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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 885

Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (18:47): I rise to support the motion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on education funding. Let's be clear: there is no longer a unity ticket on Gonski. The funding for year 4 and onwards that schools would have seen is not going to happen under this government.

I will never forget the man who stopped me a few months ago as I stood outside Windsor South Public School with Gonski flyers in my hand. He had not paid much attention to me as he walked his young son into school 10 minutes earlier, but on his way out he stopped. South Windsor is in one of the most disadvantaged areas in my electorate, with higher unemployment than average and lower income levels. But, like every community, it has families who want to see their children do better than they did. This dad definitely wanted it for his young son. He told me that his son had been struggling to read, but the extra resources that Windsor South Public School had been able to invest in, thanks to Gonski, meant his son could now read books. I think we both had tears in our eyes as he described the joy he felt at being able to read a home reader with his son.

Gonski funding results in nearly $5 million more in school funding than my local public schools would otherwise have seen in the current school year. For Richmond High School, it has meant $1 million more; for Windsor Park Public School, it is $400,000 more; and Freemans Reach Public School, which celebrates its 150th birthday later this month, is a quarter of a million dollars better off this year thanks to the New South Wales government getting in behind the Gonski funding model.

The stories of the difference that the early years of needs-based funding have made include extra teachers at Hawkesbury High School, which let teachers pair up and learn from each other. They have been able to employ Aboriginal support officers to help with literacy and numeracy skills. At North Richmond Public School, Gonski funding means every student, from kindergarten onwards, learns computer coding. At Oakville Public School, speech therapy and new maths and reading programs for children, sometimes with one-on-one teaching, have transformed children's educational futures.

In the Blue Mountains side of my electorate—where, I should add, we have more teachers per capita than any other part of Australia—the examples of Gonski go through every single school, but I am just going to talk about one. Katoomba High School has seen student engagement soar. Katoomba High has a diverse school community with a mix of low-SES and medium-income families, and 10 per cent of the students are Aboriginal. The initial 2015 extra Gonski funding was only about $120,000, but that led to a host of programs that the school has subsequently built on. A bush regeneration project has turned two hectares of eucalyptus forest into a classroom. Called 'Birraban', the project was originally an alternative to sport as a way to connect Aboriginal students to their culture and heritage, but it is now used across the curriculum to teach art, science, poetry, geography and maths. This could not happen without extra staff, and there is also a full-time teacher who runs a learning hub for kids with emotional and behavioural needs. All in all, these programs are turning school from being something that a lot of kids did not want to be anywhere near into a place where they look forward to coming. There may not be a highlight in every subject every day, but Birraban means that there is part of a day where students really connect with their teachers and other students.

At Winmalee High School, lower down the mountains, a similar concept of a learning hub has been developed, and what it means is that kids can turn up with whichever subject area they are struggling with, so high school kids from year 7 through to year 12 have a place where they can go just to get help from teachers. You cannot do that without extra funding, because you can have a space but it is of no use without one or two teachers there to help. This is what Gonski does. It is really practical. All I have heard from the other side is ideology; I have not heard any practical examples of where they think schools could do without funding. It absolutely appals me that those on the other side can be ignorant of the difference that this needs based funding is making to our kids, and I do wonder how they can deny them the continued benefits of Gonski.

This is why we need to see a reversal of the $30 billion cut that is coming from schools, for the government to urgently share a detailed plan for future funding and to explain why they tore up agreements that required the states and territories to increase funding for schools. All of these things need to happen now.