School Community Forum- Georges River College, Penshurst Girls Campus, Sydney
- Prime Minister
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
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ANNE ROSS: As I begin, I would like to acknowledge the Bidjigal people of the Eora nation who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present.
Welcome to Georges River College, Penshurst Girls Campus - opened in 1955, when girls studied domestic science and the careers for the future were secretary, nurse, teacher or, a most skilled housewife.
My name is Anne Ross, and I'm the very proud Principal of this middle school for girls, where the goals and aspirations for women has significantly changed over the past 57 years, but some things have almost stood still. Thankfully, the art deco architectural style has become trendy again and retro vintage is back in vogue with the colour orange popular, once more.
Our school has a population of 700 students from 42 different nationalities which make up 65% of our students from a language background other than English. Our staff of 50 ranges from very experienced to New Scheme Teachers.
Everyone respects, and highly values this school, and each other. Everyone loves "Penshurst Girls". Our school is one of four campuses of Georges River College, and our girls join students from Peakhurst and Hurstville to attend Oatley Senior Campus to complete their Higher School Certificate. And it's on occasions like this, on International Women's Day, that the presence of the Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard at Penshurst Girls, will be etched in the memories of students, staff and parents for many years in the future. Our school community feels most honoured.
This evening, it is the changing educational landscape at both the state and national levels that is on the agenda. It is a time when, as school leaders, we need to step up and demonstrate courage to embrace these changes around curriculum, testing, autonomy and funding. Each of these factors needs to be considered holistically in our mission to develop great schools, where we aim for equity, equality and excellence, for all students to meet their academic and social potential. What unites us this evening, is the desire to discuss a way forward to our - for our schools in light of the recent release of the Review of Funding for Schools, or the Gonski Report.
We feel most privileged to be invited to be part of this community forum and thank Mr Daryl Melham for his support - for this opportunity. Daryl Melham has been our local federal member for a very long time, and he is really part of the fabric of the local community. He always places a high priority on attending special events at schools and supports us, each and every one of us, year after year. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Member for Banks, Mr Daryl Melham, MP.
DARYL MELHAM MP: Thanks very much Anne and at the outset, can I thank you and your school community for agreeing to host this education forum this evening. I think many people wouldn't understand what's involved in hosting a forum with the Prime Minister - the work that goes into to security and a whole range of other things. The people tonight in the forum are drawn from two electorates.
The electorate of Banks, which is my electorate and that's the electorate we're physically in, and the Federal electorate of Watson, held by Tony Burke. We had to keep it to two, because we were looking at an audience of about 100 to 120.
Can I just thank everyone who's agreed to participate this evening. This is the first time it's been held in New South Wales, so it's a privilege for this region to be chosen to have this event take place. I think it's very important, especially when it comes to education, to go to the grass roots, to go to people at a ground level, who are working, doing the nuts and bolts work, at education level and ask them their views. So, when I was asked, I was delighted to host the Prime Minister and the Minister for School and Education, Peter Garrett. It is a great honour. The less I speak, the more time you get to speak, so I hand over to the Prime Minister,
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Thanks very much. Thank you. Thanks Daryl. Thank you. We're here tonight to have a conversation about education and I'd like to thank Anne for inviting us to this wonderful school. And we've had the opportunity to have a quick look around, and to meet some of the girls, so you can get the feeling it's a great place. Thank you very much. And to my parliamentary colleague, Daryl Melham, thank you for having us in Banks.
And I spoke to Tony Burke this morning. He was very regretful he couldn't be here, but both Daryl and Tony are very connected with their local schools and very passionate about school education. So I'm going to open up briefly, and then hand to Minister Peter Garrett, and then it's over to you.
We're having this conversation about school education because it's the right time in our reform agenda to go back into schools, back to principals, back to parents, back to leaders in school communities and talk to them about what is going to come next. Now, we are passionate about education, and about a reform agenda, and I just very briefly want to explain why.
To this audience, I probably don't have to explain why at all, but it is important to reiterate that there's nothing more important to our future, as a nation, as what is happening in our schools today. If you want to shape the future, then the place to do it is in Australian schools, and we want that future to be one where we are economically strong and that means we've got to be pretty hard-headed about what's happening in schools and the standards of school education in Australia. We live in the region of the world that's economically growing.
We know the nations of our region are taking big steps to improve their schools and their school systems. They are going to be the economies that we compete against tomorrow and we can only win in that competition if we win in education, if we get standards right in Australian schools.
There's nothing preordained about Australia being a high skill, high wage economy in our region. We have to keep working to make that so, and there's no more important way of doing that than looking at what's happening in schools and the standards within schools. But there's also a very passionate, heartfelt reason for worrying about school education. It's about the strength of our economy for the future, but of course it's about every child's dreams and aspirations and hopes and whether or not they get to realise them.
And unfortunately, we do know that there are too many kids who, because of disability or disadvantage - they come from a poorer home, they may be an indigenous child - that they don't get the world's best education now, here in Australian schools, despite the strong efforts of Australian teachers, and we've got to make sure that those kids get a fair chance too.
So, it's about lifting everybody's standards, but it's also about making special efforts for the kids that need education, to do more work for them. Now, we started a big reform journey in 2007 and when I speak to audiences that are full of leaders from schools, I always want to say Thank you for being incredible partners in the reform journey we've been on.
We've asked you to do a lot and we've asked you to do it very quickly. But we have achieved more information and transparency about school education than the nation has ever had before. I, as Prime Minister, have more information about Australian schools than any Prime Minister in the nation's history.
