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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1858


Mr GILES (Scullin) (11:03): A few weeks ago I attended the launch of the Community Hub, Thomastown West Primary School, and was privileged to be able to say a few words to mark the occasion. The Community Hub was created through a partnership between Thomastown West Primary School, Whittlesea Community Connections, Preston Reservoir Adult Community Education and the Smith Family.

The atmosphere on what was unfortunately a rather drizzly spring day in Melbourne was nonetheless electric. I could tell that those present were genuinely excited to be part of an initiative designed to support and strengthen the children, young people and families who are either attending or connected to the primary school community. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all of those involved, but most particularly Mr Leon Bell, the school principal.

Schools are of course an essential part of communities. They are where children and parents meet, make friends and put down roots. Schools are where teachers and parents identify children's different learning types, so it is crucial that schools have the resources to cater to individual students and their needs, particularly those with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most of the students who attend Thomastown West Primary School are from backgrounds that give rise to significant challenges in their schooling, particularly a low level of English spoken at home. Also, many come from asylum seeker backgrounds. It is a school that deserves more, and it is wonderful to see this community hub as an expression of community sentiment in that regard. Unfortunately, despite recent recantations, it is all too obvious that this government is breaking faith with parents and their children when it comes to school funding. I and parents at Thomastown West Primary School know that there is no 'one size fits all', that different schools have different needs. I think today of all those students starting at Thomastown West Primary School.

Labor's Better Schools Plan was all about more one-on-one individual attention for every student so that they can reach their full potential regardless of the circumstances in which they start their schooling and education. There are so many examples about what is at stake for schools in Scullin: extra teachers; extra learning and support staff such as educational psychologists, speech pathologists and social workers; literacy and numeracy specialists to work with students who need extra help; more-effective high-quality vocational education and training opportunities that lead to the real qualifications employers want; specialist programs within schools in sport, music and the arts; classroom modifications and new assistive technology for students with disabilities; extra equipment such as iPads and class sets of textbooks to take the financial burden off parents; and, critically at schools liked Thomastown West, breakfast clubs and homework clubs with tutors.

Labor's Better Schools Plan meant children struggling with literacy and numeracy would not fall behind. Thomastown West Primary School is just one of many schools across the electorate that will now lose out. Under Labor's plan, Thomastown West Primary School stood to gain $1.59 million more public funding in 2019 than what it receives this year. Overall, schools in Scullin stood to receive approximately $117 million in additional funding that year, an increase of over 50 per cent.

Labor has a strong track record of investing in schools education, of which I am proud. Schools in Scullin benefited enormously from the Building the Education Revolution program, having suffered significant neglect from the coalition government that preceded Labor and outright hostility from the Kennett Victorian government. Schools gratefully received this investment from Labor. For Thomastown West Primary School this meant $2.5 million for a new library and $150,000 for assistance with ICT procurement—once again, something members opposite were against. The very idea of a school missing out on a library because of the commitment to neoliberalism by members opposite is unconscionable. While Labor has a track record of investment in schools and education, the Liberal Party have abandoned the field. The coalition's approach to education could be described as history repeating itself—the first time it was tragedy, but now it is farce. We have seen this with the tragedy of the coalition not supporting a library at the Thomastown West Primary School. We have seen this with the farce of the coalition walking away from Labor's Better Schools Plan, walking away from the unity ticket. Federal Labor set a bold target for Australia to be in the top five in the world in reading, maths and science by 2025. Recent PISA scores underline the fact that we need more individual support if we are to reach this goal and enable all of our children to get those high-skill high-wage jobs of the future. Kids in Scullin deserve better than this government. These schools and all schools deserve Labor's Better Schools Plan and needs based funding.