School students in NSW will receive free tutoring next year after the state government committed $337 million to support those who may have fallen behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government would employ up to 5500 additional staff to tutor at every public school, as well as some independent schools with significant levels of need.
The tutoring program, to be included in NSW’s 2020/21 budget next week, will begin in term one and run throughout the school year.
Ms Berejiklian said it was designed to ensure students’ educational outcomes continued to improve after a disrupted year that included seven weeks of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students have been through a really difficult time in 2020 – especially those who may be disadvantaged or vulnerable or have learning difficulties,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
Ms Berejiklian said the program would also provide relief to both parents and teachers.
“Rather than parents having to fork out extra dollars if their child is running behind or has been particularly impacted, this will actually provide that pressure release where we will pick up the tab for those extra classes,” she said.
“It will support teachers as well because (they) won’t have to spend extra time caring for students who may be falling further behind than others.”
The education department would support schools to identify students who would benefit the most from the intensive support, tailoring it to their requirements.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said schools would be given flexibility as to how they rolled out the program.
Ms Mitchell also urged educators, including casual and retired teachers, final year teaching students and university tutors to express interest in the program, with applications to open in two weeks.
“This program is designed to have maximum impact on student outcomes, because small-group tuition rapidly accelerates student learning,” she said in a statement.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the program would see a boost in employment for casual and part-time teachers and university tutors.
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos welcomed the program and said there was “no doubt” the COVID-19 pandemic had seen a negative impact on student learning and wellbeing”.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay also welcomed the tutoring program, but said even more “catching up” was needed.
“For 10 years under this government school performance has been in a free fall,” Ms McKay said in a statement to AAP.
“Under this government we’ve gone backwards in reading, maths and scientific literacy.”