That's not a big boast because Australian community members have got more information than they've ever had before too, and we're using that information to drive a change agenda. Part of that change agenda has been the National Curriculum, trying to make sure we've got a quality curriculum around the country and that kids don't suffer unnecessary burdens when their parents move interstate, and that teachers don't suffer unnecessary burdens either because they recognise the curriculum that's being taught.
We've also been very focused on literacy and numeracy and lifting attainment, very focused on teacher quality. We've got more than half a billion dollars available to invest in lifting teacher quality, lifting the quality of school leadership, because at the end of the day, there's nothing more important to a child's education than the teacher standing in front of the class.
We've also initiated a big partnership with disadvantaged schools with more money flowing to those communities for a reform program and a change agenda, to lift those communities up and to lift education standards up.
And we've also taken the opportunity to renew school capital. When we needed to spend money to protect Australian jobs, we had many choices about how that money could be spent, but we decided there was no better way of spending that money than transforming school capital because the way you want to teach now, requires you to have different facilities than the facilities of the past, and building the education revolution has made that happen for schools right around the country and of course, here in New South Wales.
We've also been investing heavily in the technology that kids will, you know - work with, live with, breathe with, for all of their lives, and that is ‘computer technology’ and we've been working with you on bringing that to schools.
So, it's already been a big change journey and we can see the advantages of this reform agenda already. We can see, when we go to school communities, an embracing of change. We can see, many schools that against the odds, often schools serving poorer communities that are really lifting standards.
But, we need to go to the next stage now - that's the journey that we're on in 2012, and I'm going to ask Peter Garrett to outline that journey, and then we're going to change the conversation and make it your conversation where you can say whatever you want to, or ask a question if you would like. So Peter.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yes, thanks very much Prime Minister. Look, I think the fact is that we're in a period of unprecedented change and extraordinary delivery on education and some of that of course, initiated by the Prime Minister in her former role as Education Minister. And Prime Minister, I think it's really pleasing for us to be able to say "Yes, we now have a national curriculum being implemented nation-wide and we'll have the additional three subjects languages, the arts - which is pretty close to my heart – and geography, which will come through for consideration."
With My School, you and I, Prime Minister, both launched the third iteration of My School only a week and a half, or so ago. And here's a provision of information that people have never had before in Australia. So I think our understanding about education, how schools are going, is much greater than it's ever been before.
But we're now focusing particularly on how we can provide a better opportunity for school leaders, that's principals and teachers, and the school community to have a say over how their school is travelling and we'll roll out pilot programs in about 1,000 schools around Australia on the Empowering Local Schools Initiative this year.
Very exciting because a lot of the research tells us that we see better student results where school leaders and communities have more of a say over what's happening in their local school, and as you know, we've now got the Gonski Panel Review Report on Education Funding. A first time in about 40 years that we've had a serious look at education funding in this country.
And, I think one of the findings from Gonski, is a very powerful and important finding, and that is that in comparison to our international counterparts, whilst we've got a good education system and our kids do well internationally, there are some countries that are drawing ahead of us, and our best kids aren't doing as well against their counterparts as they have previously.
But there's another dimension in Gonski that's particularly challenging and that is that kids in low socio-economic backgrounds, where you've got compounding disadvantage, are not able to perform to the best of their capacity, and a kid might be two to three years behind by the time they finish their high school career.
We've invested significantly, as the Prime Minister has said to you, in school infrastructure, improving facilities in every school, in transparency - making sure that parents and school communities understand more about their schools through My School, in national standards through NAPLAN and through the National Curriculum, but now it's about improving the teaching, improving the opportunities for kids in those schools. So the Gonski Review will be a very important part of that.
One of their other findings was that the current funding system is illogical, it's not transparent and it's not geared towards effective education for kids, regardless of which school system they're in.
So, we are in a really exciting, amazing part of the education reform journey that this Labor Government has initiated. It's one that really does, very much, involve you as school communities, as parents, as teachers and as educators, and it's great to be here to share this with you.
And finally, I just want to wish the band all the best when they go to the national competition. I think they're going to do pretty well, from what I heard. PM.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: And Peter would know. So we'll throw it open to you now. So happy to take a comment or a question. People generally don't like to be first, but you're being very brave. So that's good. If you could just tell us your name and which school you're from.
JOHN MORRIS: John Morris. I teach at Sir Joseph Banks High School, just right next door to Daryl's electorate's office over in Revesby. My question, Minister and Prime Minister is this Gonski, as you just talked about, rightly identified the greater needs of schools such as those of south west Sydney, from Canterbury right through to Campbelltown.
Where we have had those additional resources, such as the extra literacy funding program, disadvantage schools, priority schools and national partnerships - we've narrowed the outcomes gap. However, the cyclical funding regimes mean uncertainty of staffing for schools and teachers. With those communities that already experience the uncertainty of recent migration, low paid casualised work and unemployment, when are you going to release the purse strings so you increase the base funding so you provide certainty of outcomes for these communities?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Okay, that's a good question. We certainly have been big investors in school education. We've almost doubled the amount of money that the Federal Government puts into school education. Now, some of that is the funding that we provide through the schools agreement, sort of 'base funding', if you like. Some of it has been to accelerate the change agenda so it's through national partnerships.
