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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2327


The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.


Senator Wright - This morning the spokesman for the Liberal Party of Australia was in conversation with me. It was then my intention in view of the importance of this Bill to have the speech read to the whole chamber. There is a difference between that and leaving it to individual perusal. However, having regard to the surrender this afternoon of other business of a more important character and the availability of the evening for reading this second reading speech, I want it to be particularly noticed that I do not refuse leave.


The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted to incorporate the second reading speech? There being no objection leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-

Honourable senators will recognise that the measure now before them involves a marked increase in the expenditure of the Australian Government on primary and secondary education. This increase is immediately the result of the recommendations of the Interim Committee for the Schools Commission (1973). Less immediately it is the result of the views expressed by the Australian Education Council in its Nation Wide Survey of Educational Needs (1969). It is also an expression of the conviction of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of the need for a transformation of education, as contained in his policy speech of 1972. It is a response to the representations of a great many organisations and individuals.

Outside of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, and with the exception of benefits to students, the Australian Government does not have direct responsibility for primary and secondary education. The States create and conduct state schools. The States register non-government schools, satisfy themselves that these schools are efficient and worthy of existence, and in some cases grant them financial assistance or grant some of their scholars financial assistance towards the payment of thenfees. The States themselves, however, have clearly indicated that after all their efforts towards their own government schools and all their actions in relation to non-government schools, serious deficiencies remain. Some years ago, after a needs survey, the States sought action by the national Government to fill the gaps which perturbed State Ministers for Education.

The Background

There were disadvantaged schools, especially in inner areas of great cities. Teacher education left much to be desired. The education of handicapped children was characterised by omissions to meet need which bordered upon the callous. Migrant education was profoundly unsatisfactory. Some States had no schemes for the assistance of isolated children worthy of the name of assistance. Primary school libraries were characterised by general neglect. Buildings, playground space, physical education facilities and the capacity to employ teachers were generally defective. Clerical and ancillary assistance in schools were woefully inadequate. A scheme existed through the Australian Department of Social Security to assist the education of handicapped children by private charities, but not in State schools. Knowledge of the medical, psychological and physical characteristics of young children, and their home environments, was a closed book to the first teachers enrolling them at school. Disadvantaged children and handicapped children suffered greatly in this situation.

This is the background against which the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission took up its task. The crisis in Australian education- though the expression 'crisis' is not used by the Interim Committee- is perhaps summed up in a few words of the Interim Committee's report in paragraph 5 : 1 on page 48 of Schools in Australia', where it points out that in too many schools the level of resources employed: . . is below that required to implement modern educational methods, and to prepare all children, irrespective of their rate and style of learning, for full participation in a complex society. In both government and non-government sectors there are schools where the quality of personnel, buildings and equipment reflects an attitude towards children which, whether it arises from public indifference or ignorance, is incompatible with the manifest values pf our society. Many of these schools are attended by children of relatively poor families, a significant proportion of them 'migrant or Aboriginal, whose schooling should offer a measure of redress for the economic and political disadvantages of their background rather than a compounding of them.

The report does not suffer from materialist delusions. It draws attention, on the same page 48, to 2 points which express ideas which must govern every decision. These are:

Human and physical resources do not of themselves ensure a high quality education. Many essential ingredients of good schoolings, notably attitudinal and organisational ones, cannot be bought with dollars.

The quality of relationships between and among pupils and teachers may have more lasting significance than the acquisition of any specific skills.

The Interim Committee asks for action which will attempt, both within the schools and beyond them, to supplement the opportunities open to children whose general conditions of life are least conducive to the development of scholastic ability.

