School Funding Forum
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
- Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations
Browse images by number
MARK GIFFARD: Hi, everyone. I'm your host, Mark Giffard, and I want to welcome you all to our first School Funding Forum with the Minister for School, Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins.
Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we're meeting on today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.
Now, this is a very notable event today as we are here in the department's national headquarters in Canberra to talk about a special subject, one that affects every child, every family, every school and ultimately every part of our future economy.
And that, of course, is our school system.
How it's currently funded and how our new funding system will deliver the best result for our schools and our country.
We're joined by our audience, we're beaming out live to the world on the internet and our feed is going live to Sky News and we're having a live social media conversation as well.
Well, how we're going to progress today is both Minister Garrett and Parliamentary Secretary Collins will make some opening remarks and then I'm going to throw to some questions, some of which are from you here in the audience in Canberra, some from Twitter, some might be via email or using our web chat facility. And we'll go back and forth a bit like that.
Well, there are a lot of questions to go through, of course, so, obviously, we won't be able to cover them all today.
But I'd now like to take the opportunity of introducing Minister Garrett and following Minister Garrett, Parliamentary Secretary Collins, who'll detail the journey so far. Minister, thank you.
MINISTER PETER GARRETT: Thanks very much, Mark, and welcome, everybody, to this really important and exciting part of the education journey that this government has embarked on to make sure that every school is a great school.
And I am delighted to be here with my parliamentary colleague, Senator Jacinta Collins.
I know that our local Canberra members of Parliament, Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann, are in the audience as well.
And we're beaming live, so a big hello to everybody who's interested in education and who wants to be a part of what I think is a very important national conversation.
The education funding report that was brought down by Mr David Gonski and his panel is a very important report.
And it tells us that we are in danger of sliding in terms of the performance of our kids in our schools.
Our bright kids are not doing as well as they could against their international equivalents and kids in our disadvantaged schools from disadvantaged communities are in danger of falling further behind.
Now, this government has a significant and strong agenda on education.
We have nearly doubled the funding compared to the previous government and we've had a number of really important things that we have done around teacher quality, literacy and numeracy, a national curriculum for the first time.
But we recognise it's important that every parent has the confidence that their kid, whatever school they are going to and wherever they live, has a world-class education.
And the work that Mr Gonski and his panel have done, the recommendations that we now have in front of us to consider, are important to make sure that we stay on that path.
The government is committed to sitting down and talking with community, talking with you, talking with parents, talking with people who are really interested in education and concerned about the future of education.
And we will also begin work immediately sitting down with state government colleagues, our education stakeholders, identifying the work that need to be done to refine, test and develop the model that this important review proposes.
Remember, it's talking about a schooling resource standard.
An amount of money that would be available to kids in schools and an amount that would available, importantly, and can be added to where the issues of disadvantage arise.
There is a lot of complexity in this report.
I'm very much looking forward to the questions that come through and talking to people right around Australia about what we now need to do on these recommendations.
We think the review has provided us with powerful insights as to the kind of future funding model we should have for education in this country.
We're very committed to getting stuck into that work and I'm looking forward to hearing from both the people here in Canberra and their questions and also people online and from Twitter. So, very warm welcome from me as minister and thanks very much, everybody, I look forward to taking those questions and speaking to you soon.
And now my colleague, Jacinta Collins.
SENATOR JACINTA COLLINS: Welcome, everyone. It's a little daunting to have such a broad audience beyond this room, but it is great to see the level of interest here in Canberra.
The minister and I look forward to the interest that's being indicated across the country in the forums that we will be holding in the very near future.
So, thank you, Mark, for the introduction.
Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be working with the Minister in this area.
This, as Mark indicated, is a very important subject to our future and to our nation's prosperity.
I and the Minister both agree that this has been a very rigorous process. This report gives a strong direction to move towards, creating a fairer and better system that all of our children deserve.
And I would like to take that moment to congratulate Mr Gonski and all of the panel members for reaching the unanimous recommendations that they've put to us to work with.
But I should also point out that Mr Gonski himself says that there is so much hard work ahead.
He has put to government a framework, a framework that needs to be tested and that is what we will now do.
And that is what this process of us listening through forums such as today will also do.
This work has well and truly begun.
Part of the next steps that Minister Garrett describes is the establishment of working groups to consider a number of issues and let me run briefly through those for you.
Working groups will be looking at the identification of reference schools, how that might occur.
