Education, school politics and what is important for your child in this choice

However, details of how Labor will achieve this are vague.

“Certainly getting more teachers into our classrooms is the best thing we can do to improve our student outcomes…if we don’t have enough qualified teachers in front of our kids, that seems like a good place to start,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges any government will face is addressing the alarming learning gap between rich and poor students, which is now almost five years by the time they reach 9th grade.

An additional year of training

The coalition’s policy of introducing a universal pre-kindergarten was last week described by Education Secretary Sarah Mitchell as “an essential core of our platform” ahead of the election.

500 new preschools are to be built next semester, with the goal of having 100,000 places available each year for children attending preschool five days a week. Labor will build 150 new preschools and 50 preschools attached to non-government schools in addition to state schools in the next legislature.

Under the coalition's universal pre-school policy, 50,000 children will have access to free pre-school by 2027.

Under the coalition’s universal pre-school policy, 50,000 children will have access to free pre-school by 2027.Credit:Louise Kennerley

At a meeting of private school leaders last week, Car said she was “a big fan” of the independent school sector and that there would be significant investment in preschools in both private and Catholic schools as part of Labor’s plan.

selective schools

There are 48 selective high schools in NSW, more than 10 times in any other state. Although research shows that the rise of Selectives is contributing to an alarming systemic brain drain, the spread shows no signs of slowing down.


The Government plans to increase enrollment in select schools by 18 per cent, including 3,000 places in new select schools in Westmead and Box Hill. Another 1000-seat selective high in Leppington – announced in 2019 by then-Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian as “Captain’s Call” – has yet to be built.

Labor will agree with plans for selected schools in Westmead and Leppington.

“During election campaigns, governments are free to announce selected schools,” says educational historian Craig Campbell of the University of Sydney. “But the problem is that select schools are continuing this residualization process, confining the poorest and less academically inclined students to schools that are doing less well.”

Under Labour, state schools could run the International Baccalaureate but experts say the expensive scheme could further widen the education gap.

Teacher shortage, supply and salaries

School principals warn they are struggling to fill roles in several fields, while there are acute shortages in subjects such as math and technology. One of the top-performing comprehensive schools in the state is now offering $20,000 sign-up bonuses to attract employees.

Labor’s plan to remedy the shortage includes scrapping the public sector wage cap, but no offer has been made – it just says it will negotiate if elected. Under the government’s plan, about 800 — or just under 1 percent — of the state’s top teachers will be eligible for $152,000 in supersalaries over the next four years. Both parties are committed to reducing teachers’ workloads.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns and Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car visit an early learning center in Condell Park.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns and Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car visit an early learning center in Condell Park.Credit:Janie Barrett

The government will also phase out two-year postgraduate teaching degrees in favor of a one-year degree. Labor says it will move 10,000 teachers from temporary to permanent posts, a process the government says is underway.

New schools and upgrades

Labor has pledged to build new high schools in Melrose Park, Gledswood and Gregory Hills, Jordan Springs, Medowie, Schofields, Leppington and Googong, and an elementary school in the Carter Street precinct adjacent to Olympic Park. The coalition has earmarked upgrades for schools such as Winston Hills Public, Clovelly Public and Kogarah Public, while high schools are planned for the Southwest and Jordan Springs.

Randwick Boys High School is waiting for upgrades.

Randwick Boys High School is waiting for upgrades.Credit:James Alcock

But some schools, like Randwick Boys and Girls High, are run down and awaiting upgrades promised in 2018, and neither party has committed to a new public high school in the eastern suburbs.

In the northwestern suburbs, parents are frustrated that elementary schools are bursting at the seams, while intense enrollment pressure in southwestern suburbs like Gregory Hills has forced the government to open a pop-up school made of demountable materials while a permanent school is built .

New data shows that less than a quarter of the 447 schools that applied for air conditioning under the second round of the $500 million Cooler Classrooms program in early 2019 have been approved.


Mobile phones

The coalition’s policy is to ban phones in elementary schools but let secondary schools make their own rules after they commissioned child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg to review device use in 2018. Carr-Gregg has since said a full ban would be better.

Labor leader Chris Minns said if he wins, NSW would follow South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia in banning cellphones in high schools. About 160 schools use lockable bags to store students’ phones during school hours.


The government has appointed its first senior behavior adviser, health advocate and academic, Donna Cross, who will work across sectors to tackle challenging behavior, truancy and cyberbullying.

Actions like banning cellphones in classrooms are one way to tackle disruptive behavior, according to Labour. If elected, the opposition would also crack down on vaping by installing e-cigarette detectors in school bathrooms. The Coalition launched its own anti-vaping health campaign last year.

tutoring at school

After the school suspension during COVID, the government announced $720 million in tutoring to help students who were falling behind and another $253 million this year. The government will await a scientific evaluation of the program before allocating further funds.

Labor says it will make one-to-one tuition an integral part of the education system and pay for it with part of its $400m education fund.

school funding

Labor’s $400 million education pledge will also help increase funding for schools.

As part of the Gonski Reforms, the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) was created to find out how much money each school needs. If the child attends a private school, the amount is reduced according to the parents’ means.

Labor said it would contribute 75 per cent of SRS for public schools by 2025, two years ahead of the current agreement. Both sides have committed to fully fund their share of the SRS and have stated that this will not result in a reduction in funding for non-government schools.

But Trevor Cobbold, the national organizer of Save Our Schools, says his analysis shows NSW public schools are missing a $1.9 billion deficit. “Labour’s $400m commitment is far from what is needed.”

According to Mitchell, Labor underestimated the cost of moving to 75 percent of the SRS, which they say will cost about $750 million a year.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here. Education, school politics and what is important for your child in this choice

Justin Scaccy

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