Education a dream job: Collier
Education a dream job: Collier

Newly installed Education Minister Peter Collier wants more pastoral care in State schools to solve behavioural management problems.

He will call for a renewed focus on vocational education in senior secondary years to better connect students with useable qualifications and job opportunities.

In his first interview after being sworn in to his "dream job" last Friday, Mr Collier - who was a secondary teacher in public and private schools for 23 years before entering politics - said all he wanted to do was "teach, coach tennis and get into politics".

Mr Collier, also Energy Minister and an influential backroom player in Liberal Party politics, admitted he was disappointed when Premier Colin Barnett gave the education portfolio to independent Liz Constable after winning government in 2008.

Mr Collier had been shadow education minister and helped write the Liberals' independent public schools policy - "the greatest reform in education in Australia".

"Schools are climbing over themselves to be part of it," he said.

"It is empowering local communities to have a say in what goes on in their schools."

A total of 389 schools have applied to become independent, with 207 - a quarter of schools and 40 per cent of students - given the green light.

Independent schools have more freedom to hire and fire teachers, set budgets and offer a more flexible curriculum.

Mr Collier acknowledged other schools could become "second tier" but he believed that appropriate resourcing could address issues.

Asked his priorities, Mr Collier called for a rethinking of academic versus vocational subjects in the later secondary years, and better outcomes in Aboriginal literacy and numeracy.

"I'm not convinced as a former educator that we are preparing secondary students as adequately as we could," he said.

"There is still a very heavy emphasis on the academic pathway.

"We need to better prepare our leaving students for a career pathway that is reflective of their abilities and their interests."

Shadow education minister Paul Papalia said the focus on vocational education was at odds with the Government splitting off Training and Workforce Development from the Department of Education.

Mr Papalia said Mr Collier's first priority should be to respond to the Gonski review of school funding.

Released by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in February, the review called for a $5 billion injection of funding and identified a widening gap between education outcomes in disadvantaged and affluent parts of the country.

'We need to better prepare students for a career pathway that is reflective of their abilities.'" * Peter Collier *

The West Australian

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