They'll look at the efficient and effective loadings for socio-economic disadvantage, such as disability, that the Minister mentioned.
They'll also look at Indigenous students and the areas of capital costs of education.
My colleague, the Minister for Human Services and the Minister Assisting for School Education, Brendan O'Connor, will lead the work for funding for students with disabilities, arising from the recommendations, and he will hold separate forums in relation to that particularly important area.
I will be leading another area, which is capital funding and philanthropy.
The government feels that the report's recommendations about capital spending may be too large.
We highlight that State and Territory governments, Catholic school systems and independent schools all have a key role in the funding and planning of new school developments and the expansion of their existing facilities.
The government as you'd know, has recently completed the largest ever program of capital investment in Australian schools and while we're open to continuing discussion about the most effective way to provide capital funding for schools, we do not envisage the significant expansion of the Commonwealth's capital funding role.
We envisage learning from the major delivery that has occurred to date and we envisage future national leadership but again, those other key bodies, states, territories, Catholic systems, independent schools are all significant players in this space.
Moving on to the role of philanthropic donations - this is an area the report suggests has great potential.
In the long-term, every business in Australia benefits when schools produce students with skills both they and businesses need to succeed in a more volatile and competitive world economy.
When a business support a school community, it becomes known in the school's community will stop it enhances that business' reputation as one which supports the community and not just makes a profit from it.
So how best to help these partnerships develop so that our children are the winners in the education race? The answer is by working carefully and collaboratively.
We want the education community and broader community to have their say in this area.
So that's another reason why we're here today. To listen to you, to build help the sort of dynamic, creative and fair society we all want by making sure our children get the world-class education they need and deserve. Thank you.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, thank you very much, Senator Collins, and if I can ask you to take your seat, we'll now move to the next stage of proceedings, which is hopefully a little bit more informal, but I'm sure very informative.
Minister Garrett, will there be more events such as these on the horizon, indeed, on the calendar?
MINISTER GARRETT: Mark, we definitely want to have more events like these.
Last year, I did one here, which was fantastic.
And I really found that the feedback that we got from people was really useful to me as a minister and I think it gives people an opportunity to hear what other people think, see the kind of questions that are asked and also engage with us one on one.
I mean, we might want to talk about what democracy really means and I think we're lucky that we live in a very democratic country, but this is a very democratic process and I expect to be doing it in other states and in other communities as we roll this process out.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, now to a web question and it's from Blaise Norvey and Blaise asks, "Will there be any incentive for the best teachers to work with the most disadvantaged students?"
MINISTER GARRETT: It's a good question.
We do know that teacher effectiveness is a really important issue and one of the principles that we will be looking at when we sit down with the States is ensuring that we do focus on teacher effectiveness.
We also know that inside the school gate, they are the person who counts.
We have spent a great deal already on supporting teacher effectiveness through the teacher quality National Partnerships but Mr Gonski's recommendations highlight something that's pretty important and that is that we do have a significant swathe of kids in low socio-economic schools.
And if a funding model is going to reflect that particular need, then I think it's also fair to say that along with that would go the necessary investment in teacher quality, effective teachers and specialist teachers to help.
Now, we already see that happening in some of the National Partnership work that we're doing.
My expectation, certainly over time, is that it should happen more and I think that's pretty much implied in these recommendations.
MARK GIFFARD: Now to a question from Caz Bosch, the Federal President of the Australian Parents Council, who unfortunately couldn't be with us here today and Kaz wrote in this email, "Congratulations to the three Gs, that's Gillard, Garrett and Gonski, for bringing this most interesting review to fruition.
Minister, the Australian Parents Council invites your response to this scenario."
There is always a nice scenario. "Two students in Manly," and if people don't know, Manly is in Sydney, "Both backed by annual family incomes of $200.000. They wave to each other in the morning.
He turns right towards a selective public high school. His schooling is fully funded under the proposed education resource standard.
She turns left towards a non-government school. The standard sets out funding for her schooling at a couple of thousand dollars. Her parents pay the rest."
How do you respond to the sort of differing scenario?
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, firstly, I think very fondly on Manly, having surfed there when I was a younger fellow.
Look, to the question, what's proposed under Mr Gonski's model is that there would be a contribution to non-government schools as well and that's a part of our system now. We fully expect that the support that governments provide for schools across all sectors would continue.
Now, Mr Gonski has proposed a new model for us to consider.
