We need an education system less like the US and the UK and more like Finland.
I will take three big ideas to the Policy Forum that I hope will be adopted.
- Free over three. All children over three years old should have access to free pre-schooling everywhere in NSW, including providing nutrition and early intervention for kids with disabilities and family disadvantage.
- Masters with masters. All school teachers should have post-graduate education qualifications, and should be paid accordingly.
- Equality of outcomes, not just opportunity. A philosophical approach of high expectations for kids from all backgrounds and abilities, instead of simply segregating clever kids and leaving the other eighty percent behind.
My experience on the NSW Labor Education Policy committee was a positive one. We worked well with the staff of the Minister at the time and some, not all, of our policy ideas were enacted by the NSW Govt at a later time. That should be the model of how we work with the NSW Shadow Cabinet as a Policy Forum. Our ideas should be taken seriously and actually implemented. I see it as my role to think not just of the policies for the 2015 State Election, but to think about what we want to have achieved as a labour movement by 2025. Free pre-school for kids over three is achievable by then. The O’Farrell Government has cut funding for the 100 or so preschools that were created by Labor and targeted at disadvantaged communities. To ensure that doesn’t happen again, we need to make it a universal system for all. Every dollar spent early in a child’s life is worth multiples in effectiveness compared to spending when kids reach 17-18-19, when the money is just as likely to be spent on incarceration and legal system fees. We need to address social disadvantage and inequality as early as possible in a person’s life. It makes sense from the point of view of saving public money, and morally and ethically it’s the right thing to do.