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League tables controversy continues -

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SHANE MCLEOD: There are renewed calls for the Federal Government to ban the publication of
controversial league tables that allow the comparison of school performance statistics.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper is putting New South Wales laws to the test. It's published
results from three Sydney schools, risking a $55,000 fine.

The Australian Education Union says the newspaper's campaign is extremely disappointing. It says
league tables are damaging to teachers and students and the Federal Government must step in to stop
similar publications.

Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: The national online report card on education, called My School, won't be officially
launched until January.

According to the Government the website will provide the most comprehensive information Australians
have ever had about school performances.

But it's how the media uses that information that's causing great debate. Yesterday the Sydney
Morning Herald printed the numeracy and literacy results of three Sydney girls' schools.

The president of the Australian Education Union Angelo Gavrielatos has criticised the newspaper's
decision.

ANGELO GAVRIELATOS: Well I think it's quite disappointing but indicative of what newspaper outlets
will be doing right across the country.

Newspaper outlets are driven by profit motives and that's why they're going down this path of
potentially publishing crude, simplistic league tables which will damage the provision of education
in Australia.

LINDY KERIN: Angelo Gavrielatos has renewed calls on the Federal Government to introduce laws to
ban what he calls the misuse of results.

ANGELO GAVRIELATOS: We certainly support the rights of parents to have access to quality
information, quality information which provides rich information, contextualised information
showing what is done in each school every single day.

We believe measures must be introduced to stop the harvesting of information that allows for the
creation and publication of league tables.

The challenge for the Deputy Prime Minister and every minister in this country who repeatedly say
they oppose simplistic league tables is to provide a solution to a problem that they have in effect
created.

LINDY KERIN: In New South Wales the Opposition and the Greens supported legislation that bans the
publication of league tables but it only applies to newspapers.

The New South Wales shadow education minister is Adrian Piccoli.

ADRIAN PICCOLI: We've done in Parliament what we can to try and prevent the publication of league
tables because they are destructive for schools, they're destructive for students and they're
destructive for teachers.

LINDY KERIN: The New South Wales Government has now challenged the Opposition to pursue legal
action against the Herald, but Adrian Piccoli says that's not their job.

ADRIAN PICCOLI: The Liberal and National parties are not usually in the business of taking legal
action against people for breaking the law. In fact that's up to the, that can actually be up to
the State Government. It is now state legislation. So it's actually up to Nathan Rees and Verity
Firth and the Attorney-General.

Our amendments were not about the media. They're actually about trying to protect those schools.
We've looked at the evidence around the world and the evidence around the world says that
simplistic rankings in newspapers or in any media outlet are destructive for kids and destructive
for schools.

LINDY KERIN: But the New South Wales Education Minister Verity Firth won't be rushing to the
courts. She says the Government has from the beginning argued that the Opposition's amendments are
unworkable.

VERITY FIRTH: What the law now says in New South Wales is that it's banned newspapers and
newspapers alone from publishing publicly available information about school performance. And it's
only newspapers. It doesn't ban radio from talking about school performance. It doesn't stop
television from talking about school performance. It doesn't stop interstate newspapers from
commenting on comparisons of New South Wales schools. But it's specifically aimed at New South
Wales state-based newspapers.

We have of course as we've now been forced to seek some preliminary legal advice. What our
preliminary legal advice tells us is that this provision may very well be unconstitutional and it
would obviously have to be tested out.

I would imagine that any media outlet that was prosecuted by the Government would want to take it
all the way to the High Court because it is so fundamental to freedom of press in this country. And
I am very reluctant to spend important education money pursuing a media outlet through the court
system on a law that the Government has indicated its opposition to.

It really is an issue for the Opposition to think about it.

SHANE MCLEOD: The New South Wales Education Minister Verity Firth ending Lindy Kerin's report.

The Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard says she doesn't agree with league tables but doesn't
support the New South Wales ban on publishing results.