I think it's a really good model but it requires a lot of testing, a lot of development, a lot of analysis and a lot of validation.
And I think for us, we are at one of those really interesting periods in our education history and, in fact, in our Australian history.
We've often had arguments before about public versus private schools, government versus non-government. I think those days, at least for most people, are literally over.
What we now need to do is work out the most effective way of providing the resources for all schools, recognising that when parents make a choice to send their kids to a non-government school, they are supporting that school, but also saying that the government expects there to be support for those schools as well.
MARK GIFFARD: Thank you, Minister. And now a question for Senator Collins.
Will the Commonwealth accept more responsibility for capital funding?
SENATOR COLLINS: Mark, I think the point I stressed earlier is that the Commonwealth doesn't envisage expanding the spending in the capital area.
But what the Gonski Report gives us some helpful information about how we can demonstrate better leadership in how capital spending is delivered on the ground.
We learnt lessons through our major infrastructure rollout and also there's some lessons to be learnt about the differences between states and territories, about how they plan for new schools or how they plan to upgrade existing schools.
That aside, there are some very serious concerns about the quality of some of our school infrastructure and there is no question from the Commonwealth government's view, we need to ensure that every student in every school, regardless of which sector they're in, can have first-class, world based infrastructure.
So, we're going to look at those recommendations, look at what role we can play with the states and territories, the independent sector, the Catholic sector, how better to plan for future school infrastructure with that main goal in mind.
It's about improving the facilities for all students and also empowering local schools as well.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, Minister Senator Garrett, I guess a perennial question and it's all about the dollars in the end.
Will the new model increased school fees?
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, just a quick thing about increased school fees to start off with.
I think some of the debate we've seen over the last day or two has misunderstood what's been proposed by this important school review.
It is very clear that this important school review is proposing a model, which would provide support for government schools, as it should, but also provide some support for non-government schools.
You know, I had a quick look at the statistics before I came in, thinking this question might arise, and I can see that school fees in non-government schools have risen quite a lot over a period of time, even when there has been funding increases to schools generally.
So, we're very mindful of the fact that parents make choices over what they are doing but there's nothing in this report that would imply or suggest a lack of support for schools.
And so the question of school fees as it sits is something for parents to address when they make their choice about the kind of schools they want to send their kids to.
MARK GIFFARD: And now we have a web question and the question is, "To what extent do you actually plan to implement the Gonski recommendations, if at all?"
Well, that certainly gets to the heart of the matter.
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, we've said that this is a very important report.
We said that it is providing us with really significant insights as to what a future funding model for education would look like.
We've said that the report itself identifies that more work needs to be done.
And we've said that we are going to sit down and start that work immediately. We want to agree a set of funding principles with the states, we want to have these forums and conversations with community, we want to set up the working groups that Jacinta referred to, to look at those areas of disadvantage that Mr Gonski identified and we want to legislate in the Parliament by the end of the year as we move through that work, so we're committed to getting stuck into the work that is necessary. It's a big task and we're ready to do it.
MARK GIFFARD: Thank you, Minister. I think it's an opportunity now for us to bring the audience in.
If we'd have a question from the audience?
Yes, this lady here and if you could just wait for the boom mic to get to you and then identify yourself and then please give us your question.
VIV PEARCE: My name is Viv Pearce.
I'm the president of the ACT P&C Council, so I'm representing a lot of parents in public schools.
First of all, congratulations on the report. I mean, this looking for funding has been way overdue, so thank you for that.
Talking to parents in schools, what they want to know coming out of this is when we can actually see some money flowing from the Gonski recommendations to the schools and kids that really need these resources.
The majority of these kids are in public schools. I mean, is it going to be one year, two years, five years, ten years? That's the basic question that our parents and kids want to know. Thank you.
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, look, it's a very fair question but I think it's really important for me to lay out what we think is the right way of responding to these recommendations and very quickly say that no government has spent as much on education as this government has.
No government has provided across the sectors, government and non-government, the level of investment in schooling that we've seen over the last three years.
And we're absolutely proud of what we've done so far and we know there is more important work to do.
On the question, we do need to sit down and have these important, constructive discussions with the states.
Why is that? Because the States run the school systems, government school systems, as they should and as they should continue to do as well.
We have no interest at all in administering State government school systems. And I've said that very clearly today.
We need to agree those principles and validate the model. That's going to require a lot of complex work. Now I know it sounds like talk, but it's actually work.
