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'Two cheers' for back-to-basics curriculum.



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'Two cheers' for back-to-basics curriculum

The Federal Opposition has welcomed the focus on getting ‘back-to-basics’ in literacy and grammar as outlined in the National English Curriculum framing document. However, they will reserve judgement until the final curriculum is presented.

“I am pleased that Professor Freebody’s framing document has recognised the need for students to have a solid foundation in grammar, spelling and punctuation. It also supports a return to phonics,” Christopher Pyne, the Shadow Education Minister said today.

“However, the inclusion of critical literacy teaching gives us pause to wait until the final document before giving it wholehearted support,” he added.

“The Opposition has been calling for the curriculum’s writers to take a 'back-to-basics' approach.

“We are pleased that this early advice suggests that the concerns of the Opposition, parents, business and Universities are being heard.

“A strong grounding in the fundamentals will hopefully diminish the need for Universities to provide remedial literacy courses.

“I note that framing document also advocates a use of digital texts and multi-media sources, as well as critical literacy. We will closely monitor the ongoing development of the national curriculum to ensure that it gets the balance right, and restores the fundamental skills to a central place in our children’s educations,” Mr Pyne said.

17 October 2008

Media Contact:

Adam Howard

0400 414 833

TRANSCRIPT

LOMAX-SMITH:

Our enthusiasm for this is that, while South Australia has quite a high ratio of computers to children within our schools, some of those computers are ageing. We are very fortunate in the first round of allocations to have, for example, 349 new computers going to Henley High and 200 new computers going to Birdwood High School, and 47 schools will receive funding in the first round. We do not believe that there is any extra cost, and the reason is that the extra costs might well relate to the licences or to the infrastructure. However, our infrastructure is in a state that means that we are able to join up these computers easily without additional issues.

We also have sufficient licences because we have many licences in our schools and these are replacement computers. The view expressed repeatedly by the member for Unley is that it will cost money in electricity. However, I reiterate that these are replacement computers: there are already computers there. They are replacements, and new computers will use less electricity than old computers.

So, the assertion that this is costing money is actually nonsense because, with the number of computers we are buying, whilst there is 1,000 per unit available, by bulking up the orders we are buying them somewhat cheaper than that. The additional installations and costs are incorporated within the funding allocation, and that has been worked through very carefully between the states and the government.

Mr PISONI:

The budget papers refer to provisions for federal government election commitments, and in Senate Estimates, Dr Arthur, who is a public servant on minister Gillard's staff, stated:

As the policy has been executed, the specific funding for the Computers in Schools program is not intended to cover every cost in terms of computer operations in schools.

What have you done to cover the cost that the federal government's program will not cover?

The Hon. J.D. LOMAX-SMITH:

I do not know how many times I can give you the same answer. We believe that our costs—

The Hon. I.F. EVANS:

In the last estimates, it was 17 times straight.

The CHAIR:

Order!

The Hon. J.D. LOMAX-SMITH:

As I have explained before, we are replacing computers, therefore there are cables. The cost of installations and any extras are covered because when you buy many thousands of computers, the cost per unit falls. The allocation of funds given by the federal government is enough to cover all our costs. When your costs are covered, there is no shortfall. My memory of the election commitment was that the $1 billion might have been increased slightly to $1.2 billion.

The reality is that there are negotiations around the country, and my view is that South Australia has been very well positioned to accept this funding. We are not expecting to pay extra money for electricity because these are newer computers that use less energy. We are not expecting to have to buy more licences because we have enough licences to cover the computer software. We are not expecting to have to pay to put in extra bandwidth.

That being said, obviously new computers will still have to be maintained in the future, but we have provisions for that within our budget, and it would not matter whether we were maintaining old computers or new computers. The number of computers will not produce a significant increase in costs.

The reality is that it has saved the South Australian government money by the government not having to buy new computers. If your disagreement with this project is based on the fact that you do not want new computers in schools, or you do not want the Labor government to make a decision on the basis of its election commitments, then that is another issue, but you cannot create an electricity cost blow-out just because it fits your prejudice.