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Thursday, 26 September 1974

Supplementary Grants for Schools

The Government will supplement, on the recommendation of the Schools Commission, its program of assistance to schools, to compensate for the effects of cost increases. An estimated $78m will be provided to supplement capital and recurrent grants for schools over the 18 months commencing 1 July 1974, of which at this stage it is estimated that $48. 5m will be required in 1974-75. The Government gives high priority to maintaining the impetus of development in primary and secondary schools.

Student Assistance

In 1974-75 the Government will continue its comprehensive program of student assistance. Since the beginning of 1974 there have been marked changes in the assistance provided by the Government to students at both the tertiary and secondary level. The Government has placed increased emphasis on grants provided to students according to need, and on removing financial barriers to education in Australia. In 1973-74, expenditure on our student assistance program was $88m and for 1974-75 it is estimated to be $120m. This increase in expenditure reflects a decision by the Government to take account of rising cost levels and apply a series of increases, from the beginning of 1975, to the benefits that are payable to students under the various student assistance schemes whether for tertiary students, isolated children, secondary students in need, or, through social services, handicapped children. There will be increases in allowances, and relaxations of means test provisions. The details of these increased rates are given in the fuller statement which has been incorporated in Hansard.

I have taken steps to have a full review of the tertiary education assistance scheme carried out. I shall be appointing a small committee to examine the present scheme and to make recommendations to me as to which students should be assisted, under what circumstances, and to what extent. Concurrently, with this review, I am also arranging for an examination to be made of the means test provisions that apply.

Conclusion

The Government came into office in December 1972 with a comprehensive program for transforming both the quality of education and its accessibility. The Government has accomplished broad structural changes in the funding and administration of education programs which it considered necessary for vigorous development to take place. In the longer term we will need to evaluate carefully the developments flowing from the Government's new programs. It is important that the direction of these developments should be constantly appraised. The concept of recurrent education, which moves beyond the sectoral view of education as rigidly divided into primary, secondary, tertiary and so on, is an important concept which I expect will be further developed over the next few years.

An important contribution to the evaluation of Australian education will be a review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of Australian education policy to take place in 1976. A team of overseas experts will report on Australian policies after conducting a review and evaluation procedure which has already been applied in some other OECD member countries. Such scrutiny of our efforts from an international viewpoint is one of the important benefits Australia will derive from its membership of OECD, and I hope that this policy review will add to the process already being generated within Australia of a wide-ranging examination of goals, purposes and performance in education.







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