And as I said before, we do want to legislate reaching agreement with the states and stakeholders a potential new model by the end of this year.
That will be a matter for negotiation between us and state governments. There is a lot of work to do.
But I can say to parents that you're already seeing the benefits of the investments that we've made.
If we are able to reach an agreement with our state counterparts and with the education sector, then you will see additional benefits from any new model that's introduced.
MARK GIFFARD: Thank you, Minister. And one now for Senator Collins.
Will the Australian government commit to setting up a philanthropy fund, and how much will you provide?
SENATOR COLLINS: Thank you, Mark. I think that's an important question.
One of the recommendations from the Gonski panel is that we establish such a fund.
The government's approach to all of the recommendations from the panel is to deal with them at this stage together, so I can't pre-empt an outcome on that particular issue.
What I can say is that to build a greater philanthropic contribution, as recommended by the Gonski Report, particularly for government schools, is a very important project.
I'm looking forward to working with stakeholders across the board to support further work in that area.
If at the end of the day, that involves a fund that might help support building capacity in schools to help them raise additional support, that may be one future direction to work.
But at this point in time, we can't be more specific about the recommendations.
MARK GIFFARD: Thank you, Senator. And back to the minister now.
Catherine Ible, from the Council of Catholic School Parents, asks, "Will there be opportunities for Catholic school parents to have a seat at the new statutory body and ministerial reference group?"
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, thank you for that question.
It's not actually going to be a statutory body specifically, but I certainly am setting up a ministerial reference group, a special group, to work through these issues and to canvass views and I expect to have wide representation on that group, including from Catholic schools, independent schools, education unions and the like and I believe that we'll have a very wide representation, including from the Catholic school system.
MARK GIFFARD: A question now again from a member of our audience.
Is David Evans here by any chance? Yes, David?
DAVID EVANS: David Evans from Canberra Grammar School.
The report recognises the severe disadvantage that a number of students in remote, or rural and remote areas, are at educationally and it also touches on the fact that we have 125 boarding schools in Australia, the majority of which are in the independent sector.
The boarding schools offer an alternative education pathway for many students from remote areas.
I'm wondering if any consideration might be given to actually extending an allowance of some sort recognising the role that these boarding schools play especially as many of the boarding school actually subsidise the boarding element, so they actually develop a sufficiently large boarding community to offer a vibrant environment for the children.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yeah, look, thanks for the question.
I think the interesting thing about this important review's recommendations around disadvantage was that it identified the specific issues of disadvantage that we need to address as governments to make sure that kids start to learn well.
What did they identify? Remoteness, they identified English language proficiency, they identified Indigeneity, they identified low SES community's background and, of course, they identified disability.
Those are the things that Mr Gonski was clear need to be considered as loadings when we look at the proposed model that he has for a schooling resource standard.
And I think that's the work that has to be done now and that's the work that we will actually go into through these working groups.
He's also identified that there may be some independent schools who would receive the quantum of the schooling resource standard on the basis of the specific education that they provide, say for example, in a remote area where there is no other school. They are the only ones there.
Or were they have got an extremely high proportion of students with special needs and the likes, I think they are the priorities for us at the moment and that's the work that the working groups will be looking at.
MARK GIFFARD: We have now, I understand, a web question that we can go to.
"Re: the finding five of Gonski, do you agree that the broader schooling attributes can be included in NAPLAN type tasks in future?"
And that's from Mark Paynter via Twitter.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yeah, thanks, Mark, for Mark's question.
Look, NAPLAN's primary purpose is to provide us with an opportunity to see how our kids are travelling on literacy and numeracy.
And that's very important for parents, it's important for policymakers and politicians and, of course, it's important for the teachers.
But there is another testing regime that kids go through which is broader than just the tests around NAPLAN and the Ministerial Council, which makes the agreement about NAPLAN, will consider whether or not there should be additional measures that are identified for testing over time.
It's something which we have discussion about I think the fact is that if teachers teach the curriculum, then they are covering NAPLAN.
And we certainly know that schools take into account those broader issues that Mark's referring to, as they teach kids every day.
MARK GIFFARD: We have now, I understand, another web-based question. "What is the government's view on the proposed school planning authorities?" And that is from Allan Shaw, the Chief Executive of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia.
MINISTER GARRETT: Look, David Gonski has made a recommendation about these school planning authorities.
