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Transcript of doorstop interview: St Peter's School, East Bentleigh: 10 September 2010: release of the 2010 NAPLAN summary results, ministry

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The Hon Simon Crean MP

Minister for Education Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion

10 September, 2010

Doorstop Interview - Release of NAPLAN results

MAIN TOPICS: Release of the 2010 NAPLAN summary results, ministry.

SIMON CREAN: I’m delighted to be here at St Peter’s. This is a school in my electorate and I’ve had a long association with it, so I’m delighted to be continuing as the local member of parliament and the Minister for Education currently in today’s important ceremony, which was a Building the Education Revolution opening.

This library that we’re in, these are fantastic new facilities for the school. They complement other building works that have been going on in the school. Also fitted out in the spending has been the computers, the electronic white boards. So this is a genuine 21st Century education and learning experience, and when we get the connection with broadband it’ll be a fantastic opportunity for the kids in which to learn.

Cory and Rachel, the two school captains who have shown me around, they met me at the school gate, and the principal Michael Juliff, and all of the parents and the students and parents who are there in the also refurbished assembly hall, it was a wonderful ceremony to have been associated with today, and again underpins the importance of our government’s commitment to investing in education.

It is the future for the country, it’s the empowerer for the individual, it also lifts the productivity of the nation.

Today also has been released the third year of findings of results from the NAPLAN testing system. This was something introduced by the Prime Minister when she was Education Minister - the testing of students on a two-yearly cycle in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in the areas of literacy, numeracy, basic education tools.

This is the third result of the tests that is up on the website today and not only does it give transparency, it is also for the first time beginning to show important progress. What is on the website today will appear in that form in all of the cohort groups and in all of the assessment areas.

But what is encouraging, because this is the first time we can compare a Year 3 cohort today with a Year 3 cohort two years ago, is the important progress that has been made under this system.

And for example, for Year 3, literacy results have significantly improved for three of the four tested areas - reading, writing and grammar. For Year 5, numeracy results have significantly improved at the national level. And for Year 7, reading results have also significantly improved across the country.

I’d urge parents to go to the website today and look at these results to see the national and the state breakdown.

As of next week, each school will receive a package of material that identifies the results for each student in that school. So from next week parents will be able to look at the results in relation to their students. And by the end of the year we hope to have also released the annual report which, in addition to showing the comparisons between Year 3 outcomes now and Year 3 outcomes two years ago, we’ll be able to track the progress over the two years.

This is an important informative tool. It’s not the only basis upon which decisions should be made, but clearly it can show where progress is being made, it can show areas in which progress hasn’t been made or where there’s been a slippage. And when you couple that with many of the other programs we’ve announced about access to funding to address the gaps, then it will be an important opportunity for schools and parents to prioritise the direction going forward, to take this material and use it as it should be used.

JOURNALIST: Does it concern you that some schools may be cheating by asking poor performing students to stay home. There was anecdotal evidence...

SIMON CREAN: Yes, there is anecdotal evidence and as I understand it 30 such complaints in the whole of the country in relation to what I understand is 1.1 to 1.2 million people sitting the tests.

Of course those issues are of concern. I am not trying to dismiss them simply by the minimalism of them, but this is something we have asked ACARA who have released this on behalf of the state ministers as well as me, we’ve asked ACARA to continue to look at ways in which we ensure the integrity of this method of recording.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the results nationwide, which is the best performing state?

SIMON CREAN: I think it’s instructive to go to the results themselves and make your own assessment of that. I don’t want to single out any particular states because it is true that certain states have always been, in assessments, ahead of others. The purpose of this is to not level the system; it is to encourage those that aren’t there, to move to improve. This is a relative exercise. We don’t want it to be seen as a competition so much between states, but as a mechanism which shows where improvements have been made; to challenge school communities to find out why others are doing better in a particular area, with a similar demographic. And to look at what resources are needed to help bridge the gap. What we want to do is to lift the standards; we want this to be a tool that guides and encourages informed -not just discussion- but informed solutions as to how to lift the level.

JOURNALIST: Have you addressed concerns about fears of a league table being set up?

SIMON CREAN: Yes, these were the concerns that were raised over a year ago. It led to the suggestions; it led to the AEU threatening to ban this. That didn’t happen; the ban didn’t go ahead because we undertook to not only address those concerns but the way in which the material could be interpreted, by opening up a much more consultative process. That process is happening. Interested participants are actively engaged in it. It was part of the resolution to ensure that the ban didn’t go ahead and in all of those that I have spoken with, they are happy with that consultative process. I think it will strengthen what we are doing; it will inform

better what needs to be done; but I’ve got absolute confidence not only in the integrity of ACARA —the body that’s charged with this— but the fact that it is constantly engaged with how we can improve and ensure integrity and not misuse of the material.

