Opening remarks—a national conversation with principals 2012, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
Check against delivery
I acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet—the Ngunnawal people—and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
I extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are here today.
I also acknowledge:
- Ms Jeannette Phillips—Ngunnawal elder
- Principals from across Australia
- Observers from many of our key stakeholder groups
Thank you Jeannette for your welcome to country.
Good morning everyone, and welcome. It’s a pleasure to open this forum.
Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedules to be here today.
It’s great to have this opportunity to work with and hear from so many principals.
Last year’s forum was very worthwhile for me and we had excellent feedback from those who attended.
It was valuable for me to hear the views of school principals and have this feedback in mind as we continued to shape Government policy.
It is always important for Government to hear from those at the coal face and as such I’m keen to have a similarly thoughtful discussion over the next day and a half.
The depth and breadth of knowledge and experience among everyone in this room about how our schools work is impressive.
We have principals here today literally from across Australia representing all sectors.
I understand we have the principal of One Arm Point Remote Community School in Broome, about 4000 km away, and the Principal of Black Mountain School, about 20 mins walk away.
I’m conscious that the decisions we take on school education directly affect how you work and what you do, and that you are the leaders who have to implement reform at the level where it matters most.
A great deal has happened since last year’s forum.
We’ve been bedding down the initiatives announced in last year’s Budget around rewards for teachers, teacher quality and the Empowering Local Schools initiative to give school principals more flexibility in decision-making and build stronger school communities.
I don’t think it has yet dawned on the wider public that we are in the midst of something absolutely groundbreaking with the continuing progress on the Australian Curriculum as it rolls out across the country.
And of course the review of school funding led by David Gonski has been a catalyst for further fundamental reform, which can, in time, positively influence every aspect of teaching and school activity.
This is an opportunity to have a conversation about some of these profound developments in education in Australia and of course to reflect on the challenges ahead.
As you can see on your agenda I am only able to attend for day 1 but there’s a huge amount we can get through today and I’m looking forward to meeting you all and discussing how we can work together to continue the momentum to reform school education—to make every school a great school, and to ensure that every student, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents earn, gets a great education.
The first focus of this forum is the Review of Funding for Schooling, conducted by the expert panel led by David Gonski.
Later this afternoon we’ll look at Quality Teaching in a session the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, or AITSL, will facilitate.
This session will focus on the draft Teacher Performance and Development Framework, and I am very keen to hear your feedback about this initiative.
The theme tomorrow will cover an area of great interest to me, the Harnessing of Technology and Learning. My department will provide me with detailed feedback about tomorrow’s session and I am very much looking forward to hearing about your reflections and comments.
There will be lots of opportunity for discussion in small groups and for asking questions over the next day and a half.
I will be joining your discussion groups throughout the forum.
My expectation for today is that we will have some well considered conversations about those education matters that are central to improving schooling in Australia.
School funding reform
I’d like to set the scene for today’s discussion about school funding reform by explaining the Government’s approach to this point.
In February, we released the report prepared by a panel of five eminent Australians with David Gonski as Chair.
The report provides the platform we needed to kick start a process of consultation and policy development about how schools should be funded.
The Review Panel’s report is a sophisticated piece of work.
It is the most rigorous and independent examination of the issues around school funding in almost 40 years.
The report found that our current funding system doesn’t work. It is not transparent, it is not efficient or effective and it isn’t fair.
One quote from the report says it all: ‘Australia lacks a logical, consistent and publicly transparent approach to funding schooling’.
The review panel found that similar schools are funded differently, there is little relationship between the way schools are funded and the costs of effective education, and the respective roles of the Commonwealth and the states and territories are not rational or coordinated.
And our broken funding model is now getting in the way of school and student performance.
Some kids are being left behind.
Since 2000 Australia’s international performance in literacy and numeracy has slipped.
An ineffective funding system contributes to the real risk that our results will continue to decline in comparison with other high achieving countries.