We need to sit down and have a set of preliminary discussions as a part of looking at agreed principles for a funding model with the states.
I think it's something which merits discussion but it's also something that we would need to discuss very thoroughly with states and stakeholders, independent schools and the like, before we said anything more about it.
MARK GIFFARD: "Minister Garrett, you said several times that no school will lose a dollar. Can you guarantee that you will continue indexing for non-government funding to maintain the real value?"
MINISTER GARRETT: I'm very clear that the future proposed model will absolutely ensure that no school will lose a single dollar per student as a consequence of any new arrangements and that indexation would be a part of any new arrangements.
So anyone who is arguing that isn't the case just doesn't understand A, what we are saying and B, what the facts are. We want to work through this model.
I have been really pleased and really encouraged by the fact that for stakeholders, whether they be from independent schools or citizen groups... like the principals or the parents, even whether they've been from state governments like the New South Wales State government, where the minister is saying, "Well, of course, we'd like more money," but he's also saying, "We'd like to sit down with you "and talk these things through," ... that everybody is coming to this discussion recognising how important it is that we get education right for the future in a spirit of cooperation and we go into those discussions with the commitments that I've just made.
MARK GIFFARD: Thank you, Minister, and I understand we now have another web question. "Under the Gonski recommendation for a specific loading for students with a disability, how can families be reassured that the schools that they choose have capacity to deliver a high quality education for their children?" And that's from Stephanie Gotlib, the Executive Officer of Children with a Disability Australia.
MINISTER GARRETT: Mark, I think no-one as much as the parents of these kids or their friends knows what an important issue this is in our schools.
And certainly then, teachers and, of course, people like myself and Jacinta and Brendan O'Connor, who has responsibility for this particular issue, really understand that this is crucially important.
There is work that needs to be done urgently and I started that work as minister to make sure that we conclude a national definition around disability. We need have these national definitions in place so that we can agree nationally how to act.
We also know that there are opportunities in schools, including schools that are receiving support from governments, for there to be an effective delivery of support to kids with disability.
But it will be important work that Minister O'Connor will be doing and I know he has already met with his large stakeholder group and I think Stephanie is a part of that group and he will be carrying out on as we leave here today.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, Minister, there have been suggestions that the report, looking at the capacity for parents to pay for some schools, would lead to means testing for some parents. Can you confirm that?
MINISTER GARRETT: There is nothing in this report that refers to means testing for parents at all and any suggestion by anyone, including Opposition Shadow Spokesman Mr Pyne, to that effect is simply wrong.
What we've got in Australia is a diverse schooling system and what we've got here is a government that wants to work with that school system, work with the states, work with the independent schools, the non-government schools and look at the merits of what this important review has placed in front of us. And there's nothing in the review that says there will be means testing of parents.
MARK GIFFARD: Thank you, Minister, and an opportunity now to take a question from the audience and I believe a gentleman over there has his hands up. Sir, if I can remind you to identify yourself and then wait for the boom mic and then give us your question.
GLEN FOWLER: Hello, Glen Fowler. I'm a public school teacher and currently assistant secretary of the ACT branch of the Australian Education Union.
Minister, the evidence is in. Public schools are underfunded, disadvantaged children are missing out. Gonski concludes that the level of underfunding is to the tune of $3.8 billion a year. That's quite modest. If we're talking about the OECD average, we'd require more than that.
If this isn't a national emergency, can we at least talk about the national interest?
The Prime Minister talks a lot about the national interest. How does this finding that public school students are missing out in this way square with your understanding of the national interest?
MINISTER GARRETT: Look, it's a good question and I think it is the case that one of the most important findings of this report is that we do have concentrations of disadvantage and that much of that concentration is in government schools and we need to address that.
We cannot have a situation in this country where a kid from a less well-off area is three years behind when they finish high school than a kid from a well-off area, who's going to a well-off school.
So I think it's absolutely central to A, the work that we've been doing and the reforms that we've been bringing out and the significant investment on education that we've made, but also to our deliberations and our discussions with the states.
So that will be front of mind for us as a government because whatever school kids are going to, each and every one of them needs the opportunity to fulfil their potential, have the higher skilled jobs for the future and we understand that. We know that's absolutely essential to our future prospects.
And to see the findings that Mr Gonski made about where these concentrations of disadvantage, and the impact that they are having, is something that we have to be very serious about addressing.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, we are, of course, live and interactive as we know and questions are coming in from the web the whole time. Unfortunately, we can't get to all of them, but we shall do our best.
