Interview with Ian Henschke ABC 891 ADELAIDE
- Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
E&OE TRANSCRIPTINTERVIEWABC 891 ADELAIDE MORNINGS WITH IAN HENSCHKE18 JULY 2011
IAN HENSCHKE:Cyberbullying seems to be something that's in the news almost on a daily basis, so it's probably not surprising that parents and citizens groups around the country should be saying perhaps it should be taught in the national curriculum.
Well, that's been a call by the national body representing parents and citizens. And to respond to that call, we're joined now by Peter Garrett, Minister for School Education.
Good morning, Peter Garrett.
PETER GARRETT:Morning, Ian.
IAN HENSCHKE:Now, teachers are being asked to do all sorts of things these days. Do you think they should be teaching social networking and teaching how to deal with social networking as part of the school's curriculum and put on the national curriculum?
PETER GARRETT:Well, I certainly think, Ian, it will be important for teachers, as the national curriculum continues to be implemented, to have the opportunity to provide kids in the classroom with some of those understandings.Certainly, given that all the states and territories have got their own policies and guidelines that deal with bullying and cyberbullying, what we're seeing in the national curriculum development is the information, communications and technology part of general capabilities.
So, ITC skills and understanding are recognised as what's called a general capability, along with things like ethical behaviour and literacy and new media. So my expectation is that cyberbullying and how kids appropriately use those technologies would be dealt with in that framework.
IAN HENSCHKE:Now, there was recently a major Senate inquiry. In fact, I've got copy of it; it's about the size of an Adelaide phone book, but not quite as large in size - but it is in thickness - with all sort sorts of recommendations about how we should be dealing with it. But, ultimately isn't it the responsibility of parents to teach their children how to use the internet effectively? I mean, we're already getting to the stage where schools have to teach all sorts of things that were being done by parents before. You certainly won't respond by making it a curriculum subject, would you? Like, Facebook as a curriculum subject?
PETER GARRETT:No, I think just the answer I gave you earlier indicates where teachers can use the teaching within the national curriculum to give kids some good information and some good guidance. But look, you're right. At one level, it's really important for parents to make sure that their kids are aware of the kind of risks and issues online. Especially as we've seen such an incredible uptake in hand-held devices and use of Facebook sites and the like.
We have a National Safe Schools Framework which has been reviewed and endorsed by all the education ministers. I launched the first national day of action against bullying and violence this year in Queensland. We've got an online social networking campaign, Take a Stand Together. There's a lot of information online and guidance for schools and students and parents as to how to deal with this issue.
But it's a responsibility that all share. I guess my major thing is to make sure that we've got in place the necessary information for teachers and principals and parents. I believe that we do have that information in place. I think it's very important that we send a strong message to kids, both in the home and the school that bullying of any kind isn't acceptable, including online bullying.
Interestingly, very quickly, Ian, we're seeing some slight diminishing in physical bullying at national trends. I think the message is starting to get through that that kind of behaviour just isn't acceptable, both in the school and outside. We need to have the same level of awareness when it comes to cyberbulling.
IAN HENSCHKE:Would you be calling for national laws on this? Because if you have a look at this recent Senate inquiry, they put the offences as an appendix there and they seem to be different all over the country, how people are dealt with. In some cases, victim must be, or believed to be under 17 in Tasmania and in South Australia the victim must be under 16. So you've got different states with different laws. Instead of having a national curriculum, should we just have national laws relating to cyberbullying?
PETER GARRETT:Well, the fact is that the criminal jurisdictions have got their own laws and they operate from state to state, you're right. There are sometimes some differences in the way those laws are applied.
In terms of the schools, my view is that it's up to the states to make sure that their policies and guidelines on things like cyberbullying are working and that they're really well communicated to the school community. It is the responsibility of states and territories to run their school systems and I think generally that's why we've got the National Safe Schools Framework, so we've actually provided a framework for all schools to consider that issue of cyberbullying.
