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Western Australia: state and federal education ministers discuss educational funding and standards.

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Friday 11 July 2003

Western Australia: state and federal education ministers discuss educational funding and standards


MARK COLVIN: It's not unusual for Federal and State education Ministers to wrangle over who should be paying for what, what is news is when they actually agreement on something. 


Both happened at the Ministers' conference in Perth today. State and territory ministers raised concerns about the Commonwealth's funding levels for government schools compared to private schools.  


The latest sticking point is standards for disabled students. But the point agreement centred on a move towards national educational standards by 2001. 


David Weber reports. 


DAVID WEBER: The states and territories wanted the Commonwealth to match funding increases for government schools dollar for dollar. After what's been described as a fiery debate, the Federal Minister said no.  


The Chairman of the meeting was West Australian Education Minister Alan Carpenter.  


ALAN CARPENTER: And we've had an argument here this week, yesterday and today, about how much this Government is prepared to spend on the richest schools in Australia, providing facilities which they don't need, additional facilities, which are far and above the facilities available to most schools anyway. 


And yet today when a debate comes up like this, they say no, we're not providing you with any money. It's ridiculous. 


DAVID WEBER: States and territories have agreed in principle to introduce the Disability Standards for Education, which would bring schools to a position where they would have the resources to take any student. 


Mr Carpenter says the states and territories also wanted a sharing of the costs of implementing the standards. 


ALAN CARPENTER: What we are confronted with now is a task to continue the improvement of educational facilities, human and physical, for children with disabilities. It would have been a hell of a lot easier for us if the Commonwealth had said yes, we're prepared to help out financially, but they've said no, we're not prepared to help out financially, and I think that's a tragedy. 


DAVID WEBER: The Federal Minister Brendan Nelson says the Commonwealth is prepared to provide teacher training. But he says there are wildly different assessments on the financial impact of the changes. New South Wales claims it would cost $1.8 billion and Victoria $1.4 billion.  


Doctor Nelson says the ACT believes it would not cost anything extra there, and he says he has independent analysis suggesting the cost of the changes would be negligible. 


BRENDAN NELSON: I think what's not being understood here is that some of the states are deliberately exaggerating the cost of doing this as a red herring so they can further delay facing up to what is there moral and educational responsibility. 


We spent seven years mucking about with this and in the interests of people who suffer from a disability, who need an educational fair go, the Commonwealth has said today, with Tasmania and the ACT, we've had enough, we're putting the accelerator down and we're getting on with it. 


DAVID WEBER: There has been an agreement to work towards national consistency on starting ages by 2010. 


Doctor Nelson says it's part of a plan to ensure that no student is disadvantaged by where they live.  


BRENDON NELSON: Every parent across Australia will receive a report as to how their children are going in years 3, 5 and 7 on reading and writing and spelling and counting. 


We also will be working very hard to drive national consistency in teacher ongoing training and professional development. We want to make sure that our children being taught in Darwin or Hobart or Perth are all being taught by teachers who are committed to the same standards.  


BRENDAN NELSON: He says it's not about achieving a national curriculum, which is a prescription for mediocrity. But Doctor Nelson says children should begin school at the same age, and the standards in Year 12 should be the same.  


MARK COLVIN: David Weber.