House debates

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Computers in Schools

4:35 pm

Photo of Craig ThomsonCraig Thomson (Dobell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to talk about a very successful Rudd government program in relation to computers in schools and the threat that is being posed to it by the policies of the opposition. The Central Coast is one of the poorest areas in New South Wales; in fact, I think we have the poorest average family income area in New South Wales. One of the great things about the computers in schools program is that it provided computers to both public and private schools in areas right across the country, and particularly in areas like mine where many of the children going to school do not have access to computers on a daily basis. That is why it has been so important, so popular and so successful.

I was talking to the principal of Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Mr Andrew Newman. He wrote to me and said: ‘The Digital Education Revolution in New South Wales has been an outstanding success in government schools.’ He went on to say, ‘To cease such a successful program would be an enormous backward step that would be opposed by principals and teachers and parents.’ This is the principal of the largest secondary school on the Central Coast. He is the college principal of a campus that goes across three areas, and this is what he said about the importance of the Digital Education Revolution.

I spoke to him today and he said, ‘Look, you can say that it’s not just me as the college principal. I am also the Deputy President of the New South Wales Secondary Principals Council, and that is the view of the Secondary School Principals Council. The digital revolution in relation to putting computers in schools is absolutely vital for the education of kids right across New South Wales and it is something that should be supported. They are terribly upset that the opposition are looking at slashing $700 million from this vital area, which will mean computers will not be able to be provided for many schools.’

In fact, in my area—an area that, as I said, is one of great need—over 600 computers would be cut if the opposition’s policy of cutting computers in schools was implemented. I will go through the list of schools and the cuts they would suffer. MacKillop Catholic College would lose 66 computers; Wyong High School, 51 computers; Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, The Entrance campus, 81 computers; Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Berkeley Vale, 60 computers; Lisarow High School, 87 computers; Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Tumbi Umbi, 53 computers; Wadalba Community School, 68 computers; Central Coast Grammar School, 37 computers; Wyong Christian Community School, 15 computers; and Lakes Grammar, nine computers. Over 600 computers would be cut from my electorate on the Central Coast because of the opposition policy decision to slash and burn in education, announced in the budget reply that was delivered in three stages.

In my area, we have youth unemployment of over 40 per cent. In some of my high schools, we have retention rates of less than 40 per cent. In these areas, education is the key to making sure kids who leave our school system have the skills that will enable them to get a job locally. Over 30 per cent of those in my electorate have to commute to Sydney and Newcastle to find a job, yet employers in the area say that they sometimes have difficulty recruiting the right people and they actually recruit people from outside the area. The key to making sure that local people in my area get jobs that match up with the jobs that are being offered by employers—that they are given a chance in life, that we do not condemn a generation of kids to unemployment—is making sure that we make the proper and right investments in education.

Part of that is making sure that there is a proper investment in computers in schools. In my electorate it is absolutely vital that those 600 computers, the ones we plan to roll out under the program, are not ripped away from these kids—that they get the proper facilities and the proper equipment to make sure that they are job ready. We have to make sure that these kids have a future, that they can get employment in an area of very high unemployment. This is absolutely vital. The opposition should be condemned over their decision to cut this program. It will disadvantage kids in my schools and disadvantage kids in my electorate and electorates right around Australia. This slash-and-burn education policy is only going to subject another generation of kids to high unemployment like the 40 per cent youth unemployment in my area. (Time expired)