And we do have a web question, "Minister, will you implement the findings of the Gonski Report before the next election?" That comes from, I have the acronym here, WACCSO.
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, I'll talk about the answers that I've already given and I won't repeat it all for our audience that are both here in Canberra and watching and participating online.
We've said that we do want to move to legislate a new funding model.
But we have to reach agreement with the states and we have to reach agreement with education stakeholders and we are committed to doing that work.
We are rolling out sleeves up and getting stuck on with it.
And that's the most important thing that we can do, now that Mr Gonski has brought the report down.
MARK GIFFARD: We have an opportunity of a question from the audience. This lady here, toward the front there, has her hand up. Madam, if you could just identify yourself?
CHARUNI WEERASOORIYA: Hi, I'm Charuni Weerasooriya from APFACTS, ACT affiliate for the APC, representing non-government schools' P&C community.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. This report, I guess, aims fundamentally to create equity and work through the divisive role of funding.
I hope that we're really courageous in our resolve, collectively, to cooperate, share and build and invest in the model that serves our children.
Alongside the funding model, the measurable, I was interested in the government's approach to the social modelling measures that will give aspiration to the report to actually give it true traction.
What will you go alongside the financial to elevate school/parent partnerships, increase parent engagement?
What will you do to, alongside the financial, elevate the status of the teaching profession, so that the teachers of today, that inspire our kids, go on to inspire and educate others?
MINISTER GARRETT: Look, thanks very much for that question.
I have talked quite a bit about the fact that we've spent nearly twice as much as what was spent before and that we've tried to focus on low SES schools, on teacher quality, on national partnerships on national curriculum.
But we also have in place some really important commitments that go right to the question that you've asked me.
Just let me quickly deal with two of them. Empowering local schools. We really believe that principals and school community should have more autonomy over the way in which their schools are operated and run. They know the needs of their students. They know their own local circumstances.
And we have a specific commitment with resources to that initiative and it's going to be a really exciting one and I'm looking forward to that rolling out over time.
The second, around teachers, is a really important question. We've actually done two things.
We have actually now, for the first time, agreed national qualifications and standards for teachers and principals and also agreement to really start to roll out a recognition of the great teachers and some provision of some resources for them as we do that. We call it 'Rewarding Great Teachers'. We think it's an important thing to do.
Now, I expect us to have about 1000 schools this year in empowering local schools, trying it right around the country.
More autonomy for the principals, more participation and involvement from parents, from P&Cs and the like.
And I also want to see our Rewards for Great Teachers model start to be developed and implemented over time as well.
So we are doing two things. We are giving the principal and the school community more of a say over what happens in their school.
And we're giving teachers more of an opportunity, especially the ones who want to lead or be highly accomplished teachers, to get some reward for that.
MARK GIFFARD: We have another web-based question now. "Will the increased Commonwealth funding in schools translate into higher Commonwealth power over the administration of schools?" That's from Kylie Kato and I guess we get back to the old Australian government versus the State government divide and the constitutional issues and all that entails.
MINISTER GARRETT: We definitely don't see anything in these funding reforms as being about the Australian government administering state schools.
We have no desire to do it. The states do a good job of running their state school systems, the government system, and that's as it should continue.
I think it's really interesting, though, that the states put in submissions to Mr Gonski's panel and they made some very thoughtful contributions about how working together we might have a more effective funding system.
Remember that the terms of reference for this funding review were these: a system that is fair, a system that is transparent, in other words, people can understand it, and a system that's effective.
That means the states continuing to administer and run the government school systems, but it also means the Commonwealth and the State, because the Commonwealth has an national interest in education and we support education financially, working closely together to that goal.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, we are getting close towards the end of our time.
But we do have an opportunity for a few more questions and this time from the audience, so if someone from the audience would like to ask a question.
The gentleman up there and then, sir, we'll perhaps try and come to you. If you could identify yourself?
PACALE: I'm Pascale, I am just a parent. I didn't have time to read the whole report but I noted from the league tables at the front that Finland and Singapore and, I think, Shanghai were at the top of the tables. One thing that all those countries have in common is a universal early childhood system.
I'm wondering that has seemed to have slipped off the agenda in terms of the strategies and outcomes.
You say there is no role for the Federal Government but really, if you look at how our childcare is funded, it's subsidised by the Federal Government.