So they're money to buy reform and to buy change. Gonski is now challenging us, the School Funding Review to say "Well, what should the system look like for the long term?" and that's exactly what we're working through now. Now, what Mr Gonski and his very eminent panel have done, is they've really given us an insight into what a new funding system could look like, but they're actually saying to us, you know, "You need to do a whole lot of technical work, discussions, consultations, work with stakeholders, work with states to, to get a view about a new funding system."
To give you an example of that, we've made available $200 million extra for students with disabilities this calendar year and next calendar year. So a $200 million investment. We know that there are huge needs out there.
What the School Funding Review is saying is get a system where there is a loading that is applied to any base funding to meet the additional needs of teaching a child with a disability. But, in order to do that, we need some things we don't have now, like a nationally common definition of "who a child with a disability is". We don't have that. It's possible for a child with exactly the same disability in different parts of the country to attract different amounts of support under the current system.
So, David Gonski is saying you know, "We think you should build a new system this way, but actually you don't even have some of the tools you would need to build this system yet. So you've got to go and build the tools." So, we're working on that now.
This conversation and your insights into what that system could look like and what tools we need to build it, are very important to us and that's one of the reasons that we're here tonight.
So I'm happy to take another - the lady down the back there.
IRENE FERRIS: Thank you Prime Minister and Minister. Irene Ferris, Principal, Lugarno Public School. I've been fortunate enough to work in a variety of settings of both middle socio-economic and quite disadvantaged as well, and that the point that you made at the beginning with regards to teacher quality, is what I hold dearest to heart.
I've worked in settings where we've received a lot of additional funds to good use. However, the difficulty always is in finding the quality teachers to put into our classrooms. Can you explain to me, to us, what the Gonski Review talks about in terms of teacher quality, and how we can further improve that? In particular, my young daughter just started Uni this week to become a teacher, so I'm very conscious for her as well as our children. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Yes okay. Look, I'll say something briefly and I might throw to Pete as well.
What, in the Gonski Review itself, what David Gonski says is, if you're going to build the new school funding system that he talks about in the review, or the panel talks about, what they've done is they've looked at schools that are high performing schools and they've said "What level of resources are available to those schools? They're getting good outcomes, they're high performing schools, so how much resourcing have they got available?" and they haven't broken that down into how much of that resourcing is used for professional development or improving teacher quality.
So we don't have the answer to all of that, but he has pointed us in the direction - and he's only able to do this because of My School - he's pointed us in the direction of high performing schools and said "These are the schools that - that perform well and these are the resources they've got." So, when I had this kind of conversation in Adelaide, the audience actually sort of challenged me to say "Well, could you go back and look at those high performing schools and see how much of their budgets they put into lifting teachers up?" and "Wouldn't it be an insight if that is on average in those schools, far more than it is in schools generally?"
So I did ask the question whether or not we can technically get that work done and that's being worked on now. But even as we contemplate those things, we're still driving new investments into teacher quality, including trying to attract the best and brightest into teaching. As a nation, I think we've talked teaching down. We should talk it right back up, as well as a focus on who's in the teaching service now.
So Peter might want to say a few words about that too.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yes. Thanks Prime Minister. Just to add quickly, Mr Gonski and his panel did identify "effective teaching" as being one of the most necessary components to actually deliver the education that we know all Australian kids need.
The Prime Minister's outlined some of the initiatives that are underway. Just two things to say, and it relates to John's question as well. In the national partnerships, in this half a billion dollars that we invest in teacher quality, one of the things that we will do in collaboration with the states and school systems, is draw out from that investment, the best practice examples that have shown to work. So the teachers have an opportunity to share with other teachers, those teaching practices that are proving particularly effective.
The second, and I think really important thing that we've done is, we've now got agreement for national standards for qualifications for teachers and principals. We have a National Institute of Teaching and School Leadership which is supported by the Federal Government, by this government, and that's very much focused on "What are the things that we know work for teachers?", "How can we share that learning nationally?", and "How can we make sure that teachers know what the standards are, that are required for them to be considered a teacher, and for those national qualifications to apply wherever they teach?"
That's really important. But finally, we've also said that we'll support other opportunities for people to become teachers, as the Prime Minister has said, and we've got some programs for that, like Teach for Australia, but we also want to recognise and acknowledge teachers who do achieve in those standards, and who are considered as highly accomplished or lead teachers, and we'll provide them with a bonus for their teaching. And that's a way of recognising that some teachers actually do a fantastic job, acknowledging that, but also sharing that practice and that learning with their peers, so that teaching effectiveness actually comes up to a higher level right around the country.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD Okay, can we take another contribution? Yes, the lady here. There's someone coming from the back. Here it [microphone] comes.
KATE CLANCY: Kate Clancy, Principal of Santa Sabina College, Strathfield. Prime Minister, I must say that I think most of our hearts warmed when we heard you speak about education and how important it is for every child in this country to have the best education.
My question is related to the comment you just made about how we ascertain what that quality schooling is. And, I guess, I would just like to say that I have some concerns about using tests such as NAPLAN, as it's been designed for another purpose, and I wondered if there was any opportunity for us to perhaps look at another way of identifying those schools that are effective?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: That's a good question too, and I'm really conscious that we can't measure every factor that goes into schooling. I mean, you know, we just can't. We can measure some things, we can't measure everything.
Of the things that we can measure, I mean we can through national testing, end up with comparative data on literacy and numeracy, and you would have seen as My School's gone on, it's got more and more sophisticated in the measures and now, in the latest iteration, there are some good value-added measures that haven't been in there in the past.
