Release type: Transcript


Doorstop - Parliament House: PISA results, school funding


The Hon Christopher Pyne MP
Minister for Education
Leader of the House

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The PISA results that have been released today show that Labor has been delivered a very bad report card on their period in office because from 2009 to 2012 Labor can't dispute that they were in office and had been for three years and yet, since that time, in science Australia's ranking has fallen from 10th to 16th, in maths, from 15th to 19th, and in reading, from 9th to 14th. Over that period, Labor introduced the Building the Education Revolution and the Education Revolution. They spent $16.4 billion on school halls and over $2.5 billion on giving laptops and computers from Year 9 to Year 12. So almost $20 billion of extra spending in that period and in spite of what the Leader of the Opposition says today, in that period real increases of spending increased by 10%, Whatever model you're applying. And in that period, our results dramatically declined. These are the worst PISA results since PISA began in 2000.

They are demonstrably worse than anything that ever occurred under the Coalition Government. They are a serious wake-up call for the Australian education system but, more importantly, they tell us one fundamental thing - money is not the answer in education. Labor spent $20 billion on the education revolution. They increased real spending in education by 10% and our results declined. The PISA results also show that for Australia, teacher quality is the most important determinant of outcomes for students. The OECD found that it is the teacher you are allocated within a school that has a more important effect on the outcome of your results than which school you've been allocated to. It also found that Australia is a high equity country, that we are above the OECD average in terms of equity.

It also found that class sizes in Australia are below the OECD average and well below the results of our local neighbours in Singapore and elsewhere so the Left that is mesmerised by class sizes - it's all the AEU talks about - have got their wish. We have small class sizes. The Left also says we need to spend more money. We spent 10% more in real terms and $20 billion on Building the Education Revolution under Labor and all that has meant worse results for our students so what I've been saying for five years, what Tony Abbott says whenever he talks about education, it's quality and standards that count in education. It's teacher quality, the OECD confirmed that for Australia today. It is about more autonomy for principals because all the domestic and international reports indicate that the more autonomy there is in a school, the better in outcomes for students. It's about engaging parents and it's about curriculum. Joanna. You’re not going to let Joanna go first.

QUESTION: You've invited expressions of interest for the independent public schools. Will this help fix the problem identified by PISA and have you identified by PISA and have you - do you expect a lot of interest from schools?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I expect lot of interest from States and Territories in the $70 million fund that we are putting on the table for more principal autonomy. Some States are more advanced than others in principal autonomy, for example Western Australia has Independent Public Schools. The Queensland Government intends to move down that path. Victoria has a high level of autonomy. That isn't the case in New South Wales, the ACT, Tasmania or South Australia and Northern Territory has its own challenges but they are also intending to move in that direction. Our fund will support programs for more principal autonomy that we believe align with the Coalition Government's priorities for principal autonomy.

QUESTION: If you agree more funding isn't the answer, why are you then putting $2.8 billion in?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, we're keeping our election commitments and we're going further because Bill Shorten ripped $1.2 billion away from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

QUESTION: Do you think it's going to help?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, funding is not as important as teacher quality, engagement with parents, autonomy and curriculum so therefore money is not as vital as those important areas but we're keeping our election commitments. We're keeping the $1.6 billion that Labor left in PEFO but we're adding $1.2 billion so that Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory are not treated like second-class citizens. Can I just add David, can I just add, Labor has been off on this cul-de-sac of their own about co-contributions from the States. Can I just point out that Labor's contribution to Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory was zero over the next four years. Zero times any number is zero so they were going to contribute nothing to those States and therefore those States would have to not contribute anything. We are putting in $1.2 billion which is a hell of a lot better than the zero Labor was planning.

QUESTION: [inaudible] … not going to improve our standards?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We are keeping our election commitments but we're moving the debate away from funding because clearly all of the billions Labor has spent on education in the last six years has not solved the fundamental problem which is teacher quality in Australia but we'll keep our commitments and we’ll add to them. Mr Shorten was not intending to do that as we know.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister yesterday told parliament that he would fully deliver the loadings for Indigenous and also for disabled students. Now, at the same time we're told that the $1.2 billion this week comes with no strings attached, so if the loadings are going to be delivered, surely there are strings attached?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, the model that will be applied, David, over the course of the next 4 years will be the formula that is in the agreements that the Commonwealth has with the signatory States and the same formula will apply to the non-signatory States but we will not be requiring them to make contributions. We assume they will because they have their own electors to be answerable to and that means the loadings and the base funding will be delivered from the Commonwealth's perspective because no school can be worse off from anything that the Commonwealth does.

QUESTION: Will the loadings for disadvantaged and rural students be delivered?


QUESTION: Mr Pyne, can I ask about the 4-year funding issue? There are some estimates that WA is going to be - will get something like $60 million less than under your plan than what Labor would have offered over 4 years. Now, the difference seems to be a sneaky financial year versus calendar year issue that in 2017 you're actually going to only fund for six months on the basis of that's what PFO had but that's not really four years then, is it? What you're offering is just three and a half years and for WA that means about $60 million less than the $120 million it's actually going to get?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, you're wrong, with great respect. Alannah MacTiernan was doing quite well in education but she's just walked into the sliding glass door on this issue. The school year is a calendar year and it's funded on a calendar year basis. What Alana McTiernan has done is pretended it's a financial year through to the middle of 2018. Hang on, by then a new model - a new agreement will be in place so you can't do that. If you actually look at the detail in PEFO, Labor left $17 million for Western Australia and took out $120 million. We are putting $120 million back in which is $137 million, which is the amount Labor would have received if they'd signed the agreement, the second offer that Julia Gillard made to Western Australia, so we are delivering that in full.

