22 February 2024
Call for an Inquiry into the Tasmanian Education System

We call on whoever wins the upcoming 23 March 2024 election and forms the next Tasmanian Government to commission an independent inquiry into the effectiveness of the Tasmanian Education System and its functions, within the first 100 days of assuming office.

We believe the outcome of an independent inquiry will provide the Government of the day the opportunity to reform the Tasmanian Education System as needed to ensure that young Tasmanians benefit from education at least to the same extent as their equals elsewhere in Australia.

We acknowledge the good intentions of the current and previous governments to improve educational outcomes for young Tasmanians. But, while there has been significant investment in the education system to this end, there has been little improvement.

Indeed, data provided by the Productivity Commission’s most recent Report on Government Services shows the gap between Tasmanian educational outcomes and those in other jurisdictions is large and widening. Just 53% of young Tasmanians are leaving school with a Year 12 or equivalent qualification, compared to 76% nationally.

This is despite the Tasmanian Government already spending more money per student than all other jurisdictions, bar the Northern Territory, and having higher ratios of staff to students.

Many now agree that the system is not functioning as it should, nor is it meeting the needs of Tasmania, nor Tasmanians.

There is also little agreement as to the scale and source of the problem, nor how it can fixed. Tasmania deserves a fresh approach.

We believe that an inquiry must have the authority to establish why young Tasmanians are not achieving educational outcomes like their peers in other states. And, that an inquiry must have the expertise to recommend solutions to the cause/s of the problems identified.

The inquiry should be led by an acknowledged educational leader of national standing and include members with expertise and experience in effective education reform.

The Inquiry must:

*Clearly articulate the objective of an educational system fit for Tasmania and Tasmanians in the 21st century

*Map the different parts of the existing system and their roles and functions as they currently operate

*Assess whether the different parts of the existing system are functioning as needed

*Clarify how the Tasmanian education system compares with those of other states’ and territories’ in processes, regulation and outcomes; and

*Make recommendations for improving the system including, if needed but not limited to, changes in legislation, regulations, organizational structure, staffing and curriculum.

We make this call out of our shared deep concern for the future of young Tasmanians, and their families, for the well-being of all, and for the broader Tasmanian community and economy. It is no longer acceptable that Tasmania continues to languish at the bottom of Australia’s economic and social indicators.

We believe that an effectively functioning Tasmanian Education System is the key to unlocking a brighter future for all Tasmanians.

Update 07 March 2024

Update - response from TasLabor and Tasmanian Liberals

TasLabor has responded to the Open Letter calling for an independent Inquiry into the effectiveness of the Tasmanian Education System:

"An incoming Labor Government will facilitate a comprehensive independent inquiry of Tasmania's education system. The inquiry must look at the system holistically, be objective and designed with no predetermined agendas.

Improving education outcomes is the most effective policy area the state government can use to improve all Tasmanian lives and the economy.

It's time for a better future and that starts with high quality education for Tasmanian children under a Rebecca White led government."

The Tasmanian Liberals have also responded and we hope they reconsider their position:

“We are absolutely committed to improving education outcomes in Tasmania, which is why we took the bold and successful decision to extend all our high schools to Year 12 and in 2024 introduced structured literacy into Tasmanian public schools. We are always working to improve our education system, including consulting with experts, however do we not support outsourcing our education policy.”

Update 22 March 2024

Update - pre-polling day

Tomorrow, 23 March 2024, is 'polling day' for the Tasmanian election.

At this stage, only Tasmanian Labor has committed to commissioning "a comprehensive independent review of Tasmania’s education system to better understand why Tasmania's system has consistently underperformed other states and territories. We must pull every lever we can to achieve better outcomes for our kids and states future." See: taslabor.org.au/news/policy-announcements/helping-...

We have received no formal response from the Tasmanian Liberal Party nor the Tasmanian Greens.

A number of independent candidates are signatories to the Open Letter including Jack Davenport, Clare Glade-Wright, Sue Hickey, Kristie Johnston, Jenny Branch-Allen, Lara Alexander, Angela Armstrong (JLN) and Andrea Courtney.

Several current MLCs are also signatories to the Open Letter, as are Federal Liberal Member for Bass, Bridget Archer and Federal Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie.

While it may be some time before the next Premier and Tasmanian Government is known, we will use this Open Letter platform to keep signatories updated on progress.

Thank you,

Saul Eslake, Michael Rowan and Lisa Denny

Update 15 May 2024

Update - 15 May 2024

Today, we presented the new Tasmanian Minister for Education, Jo Palmer, MLC, with the Open Letter calling for an independent inquiry into the effectiveness of the Tasmanian Education System along with the 375 verified signatories.

We had a good, constructive conversation and she committed to considering the Open Letter and our call for an independent inquiry. She wants to take some time to learn about her new portfolio, but

did confirm with us that she is focussed on improving educational outcomes for all Tasmanians.