We can measure retention the number of kids who stay in school. We can measure their post school journeys - where they end up, and we can ask schools to self describe what - the things that they think make their school a great school, and we can also look at satisfaction of parents and obviously for older students - students with their schooling.
So we are trying to make My School, over time, a richer and richer source of all of that information. Now, that's never going to tell us everything about a school but I think it's going to give us, and it does give us, a good platform of information that we didn't have before.
So you can look at My School and see schools that are teaching similar kids, in terms of their backgrounds, very different results, and you can ask yourself the question "Why?"and then go in and say "Is it lack of resources?", "Is it a different way of teaching that is not proving as effective?" but you shouldn't, you know, look at My School and then say "That means that the Federal Government doesn't value anything else about education." Of course, we value a lot of other things, but we do have to be hard-headed about what we can measure nationally and compare.
Now, we're being very technologically sophisticated tonight, so we've got people following us and we've got a web question that Daryl will just go to.
DARYL MELHAM MP: Thanks Prime Minister. Dr Laurie Scandrett, the Chief Executive Officer of Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation asks, "Can you please give an indication with a priority and timing of the Gonski recommendation of extra funding for students with disabilities, given all the other financial obligations that the government is managing?"
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Well, I mentioned that before but I might go to Peter just to explain what we're doing now on disabilities.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yes, look, thanks. Disability is a very big issue in schools and certainly for parents with kids with disabilities. We absolutely understand how crucial it is that they get the support that's needed, and we did bring forward an extra $200 million in the last budget to be applied through the states and through the non-government school systems, and that money will start to be deployed this year, whilst we consider the Gonski recommendations.
As the Prime Minister outlined briefly before, Mr Gonski's panel is proposing that we consider looking at school funding, by having a schooling resource standard and that would be based around the benchmark Minister was describing) and then additional loadings, including the disability loading. We will convene working groups to deal specifically with this issue, and as the PM said, settle the question of the national definition around disability which, at the moment, that work's been initiated.
I've initiated it through the Ministerial Council. We need to conclude that work and we will sit down with stakeholders, including the state governments, the non-government school systems, the disability groups as well, to work through what a loading might look like. I just quickly want to add one another thing though about this, and it's this.
We very much recognise that schools and school leaders do have the heart to make sure that kids with disabilities, are able to be well educated within their school, and I can see us moving to, what I think, is a much richer debate about that, a much more important and wider debate about that. It's not only going to be about identifying and providing resources and support, it's actually going to be about recognising that the school communities themselves, will essentially go through that education task in a different way to make sure that kids with disabilities are fully educated in the school system.
And I've been to a number of schools, as I know the PM has as well, where that happens. I expect that to happen more in the future, but these working groups will work through the processes for consideration we've said that we would want to see. We're aiming for legislation within this year, but we do need to reach agreement on principles with states, and we do need those working groups, including a working group on disability, to conclude their efforts.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: We'll take a question from over here. Yes, the gentleman there. Trying to be fair between the two halves.
RICK DALY: Thank you Prime Minister and Minister. Rick Daly, Principal of Enfield Public School. First of all, I've just moved to Enfield Public School from a - another school in Western Sydney that was fortunate to have national partnerships, and can I tell you, it made a huge difference in terms of the input to children in that school from a low socio-economic area and also to the teacher training - but, I'd like to ask you about the tension that exists between the non-government school section and the government school sector.
Clearly, the government school sector looks after lots of low income children and my new school doesn't fit into that criteria of being a - a priority school, or a PA school - Priority Action School. So we miss out on that funding, and we're also a school that doesn't have high income parents and so we don't have a P&C that raises a lot of money. I know that Gonski has talked about funding both school sectors, but clearly government schools look after those most disadvantaged. There might be some debate over that, but, my experience has been, that's a fact.
Could you talk to us about the tension, and how you electorally are going to manage that in terms of looking at those people who send their children to, to private schools, but the, the bulk of disadvantage is in the public system, and how you're going to look after that electorally?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Sure. Look, one of the things I most wanted to do when we first came to government in 2007 - so I started this as Education Minister and I've continued it as Prime Minister - is to take the education debate away from the politics of schools and school systems, because if that's the game, then the nation will play it for - forever.
And I'll tell you who will miss out, as all that politics gets played, it's the kids in schools who are going to miss out. So for me, for the government, it's not about school systems. We don't, you know, sit saying - of course, in the debate we've some - we've got to talk about the Catholic system, independent schools, public schools.
We understand how the nation's schools work, but for us, when we're thinking about the reform agenda, we don't look at it through the prism of school systems. We look at it as to what is happening in an individual school.
And that's the kind of beauty of My School, that for the first time ever, instead of having a generalised debate about where disadvantage is, we can have an informed debate and having that informed debate we can say "Well, you know, there - there are some Catholic schools for example, that have made it their mission to serve the poorest communities in our nation," and there, you know, if you're going to rank disadvantage, many of those schools are more disadvantaged than a lot of state schools in affluent suburbs.
So, let's not get beguiled by the label on the school outside the gate. Let's actually say "Which kids go to that school?" and that's what Gonski is begging us to do. Not look at the label outside, but look at the kids in the school. What do they need to get a great education? What extra do they need if they come to school with a disability? What extra do they need if they come to school from, as a family that doesn't speak English - recently arrived and doesn't speak English? What extra is needed to make sure that an indigenous child ends up with a great education?
