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Transcript of interview with Leon Byner: 5AA: 17 September 2009: Building the Education Revolution.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion Deputy Prime Minister

17 September, 2009


Transcript - 5AA Radio Interview 9:30am


ISSUES: Building the Education Revolution

LEON BYNER: Julia, thanks for being on the program today at relatively short notice.

JULIA GILLARD: No problems, Leon, always a pleasure

LEON BYNER: We’ve got a real problem up north where we’ve got a school that is part of the former John Howard Australian Technical Colleges model. They applied for some money, $75,000, for a shed extension, they’ve got it to do it but the only problem is the school is going to shut in three months. This is crazy.

JULIA GILLARD: Leon, if that were happening, it would be crazy, but I am happy to tell you it’s not happening like that.

So if I can just explain this to you; when we came to Government, we were elected with a commitment to say that the Australian Technical Colleges - there was a limited number of them opened by the former Howard Government around the country; they weren’t integrated in any way with the rest of the education and training effort - when we came to Government, we’d made an election commitment that we would guarantee funding of these Australian Technical Colleges until the end of this year and we would work with each of them to get a long term solution. And we’ve worked around the country with different ATCs. For some, the solution has been integrating into the school system; some have in fact integrated into the Catholic school system; some have integrated into technical and further education colleges and the like. The ATC you’re referring to in Spencer Gulf, we are still working on the long term solution for that ATC.

At the same time, we’re rolling out the Building the Education Revolution program. This ATC is counted as a school; it’s providing education to students of secondary age; it’s got a notional allocation under our National School Pride program as $75,000. But our Building the Education Revolution guidelines provide, and the way this whole program works, is if there is a process being worked through about the long term future of a school or an ATC, the

money is not spent - not spent - until that long term future is worked through. That is because, of course, we don’t want to do the thing you’ve just described as crazy, which is spend money on facilities that are shortly to close. So that money is being held; it won’t be spent until we have clarified what is the long term future of this ATC.

LEON BYNER: When can we clarify it because I’ve just had a phone call from an ATC representative down south who is a good friend of the principal of the school to which we refer up north who says for them ‘the writing is on the wall.’ So if you know different, I would love to be able to tell people now.

JULIA GILLARD: We are still in consultations to work through the long term future. Funding is guaranteed until the end of this year. We have worked on these ATCs, there were a number of them round the country, and we successfully have found long term futures, so we will keep working on that hard. I can’t give you an answer in this interview what that future will be because that work is still in progress. But overwhelmingly, as we work through with ATCs, we have resolved long term futures for them.

LEON BYNER: So really, is it fair for the school to say, because they are telling the parents of kids who desperately want a trade and I think you would be the first to admit, I mean your education revolution is putting a lot of emphasis on either academic performance and achievement, that’s fine, but also on people getting skill to do good trades and we desperately need those people. So I would’ve thought we ought to be trying to move heaven and earth to ensure that no matter where you live in this state, and I know you’ve got a very soft spot for South Australia, you get the ability to get the training to do whatever skill you want. So that’s what this is about for me and for those listening. When will we know the future of the young people in that region?

JULIA GILLARD: Leon, what I can say to you is we are continuing to work on this one. When we came to Government, we needed to work through the circumstances of 24 Australian Technical Colleges and we have been working through them methodically and, as I say, we’ve overwhelmingly got long term solutions.

On the question of trades training in schools and for students of school age, when we came to Government we said; Howard Government - 24 ATCs around the country, they’d come in under the enrolments that the Howard Government had expected for them. What we said is 24 around the country is not a solution for the tens of thousands of young people who want access to trade training. So we said we would resolve long term futures for these ATCs, but we would dedicate $2.5 billion to bringing trades training facilities to every secondary school around the country, every secondary school entitled to a trades training centre. Many of them have used that entitlement to club together with other schools to build an even bigger facility. We are rolling that out. 24 colleges was never going to be a national solution.

LEON BYNER: One question, are you happy with the fact that both the Department of Infrastructure and the Education Department are taking management fees off the money that you put in for school spending and the schools in many cases don’t get to decide what they want done, it’s the department that tells them?

JULIA GILLARD: Leon, you don’t want to believe everything you read in the newspapers and you don’t want to believe everything that’s said by the Liberal Party about this program. Let’s remember they voted against it so they don’t support a dollar of this expenditure.

The Building the Education Revolution program has administration fees capped at 1.5 per cent. That is the arrangement we have with state and territories and with the Catholic and independent school authorities. We’re asking them to roll out the biggest school modernisation program in the nation’s history, quickly, in order to support jobs, the very tradespeople you’re so concerned about, during the days of a global recession.

So yes, that means they’ve got to ramp up efforts really quickly so we are providing them with some administrative support but it is capped at 1.5 per cent of the money that is being spent on the Building the Education Revolution guidelines.

On the question of flexibility, there are three programs: National School Pride - that’s money to assist with maintenance and that can work through to meet school needs; Science and Language centres - schools applied and said did they want a science wing or a language centre and 537 schools got a tick; the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program - new buildings for primary schools, a neglected sector.

The guidelines say the priorities are school halls, 21st century libraries or new classrooms, but the guidelines also provide flexibility so if they aren’t the priorities for schools, there is a way for schools working through to define another priority and I’ve been in schools where that’s happened. So all of the stuff from the Liberal Party to besmirch this program is really at the end of the day to cover up their embarrassment in having voted against it.

And if I can just say one more thing, 9,500 schools, more than 24,000 projects - are there going to be the occasional problems, the days when someone’s got the wrong end of the stick or a complaint is made? Yes there are going to be those days, Leon, but we have received, through our national coordinator, 50 complaints - 9,500 schools, 24,000 projects, I think 50 complaints against the size and scale of what we are trying to do shows that this program overwhelmingly is rolling out well and to the delight of school communities.

LEON BYNER: Julia, thank you for being on the show and giving your side of the story on this. Julia Gillard, the Education Minister on 5AA.


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