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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8724


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (15:04): My question is to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Will the minister please inform the House of the government's commitment to make sure that every child has access to good teachers and a quality education?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (15:05): I thank the member for Page for this question. She has some 21 libraries, 19 multipurpose halls and a range of new classrooms or refurbished classrooms in her electorate—evidence of the commitment that this government has had to investing in education nationwide. We certainly recognise that the most important factor inside the school gate is the quality of the teacher, and I think people listening to us speak in the parliament will know that.

We have a number of teacher quality initiatives, including the National Professional Standards for Teachers. That clearly sets out the skills we expect every teacher to have at the different stages of their career. It was designed and agreed with the profession. We have a $550 million National Partnership on Teacher Quality. It includes things like mentoring for beginning teachers, ongoing training for teachers and paying the best teachers more to teach in our most difficult schools.

We are also working with universities to improve the quality of their teacher preparation courses. New work has recently been agreed by all education ministers—the state ministers and me—to ensure that each teacher has the opportunity for regular feedback, assessing their performance and improving their teaching. That work is really critical and it underscores a number of this government's reforms that are underway.

Given that the opposition have promised to cut $425 million from the National Partnership on Teacher Quality, how will they improve teacher quality? On the weekend the member for Sturt revealed what his approach would be: to sack one in seven currently serving teachers. The member for Sturt, the opposition spokesperson on education, actually wants to sack one in seven of the currently serving teacher population.

That is around 40,000 teachers in schools around Australia.

The question which follows from this rather radical view of the member for Sturt is: how did he arrive at this figure? Here is where it gets interesting. You would assume that the member for Sturt would have some evidence to back up his call to sack one in seven teachers. But—surprise, surprise—when pushed, his spokesperson clarified that the figure 'was based on conversations and anecdotal evidence from principals'. So we have an arbitrary figure, based on anecdotal evidence and conversations the member for Sturt has had, being used as the basis to sack 40,000 teachers around Australia.

This is an extremely important issue, because it is teachers who do the important and hard work in the classroom. It is teacher quality which is one of the most important areas of reform for anyone who is serious about education funding. We are; they are not—and the member for Sturt's statement proves it. (Time expired)

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (15:08): Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. How is this education reform helping students in regional Australia, particularly including those in my electorate of Page?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (15:08): I thank the member for Page for her supplementary question. The answer is that the significant national reforms which have been delivered in education by this Labor government are helping students right around Australia, including in regional Australia, to lift their standards and be well equipped for the jobs of the future and for a fulfilling life. In particular, we have invested significantly in low-SES communities. We have spent about $2.5 billion on what we describe as the Smarter Schools National Partnerships—focusing and targeting our investment where it is needed, including on schools in remote, regional and periurban Australia.

We also have a national curriculum for the first time. That means, whether a kid is in the member for Page's electorate, in a city electorate or in a remote electorate, they will get the same common learning entitlement that all Australian students deserve. That is an important initiative—one that has been brought forward by a government which has education right at the heart of its agenda and sees it as absolutely central to our nation's future prospects. As well as that, we now have national reporting on the My School website and we are applying national standards for things such as the teacher qualifications and standards I referred to earlier. All of these things go to the heart of what is absolutely crucial to Australia's future—to have investment in education, to lift student effort and to sustain our prosperity into the future. (Time expired)

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.