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Canberra parents call for specialised teachers in primary schools

Canberra parents are pushing for more specialised teachers in public primary schools to prevent a brain drain into the non-government sector.

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association, representing 60,000 parents, has called on the government to fund the training, recruitment, utilisation and retention of specialised teachers, as well as the training of generalist teachers in certain subjects.

President John Haydon said members felt language, arts, physical and music education was falling behind as schools became increasingly focused on literacy and numeracy in response to NAPLAN testing.

"I think it's important that teachers have training in the subjects that they teach," Mr Haydon said.

"If there's a widespread feeling [from parents] their educational needs are not being met by the public sector, the obvious thing to do is consider the private sector.

"I think it's important for parents that the educational needs of their children are met by the public schools."

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An Education Directorate spokesman said research showed generalist teachers were best equipped to deliver the Australian Curriculum to primary school students.

"Specialists teachers are generally anchored in secondary schooling as the content becomes more complex and requires a deeper level of teaching expertise," he said.

"Each Canberra public school is different and has its own unique community, and school principals are empowered to make decisions about staffing that consider all of the unique factors that surround their school environment such as availability of qualified staff, student needs, curriculum obligations and community feedback."

A national report from the Australian Council for Educational Research found about 20 per cent of maths teachers and more than 20 per cent of computing, history, geography and physics teachers taught outside their area of expertise in 2015.

A number of ACT public schools mention specialist teachers on their websites, including in languages, music and physical education.

The ACT Government made a commitment in the last election to provide 100 scholarships to encourage teachers to gain a post-graduate qualification in science, technology, engineering and maths or languages-related disciplines.

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association, in its 2017-18 ACT government submission, has also called for a teacher-librarian in every school.

The Australian Education Union ACT branch supported the push.

"Teacher-librarians through our membership have been very active in presenting right across the education system the importance of their work and we think that should be a consideration of staffing in every school," secretary Glenn Fowler said.