Now, I understand when we just do raw numbers around the nation, that it's going to be no surprise that lots and lots of disadvantaged students go to state schools. But if we're looking at the individual school, then we will be responding to that.
We do need to find a way of making sure that that response to levels of need and the economic demands for rising standards, are all over, at every school, rising standards at every school, and the equity demands of making sure that poor kids don't get left behind. That that becomes sort of part of a new system that works and works for the long term.
I understand the frustration of project funding and national partnership funding. It's been a great catalyser of change, so I absolutely stand by what the government's done, but we did the Gonski Review deliberately to take us to the next stage where we, we all, collectively, work on a system that means, you know, having the resources available to achieve those great results, is part of the system. It's not an episodic tipping in of extra resources, as we have done as a government.
We'll take a question here, yes.
DES FOX: Des Fox. I'm the Principal at St Jerome's Catholic Primary School in Punchbowl. Just listening to what you were saying then Prime Minister and Minister, I - the word 'sustained' comes up. It was asked a question - a few questions were asked around - were one of those, if you like, disadvantaged schools were not a disadvantaged school - were a school with many disadvantaged students.
We'd like to know that the SSNP funding that has been coming through to us, in what ways will that be sustained in a timely way, so that we don't get off this roundabout and then may be have to get back onto this funding roundabout in the near future? So when will this be implemented?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Right. Well, timing wise, timing wise we are at the end of the current school funding agreement. Not at the end of all the national partnerships because they're on different timings, but we're at the end of the current school funding agreement in school year 2013. So, we need to make some decisions about how funding is going to work from school year 2014 and we know that, you know, schools don't sit down on the 31st December, you know, on the 31st December 2013 and say "Oh I know, I'll do the budget for next year."
We know that you need a lead time to know what the resources are going to be available to your school, because you've got to make all sorts of decisions that are quite long term decisions about how those resources will be deployed.
That's why we're doing this now. That's why Peter and, and I released the Gonski Review of School Funding. That's why a whole lot of work that Peter is overseeing is underway now on a number of these questions including very profound, but also technical questions, like "What should be the common definition of a student with disability around the nation?" That's why that work is happening now, and that's why we're having this conversation now, because it's part of what we will draw on, as we work out our response to the Gonski Review.
Okay, we'll take a question here, yes.
JULIA BALE: I'm Julia Bale and I'm the Senior Librarian and a teacher, at All Saints Grammar School, and I'm here in my dual roles. Last year, as you would know, the National Report into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia made a number of recommendations of which two I picked out because they do fall under the national purview.
So, two of the major recommendations were firstly, the need to establish national guidelines for information and digital literacy in all Australian schools, because we have this fabulous rollout which we've benefited greatly from, but what are the standards that we're equipping the schools to meet?
The second issue was to ensure that the rollout of the new National Curriculum contained a component for the training of teacher librarians because the evidence overseas and in Australia, has indisputably demonstrated that teacher librarians working collaboratively with teachers, can considerably enhance educational outcomes for our kids, and that's what we're all here for. That's what we all want.
So, my question - Part A and Part B - given the once in a century opportunity, which we have now, for the Federal Government to implement major educational reforms that could lead to the restoration of Australia's reputation as 'the clever country' - please let us be first on the list, not fourth or ninth, first please –
A) What are the Minister's plans for implementing these two measures, as I discussed above, as a foundation for creating those collaborative partnerships between teachers and librarians that have been overwhelmingly demonstrated to enhance student learning, and secondly, to the Prime Minister, do Australia's teacher librarians, the majority of whom are females, have the constructive support of the Prime Minister in their pursuit of the above measures to enhance academic excellence in our schools?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Okay, thank you very much Julia. I should say, happy International Women's Day, happy National Year of Reading. I'm obviously going to agree with everything Julia said, so I'd better go over to Pete.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yes. Look, it's absolutely the case that librarians will play an increasingly pivotal role in schools because they're essentially going to be the report that was done into the work of librarians has information technology officers and coordinators, and been noted by the Federal Government and I've noted the recommendations as well.
The next step is for us to sit down with our state education minister counterparts and look at those recommendations and we will do that, and I certainly can give you the commitment that I'm very mindful of the need for us to do that, in reasonably prudent period of time, and not leave librarians waiting. There's a challenge there for state governments that run government school systems because they need to indicate their willingness to support the possibilities of librarians playing the kinds of roles that are envisaged in that report.
Very quickly on this It's a very exciting time for us, as you've said Julia, because we've got a National Curriculum which is digital. Australia's actually got the first world national curriculum online and we're putting quite a lot of resources into making sure that there are additional resources for teachers that link into the national curriculum that they can access online and then use in their classrooms.
But the librarian is quite an important person in a school, in terms of assisting teachers to do that, understanding what the scope of those resources are and also how to use them effectively. So, I expect to work closely on those recommendations with my ministerial counterparts, and I also do, very much hope, that state governments think about the appropriate staffing arrangements that go with that kind of reform.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: I loved it in the library when I was at school. For the audience beyond the room, we'll just take a web question from Daryl.
DARYL MELHAM MP: "Will I have to pay more for my daughter's private school fees?"
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Look, that, that is a, a good question and I know that there's people out there who are trying to raise all sorts of fear campaigning about what the Gonski Review may, or may not, mean for the future of education.
What we're saying, and when you look at David Gonski's work, is he's done some really sophisticated work about how best to manage funding for schools in all systems and how best to ensure that we're addressing some of the problems our education system has now, which we've talked about, comparative standards with our competitors overseas and also the issues of disadvantage.