And I think that's the right approach at the moment. Look, I know it's a big and emerging issue and I know it's an issue that I know parents have got concerns about. I think the key for us is to make sure that kids recognise wherever they're getting those messages, whether it's from an education minister, on radio, in the school room or at home, that no form of bullying is acceptable and that includes cyberbullying. And I think once we start to see that increasing awareness amongst kids, hopefully we'll start to see some lessening of the incidents that do understandably cause people a bit of concern.
IAN HENSCHKE:I'm talking to Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education and Early Childhood, Federal Minister. David Pisoni the Shadow Minister for Education in South Australia has called in. Good morning, David Pisoni.
DAVID PISONI:Oh, hi Ian. Look, I was reading in the paper this morning that government's backing down now on their school autonomy proposals.We're not going to have as much autonomy in our schools as the Prime Minister promised in the lead up to the election. I think this is the key for introducing anything new into schools, is to enable schools to actually buy those [inaudible] in. We don't - teachers aren't all jack of all trades and ace of none. We don't want teachers that know a little bit about everything. We want teachers to be specialist in their areas, so as kids can learn in those specialist areas.
Then if schools need to buy those skills in, whether it be people that specialise with dealing social networking and dealing with cyberbullying. Then the schools should be able to buy those people in for particular services that they can offer students and parents in the school community and teachers themselves.
At the moment, everything seems to have to be done by teachers and I don't think that's the appropriate way of getting the best value for money.
IAN HENSCHKE:Alright. Well, thanks for your thoughts on that one, David Pisoni. A teacher has called in from Marrickville High School who recommends that all parents visit the Australian Communications and Media Authority's website, www.acma.gov.au. He says that it tells parents everything they need to know about cyberbullying and he says that it's brilliant.So there are resources out there, aren't there, Peter Garrett, at the moment. Do you think they're enough?
PETER GARRETT:Yeah, look, there are. I don't agree with David. Look that site that the teacher has mentioned, www.safeschools.deewr.gov, www.takeastandtogether.gov.au, www.bullyingnoway.com.au- lots of information. And on the autonomy issue, we made the right decision as education ministers to give each state the opportunity to consider what level of autonomy it wants to provide to its schools, along a continuum. That's the right way to do that. We're very aware of this issue. There's a lot of material there for parents and for teachers. People do need to go and have a look at it, access it and communicate it to their kids.
IAN HENSCHKE:Just quickly, before we leave this subject, last week on the program we looked at a call by various people, including the nation's chief scientist, for the Federal Government to continue funding science in primary and secondary schools, a program that had been rolled out which they say has now been cut.
We got a lot of calls on it. Is there any chance that the government might be able to find the - I think it was ten million or eleven million to keep that program rolling in schools?
PETER GARRETT:Look, Ian, I saw that call. The program hasn't been cut, it's been concluded. And it was a good program and my expectation is that the material that was developed in that program is now used by schools and states, including South Australia. I think there's plenty of good material there. But my expectation is, given the high level of funding that we provide into state for education, that they'll pick up that material and use it well in classrooms.
IAN HENSCHKE:But if the Federal Government wants more scientists - we need more scientists in this country to develop it - shouldn't the federal government be taking the lead and perhaps even matching them dollar for dollar, so at least having a program where you make science a priority in the schools? By taking funding up to a certain point and not giving them the funding that they want, you're saying that they're pulling back on science?
PETER GARRETT:Well look, I don't agree with that call. I think the fact is that we did provide support for this program and we did it because we recognised it was important to have materials out there in the classroom that encouraged kids to learn science and to understand science. But, given that we nearly doubled the amount of Commonwealth funding, compared to the coalition, across a range of jurisdictions for education support, I really strongly encourage the states and state systems to pick up the opportunities that are there, to take the material that was developed with this program and to make sure that kids understand it.
IAN HENSCHKE:Thanks very much for your time. Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for Schools Education.