QUESTION: So 2017 you've got $17.9 million for 2017 but that is, as you explained, education is funded on a calendar basis so what's going to happen for the second half of 2017?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well there will be a new agreement with all the States and Territories for the second 4-year period because the funding agreements for the States and schools are 4-year agreements.

QUESTION: That’s beside the point. You're saying you've taken a 4-year agreement - you've taken a 4-year offer - you've basically accepted the 4-year offer from Labor but you haven't, have you?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Andrew, the maths I have delivered – that I have explained is exactly correct. You're quite welcome to speak to departmental officials to get you know more detail if you need it. It's a 4-year funding agreement that runs from next year to the end of 2017. Beyond that we'll have new agreements with the States and Territories but we are delivering $137 million, $17 million already left in PEFO, we are adding the 120 back in that Bill Shorten ripped out so Western Australia is exactly in the position they would have been if they'd signed the agreement.

QUESTION: It is 3.5 years?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, it's a 4-year agreement. David.  Paul. You look so much like him in spite of the years difference. You've aged so well.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Minister, going forward, whatever way you look at it the OECD report really says you "must do better". At the end of the first term of this government, will we be doing better?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Paul, the PISA report delivers a fail for Labor's report card on school education, there’s no doubt about that. Whatever way Labor wants to dress this up or spin it out, PISA has said that Labor's policies failed dismally to improve the results of students. The voters very happily got rid of them and in large numbers. Well, we have a 4-year funding agreement with States and Territories, we will work with the States and Territories on priorities which is to expand orthodox teaching methods through things like phonics, and direct instruction and explicit instruction. We will establish the fund for principal autonomy to expand autonomy. We are planning a guide for parents on parental engagement and we are reviewing the national curriculum but one of the things that I intend to do is have a big emphasis on teacher quality through the training of teachers in universities because the Federal Minister of course is responsible for universities. It's something that I can impact upon immediately and I will do that because I can't control what the States and Territories do about their professional development of teachers, about who they employ, who they dismiss, that's a matter for the States and Territories but we can have a big impact on the kinds of teachers we produce so that those coming out into the system are as well trained and qualified and capable of teaching as possible.

QUESTION: Mr Pyne, if teacher quality is more important than funding as you were saying, then why not explicitly link the funding that you have committed to the States improving teacher quality?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, because we don't believe in if tantalising the States. I know that's very difficult for lot of people on the Left to understand because they believe that Canberra and the Commonwealth is always better than the States and Territories but the truth is the States and Territories are responsible for schools in their jurisdictions. They have their electors. We will make our contribution from the Commonwealth but at the end of the day we don't own and operate any schools, something I tried to explain to the Labor Party yesterday, and we aren't going to try to have a central command and control from Canberra operation.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, there’s a lot of focus on the loadings yesterday and all of that, just to be clear, you're basically just going to be using the loadings and base funding to calculate the total amount for each of the States?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: For the next 4 years.

QUESTION: Yes, and under Labor the States would distribute the money as they saw fit but they had to do a needs-based model, their own needs-based model, their own needs-based model. Just to be really clear, there will be no restrictions whatsoever on how it is distributed by the States?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There will be the normal accountability and transparency measures. We wouldn't be expecting the States to spend it on conferences in the Bahamas, Daniel. And I can say that every State and Territory is applying a needs-based funding model. They've all agreed to that. You're all desperate to try and find some way that you can say the States will be able to spend the money on whatever they like. They will all agree, as they have, to a needs-based funding model with loadings. I've delivered the national model that Bill Shorten never did.

QUESTION: [inaudible]

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Daniel, I've answered the question.

QUESTION: You've spoken about teacher quality, in the report it says Australian classrooms are among the most noisy and disruptive in the OECD. Do you think classroom culture needs to change?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I am very glad to see the Queensland Government has a particular emphasis on discipline in schools but I've outlined the four priorities of the Coalition Government and we will - the States, I'm sure, will be reading the PISA report, as I have, with a view to how they can manage their schools and their classrooms better.

QUESTION: Talking of discipline, can I ask you what your view is on Don Randall being appointed to the Privileges Committee?  This is a man who has yet to explain his trip to Melbourne and yet he is going to be part of a committee that oversees the standards of parliamentarians?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Don Randall is a valued colleague, he is a very good friend and I'm sure he'll do an excellent job.

QUESTION: You mentioned class sizes earlier, do you think that the PISA results show - and you talked about teacher quality - is the inevitable future higher class sizes in order to achieve higher teacher quality?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, the States and the Territories have to decide their own outcomes for class sizes, as does the non-Government school sector. I won’t be prescribing anything for the States and Territories or the non-Government sector about class sizes. I simply make the point that we have the lowest class sizes - our class sizes on average are lower than the OECD class sizes. The union thinks this has been the most important issue in the last 20 years, in fact in their campaign before the election they claimed that the Gonski report meant more teachers, smaller class sizes in spite of the fact the Gonski report didn't mention smaller class sizes or more teachers, so what I'm saying is there might have been a policy upon which the unions and some Governments became mesmerised which has not had any impact on quality.