We will provide another update when we can.

Saul Eslake, Michael Rowan and Lisa Denny

Update 12 June 2024

Update - 13 June 2024

Yesterday, Dean Winter, MHA, Labor Leader of the Opposition, proposed a motion in Parliament calling on the State Government to commission an independent review of the State's education system. The motion passed. The wording of the motion is below.

We will continue to engage with the Tasmanian Government to ensure that the independent inquiry results in recommendations that address causal issues and enables the education system to function effectively to support both student achievement and the education workforce.

Saul Eslake, Michael Rowan and Lisa Denny

TASMANIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM. – A Motion being made and the Question being proposed—That the House:—

(1) Recognises the importance of education to Tasmania’s economic future and the ability of Tasmanians to find work in safe, secure, well-paying jobs.

(2) Acknowledges:—

(a) Tasmania has the worst education outcomes of any state and results are going backwards;

(b) the Liberal commitment to ensure Tasmania’s NAPLAN results reach the national average by 2020 was not met;

(c) the Liberal commitment to reach the national average for Year 12 retention by 2022 was not delivered;

(d) the Liberal commitment to ensure 75% of Tasmanian students get a TCE by 2022 was not delivered; and

(e) educators are working with excessive workloads that are driving them from their profession. Until that is fixed there won’t be any significant or sustained improvement in what Tasmanian students are able to achieve.

(3) Calls on the Tasmanian Government to commission an independent review of the State’s education system. (Mr Winter)

380 verified
  1. Dr Lisa Denny, Workforce Demographer, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Tasmania, Tasmania
  2. Saul Eslake, Economist, Corinna Economic Advisory Pty Ltd, Acton Park
  3. Greg Barns SC, Barrister, Chair Prisoners Legal Service, Battery Point
  4. Hank Petrusma, Real Estate Agent, EIS PROPERTY, Hobart
  5. Brendan Blomeley, Mayor, City of Clarence, Rosny Park
  6. Joaquin Vespignani, Economist, Utas, MIDWAY POINT
  7. Michel Rowan, Philosopher, Emeritus Professor, University of South Australia, Birchs Bay
  8. Wendy Edwards, Artist, Tasmania
  9. Russell Hanson, Retired, n/a, Clarence
  10. Charlie Burton, Independent Candidate for Hobart, Hobart
  11. Douglas Armati, Chairman, St Aubyn Holdings Pty Ltd, Hobart
  12. Adj. Prof.Robert Morris-Nunn AM, Architect, Circa Morris Nunn, Architects, Hobart
  13. Dr Susan Banks, Social researcher, Hobart
  14. Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron, Academic, Director TILES, UTAS, UTAS, Hobart
  15. Dr Robin Banks, Human rights lawyer, Equality Building and University of Tasmania, Hobart
  16. Mike Frost, Education and Training Consultant, Mike Frost & Associates - Education and Training Consultancy, Hobart
  17. Theresa Simpkin, Associate Professor, UTas, Hobart
  18. A/Prof Amanda Neil, Health Economist, Menzies Institute For Medical Research, University Of Tasmania, Hobart
  19. Phil Bayley, Consultant, Strategy 42 South, West Hobart
  20. Dianne Underwood, CEO, Colony 47, Hobart
340 more
verified signatures
  1. Monique Huyskens, Teacher, Launceston
  2. Paula Catchpole, Communications consultant, Committee for Greater Hobart, HOBART
  3. Usama Baig, Management Consultant, GSD Advisors Pty Ltd, Midway Point
  4. Warren Bounds, Educator, DECYP, Hobart
  5. Katrina Sutton, Teachers, KSE, Hobart
  6. Stacey Joseph, Business Services Manager, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hobart
  7. Mikala Grosse, Business Adviser, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hobart
  8. Helen Gilmore, Policy Analyst, Hobart
  9. Lesley French, Chair Non-Executive Director, Whisky Tasmania, Richmond
  10. Joel Brewer, Marketer, Scotch Oakburn College, Launceston
  11. Ross Patterson, Principal, Scotch Oakburn College, Launceston
  12. Rita Oakley, Community Engagement and Events Manager, RACT, Hobart
  13. Bernard Phillips, construction manager, Hobart
  14. Anna J Bateman, Warrane
  15. Graham Hay, Consultant, Graham F Hay GFH, LATROBE
  16. Tyson Wienker, Executive Director Emerging Texhnology, University of Tasmania, Hobart
  17. Krissy McCance, President, TASSO, Hobart
  18. Krissy-Lee McCance, CEO and Trainer, Connected Training Pty Ltd, Hobart
  19. Jessica Bennett, Operations Manager, Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Forth
  20. NIck Probert, Employment Facilitator, Seven Mile Beach
Create an open letter
and sign it together