Release type: Transcript

Date:

Q&A at The Age Schools Summit, Melbourne

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business
Acting Minister for Education and Youth

QUESTION:

I'll begin by addressing the elephant in the room. Last month's initial Teacher Education Review report said that every expert who was spoken to called for the status of teaching to rise, to celebrate the positives of teaching and debunking negative myths. Does your recent reference to dud teachers help to do any of those things?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I wanted to start a conversation. It looks like I've done that particularly well, because the data doesn't lie. Everything else can be conjecture, except for data. You can have different opinions. We can't have different facts. The facts are these and they are not in dispute. That LANTITE shows us that 10 per cent of our teachers are not meeting foundational literacy and numeracy, fact, we only bought that in 2017. And people failing to reach to reach basic literacy and numeracy, this just started in 2017. What happened to those coming out of university in 2016, 2015, 2014? The Grattan Institute makes it very clear that quality teaching would see our learning per student outcomes increase by six to 12 months. And I’m also the Skills and Employment Minister, so I see what happens in the other end. There are over 800,000 Australians unemployed despite record levels of unemployment, the highest participation rate in our nation's history. Half of those on the caseload right now don't have foundational literacy and numeracy; fact. How did that happen? There are 83,019 to be precise, as of yesterday or the day before, young Australians aged 16 to 21 who are not studying and not working. How have we got them so disengaged? Now they are the facts, and they are not in dispute. And it may be inconvenient and it may be a difficult conversation for us to have, but it's a conversation we've got to have, because our results in PISA have been declining from 2000 and 2018, and the 2018 results have now seen us significantly under the average for the OECD in reading, maths and science.

QUESTION:

Okay. So one of the review's main recommendations was to increase the top pay bracket in order to encourage more high achieving graduates into the profession. What is the Federal Government prepared to do to help to raise teacher salaries?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, that's a conversation. That's part of the conversation we've all got to have, noting the majority of teachers are employed by states and territories. And noting in terms of funding, since 2013, we've increased funding to government schools by 100 per cent, 100 per cent! $315 billion, and raising substantially every year. And in real terms, by 60 per cent. So this is no longer a question about money. The funding wars, if you like, have been fought and done with. It's now a question of what we spend it on and what's important, and that should be front and centre of a conversation we have to have as a country.

QUESTION:

Just on the issue of- I do note that you dialled back the comments made last week about the worst teachers being in the public sector.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, that’s because I didn't say that, but keep going.

QUESTION:

Okay. Isn’t this an issue of equity rather than bad teachers though? Government schools are still underfunded, according to the Gonski Resourcing Standard for what it cost to educate a child. And yet they still do the lion's share when it comes to educating children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Is it more a case that government school teachers are being asked to do more with less?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The government will meet its school resourcing standard under the National Schools Agreement, which has been agreed across all states and territories. We'll meet our 20 per cent by next year. And again, we've increased funding to the public sector by 100 per cent since 2013; 100 per cent. It's one of the great increases in modern times in terms of funding. So the issue is not about dollars and cents, not about having more money. That's not the issue. We have increased funding by 100 per cent, and of course by mid-seventies in the independent schools. So 60 per cent in real times. And at the same time, our international standard rankings have continued to decrease. If you look at NAPLAN results in the early years, we're seeing some promising results. But in the latter years it is being consistent, it hasn't improved. So whilst we may be consistently holding a standard, the rest of the world is now in the OECD, starting to outperform us. And they are the facts, and that's what we have to address. And now we've had half a decade of funding wars where the mantra was: we just need more money and everything will be fine. Well, more money is being put in in truckloads and everything is not fine. And that is the inconvenient truth that we have to have a conversation about together. And it's not pejorative, and it's not finger pointing. It is simply; these are the facts. Let's all talk about it and let's all respond.

QUESTION:

Just on the issue of unruly classroom behaviour and even violent classroom behaviour, the PISA data suggesting that that's becoming a more serious problem in Australian schools. What plans does your Government actually have to deal with this?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Again, we've announced one today in terms of getting our best and brightest. We'll have a lot more to come out. But we want to kick start this conversation as to how we're going to do that. We will have a range of announcements over the coming weeks as to how we'll continue to lean into this. But this is something we've all got to lean into, including states and territories, because it's a challenging conversation. And again, the data doesn't lie. We are 70 out of 77 in the OECD; 70 out of 77. The top industrial nations in the OECD is only the top 38. So forget top 38, come down another 32 nations, and that's where we're sitting. Now, I think that's a problem. And when I speak to my principals in my own electorate, they reinforce to me that's a problem, not just in terms of harassment and indeed violence from students, but from parents, to teachers, and to principals. So we've started it. We've put the first marker down today to kick start it. We'll put further markers down. And this is something we've all got to lean into.

QUESTION:

Just finally on the on the next Education Ministers Meeting. There's a possibility that your Government will be in caretaker mode by then. What ramifications does that have for being able to improve the curriculum?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, if we don't approve it beforehand, the normal caretaker conventions tend to kick in. If the Government is going to lean forward and approve something, well, so be it. If there's going to be an issue, the Government has to include the Opposition. It's the standard caretaker conventions. They’re well understood, they’re well governed by Prime Minister and Cabinet, and they'll be well respected.

QUESTION:

Okay. Minister Stuart Robert, thank you very much for joining us today.

[ENDS]