Denial on leavers’ dinners

LEADING economist Saul Eslake says Tasmania should not send a message that grade 10 is an acceptable exit point from the education system.

Mr Eslake, whose recent landmark Tasmania Report highlighted the state’s woeful retention rates, said the grade 10 functions held at this time of year shouldn’t be called leavers’ dinners.

DISENGAGEMENT: Ant Dry, of Natone, president of the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, says the focus on what the leavers’ dinners are called is a red herring.

That sentiment is echoed by Burnie Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice-president Ian Jones, who said calling grade 10 functions leavers’ dinners “essentially puts a cap on the education of our kids”.

However, Ant Dry, of Natone, president of the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, said the focus on what the leavers’ dinners were called was a red herring.

Mr Dry said educational disengagement with kids started much earlier than grade 10.

“It’s daft to worry about what leavers’ dinners are called because the disengagement starts with what has happened at home and what has happened with early learning,” Mr Dry said.

He said some Tasmanian primary schools at the end of grade 6 called end-of-year functions leavers’ dinners. There was no suggestion that those children were going to leave school.

“The grade 10 leavers’ dinners and leavers’ balls are just a rite of passage that have no influence on their leaving school – if they are going to leave, it’s happened well before,” he said.

Mr Dry agreed that Tasmania needed long-term solutions to improve its retention rates and change the culture to value education more.

“It’s a sociological thing to get people to value education, and when people value it they will stay and complete it.”

Mr Dry said programs such as Launching into Learning, which is compulsory to all primary schools, encouraged parents and children to come into schools so it was not a frightening experience for them.

He said the Learning in Families Together program was introduced by the Liberal government to encourage the parents to come into schools.

Mr Dry said that in some countries the children who didn’t get an education didn’t eat, but in Tasmania “there’s no need to value education”.

“Here we’ve got the safety mechanism to fall back on so we don’t have that desperate need and that compulsion to get an education and we have generational welfare.”

Mr Dry said Australians had a lot of sporting heroes but were not always as competitive as some other countries in educational areas.

“We should have education champions and make a very big thing of people who invent things and do things that are clever and academic.”

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said it was up to the various school communities how they celebrated the end of year 10.

“But what we’re about, what the government is about, is to encourage that culture for learning in Tasmania,” he said.

“We are trying to encourage a culture of education from kinder to grade 12.

“We know the data says that the best opportunities for our students are to further their education and the better opportunities they have to live a fulfilling life.”

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