'
'In my particular
area, the majority of my students are Aboriginal. There are 12 Aboriginal
children at the high school and 26 at the primary school. It seems amazing
that with these numbers we couldn't get an ASSPA committee together.'
'I noticed that the
teachers come here and they are not familiar with rural kids. You know
the kids are not wearing a school tie and they ride their bikes to school.
And I reckon that some of these teachers need to work on their communication
skills so that they understand the kids better. The young teachers are
trying to assert their authority and sometimes they get it wrong.'
'I think the Lions
Club used to provide a breakfast program for the students. This only went
for a year because there was no funding for it. Sometimes the kids have
nothing to eat for hours and hours and they have had to get up and travel
a ghastly journey first thing in the morning.
updated 2 December 2001.