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Transcript of television interview with David and Kim: Thursday, 27 August 2009: National Literacy and Numeracy Week; Education Revolution.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion Deputy Prime Minister

27 August, 2009


9AM with David and Kim - 9AM Thursday


ISSUES: National Literacy and Numeracy Week; Education Revolution

DAVID: Has there ever been a parent or teacher who can help you with the English changes to the education system, just as you’re getting used to one? And is it really so bad if the teacher tells a child he’s failed?

KIM: Well Julia Gillard is in this morning to talk about National Literacy and Numeracy Week and the Governments Education Revolution. Good Morning Julia.

DAVID: Good Morning

JULIA GILLARD: Good Morning.

DAVID: I was reading, before we get into education, I was reading that you were born in Wales.


DAVID: And you moved to Australia for health reasons, you were, it was suggested to you that you move to a warmer climate.

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, we’re 10 Pound Poms; we migrated out here when the country was actually trying to induce people from the UK to come and one of the reasons, it’s not the only reason, but one of the reasons is I was quite ill when I was a little baby, I had bronchial pneumonia, and the doctors were saying to Mum and Dad, if I stayed in a climate as cold as

South Wales, that I could expect to be unwell every winter and possibly have to stay out of school for long periods of time so…

DAVID: so you moved to Melbourne?

JULIA GILLARD: No we moved to Adelaide, we moved to Adelaide. We were actually due to come to Melbourne, so they leap on the boat, due to come to Melbourne, they met some people on the boat who were from Wales originally and had already moved to Australia and they lived in Adelaide, and so they thought to themselves; well we only know 2 people in who live in Australia, they live in Adelaide, we’re just picking place names off a map so they changed their destination and we went to Adelaide.

DAVID: Do you speak Welsh?

JULIA GILLARD: No, we’re from South Wales and the language…

DAVID: Chinese?

JULIA GILLARD: …That’s right we speak Chinese in South Wales, I can converse with Kevin.

My Mum and Dad were of the generation were they were actively discouraging kids from speaking Welsh, so they know a couple of swear words and stuff like that but they... I’m not sure we can do that on daytime TV, but now if you go to Wales everything is in English and Welsh and there are kids learning English and Welsh, and when first went there I though I bet that’s a little bit kind of token and it’s just Government signs and all the rest of it. But I was literally walking in the main shopping area of Cardiff one Friday evening, 16, 17 year old girls in front of me, you know, shopping trip out for the evening and they’re all speaking Welsh to each other and I thought well that is a living language. If girls like that on a Friday night out are talking Welsh.

KIM: Yeah, it’s quite sad isn’t it because it was the generation when we did discourage and I mean we know Italian migrants into the country, a lot of those kids didn’t grow up speaking Italian because they wanted to assimilate and they wanted to speak English, where as it’s an amazing thing to retain that second language.

JULIA GILLARD: Yeah, and you can do both and Wales of course is a small place, it’s only 4 million people in total and so if you drove the language out, then you know, no one would speak that language any longer. So to keep it vibrant and alive, and if you go to the Welsh Assembly, the little Parliament they have there, people are making impassioned speeches in Welsh and I went there and they put on a morning tea, all of the women in Parliament, because they were a bit intrigued that this, you know, girl who could be born in Wales somehow ended up in the Australian Parliament, like how did that work? And honestly some of them from North Wales even when they were speaking English, I was having to watch their mouths move in the hope that I could decipher some of the words, because the accents are so thick.

KIM: Lets talk about education in Australia and we’ve both got kids in school, it is something that occupies so much of your thought process and I think everyone is excited to hear the words Education Revolution, what’s it going to mean?

JULIA GILLARD: Well it’s meaning a big set of changes to schools and they come as a package, national curriculum, because we want the same curriculum around the country, and a great quality standard. National transparency so we will know what’s happening in every school, who’s really in front so we can share that best practice, who’s falling behind so we can step in and make a difference, a new focus on teacher quality to get the best teachers into the schools that need then the most and to pay them more for doing that is really important, new resources for disadvantaged schools to lift them up and of course a focus on literacy and numeracy because if you don’t get those basics right then the world of wider learning is locked away from you.

KIM: So when you hear it in point form it sounds wonderful and I think so many people say oh hooray it’s going to happen, but is there opposition, I’m sure there’s opposition from teachers and also from parents? How can you work to allay those fears?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I think everybody gets a bit nervous about change, that’s a natural human reaction and there’s been some anxiety teachers particularly about our transparency measures, but to that I…

DAVID: So to that, particularly if you name and shame if a school looks as though it’s underperforming parents are going to want to pull children out of that school. You’re not going to attract people to that school are you?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I think, we are not about naming and shaming but I can understand why people are anxious, but we’ve got to know what’s happening in individual schools because kids only get one go at education, and what’s worse then knowing that a school’s underperforming is having kids educated there and not knowing that it’s underperforming. Because once you know, you can get in and make a difference and if all we were going to do was the transparency measures and go you know; bad, bad school, then I can understand why communities would say well we don’t want that, but we’re going to identify who needs a helping hand and then we’ll be ready with new money for the schools that are disadvantaged and need that hand, and we’ll be ready with the new teacher quality measures to get great teachers into that school because obviously that school needs the assistance of the best teachers. So you know, it’s a partnership, it’s a step up, a lift up, not a naming and shaming raceme.