We've given a commitment, no school's going to lose a dollar. I'm very pleased to see that stakeholders that represent independent schools, Catholic schools, have rejected out of hand some of the fear campaigning that's around. So I'd say to the person online, get involved in this debate. There's nothing to fear, but there is a huge opportunity for the nation here.
So we'll take another - we'll take the lady down the back and I think it's a black jacket, grey/black.
TIFFANY BEER: My name's Tiffany Beer. I'm a parent at Beverley Hills Girls' High School. I want to ask a wider question. You've talked about the transparency of the My School website, but the Gonski Review also talks about the concentration of disadvantage, and you have parents who are better educated which again, will lead to their children normally having a better outcome. They will look at the My School website. Some won't understand that there are many more factors affecting a school, choose from that performance to take their child to a different school. Therefore, you're left with a number of children, again, and you've got that cycle of disadvantage, and I just wondered how you were going to overcome that?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Look, I'll respond to that briefly. I was conscious of that when we put the My School website together and of course it's got more and more sophisticated over time, but I think we've got to be pretty frank. I mean, people have got - got information, "information" about education and school choice from a whole lot of sources that are less specific and less credentialed than My School.
A lot of the parents that you're talking about would have, in the past, made a decision about which school to send their child to on the basis of, you know, who in the community said a school was good or a school was bad.
I know in my own local community, we've got a great school there. It had one very unpleasant incident involving a DVD of a student violence question and lots of people in the community wandered around for a long period of time saying "That's a really bad school," but there was, you know, nothing that should have justified in people's minds that that was a really bad school. So there's lots of ways people get their information - down at the local shops, over the back fence, out of the local newspaper, from families and friends. A lot of what they hear through those networks isn't exactly high quality information. Now, they've got My School too.
We would, we would say, you know, "My School gives you the information that we've put on it. Go and have a look at the school, go and talk to the Principal, go and talk to parents who have got their kids in that school, make sure you make your own enquiries, get all of the best possible information you can." Is there anybody who's going to solely select off My School? Well, probably there is, but you know, before My School there were lots of people who selected off the gossip going round at the local shops, too.
We'll take a question here. Yes, you sir.
CHRIS HOPKINS: Thank you Prime Minister. Chris Hopkins, Hampden Park Public School. I'm just referring to the NAPLAN data being used to inform the My School's website.
As an example, our school is in a very low socio-economic area. Many refugee students come in from overseas, a lot of first new arrivals in the country. Our mobility is 34%. So testing that takes place in our school, doesn't necessarily reflect the - the education that we have provided our students. And in many cases, where our parents are seeing opportunities in the area through private education, they are seeking to take their children from our school and put them in other schools based on the education that we have provided. Now, this is not a private versus public school debate, but more the information that's provided does not necessarily reflect the status of our school and by Year 5 many of our kids, who are higher achieving kids, have left our school as a result of our own great work and that's what worries me considerably.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: We, we live in a nation where there is school choice and, you know, people make choices for all sorts of reasons. Some make them because they're informed by My School or some will make them because they've always wanted to say, have a Catholic education for their children. I mean, there's all sorts of things that will feed into school choice.
We're very conscious that there are different circumstances in schools and as we make the data richer and richer in My School, it helps cater for more and more of those circumstances. But the fact that an information or a measurement system is never going to be perfect, doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it at all.
You should explain to people the limits of it and we do try and explain to people the limits of My School which is why I don't say to people "The only thing you should ever do in choosing a school for your child's education is get on My School." I never say that.
We explain to people the limits of it, but we also explain to them the benefits of it and one of the benefits of it, is, I think, it has challenged some assumptions that there have been in the past about the quality of schools labelled off school systems, and I actually think that's really good for the debate. So there would be people who just, you know, wander around with the idea in their head that an independent school is always better than a state school. There would be people who think that.
Actually, when you get on My School, realise life's a lot different than that and, you know, there's quality here and there's problems there, and it's not explained by which system a school is in. But, I actually think it's helping, you know, get the deeper debate that we need to have.
Is it going to be perfect in every detail about every thing? No, it's not. Just the same way that medical testing isn't perfect and you get false positives. Just the same way that, you know, assessing damage from stormwater and floodwater - we'll be called on to do a bit of that - you'll get two engineers and they'll make a different assessment.
You know, life's not perfect, but, you know, we've got the best possible information we can, at this stage, and we're all ears for how we can keep making it deeper and richer.
So we'll take another question. We'll take the lady here.
DEIDRE BEDWELL: My name's Deidre Bedwell. I'm the Principal of GRC Oatley Senior Campus. You've spoken about the importance of the digital education revolution and the digital citizens that we teach, and we thank you very much for the last four year's commitment to the computer program for Year 9, but this is the last year of that commitment and we haven't heard anything about next year. And I hate to think the situation next year when we have the Year 10s with computers and the Year 9s without.
But I also, as an ex K-12 principal, wish to speak about the amazing things that are happening in our K-6 schools, an injection for computer and technology into our K-6 schools as well. So, given that this is the last year of the commitment to the Year 9 computer program, what is the future?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Peter's all over this, so I'll pass to him
MINISTER GARRETT: We'll work through with the states issues around sustainment of that program. We're mindful that for some school systems in some states, have managed the delivery of this program in different ways. In some cases, students have actually been able to take computers with them, in other places they've actually stayed in the school themselves. So we'll work through those issues with the states and that'll take us some time to do that.
