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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 1876


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (11:45): The Australian Education Bill is the Commonwealth government's response to the Gonski review. The Gonski review identified principally the shortcomings of the existing funding model for our schools. Our response, when fully implemented by 2020, will see an additional $6.5 billion spent on our schools by state and territory governments and of course the Commonwealth. This amount is in line with the recommendations of the final report of David Gonski. From talking to families and teachers across my electorate of Corangamite it is clear that schools face a number of challenges, and it is clear that a large number of those challenges come from the existing funding model. When I am engaging with state schools I find that those schools are inadequately funded, particularly when you consider that by and large it is the state school system that teaches students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, students from non-English-speaking backgrounds and of course students with a disability.

The Gonski model funds each student on their needs. A base amount is applied for each student and then it is topped up with additional funds to provide additional resources to help those students succeed. Extra money will be available to schools to help support students, including those from low SES backgrounds and students with a disability, or students with limited English proficiency. Small schools and rural and remote schools will also receive additional loadings to cover the additional operating costs that they have because of the size of their enrolment.

The Australian Education Bill is implementing Labor's plan to deliver for our schools. The plan, in a nutshell, includes quality teaching, making sure that we have the best and the brightest teachers available for our schools, and quality learning, with a world-class national curriculum and individual support for students. Our plan also empowers school leaders, giving principals more say about how they run their school. Further, it provides better information, giving the community detailed information on local schools through the My School website. Further, it provides funding to help meet the challenges of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and schools located in disadvantaged communities.

Five specific new legislative measures form the centre of the Australian Education Bill. First, a quality education for every Australian child will be an entitlement arising from their common citizenship of our Commonwealth. Second, there will be new goals for Australian education. The aim is for Australia to be ranked in the top five countries in reading, science and mathematics by 2025 and, by the same year, for us to be ranked in the top five countries for providing a high-quality and high-equality education system. Third, there will be a new national plan for school improvement.

The bill provides the directions for our plan: quality teaching, quality learning, empowered school leadership, transparency and accountability, and meeting our students' needs. The bill further sets out the basis in law for agreement between the Commonwealth, the states and territories, and Catholic and independent education authorities to implement the plan in full. It also provides for new principles for school funding.

The bill provides for a new funding standard, based on what it costs to educate students at schools we know already get strong results. Quality education requires strong funding so that schools can engage quality teachers and provide the support they need. The bill will provide a benchmark amount per student with extra needs to be met through a system of loadings—additional funding to help children who the evidence shows need help. The fourth part of the plan is that there will also be a new link between school funding and school improvement. The bill provides that the Australian government will deliver future funding on the principles legislated in this bill to those states, territories and non-government authorities which agree to implement the national plan.

The bill fulfils the government's commitment, given in its response to the final report of the Gonski review that we commissioned. This legislation needs to be implemented as soon as possible so that we can enshrine these principles and the new funding approach for the commencement of the next school year. The bill also picks up the commitments made in the government's white paper, Australia in the Asian century. Asian studies will be embedded across the Australian curriculum, and students will have access to at least one priority language. This is an exciting and challenging time for education.

Since 2007, Labor have invested heavily in our local schools—new buildings, new classrooms, a new national curriculum, computers in schools and additional funding assistance. All the evidence tells us that the single greatest factor in school improvement is lifting teacher quality. Labor's plan for school funding will have a particular focus on teachers. New teachers will be readier for the classroom, with more practical experience during training and two years of support in school once they become a teacher. Teachers will meet rigorous professional standards and be recognised for improving their skills and performance in the classroom. All teachers will be reviewed annually in their school. Teachers and principals will have access to more data on the school's performance. This also ensures that students who are falling behind, especially disadvantaged students, can be identified and provided with the extra support they need to meet the standards. This information about performance will hold teachers, principals and school communities to a greater level of accountability. Every school will have a school improvement plan and will be accountable for delivering it.

The bill requires the meeting of student needs—identifying the needs of every child and delivering what he or she needs. We will now have clear evidence about how disadvantage holds back many students and what is required to provide them with a quality education. We know that, if we get the resources right and ensure that no child misses out, every child can succeed in the classroom. Our national plan will see resources allocated to reflect the need of the student. We have made good progress on our national plan. Federal and state and territory education ministers have already commenced work, and that work will continue over the next few months. I look forward to outcomes being delivered and identified.

Labor is the party that is principally concerned with education. We have provided additional funding since we came to office in 2007, and it is one of the principles of the Labor Party—to deliver funding to students on a needs basis. There is a lot of work to be undertaken between now and 1 January 2014, when the new funding arrangements will be implemented. From getting around and talking to students, schoolteachers and parents right throughout the Greater Geelong area, across my seat of Corangamite, I know that we need to put more money in to assist in the delivery of quality education that enables Australia to achieve the goals of this bill—to provide opportunity to all students, to ensure that we have individual learning plans for students, to make sure that students are adequately resourced and to deliver on that learning plan. That is the way we need to move forward.

I look forward to further negotiations between us, the Commonwealth, and the state and territory governments, and the Catholic education system and independent schools. I commend the bill to the House.