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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8750

Mr TUDGE (Aston) (13:38): I rise to speak on the Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011. This bill removes the requirement that the national curriculum for the non-government schools must be implemented by 2012. The practical effects of the bill will be, in essence, to do what the coalition has been asking of the government since last November, and that is, firstly, to delay the start of the implementation of the national curriculum on the basis that it is simply not ready and, secondly, to ensure that the non-government schools can also implement the national curriculum to the same timetable as the government schools.

We asked for a delay last November in a motion put to this parliament by Christopher Pyne, the shadow education spokesperson, and seconded by me. We then further moved an amendment to the schools assistance bill in March to ensure that non-government schools would be able to implement the national curriculum at the same time as government schools. We moved these motions and amendments not because we wanted to be obstructionist with regard to the government's policies and plans, but simply because the national curriculum was not ready. Every single stakeholder knew this. The school principals did, the education authorities did, the teachers did, and the parents did. We could see as plain as day that the national curriculum was not ready. But of course the government did not see this and not only voted against our motion last November, but then also against our amendments in March.

It is worth reflecting on some of the stakeholder comments back in 2010. If you look across the board, almost every single stakeholder has said that the national curriculum has serious flaws and that more time was needed for its implementation. For example, the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals has described the national curriculum as being:

… not up to scratch, drowning in content, overlapping subjects such as science and geography and contains no agreement as to how it would be assessed.

The Australian Council of Deans of Science wrote to Minister Garrett asking him to delay the implementation of the science curriculum. The President of the Science Teachers Association, Anna Davis, said there needs to be another round of consultation which includes teachers, which was not included in the first round.

The Mathematical Association of New South Wales claimed the maths courses proposed for years 11 and 12 were too difficult for students with learning difficulties but too easy for those who were gifted students. The History Teachers Association has also written to the minister expressing concern about the national curriculum—and I could go on.

We then had the problem that the government was willing to defer the implementation for the government schools sector but not for the non-government schools sector. For many, many years under both the coalition and Labor governments we have had an implied principle that every school policy that is introduced would apply equally to the government schools and the non-government schools, be that testing, National Safe Schools Frameworks, the My School framework, school starting ages et cetera. The only area where there is not consistency between the non-government schools and the government schools is in the area of funding. So amendments earlier in the year were simply to defer the starting date for the non-government schools sector and to bring it into line with the government schools sector. But of course the Labor government voted against that one also.

So it comes as somewhat of a surprise, but also a welcome surprise, that this amendment is put to the parliament now.

Wyatt Roy: They have seen the light!

Mr TUDGE: They have seen the light, as the member for Longman just pointed out. This amendment does give the discretion to the government to defer the implementation of the national curriculum for as long as is required and to ensure that the implementation start date will be consistent between the non-government school sector and the government school sector. We hope on this side of the House that they will defer it until the national curriculum is ready. It is a fairly simple proposition. We just simply ask that they defer the start date until the national curriculum is ready.

The national curriculum is not ready now and it may still take some time before it is ready. We suggest that the government not rush this process, that it takes its time and gets it right, unlike many other things which it rushes and gets wrong. This is a very important measure which they are trying to introduce. It has great impact across 10,000 schools across the country so we simply suggest that the government spends the time, does the work properly, consults with the appropriate groups and gets the national curriculum right before they try to introduce it.

I must say, I have never been enamoured with the concept of a national curriculum. I have always believed that we should have national consistency in our curriculum but not necessarily that we have to have exactly the same curriculum across every single school in the country. However, if we are going to proceed down this path then we need to get it right. I still have some serious concerns with the current draft as it exists at the moment. For example, there is little by way of an overarching framework or a clear direction for the curriculum as it stands. The curriculum has a heavy—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! It being 1:45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour, and at that time the honourable member for Aston will have leave to continue his remarks.