If you choose to take your child out of childcare and put them into a school, you have to pay fees and there is no subsidy at all.
There is obviously a role for the Federal Government and it doesn't seem to be addressed at all that I can find in the proposed strategies.
MINISTER GARRETT: Well, I think Mr Gonski's terms of reference in his panel, which was a very eminent panel, was really around school funding and it specifically wasn't going to early childhood.
But it's a good question and just quickly be aware, I mean, the childcare rebate and the childcare benefit, it is the proportion of income that parents are spending on child care now because of the increases to those measures that we've made, it's less than before. And we also have a national quality framework in place.
As you probably do know, we've committed nearly $1 billion to the states to make sure we can actually get universal access, in the year before school, for kids into early childcare and education.
But we do take it very seriously and you are absolutely right, it's an important part of the continuum.
If we are providing that level of support for childcare, which we are, and kids are coming into school well prepared for their schooling journey.
Then, of course, we got the investment in skills at the other end, the trades training centres and the like, to make sure that when they come out of school, they can either go on to higher education or onto a vocation that suits them.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, we do have a web-based question and after that I'll go to one of our audience questions. "Just putting money into the system without it being targeted at student outcomes and quality of programmes delivered is not the answer. In other words, additional funding needs to be related to accountability. Will there be accountability built in?" And that's from Peter.
MINISTER GARRETT: Yeah, good question, Peter.
The answer to that is yes.
But I think it's important to we know what we've already done, too, that provides you with the information to demand accountability.
I mean, we've got myschool website, Mark. He is a site where you can just go 'Enter' and you have access to information about your school that is unparalleled in Australia and actually in most parts of the world.
We have evaluations in place when we deliver our national partnerships to the states. And, of course, kids have got a level of accountability when they are NAPLAN tested and, of course, when they do their later exams in high school. And teachers and schools also closely monitor the progress of their kids.
You know, we've got a good education system. Teachers are doing a really good job, schools are trying hard but, what this report tells us is that comparative to other countries, we're not doing as well as we can. And that's what we have to address.
That means having a funding system which is particularly focused on providing the resources where they are needed to get the results in education that we must have.
MARK GIFFARD: And I believe we have a question from a gentleman in the audience. So, sir, if you're just wait for the boom mic to get to you and then if you'd like to identify yourself.
TOM WORTHINGTON: Tom Worthington. I am adjunct lecturer at the Australian National University just over the road here.
Australian universities, at the moment, are transitioning to a blended mode of education, where part of it's done in the classroom and part of it's done over the internet.
To make that happen with proper standards, there is significant investment in creating online content for courses and retraining people like me in how to teach over the internet.
Will there be provision in the new system to do that?
Because I fear if it doesn't happen, the NBN will just be used to outsource Australian education to overseas teachers and overseas content providers.
MINISTER GARRETT: The short answer, Tom, is yes. And we're already making that provision.
The national curriculum is an online resource.
Now, that is the common learning entitlement for all Australians and the accessibility for teachers in schools to the national curriculum online and the tools that are then available... the search engines, the curriculum materials, the teaching materials and so on and so forth are being developed as we speak.
I think this is one of the, kind of, hidden stories in education at the moment.
For those people who are interested in it, jump onto the national curriculum or go to National Education Services Australia I think the bigger issue, to be really clear about it, is making sure that our teachers, particularly those teachers who maybe didn't train and learn in the online world, are really familiar with what's already being worked up and what's developed. You are right, though.
Over time, kids are going to be learning in different ways.
We used to have blackboards with chalk, now we've got whiteboards and, of course, we've provided computers to every high school kid, Years nine-12, in schools around Australia.
We now have access to an online curriculum, which is a national common learning entitlement.
And all of those materials that are being delivered online, which enables teachers to teach the curriculum in ways that suit their students.
So there's tremendous opportunity for great teaching and great education results there and we're already providing quite a deal of resources and support for it.
MARK GIFFARD: Well, like all good things, our time has come to an end but I think we've both heard and seen a fascinating start to an ongoing conversation between the government and parents on school funding, the system proposed and, indeed, what happens next.
So, thanks, everyone. Thanks for coming along today and for watching on the internet, for your tweeting and, of course, for your interest.
And thanks very much to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, and, of course, to Senator Collins.
Thank you to everyone who has put this event together.
So, we look forward to seeing you at our next event, details of which will be on the DEEWR website. So, thank you very much.