The Bill

The States Grants (Schools) Bill, 1973 will give effect to the recommendations of the Interim Committee. Honourable senators will note that the Bill carries a comprehensive index, a format which provides a ready reference to the seven programs devised by the Interim Committee for the years 1974 and 1975. Each part of the Bill, and its associated schedules, sets out the purposes for which the funds appropriated for a program may be applied and the conditions to be attached to the grants for government and nongovernment schools. The general approach in the Bill is that the Minister may authorise grants up to the limits of the appropriation, with the Schools Commission carrying a delegation from him to approve individual projects for nongovernment schools. Recipients of grants through the State Treasuries must account to the Minister for their use and provide him with information on which he can report annually to the Parliament on progress under the program. The Schools Commission is empowered to obtain statistical and other information on which it can judge the improvement in quality resulting from these grants.

Explanatory Statement

A detailed description of each program and its treatment in the-Bill would require a lengthy address from me and I have circulated for the information of honourable senators an explanatory statement covering such matters. I shall direct my remarks briefly to each program, and in doing so will deal in greater detail with three of them- disadvantaged schools, special schools for the handicapped "and grants for recurrent expenditure.

Funds to be Appropriated

With the concurrence of honourable senators I shall have incorporated in Hansard tables listing the various grants appropriated under this Bill, together with figures covering those present programs which will continue side by side with the new measures.

These tables speak for themselves. They show that in 1974 and 1975 a total of $694m will be available to all schools in the States and that of that amount $466m will be for the States' own schools and $198m for the non-government school sector. A further $30m will be available for joint programs in both government and nongovernment schools. The net cost of the Interim Committee's recommendations is $468. 5m which honourable senators will agree constitutes a dramatic increase, the expenditure of which will be of great significance in improving the quality of education in schools.

I must emphasie here that the 'Karmel funds,' as they are generally now referred to, are additional to the amounts which the States will spend from their own resources. No 'set offs' are involved against other grants to the States as the result of the funds which this Bill seeks to appropriate.

General Building Grants

General building grants are to be provided under Part II for both government and nongovernment schools as an addition to the sums already appropriated under the 1972 Act. As contemplated in chapter 7'of the Interim Committee report the additional grants for government schools will be for replacing and upgrading to improve the quality of existing school buildings. Housing may be provided, for teachers in government schools in country, areas. The grants for non-government schools may also be used for replacing and upgrading of buildings, but it is also intended that up to 50 per cent of the total for these schools may be applied to new pupil places. The non-government. schools will be expected to make some contribution of their own towards the capital costs of buildings.

A total of $1 17.7m is to ' be ' appropriated as general building grants under 'the Bill, made up of $ 100m for government schools, $-1 6m for nongovernment schools and a supplementary sum of $1.7m to complete the present program for science laboratories in non-government schools.

Grants for Primary and Secondary Schools Libraries

Grants are to be made available for the first time for the provision of library buildings and library facilities in both government and nongovernment primary schools. In addition, extra funds for secondary school libraries will be provided over and above the $30m now available in the 3 year period ending on 31 December 1974. The provision of library facilities are, as the Karmel report expressed it, one of the most effective means of assisting the development of changed patterns of teaching and learning in schools. They improve the quality of education by encouraging an individual approach to learning. Unlike the existing secondary school libraries program, grants will be based on the concept of needs. That is to say, once a physical need for library facilities is established, the individual non-government school to receive a grant will be expected in the light of its financial circumstances, to make a realistic contribution to the total cost of the new facilities. Similarly, the States will be expected to take account of this concept in the distribution of funds available to them under these programs.

For secondary school libraries, $ 17.3m will be appropriated for government schools and $2. 7m for non-government schools, plus a further $1.3m to meet commitments to non-government schools under the existing program. The Bill will appropriate $16m for the primary libraries in government schools and $4m for similar facilities in the non-government primary school area.

Teacher-Librarian Training

As well as providing funds for physical facilities, assistance will also be given for the training of teacher-librarians in both government and non-government schools and for the replacement of teachers while training is being undertaken. A sum of $lm will be appropriated under the Bill for training courses plus $2.8m for replacing the teachers concerned.

