Mulheron’s comments come after NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, warned that NSW was "10 to 15 years" behind Canada, New Zealand and Finland in literacy and numeracy because teachers were too focused on reducing class sizes rather than improving student performance.
“This has nothing to do with class sizes. It’s about making sure teachers have the resources they need to do their job effectively,” Mulheron told The Educator.
“The situation is getting worse because the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged is growing. We have a serious inequity problem here in Australia that needs addressing.”
Mulheron said that the debate around how to improve student learning had shifted too heavily towards teacher quality, neglecting discussion of adequate resourcing for disadvantage schools and the implementation of the full six years of Gonski funding.
“Many of our schools are akin to emergency wards in hospitals. No one talks about the quality of doctors and nurses – they talk about the quality of health care and the resources the hospitals need.”
“It’s the same for schools. It’s the quality of teaching that comes directly from the resources they’re given in order to teach. Until the full Gonski model is put in place, the situation will only get worse.”
Mulheron also expressed serious concerns over ACARA’s plan to move NAPLAN online. He said the prospect of computers marking children’s extended writing exams reflected an “appalling psychology”.
“If people think educators have anything to do with the making of the test, they are very much mistaken. It’s done by private businesses on a for-profit basis,” Mulheron said.
“When I went to our federal executive meeting I found that there was a strong sense of disbelief that such a proposition was even put forward,” Mulheron said, adding there was unanimous rejection among the state’s teachers regarding the direction NAPLAN was headed.
“ACARA is saying they can train computers to mark a child’s writing. As someone who was a supervisor who marked HSC exams for 17 years, I have a problem with that on a number of levels,” Mulheron said.
“It took highly educated and trained teachers a long time to test extended writing. There were huge checks and balances and statistical analysis which were done hourly every night of the marking operation.”
Mulheron said “strong community opposition” from parents and teachers was needed to stop the plan from proceeding.