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Tuesday, 15 October 1985
Page: 1220


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education) —I table a paper entitled `Commonwealth Schools Commission Report for 1986' and seek leave to make a statement relating to the paper.

Leave granted.


Senator RYAN —I seek leave to have the text of the statement incorporated in Hansard.


Senator Peter Baume —You should read it.


Senator RYAN —Mr Deputy President, I have had a request to read the statement. I was simply trying to facilitate the business of the Senate. I am happy to comply with that request. I present for the information of honourable senators the Commonwealth Schools Commission's report for 1986. The report makes recommendations on the detailed distribution of capital and specific purpose program funds for the 1986 calendar year, as well as a number of recommendations on the operation of the general recurrent and capital grants programs. Decisions on funding levels for general recurrent grants for the period 1985-1988 were taken last year and incorporated in States grants legislation.

The Commission has proposed significant changes to the administration of the capital grants program. The Government has accepted the Commission's recommendations on the objectives for the program, including giving emphasis to upgrading and refurbishment of facilities in existing schools, particularly those serving students characterised by low socio-economic circumstances, the construction of new facilities in accordance with overall educational planning, the provision of facilities to assist schools to encourage and cater for increased student participation at years 11 and 12 and the provision of facilities to encourage equal participation by girls and boys in all areas of the curriculum and to assist in widening career options for girls.

The Government has also accepted the Commission's advice that there are significant advantages in the adoption of a more flexible approach to the allocation of Commonwealth capital funds. In 1986 there will be only a single general capital element in place of the five elements operating in 1985. There will also be two national elements: The continuation of the existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander element and a new element for the provision of facilities for children with intellectual and/or physical disabilities, following from the transfer from the Department of Community Services of the administration of capital grants to non-government institutions providing for disabled children. To protect the Commonwealth's objectives for the capital grants program the Government has accepted the Commission's recommended criteria for eligibility and priority for Commonwealth capital funding, including giving priority to those schools serving students from communities characterised by socio-economic disadvantage.

While recognising that school authorities must continue to provide for new places, the Commission has proposed that a higher proportion of Commonwealth capital funds should be directed to the refurbishing and upgrading of existing schools. The Government has accepted the Commission's recommendations that by 1988 the minimum level of expenditure on refurbishing and upgrading existing schools should be 50 per cent of Commonwealth grants, subject to forward commitment obligations already entered into. Consistent with the decision to give greater emphasis in Commonwealth funding to the needs of existing schools and students, the Government has accepted the Commission's recommendation that allocations to the States and Territories should be on a per capita basis. This arrangement will be phased in over three years, 1986-88, except in the Australian Capital Territory, where it is able to be implemented fully in 1986.

The Government has also accepted in principle the Commission's proposal for block capital grants to approved schools systems from 1987, dependent on the development of arrangements satisfactory to the Commonwealth in terms of the Commonwealth's policy objectives. The Department of Education will conduct further consultations with state and non-government school authorities on this matter. Similarly, the Department will advise on the details of appropriate arrangements for the allocation of grants under the two national elements of the capital grants program-the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander element and the special schools element. The Government has accepted all of the Commission's recommendations on the allocation of grants between States and Territories for the specific purpose programs. The approval of projects of national significance will be undertaken separately by the Minister in the normal way.

The Commission has also made a number of recommendations relating to the operation of the general recurrent grants program. The Government will be considering these proposals in the near future. In the meantime, the decisions announced today will enable the necessary legislation for appropriation of grants for 1986 to be finalised. I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.