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Education ministers discuss merit pay, nation -

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Education ministers discuss merit pay, national curriculum

Reporter: Michael Turtle

The Federal Education Minister is set to meet with state and territory education heads in an
attempt to sell a national curriculum.

Transcript

TONY JONES: The states and territories have rejected the first of the proposals from the Federal
Government to standardise schooling. The first day of talks wrapped up this evening and the Federal
Education Minister will meet again with her state and territory counterparts first thing tomorrow
morning in an attempt to convince them of her plans for national consistency in schools. But the
Labor governments are wary of proposals for a national curriculum and merit-based pay for
teachers. From Darwin, Michael Turtle reports.

MICHAEL TURTLE, YOUTH AFFAIRS REPORTER: The Labor state and territory ministers were putting on a
united front, joined in Darwin by the Federal Opposition's Stephen Smith to prepare their war plan,
even though he wasn't invited.

STEPHEN SMITH, OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN: My response is not to engage in the blame game and take a big
stick and say all the problems in education are as a result of the activities either of states,
territories or teachers.

JULIE BISHOP, FEDERAL EDUCATION MINISTER: He's like a little boy that didn't get an invitation to
the birthday party but decided to turn up anyway. I think it's a bit silly.

MICHAEL TURTLE: But if the states and territories were expecting birthday gifts from the Federal
Government they would have been disappointed. Julie Bishop did come with a lot of agenda items,
though. At the top of the list are plans to standardise schooling, including a national curriculum.

JULIE BISHOP: There's a high level of community support for greater national consistency in
curriculum and parents fear their children are disadvantage if they are in one of the eight systems
as opposed to another.

MICHAEL TURTLE: This evening the ministers rejected and first of the federal proposals for a
national testing system for schoolchildren. The states and territories say the change would have
cost about $35 million and the Commonwealth wasn't willing to pay for it. And they say Julie Bishop
wanted detailed information about schools that could have led to league tables, where schools are
ranked against each other. But the most controversial proposals are still to be discussed -
merit-based pay for teachers and giving principals the power to hire and fire staff. Some of the
states and territories agree with the general ideas but are wary of the detail. The federal plan
would see students' exam results as a factor in deciding how well teachers are doing. That doesn't
play well in areas like the Northern Territory.

PAUL HENDERSON, NT EDUCATION MINISTER: What Julie Bishop is proposing and the way she's proposing
it would see all of the best teachers really sort of coalesce around the best schools in the urban
areas in the CBDs of our cities. That's not in the best interests of all of the students of
Australia.

MARK MCGOWAN, WA EDUCATION MINISTER: Perhaps John Howard could apply it to federal Cabinet and we
could have Cabinet ministers paid on that basis. He hasn't done that because her model will not
work.

MICHAEL TURTLE: Tomorrow could be the last chance to come up with resolutions before this year's
federal election. At stake is $42 billion worth of education funding which the Commonwealth could
withhold if it can't reach an agreement.

(c) 2007 ABC