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Garrett discusses My School website -

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Education Minister Peter Garrett discusses the My School website with Heather Ewart.


HEATHER EWART, PRESENTER: The Federal Government today unveiled its updated controversial My School
website, enabling parents to compare funding levels for individual schools.

The revamp has revived the old public versus private school debate, with the Opposition claiming
it's designed to slash funding to non-government schools.

The Government denies this, saying the update is about greater transparency and more information
for parents. But some schools are already complaining there are inaccuracies in the data.

A short time ago, I recorded this interview with the Minister For School Education, Peter Garrett
in our Canberra studio.

Peter Garrett, you're promoting the updated My School website as giving parents more information on
schools funding and how much is being spent on each child, but how does that give them what they
really want to know and that's whether the quality of education is improving?

PETER GARRETT, SCHOOL EDUCATION MINISTER: Well, it gives them that information, because it enables
them to get a sense of the resources that are going into a school and that are available for the
education of students.

But Heather, My School 2 has got another really piece of information too, of course, which is
what's described on the site as 'student gain' and that's monitoring the improvement in the testing
on literacy and numeracy in NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy). Because
for the first time we've got the kids who did the NAPLAN in 2008, again in 2010. We can then chart
their progress.

And so not only are people getting an insight into financial resources that go into schools for the
first time ever, but they're also getting a sense of school performance as well and they, these two
things really do represent a significant additional enhancement to MySchool.

HEATHER EWART: Well, what this revamp has indeed already done is reignite the fierce old debate
about private versus public schools. In particular because this data shows that private schools are
doing very well out of the Government. Is that what you intended?

PETER GARRETT: Well, no, not specifically. I mean we completely understand that this is going to be
a part of the greater transparency agenda in that we will have debates about school funding.

But My School is about empowering parents. It's about providing them with the opportunity to have
information they've never had before about their kids' schools. And it's about enabling a
discussion to take place, particularly between parents and schools, about school performance and
student performance and also a broader discussion about where we're heading with education.

Now I think it's a great opportunity for us, as a country, not to go down that road, which people
like Mr Pyne seem to want to go down, of an arid debate about, you know, one sort of school system
versus another. We support funding to all education systems from the Commonwealth. So that's
Government, non-Government, the Catholic sector, the small independents, the large independents and
our ambition, our goal is to provide the quality education we think all students need regardless of
where they live, regardless of their parents' income and we're supporting, and we have funding to
support that already.

Yes, we'll have a vigorous discussion about education and funding, we ought to have that, and
that's why we've got an independent review that David Gonsky's currently conducting for us. And
he'll bring recommendations back to us towards the end of the year for us to consider. In the
meantime, parents have got this information and I think it will be of great use to them.

HEATHER EWART: Could this information and the review that you've just mentioned be viewed as laying
the groundwork to cut back support to non-Government schools down the track?

PETER GARRETT: Well, again, absolutely not. I mean everybody today needs to understand that
providing this financial information and this student performance information on My School 2 is not
only a step up in transparency, but it's something that all the State Education Ministers,
including Liberal Education Ministers, have strongly supported and it's been welcomed by the school
sectors generally. The parents have welcomed it, the principals have welcomed it, the independent
school sector is out there welcoming us having this data up there. And that's because it's
valuable, important information in understanding how our schools are working and also informing
debates in the future.

HEATHER EWART: But minister, there are also complaints coming in from school principals, both
public and private schools, saying that there are grave errors in some of this data. For example, I
think the principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar, says that you've overstated the school's net
recurrent income by $1 million. If that's the case, might not there be more mistakes in the data?

PETER GARRETT: The data that's on the My School 2 website has been validated and checked through a
very rigorous process that's been undertaken by both ACARA (Australian Curriculum Assessment and
Reporting Authority), which is the body that is responsible...

HEATHER EWART: So how could that principal raise that error and call it 'a serious mistake'.

PETER GARRETT: Well let me continue. Validated as well by Deloitte's on a methodology that is
agreed to be the best way of reflecting that data.

Now in this case, I'm not going to comment about individual cases, but in this case my
understanding is there's a disagreement about methodology. Now that's something that ACARA and this
school can work through, but I'm absolutely confident that what you've claimed is not the case.

We have 9,500 schools, Heather, in Australia, we've got more data coming onto this website than
we've ever seen before and every bit of data that's come on has been validated, checked not only by
ACARA by the department, but also by Deloitte's as well.

HEATHER EWART: Is the next step in this to show all of the school's assets including areas of trust
funds especially at wealthier private schools to give a more complete picture of what's going on?

PETER GARRETT: Well I'm committed to further transparency and I've asked that ACARA consider that
question and I'll go to the next Ministerial Council and see whether Education Ministers will
commission ACARA to do that work. I think it's something we need to look at, whether there are
additional resources that need to be displayed on the site.

Let's not forget that the site is operating to provide the opportunity for parents to understand
the context that their school operates in. That's the most important thing about it.

There's a conversation that parents have with teachers and principals which is a really essential
part of their learning and engaging process when their school, kids are at school. It's also
telling us how kids are travelling on the NAPLAN testing and we'll get more and more of that
information over time and it's informing us, as policymakers, given that we've got a specific
commitment as a Government to focusing on literacy and numeracy, we've got additional support that
we're doing in terms of the national partnerships. We find this a very useful tool for us to have,
as well.

So it's serving a lot of purposes in a school system that's quite complex. It's not about our arid
debates that Mr Pyne has had in the past. It's not about us versus them. It's about knowing how we
can provide the best education to all students regardless of what system they're in.

HEATHER EWART: And finally Peter Garrett, the Government's failed Home Insulation Scheme once came
under your old ministry. The Government this week announced that there had been raids of suspected
disreputable operators which may lead to charges. Does that whole debacle weigh heavily on your
mind ... still?

PETER GARRETT: Well, the reporting that was done in relation to that matter, Heather, pointed out
very clearly that I'd acted properly.

These matters that have been announced subsequently are now clearly the subject of operational
issues and I know Minister Combet hasn't provided any additional comment about it. Those issues
should be resolved in that way and I won't either.

HEATHER EWART: Peter Garrett, we'll leave it there, thanks for your time tonight.

PETER GARRETT: Thanks Heather.