The report also found that an educational gap remains for Indigenous students.
It is a similar story with our cohort of poor performing students.
When students are left behind we lose their potential of what they can tribute to society.
These findings are a catalyst for national action.
Every Australian child must receive the best education we can provide, in order to reach their full potential and to equip the nation in a century of rapid change and challenge.
Under the model proposed by the Review Panel, every school in the country would be funded under the same system.
A system that would be fair, transparent and give all schools long-term certainty about their future funding levels.
I am conscious that the issues are complex and the views many.
No reform of this size and potential can be implemented without parents, teachers and principals being part of the policy discussion and development.
The best result will only come from a solid, shared understanding of the full range of views and preferences.
This forum is crucial and I encourage you to voice your opinions and let us know what is important to you.
I am determined to get broad feedback and suggestions from across the community, and have been travelling around the country talking with school communities, parents, teachers and principals about school funding.
I am particularly pleased, therefore, to have the opportunity to be here today to get your feedback and knowledge, and workshop some ideas, on the suggested reforms proposed by David Gonski.
In this room we have such a wealth of knowledge about what actually works on the ground—what makes a good school—and what educational settings are required to make sure all children can reach their full potential, particularly those students experiencing disadvantage.
I want to hear about what programs and policies you have in place in your schools that are leading to better outcomes for your students.
This information is the key to developing a new funding system that works to support every Australian student across every Australian school.
You have the opportunity today to engage with key issues in the development of a new school funding model and have the opportunity to inform the Government’s position.
We’ll be discussing the data that formed the panel’s views, and considering possible funding models.
I want to make clear that this Government is totally committed to continuing with the fundamental education reforms that have been a hallmark of the last four years.
I intend to introduce legislation into the Parliament, for a proposed new funding model, by the end of this year.
We’ll also discuss how this work will be taken forward.
I am very interested in hearing your feedback and advice.
As mentioned, later today you will be hearing from Tony Mackay and Margery Evans from AITSL.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with AITSL, which has been driving change and delivering national reforms under the Teacher Quality National Partnership.
I believe the professional standards for teachers and principals will have a lasting impact on the teaching profession and ultimately on the education of young Australians.
There’s a lot underway under the umbrella of the National Partnership, including nationally consistent teacher registration to address mobility issues, national accreditation of initial teacher education and the Charter for Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders.
And we’re establishing a clear and consistent approach to teacher appraisal and constructive feedback with the voluntary Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers and the National Teacher Performance and Development Framework.
We had a meeting of Australia’s education ministers a few weeks ago and there is very positive support from my state government colleagues across the country for these initiatives.
I’m sure you will have many questions for Tony and Margery and I look forward to that happening.
Digital Education Revolution—use of IT
Tomorrow’s session is going to explore how the foundations for achieving good student outcomes can be extended by the use of digital infrastructure, technologies and tools as an enabler and force for innovation.
Technology can open up the classroom, raise student engagement, enable new ways of teaching and learning, support parents and teachers in sharing information and the education process, and allow students to take ownership of their own learning.
The Australian Government, in conjunction with state and territory governments, education authorities, education academics, the digital industry, teachers and school leaders like yourselves, is committed to recognising and delivering on the potential of digital technologies to create and support new, effective ways of learning and teaching in Australian schools.
Not just doing the same thing better, not just having electronic slides with voice-overs instead of ‘chalk-and-talk’, but transforming the experience for both teachers and learners; doing things that we couldn’t do before, doing things differently to the way we’ve done them before, achieving things that we’ve never achieved before.
It should be an interesting discussion and I look forward to your input.
I’m certain we agree that every Australian child deserves the best education we can provide—no matter what school they attend or their personal circumstances.
We’ve built a powerful momentum in school education reform and we now have an opportunity to implement funding reform that supports every child getting the education they deserve.
Let’s use the opportunity presented by today and tomorrow to dig deep and explore how we can continue the progress with funding and broader school education reforms that are so important to the future of our nation.