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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 74

Mrs VALE (2:40 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister update the House on the government’s plans to ensure parents will receive plain language report cards and more information about school performance? Would he advise the House on any alternative policies?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Hughes for her question and for the way in which she goes about promoting the very high performance of the Illawong Primary School in her electorate. Of all of the things that parents of the 3.3 million children in Australian schools want, the two that are most important to parents are standards and values. For the very first time, before this government hands over $33 billion of taxpayers’ money for the next four years to all government and non-government schools throughout the country, the conditions of that funding will have to be met. One of the conditions is that there will be plain language reports to parents. Parents are sick and tired of getting politically neutered reports from schools about the performance of their children, written in language that they cannot understand. From next year, it will be a government requirement for all Australian school reports, however information is reported to parents, to be reported in A, B, C, D and E. Parents can expect know which 25 per cent, or which one-quarter of the class, their child falls in.

I was quite disturbed today when I read in the Daily Telegraph a report of what is happening in New South Wales government schools. It seems that the only people in the state of New South Wales that cannot find out how state schools are performing in that state are parents. It seems that the ideological bureaucrats in the education department, the hardworking public servants, the principals, the teachers unions and just about everybody else in the state of New South Wales know how every school is performing, but one group of people who are apparently cut out of the equation are the parents. The Daily Telegraph said:

In some government agencies, operatives work in secret environments where information is shared on a “need-to-know” basis and confidentiality may mean the difference between life and death. We think of organisations such as ASIO and ASIS or, internationally, Mi5, CIA and KGB.

That is precisely the culture in New South Wales government schools. I say to the member for Hughes, to all members here and to the parents of Australia that conditions of funding for Australian schools by the Howard government will include a requirement for the performance of the school to be published.

A school’s performance in literacy and numeracy in years 3, 5 and 7 and teacher attendance at school will be available to parents in the broader community—one state minister asked, ‘What’s a teacher’s attendance at school got to do with the education of children?’—as well as teacher retention rates, student attendance rates, median year 10 and year 12 results, the value added score that the school delivers and the career leaver destinations. This government is determined to see that Australian schools have high, nationally consistent standards, that the performance of the school will be known to the broader community, that parents will not be treated as mushrooms by state education departments and that parents and their children will be at the centre of the educational experience.