JOURNALIST: Is Julia Gillard interviewing ministers for the Front Bench?

SIMON CREAN: I’m sure she is.

JOURNALIST: How did your interview go?

SIMON CREAN: I’m happy with my interview, always been happy with my interview.

JOURNALIST: You’re speaking with a great deal of passion about education - will you still be education minister next week?

SIMON CREAN: I have a great deal of passion with education because education is the best investment a country can make. Investing in education not only empowers the individual; on all evidence if we can lift standards, we can lift the nation’s productivity. If we can lift the nation’s productivity, we get bigger surpluses. And if we got bigger surpluses we can put more money back into education. It becomes a virtuous circle.

I am passionate about education because it wins on two fronts. It empowers individuals and in the process not only enables them to earn better incomes, more rewarding careers, but I believe makes them better citizens. If we can — through teaching and learning — instil values that are important in society, of integrity, of honesty, of inclusion...this school is a great example. I’ve got many letters through the students. They have adopted the program of Make Poverty History, so that consciousness about those issues and to see it in young people, taking an interest, enthusing about it. I’ve got no doubt, I have been to others in which the passion of things like the environment, global warming... well we’ve seen how uninformed debate can lead to stilted policy. If we can inform the debate better and start with our future citizens and future leaders, that’s a great thing.

So empowering the individual isn’t just about making them smarter. It’s instilling those values in them. But the second reason I am passionate about it is because it is a driver of economic growth. It does lift productivity. And if we’re going to sustain our economic future, we have to invest in those things that drive productivity.

JOURNALIST: So that’s your pitch to keep the job?

SIMON CREAN: No, I’ve been passionate about this even when I didn’t have the job, and if you’ll recall I’ve had the job before. So, the passion doesn’t fade with the loss of the portfolio. All I’m saying to you is, I’m passionate about it because I’ve been a beneficiary of it. I see it in the students all around the country, but in particular in my own electorate where I’ve been giving awards to schools for the past 20 years that encourage community spirit and leadership. There’s a great alumni of students that have actually gone through that now in the almost 21 years that I’ve represented this seat. I believe in it as a local member, I believe in it as an individual. Whether I happen to be the Minister, that’s a matter for the Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Is it the job you want, Education Minister in Julia Gillard’s Government?

SIMON CREAN: I’m delighted to play whatever constructive role I can play in the Gillard Government. I think it will be an exciting time, I keep hearing people say how difficult it’s going to be. I thrive in difficult circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there need to be major changes to the ministry?

SIMON CREAN: That’s a matter for the Prime Minister. Of course there will be changes by virtue of a number of people who have indicated that they’re not proceeding. And the Prime Minister obviously is going through those deliberations as we speak... Oh no she’s not, she’s at a funeral as we speak.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, do you think it’ll go the full term - the three years?

SIMON CREAN: That’s our commitment to make it go the full term, and we will do everything possible not just to deliver on that but to deliver on the other aspects of the agreement that we have struck. Because the agreements that we have struck are consistent with what we went to the election on.

I think the minority government obviously changes the dynamics of the place, but I think it will make Parliament a more effective institution. I think it will require Government to negotiate upfront about its objectives rather than simply after the exercise has gone through the House of Representatives. I don’t see a problem with bringing forward the negotiations, I think it makes for common sense, and so I’m quite excited by the opportunities as they present themselves going forward.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Rob Oakeshott would be selling out his voters if he were to become a Minister?

SIMON CREAN: Rob Oakeshott is a great Member for his constituency. I don’t believe any politician who I’ve had dealings with in all my time, and there have been many of them, has ever been a sell out. I think it’s a cheap term, and I think it denigrates the concept of what politics is about. People may disagree with what politicians do, they’ve got the right to change at the next election. Rob Oakeshott has been not just a passionate supporter of his constituency, but he has been a passionate supporter of a number of different causes — Indigenous rights for example. But he’s also been a believer beyond his constituency in the importance of regional development and regional opportunity. That is an important underpinner of the agreement that we have entered with the Independents. If we can find through the agreement a new process for recognising diversity, empowering local communities, recognising that one size doesn’t fit all; if we can get better accountability and better transparency about how respective regions are treated; if we can give better information through transparency to regions as to how much money is being spent for them on education, on health for example; and empower them to come up with more creative solutions as to how that money might be better spent, it doesn’t necessarily cost the Budget more. It will produce an efficiency dividend, because I’m a great believer as is he, in local communities having better solutions. Take it back to this school example - the school parents and teachers knew what they wanted, they drove the agenda in terms of how they wanted the money spent - and look at the outcome. It’s a great approach, it means the decision is taken here. We resource it there, but decision-making here and resourcing there and bringing that agenda together, that to me is quite exciting. That’s what Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor

have fought for and I’m delighted that it’s reflected in the agreement that the Government has struck with them.


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