Grievance Debate: Private Music Instructors


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:29 ): I rise today to speak about music in schools. There are some critical challenges facing our young people who are learning instruments, their families and the schools that promote that, because they know that learning an instrument is good for a student's education, and of course the hundreds of private music instructors around South Australia who have no idea at this stage whether they will have a livelihood next year, as their business models and the work they have done for decades in public schools is under threat as a result of action taken by the Australian Education Union in the Industrial Relations Commission. The government has as yet been unable to address this issue. I am calling on the government to fix this issue which can, I believe, be fixed. 

Members may be aware that in recent weeks this issue has caused significant stress for hundreds of private music instructors and thousands of students across the public school system. A number of schools have already advised parents that no private music instruction will be offered next year, in 2017. Other schools are currently grappling with the bureaucratic process they must now go through in order to allow private music instructors to offer tuition to students during school hours at public schools. 

I understand that, despite some support from department staff—and I believe that some staff have been seconded to work on this full time—very few schools have as yet been able to fulfil the criteria they must go through, the hoops they must jump through, to offer the same level of service next year as they currently offer. I want to be very clear: this is not an issue where it should be either instrumental music service or private music instructors. It is not an either/or. Most schools that offer music, I suspect, have IMS staff (Instrumental Music Service), music teachers and private music instructors, or some combination of those different groups, working happily together for the best interests of their students, and we want that to continue. 

Less than two weeks ago, I put a petition online. It has attracted nearly 1,500 signatures (1,464 at last check) of affected families who, and I quote from the petition: 

Urge the Government to change the Education Department rules so that private music instructors may continue to work in public schools. 

The only consideration that should be relevant is how we get the outcome that will be in the best interests of the children in our schools. That is the only thing that matters. 

Reducing the range of musical instrument instructional offerings available during the school day is not in our children's best interest. It is not in the best interests of those students or their schools. The range of instrument choices, the opportunity for one-on-one tutoring and the model that works best in a local school environment are all matters that a local school should be determining, not head office. 

A cascaded process has been handed down under a consent order in the Industrial Relations Commission. This was agreed to between the education union and the education department. I note that tutors, students, families and people from schools were not present when making this consent order. There is a schedule in this consent order that identifies the process that schools must go through if they want to offer private musical instrument instruction as an option for families at the schools. 

It has been put to me that the most significant roadblock to music programs continuing is in demonstrating the requirement that is identified at the start of point 4 in schedule 1 of the consent order, and I quote, 'where all of the options are exhausted'. It then goes on to say that private music instructors are available. Point 3 talks about students taking on hourly paid instructors. You have the Instrumental Music Service, and that is fine, and that is the first step. If you can employ them, that is great. 

There are only so many to go around, though, and they offer only so many services. Of course, each teacher does not offer tuition for every single instrument and they also do not do one-on-one tutoring until year 12, but often at years 10 and 11 certainly that is necessary, and for some instruments you need it. Point 2 addresses teachers employed at the school and point 3 is about hourly paid instructors. 

Given that hourly paid instructors are paid at a much higher level than private music instructors, it is hard to maintain the current service without significant extra expense. A very challenging part of the process for many schools is demonstrating satisfactorily that they have met that part of the process. We now need the minister to make a very clear public statement, a ministerial direction or direct correspondence with schools about the application of this policy. She should make it clear that she considers schools to have fulfilled their obligations under the consent order as long as the principal or governing council can confirm that they have considered engaging HPIs. 

If the principal and governing council determine that this model does not suit the school, whether for budget reasons or any other reason they consider relevant, the minister's advice should be that they have met the instructions to her satisfaction and can therefore allow families to engage PMIs (private music instructors), as many do now. I will have further words to say about this.

[BREAK]

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 16:59 ): I continue the comments I was making in the earlier grievance debate in which I was seeking to bring to the attention of the Minister for Education her singular opportunity to resolve an issue that is causing great stress to thousands of South Australian students and hundreds of private music instructors. 

Prior to my time expiring in the earlier part of the day, I had identified that the minister is in a position, I hope, to make a public statement, a ministerial direction or correspondence to schools about how they can ensure that private music instructors continue to be engaged by families at public schools during the school day with the support of those schools. 

If the suggestion I made to the minister or if her application of that suggestion is not to the satisfaction of the Education Union, then point 5 of the consent order allows parties to apply to the Industrial Relations Commission on issues of implementation. If they do not like what the minister should do, and what I am suggesting she does, in writing to schools to let them know how they can identify that, if they have a reason not to undertake hourly paid instructors and have private music instructors instead, the education union can use point 5 of the consent order. 

If there is some problem with the process, the department can exercise the same right. Point 5 of the consent order states that they can return to the Industrial Relations Commission. This is something that the minister could do now if she does not want to give that direction to schools. If she does not feel that she can take that on, she can apply to return to the Industrial Relations Commission and get this sorted out. The Industrial Relations Commission's consent order already flags that, if there are implementation issues, they will have another look at it. 

Frankly, if all these means are insufficient to resolve the problem, the parliament has a number of sitting weeks between now and 30 April, the deadline that was put on the department by the Industrial Relations Commission, when it can make changes to the act that may be needed to resolve the issue. The point is that we need the willingness of the minister to engage seriously where the outcomes sought are exactly what she identified previously as her priority. In the parliament, the minister stated: 

The intention is absolutely that no student will receive any less music education than they do currently, and we will do everything that is required to reach that end point. 

To date, the government has not done everything that is required to reach that end point. To date, the government has not acted in that way. 

The Liberal Party stands ready to support any reasonable endeavour that the government wishes to propose, if amendments to the act are needed, that ensures that our children are not disadvantaged as they head into the 2017 school year. At the moment, there are year 11 students contemplating doing year 12 studies in solo music performance. If year 11 students are engaged with a private music instructor at the moment, they need certainty going into year 12 that they will continue to engage with that private music instructor during the school day at their public school if they need to learn that instrument. 

Private music instructors are able to teach one on one the instruments that students wish to learn. If Instrumental Music Service instructors who teach the instrument that that student wishes to learn are available at that school, then that is great and they are sorted out. However, there are 100 or so Instrumental Music Service teachers around South Australia to service over 500 sites, and they are unable to look after the needs of every child. That is why we have music teachers and that is why we have private music instructors engaged at school sites, and those sites at the moment use the model that works well for their school. 

Time is running short. The 2016 school year is very nearly over. Students, families, schools and private music instructors need certainty going forward into the 2017 year. We need a decision before the end of 2016 about whether those services will be available next year. We need support not just from staff giving advice to schools about what they need to do but also from the minister to help schools and reassure their families that they can have private music instructors on their school site next year. 

Private music instructors, schools, parents and students alike need to know what circumstances they will face in the new year prior to the end of this school year. We urge the minister to act immediately to fix this situation. I speak on behalf of the Liberal Party and on behalf of the many thousands of students who are undertaking private music instruction at public schools, the several hundred private music instructors and, as we identified previously, the 1,500 petitioners on the online petition and hundreds more who have signed hard copy petitions. On their behalf, we urge the minister to allow music to continue in our public schools.