DAVID: Will this new curriculum, by the way do you get to name the curriculum; does it become the Gillard curriculum or something?

JULIA GILLARD: No, it becomes the National Curriculum so... (laughs).

DAVID: Close!

Do we run the risk of being too politically correct here, when we went to school you knew where you stood in terms of your academic achievement…

KIM: and your place in the class.

DAVID: Exactly you’re A, or your B, or your E.

KIM: yeah, and you were 2nd out of 25 or what ever, so you knew where your place was.

DAVID: Will that happen again? I mean we’re falling into the trap whereby we don’t want, we melancholic the children and don’t want to tell them; son you’ve failed.

JULIA GILLARD: I think we’ve got to tell kids and particularly tell parents and teachers, we’ve all got to understand when a child’s falling behind. Our national curriculum is going to be rigorous, it’s going to be very strongly focussed on getting the basics right, you’ve got to be able to read and write, you’ve got to be able to count, and do maths, we’re bringing back grammar, there’s been a lot of debate about…

KIM: are you bringing back phonetics?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, it’ll have a strong phonetic component, so in terms of learning to read, you know c-a-t, cat. And then once you get that that’s cat you obviously move onto the next stage of understanding a whole paragraph, a whole…

KIM: Move on to the next level.

JULIA GILLARD: … yeah exactly, but you know, being able to decode, is the word that people use, and understand the phonetics and get the sounds is very important, that’ll be in the curriculum and we’ll have national testing, we’ve actually done this years national testing and the results will be with parents from the 15th of September on and they should expect to see where their child is against the national bench mark are they achieving the national bench mark, but also where their child is against the average performance of kids, so you’ve got a sense of how they’re going against the average…

KIM: so only the average performance? We won’t, you know, if there are 50 kids in the year level, the kids wont know where they place in that year level, and is that actually important?

JULIA GILLARD: Well it is. Every piece of information about how a child is going is important. The national testing comes out with 10 achievement bands and as you move through years 3, 5, 7 and 9 when we do the test we should be going up in the achievement bands. At every stage you’ll understand what is falling below the required standard and you’ll understand how your child is going against kids around the nation. That’s on top of all the assessment and testing and reporting that your own school does.

KIM: But obviously we want to create a sense if excitement you know, for kids and learning, so what events are planned for Literacy and Numeracy Week next week?

JULIA GILLARD: Yeah we’ve got Literacy and Numeracy Week next week, which is fantastic. We’ve got 2 national ambassadors; John Flannigan, who’s a children’s author, and an incredible bloke called Simon Pampeena, who’s a cross between an entertainer and a mathematician, he’s running the sort of intergalactic maths battle to save planet earth. I was with him at…

KIM: He’s the Julius Sumner Miller of maths

JULIA GILLARD: … I was with him at Wiley Park, a State school in NSW last week, and let me tell you when you’ve got someone in a shiny silver body suit and the Deputy Prime Minister everybody’s looking at the person in the shiny silver bodysuit, and he was fantastic in engaging the kids. So there’ll be national reading day, there’ll be maths activities and

competitions, there are poetry awards, there are all sorts of local activities for people to get involved in at their school next week.

KIM: How do we address it, I guess the one thing that’s not been addressed in all of this, perhaps you’d disagree, is the whole, the problem of children’s behaviour in classrooms. It’s easy to teach children who are concentrating but how do we then engage children when they’re disobedient and not giving the teacher their attention?

JULIA GILLARD: I think that’s about great teaching. Yes, it’s about discipline and making sure…

KIM: surly a silver sexy suit would work?

JULIA GILLARD: Silver sexy suit seems to work, but it’s about discipline, it’s about keeping control of the class, but it’s also about engaging the kids in the learning process. When you see a great teacher, you know, they are pumping energy and they’re pumping energy in a way that engages kids. They’re varying the learning task to go with different kids learning styles, not every child learns in the same way, and they’re really alive to the fact that, you know, Mary might be different from Fred in how they’re going to learn. So, that kind of great teaching, we want to spread, we’re actually resting nearly half a billion dollars in that and part of it will be this extra pay rewards to get great teachers where we need them the most. I’m really excited about that, and another part of it is about getting people into teaching when they’ve been high performing graduates themselves. So come out of a science qualification and go into teaching for a period of time, particularly in a disadvantaged school and kick start enthusiasm in that school.

DAVID: Ok, last week you said; principals deserve to be sacked if they repeatedly fail to lift their game, how are you going to recognise if they fail to lift their game and what? Do they get warned, or how do you propose to sack someone then if they haven’t lifted their game?

JULIA GILLARD: Well it’s certainly not something that you would go to first, but our national transparency measures are going to compare schools that serve similar student populations and if one’s going really well and one’s falling behind, we’ll share the best practice, we’ll step in with the new resources, the new teaching, but if at the end of the day after all of that management there was clearly a problem in that school with its leadership, then you’d have to resolve that. I mean, we’re the adults, we’re the responsible ones, they’re the kids, they only get one go at education and the most important thing is to make sure we get that right and everything we think about ourselves and our rights or whatever is secondary to that national goal of making sure that kids get a great education, every child.

KIM: Yeah, and parents can help by being involved in the school.

JULIA GILLARD: Yeah, all of the international evidence tells us that parental involvement is the key to lifting standards.

KIM: Alright. Good to talk to you.

JULIA GILLARD: Thank you very much, pleasure, thank you.

KIM: Thank you

DAVID: Thank you.


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