Release type: Speech


Independent School Queensland State Forum 2013


Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins
Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations

Thursday May 23 2013

(check against delivery)

It’s a pleasure to join you for this forum. Minister Garrett has asked that I pass on his apologies for not being here tonight.  I really value this opportunity to be with you here tonight to discuss how we can improve schooling. 

As you know, with nearly 200 member schools educating 15 per cent of Queensland's school students, you are making a substantial contribution to school education in this state. I have the great privilege of speaking to school leaders, principals and education experts across Australia.  As I do so, I continually see how individual schools have originated and then grown in their local community, supported by a group of hard-working teachers, staff and parents, usually led by an individual or a team with a passion for seeing the children in their care thrive. It’s this independent community-based spirit that has driven the direction of education in this country for most of the past two centuries.  This history should be embraced as should our unique education system.

Our National Plan for School Improvement, following the ground-breaking Gonski Review, does this. The days of sector versus sector are over.  It doesn’t need to be a zero sum game. The Government’s aim is pretty simple. We want to give your schools the support that means the school community and the students continue to prosper, and we want to make sure every student in the country has access to education opportunities. We’ve spent something like $65 billion over four years to achieve these aims and bring our education systems into the 21st century.Things like a new Australian Curriculum, the My School website, NAPLAN, teacher quality, professional standards for teachers and school principals, rewarding great teachers, empowering local schools, trade training, computers in schools and school infrastructure.  More recently, the National Plan for School Improvement is the Government’s vision for how to achieve both those objectives, and I’ll have a little more to say about that in a moment. 

Before I do that, I want to give a quick survey of initiatives in the recent Budget. We’ve extended support for literacy and numeracy through the Improving Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership for a further year. These foundation skills are just so important for future learning and employment and having a satisfying life. Through the new partnership, around 345 independent, government and Catholic Queensland schools will share in the first payment of $32.2 million to help students in Years 3, 5 and 7 who are struggling with reading and numeracy. These payments to Queensland schools will increase to more than $60.6 million, and $243 million nationwide. 

The funding will be used by Queensland schools to implement evidence-based literacy and numeracy approaches, including:

  • coaching and mentoring
  • professional development and practice
  • and in-school, data-informed practice.

We developed the new partnership following clear evidence of improvements over 2008 to 2012 flowing from the previous partnership. For example, Year 3 students in participating schools in Queensland demonstrated strong improvement in reading with an increase in the proportion of students above national minimum standard from 58 per cent in 2008 to 73 per cent in 2012. We are also pleased by how the Australian Curriculum is rolling out, and how we have been able to link it with digital resources, all turbocharged by the rollout of the National Broadband Network.   Otherwise, National Partnerships are to be embedded into the new broader funding arrangements to reach all schools.

In the recent Budget, there was an additional $659 million to help Indigenous kids by increasing parental and community engagement in education, better access to education, and increased school engagement and attendance using sport and recreation as an incentive.  We know that the schools that do best are those able to work closely with parents, families and the broader community.  This is particularly the case in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities. Before a child can benefit from a great school, you have to actually get them there, and ensure they keep coming. These programs will help with the too many Indigenous kids who are missing out on school, and the families who don’t know how they can work with their child’s school. We are also extending the More Support for Students with Disabilities initiative with an extra $100 million until the end of the 2014 school year, whilst a loading is being developed for implementation in 2015.  And there’s money for the School Business Community Partnership Brokers program to support community partnerships and for national career development initiatives which will help school students to move smoothly into a job.

The momentum for the implementation of the National Plan for School Improvement is growing. You will all be aware that New South Wales has signed up for the plan. The other states and territories have until 30 June to consider the Prime Minister’s offer, and I encourage everyone here to do what you can to get Queensland on board. The National Plan is now a mature program, which is ready to roll out. It is a $9.8 billion Commonwealth commitment to increase school funding over six years, along with better indexation and reforms to lift student achievement. This is a historic reform to school funding which will create better Australian schools for generations to come. It will ensure our classrooms, teachers, schools and kids are properly resourced and Australia can reach the goal of being in the top five education systems in the world by 2025. The Commonwealth investment will increase year by year throughout the six-year period of the agreement.  That funding will be used to drive reforms on quality teaching, quality learning, meeting student need, empowered school leadership, and accountability and transparency. The national Schooling Resource Standard will change the current broken funding system to one which gives all students a benchmark amount so no student is missing out. The additional loadings for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, Indigenous students, students with limited English and students with disability, and reflecting school location and size, will mean students will get support they need. We will make sure schools can access effective strategies and tools to drive improvement based on Australian and overseas research and evidence.  The plan focuses on the importance of parents, families and schools working together to support young people to do their best at school.

Recent research confirms that children do much better in school when their parents take an active interest in their learning and their school education. So parents’ involvement in their kids’ education is an integral part of the National Plan for School Improvement.

By making every school a better school, we believe we can help every young Australian to get the best possible education and the opportunity to secure a high-wage, high-skilled job of the future. The Gillard Government is offering to pay around 65 per cent of the additional investment needed to fund all schools properly and reach our goals – essentially a two for one offer for all states and territories. We’ve also committed to annual growth in school education spending of 4.7 per cent indexation – provided the states and territories commit to growing their own school budgets by 3 per cent. This decouples school funding from the declining AGSRC index which is affected by state government cuts. It’s vital that all state and territory governments sign up to the Plan, so all schools, students and parents around Australia can look forward to funding security and increased investment in their schools. We know Australia needs these school reforms. I’ve been speaking at schools and forums around Australia and I can tell you that school principals, teachers, students and the community strongly support this extra funding and a plan to get the best possible education results. My fundamental belief is that every Australian child has the right to a world-class education, no matter where they live, the school they attend or their family background. The National Plan for School Improvement is our best opportunity to achieve that goal in this generation. Let’s be clear that if the National Plan for School Improvement does not proceed, every school, in every state and territory and in every sector, will be worse off. If the plan is not implemented here in Queensland, government schools would lose a total of around $3 billion, equivalent to approximately $2.4 million per school, and non-government schools would lose a total of around $1.2 billion or $2.5 million per school. And if the Queensland does sign on to our plan and this extra investment is delivered, it would mean, on average around $2.2 million extra for every school in Queensland.

It’s a pivot time in education reform. The National Plan for School Improvement can help to take Australia into the future .It’s a major reform, with lasting benefits for the nation. I firmly believe it’s worth taking the time to get it right and to push through to achieve a result. Thank you to everyone here who has participated in the discussions to date. It is a better program due to consultation and the involvement of school sectors along the way. I look forward to seeing this historic reform implemented in the future.