Monday, 26 October 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the minister update the House on the importance of listening to practising principals and how we can draw on their experience to lift the education standards in Australian schools?
I thank the member for Brisbane for his question. He is a man who has devoted his life to education policy both in this parliament and in the days before this parliament. We are a government that wants to hear the voice of Australian principals. That is why in November we are inviting to the national parliament principals from right around the country—from primary schools, from secondary schools and from every school system; from metropolitan areas, from regional areas—to talk through the government’s reform agenda for education. That reform agenda is an education revolution. We intend to have a conversation with principals about our new transparency measures, which will powerfully compare the circumstances of schools around the country, particularly schools serving similar student populations so when we see best practice we can share it and when we see problems we can act to make a difference.
In terms of acting to make a difference, this is a government making an unprecedented level of investment in school education. For schools that need a helping hand, we are investing $1½ billion to assist schools in low SES communities, because we know that in this country educational underachievement and being from a poor household are very strictly correlated. We also know life does not need to be like that; we can make a difference for those children from poor households and we intend to. We also intend to make a difference to the quality of teacher education and interaction with students. We know the most important thing is the quality of interaction in classrooms between teachers and students. That is why we have embarked on reforms to bring high-achieving graduates to the classrooms that need them the most in disadvantaged schools, through our Teach for Australia policies. It is why we already have, in classrooms in parts of this country, a new scheme to pay the most highly accomplished teachers more to go to the classrooms that need them the most. And we are making huge investments in literacy and numeracy because we know if students do not get the foundation stones of learning then they will be left behind for the rest of their lives. We have also embarked on the biggest school modernisation program the nation has ever seen, as well as delivering a national curriculum around the country, with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority well advanced on the national curriculum in the first four key subjects of maths, science, English and history.
Given the breadth of our education revolution agenda and our respect for principals, we will be bringing them together in Canberra for a national conversation. This is an opportunity for those who care about education to come together to talk through the government’s agenda for education and to talk through the future of Australian schooling. We understand that principals, who are on the front line every day, are the best people to come and advise national government on the rollout of our policies.
There are those in this parliament who care passionately about the future of education. There are those in this parliament who have no policies and no plans. As we look across at the opposition, we unfortunately see an opposition with no stated policies on education and no plans for the nation’s future. We inherited from them a schooling system where we could see that Australian education was starting to fall behind world standards and poor kids were finishing last. We are getting on with the job of an education revolution to make a difference to that. Unfortunately, the opposition cannot join us in this national conversation because they have got no policies and no plans for Australia’s kids or Australia’s future.