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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 73

Senator MILNE (9:05 PM) —The Greens will not be supporting this amendment. The government has made it very clear from day one that it intends to introduce a national curriculum. I think there is merit in having a national curriculum. I think there is merit in standardising things across the country and getting some sense across the country. I agree with the private schools when they say that there is no clarity about what the national curriculum will be. At this stage, though, I reiterate, again, that Steiner education or Montessori education or any of those educations, it is a way of teaching—it is a philosophy, a pedagogy. It is not a curriculum as such. So it is a very different scenario, if you like. You are not saying, ‘In a Steiner school they will teach this, that and the other; therefore they can’t adhere to a national curriculum.’ It is the manner in which they approach the teaching of a national curriculum that defines the nature of the school, the nature of the philosophy and so on. Frankly, I think it is a beat-up. I do not think that is the major concern. The reason, as I said before, that I moved for two years is that that would give people two years from henceforth to be part of an ongoing negotiating process. A committee has been set up for this purpose. That committee will be negotiating in the next couple of years. Had we just gone for two years, at that point schools could have determined what is actually in the curriculum.

However, that is not the view of the House. I think it is completely unreasonable to say that private schools want the funding but they want it without the conditions which the government have made very clear and which I think are very appropriate, one being the national curriculum and the other being the accountability measures. Again, for a long time the community have said that they want to know exactly what the financial scenarios are for various schools. That includes all sources of funding to private schools because people want to know about the equity issues. As I said before, the tension and division in the community is because they can see inequity when they drive past a school, let alone go into it. You can see exactly what is going on. So I support the national curriculum being part of this bill and a condition for funding.