We've delivered over 960,000 computers into years 9 to 12. So I think it has been a fantastic delivery, but your question in the broad, is absolutely right. What are the provisioning issues where kids are basically going to be using hand-held devices and a lot of their education resources can be accessed online in the future? And that's something which education systems, state governments, ourselves and others will be having a great deal of discussion about.
One thing I'm very aware of is that, in schools where they do have a high level of access to computers and where you've got quite sophisticated IT systems already in place, kids have got very rich education opportunities. They can cast around for extraordinary levels of access to resources that they wouldn't have had before and of course, the NBN and our rollout of the NBN is going to greatly amplify that opportunity for schools.
But what I think is also an important question for the school community is "What is the most effective teaching that happens with these technologies?" and that is something which, I think, we're just on the cusp of understanding. And we see what's happening with international research, and there's some really very vigorous debates that are - that are underway there.
One thing I can say is that with the NBN, the National Curriculum, the provision of computers up to this point in time, and the additional work that we're doing through Education Services Australia with digital education resources, we do have kids who say, for example, might be at a school in Palmerston in the Northern Territory, who've got as much as opportunity as say, for example, a kid in a suburb of Sydney, to get access to that digital learning, and I think that's an important step. But we know there's - there's more to do.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: We'll take a web question, then a couple more. Daryl.
DARYL MELHAM MP: Via Twitter, Axa Tweets asks, "Parent and community - parent and community engagement equals better student outcomes. How can we ensure this is part of the education reform?"
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: In our national partnerships, particularly the ones for disadvantaged schools which were referred to before - they're called the 'Smarter Schools National Partnerships' and when focused on disadvantaged schools, we actually made parental engagement, community engagement one of the things to be achieved in the reform journey because we knew that it made a real difference to student outcomes.
So, we have been through the reform moneys that we've had available to schools trying to drive that for schools that need to change, for many schools, and I'm sure the representatives of schools in this room, this is just core business. They are incredibly embedded in their community and very open to parental engagement and have their own strategies to make sure that parents are engaged every step of the way.
Now, we've got time for a couple more questions, so we'll do that quickly. We'll go to the lady in, I think it's a bluey/purple top. Yes, at the back.
CHRISTINE CORNICK: Welcome Prime Minister. I'm Christine Cornick. I'm an Assistant Principal across the road at Penshurst Public School, a K-6 school and some of our lovely girls come over here, and I saw some of them serving food outside.
My question Prime Minister and Minister Garrett is that with the release of the Gonski Report and the National Curriculum coming, how does increased evolution and school autonomy play a place in the big picture? You, Minister Garrett, you spoke about that - that being part of the plan, and what's your - what's your idea of that? Thank you.
MINISTER GARRETT: Well look, one of the things that we think is really important is to provide schools with the opportunity to be the best that they can be and that means giving principals some autonomy over decision making in the school, whether it was around things like staffing mix or their budget, and it's providing the school community, whether it's a P&C or a school council or a school board, with more of a say, as well.
The education research internationally, tells us that where there are higher degrees of autonomy within a school or a school system, then you're seeing good education results for those kids. And I see this as something that we're actually moving to, as a community, because people know how important education is, but they want to have an opportunity and particularly the school leaders, to give effect to that within the school itself.
And so, the Empowering Schools initiative that I spoke about before, and the 1,000 schools that will roll that initiative out, through this year, will be a big part of that. I think the second thing that's really important for us is recognising that when we deliver the National Curriculum, we're actually delivering a national learning entitlement, a common learning entitlement to kids wherever they go to school.
And it's very important when you have, say for example, a lot of economic activity happening in states like Queensland and Western Australia, that both teachers and parents can go into a new school environment, and that the student in that school environment can be learning at the same level, the same subjects that they were learning in the same way that's taught when they were in another state. So this is going to be a big part of improving the framework for schools.
When we do that rollout, we do it across the country and it's across a continuum of things that schools can do, and they can make some choices themselves about what they think's going to work best for them.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: We'll take - I suspect it's going to be the last question, or pretty close to the last question. So I'll take the lady just here with blonde hair. Thank you.
JENNI PAYNE: Jenni Payne, Principal of Mater Dei Catholic Primary School at Blakehurst. Prime Minister and Minister Garrett, we acknowledge the importance of quality teachers to our profession and to the learning outcomes for all of our students. The teaching profession loses a large number of New Scheme teachers each year and there is a significant difference between the university training experience of those young people and what they actually experience when they join the workforce. I'm just wondering what plans you might have for evaluating the teacher training experience at university?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Well, Pete might want to say something about this too. I think, this is a really important question. I mean, we've sought to diversify some of the ways people can get into teaching, so there's a practical experience as well as a learning experience. Teach for Australia is an example of that.
High performing graduates who are then involved in a two year journey which includes accelerated education but then hands on teaching experience. We're looking to extend that to what's called Teach Next because in a changing economy like ours, you'll get a lot of mid-career professionals who are looking for the next part of their lives and teaching will be a good opportunity there. With our focus too, on technical education, there will be many people who used to be tradespeople but got to the stage they don't want to do that work directly anymore, but they'll be happy to teach those skills.
So we're looking to diversify the, the pathways. We're really conscious though that we need to, to make a quality change right throughout. We changed sort of a perversity that had been in the funding system that it was from the good intents of making teacher education cheaper from the point of view of students, but it ended up meaning there was less money per place for teachers in universities compared with other courses.
So we've resolved that to make sure there's some more money available to Unis for teacher education, but I do think we've got more thinking to do on this precise question and insights into it are very important.
It's also important, I think, that working with schools and inevitably, with you know, school systems' employment policies - there's a lot that discourages young teachers from the kind of churn-through approach of short term contracts. That's not - we're not the direct employer, but I do think there's a real, you know, community debate to be had about that and how young teachers get into schools.
Pete might want to say something too.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yes. Look, thanks Prime Minister. Just to quickly add. Look, I was very encouraged by the fact that the major universities around Australia really agreed to us bringing forward the national qualifications for teachers and principals.
Those standards are now nationally agreed and they were very positive about that. I think that's a good sign because the next piece of work that I think we need to look at, partly through the Institute of Teaching and School Leadership and partly by working with my colleague - my colleagues in higher education and the Ministerial Council is this very question, because it is a key question for us to address. It's something which we know we need to deal with, but I think there's some good foundations for us to get stuck into it.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Okay, we'll be able to take one more. I want to be fair. I'm trying to remember the count of both sides, but we'll take one. We'll take the lady just here at the back. Sorry we haven't been able to get to everybody.
KIM TOWNSEND: Prime Minister and Minister Garrett. Kim Townsend. Tonight I'm wearing - I wear numerous hats. I'm a parent for 23 years, ex P&C President. I'm selection panel trained and now I'm working in administrative roles in a couple of different schools.
Whilst I acknowledge your initiative to reward teachers who decide to further, you know, further training, what I've noticed is the level of, and the standard of keeping those quality teachers in the school, is up to the level of management in the executive and to the Principal.
What I'd like to know is what measures you've got in place to bring those teachers up to the management levels as required to operate, what is essentially, a business. If you put it into a business category, that is really going to benefit the students? And also, will the executive staff have any sort of capacity to be able to do something about those teachers who choose not to step up and are just in there biding their time until their retirement because that's what they can do?
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: That's a really good question and when, you know, we - you look at it as a nation, we've kind of made the assumption that if you've been a long term teacher, then stepping into the role of principal is the next step and we've got examples of great principals all around the country, but some of the other skills that you need to be a great principal, we haven't been as systematic about identifying them and supporting people to get them as we should. We have had a focus on that and I'll just get Peter to outline the work we've done for school leaders and we need to continue to do.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yes. Look, as part of that Empowering Local Schools initiative that I referred to earlier, there will be the opportunity for that kind of support and even training that you're referring to, and we'll provide between $40,000 and $50,000 for each school and for the leadership and the autonomy kind of agenda in that school to be developed. And part of the sort of things that that can be applied is specifically what you're talking about.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Absolutely. Okay, I think we're - I'll just look over. We're getting told we're going to have to wrap it up. I know there were many more questions. So thank you for a great discussion and thank you for getting here this evening. If it's said of the Mounties, "They always get their man", then I think it should be said of teachers in this part of the world, "They always get to their seminar", because I know many of you have crossed flooded roads and done all sorts of extraordinary things to get here. So thank you very much and I'll hand over to Daryl Melham.
DARYL MELHAM MP: Thanks Prime Minister. The first thing I'd say is there are feedback forms on each seat, so if you didn't get to ask a question or if you want to want to comment on something specifically, please feel free to fill the form in and hand it to the relevant officer in the foyer.
I want to, on your behalf, thank the Prime Minister and, and Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education, for coming along this evening. We have a wonderful democracy.
Next month I celebrate 22 years in the Federal Parliament. I have not seen this concept before in my time in public life. This is a new concept that has been brought into place to allow direct consultation with people on the ground. The problem is, of course, there's never enough time. We could have always done what a lot more time, but what we've seen tonight is a good turnout from the local community and asking some challenging questions, as well. That's what it's about.
I've found in public life that you need to know what's happening on the ground, whatever the situation is, irrespective of what report you've got, what middle management or senior management tells you. It's people on the ground that have that experience that can help refine what you're trying to do, which is good anyway. And the fact that we've managed to have the Prime Minister and the Minister for School Education here tonight for an hour, is just fantastic.
So on everyone's behalf, thank you for your attendance and thank, thank each of you. I know it's - it's been on short notice and to get such a response is wonderful. Education is the key to our community, to our nation.
I'm going to tell you one story because I'm allowed to as I wrap it up and it brings in migration and it also brings in education. My father came to this country in 1926 from Lebanon at the age of 13. He went back and married my mother and brought her out to Australia. Neither had the benefit of a high school education, but they instilled in their children the value of a good education. I am one of 10 children. I have seven brothers and two sisters. Six university trained, one a doctorate in mathematics, three masters, six normal degrees, four TAFE trained, one topping his TAFE, one topping the state in carpentry and my sister's also doing good work. Each of them putting back into the community.
So the idea that migrants don't contribute, or that education doesn't enrich our community, is just nonsense. We diminish ourselves as a nation if we diminish people an opportunity to get a better education.
It's an investment in our society and that's why, as the local member here for the last couple of years, the money that's come through the endeavours of this Prime Minister and also the former Prime Minister is unbelievable.
You know that in terms of what's happening in infrastructure and regenerating the infrastructure in all of your schools. This is the next phase and I am really honoured and pleased to have the Prime Minister and the Minister for School Education in my electorate. Thank you very much for coming along.