Teacher Development

Chapter 1 1 of the report 'Schools in Australia' stressed the crucial importance of opportunities being constantly available for 'teachers and administrators to upgrade their competence'. Consequently grants . will be provided for the inservice education of teachers in 1974 and 1975. These courses will be 'planned in each State as a joint approach by State, Catholic, and nonsystemic non-government school education authorities. They will be open to.teachers from all school sectors. Assistance will also be provided for inservice education initiated by the teachers themselves rather than by their employers. These funds will be for the establishment and for the operation of education centres where teachers would meet their fellows. The centres will serve to stimulate initiatives from the teaching profession. They will be run by a management committee in each case. Funds for pilot projects in each State will be appropriated under this Bill.

The funds to be appropriated for in-service training total $7.6m. To establish education centres about $2m is to be appropriated under the Bill and a further $600,000 will be made available for the operating expenses of the centres concerned.

Innovation- Special Projects

Change in education is essential. Innovation can only be encouraged by 'fostering opportunities, providing stimulation and rewarding initiative on the part of those in and of the schools themselves- teachers, parents, pupils and the local community', as stated in the Interim Committee report, paragraph 12.6. To give the necessary encouragement, funds will be made available to support special projects of an innovatory kind at the school level. At the system level, support will be given for innovations aimed at the general improvement of the quality and welfare of the schools within the system. At the national level, projects of sufficient magnitude and national importance will be supported from funds to be appropriated under the Bill.

In order to 'raise the quality of schooling by fostering change and diversity', the Bill will appropriate $6m in 1974 and 1975 to establish a special projects fund from which the Schools Commission can support projects designed to promote change at the 3 levels referred to.

Disadvantaged Schools

Chapter 9 of the report 'Schools in Australia' explains the concept of disadvantaged schools. The chapter establishes beyond doubt the appalling variations in opportunities available to Australian children, the cruel and senseless waste of potential skill, and the callousness with which this situation has been allowed to drift through the years. Children in disadvantaged areas are constricted in a vicious circle.

On page 92 the Committee expresses this in superb prose:

Involvement of parents in school affairs, and hence their power in the school, is minimal; indeed in many cases no organised parent body exists. The schools are often old and dilapidated, the urgent need for upgrading and rebuilding having been bypassed constantly in the struggle to keep up with population growth in the developing areas.

I interpose the comment that the articulate sections of the population active in the interests of their children are very much to be commended, not to be condemned. But the children who have no perceptive, intelligent and active advocates are not to be neglected.

As the report comments at page 92:

Low income parents, being generally ill educated themselves, do not establish habits associated with a high level of literacy as examples which their children might follow. Education in a formal sense thus becomes entirely the business of the school, parents being unable to provide assistance and reinforcement, even if willing to do so. Parents are often ignorant of the implications of educational choice and of the range of the alternatives which exist.

Children and young people in disadvantaged schools are likely to be the early leavers. They are most likely to need education in arts, crafts, mechanics, technical skills, most likely to need to be given the most intelligent, informed and precise advice on the choice of careers and courses of study leading to such careers. They are the scholars and young people most likely to stand in need of personal tuition to make good the gaps in their schooling which might have been caused by illness, broken homes, shifting places of residence and some other maladjustment at some stage of their career. They are the scholars and students most likely to be in need of speech therapy or special assistance in oral and written expression. The scholars and students of disadvantaged schools are the ones most likely to be in need of financial assistance for the purchase of books and educational equipment if they come from underprivileged homes.

Funds for Disadvantaged Schools

On the recommendation of the Interim Committee we propose to set aside $50m for disadvantaged schools- $43. 8m for government schools and $6.2m for Catholic systemic disadvantaged schools. These sums are in addition to grants which may be allocated to this class of school by the recipients out of other more general programs.

The Government believes that this program is only the beginning of a great deal that needs to be done to create the highest quality in Australian education.' There will assuredly be no high quality in Australian education as long as there continues 'to be public indifference and official complacency about the fate of children in disadvantaged circumstances.

Special Education

The years 1974 and 1975 will see the beginning of an effort to solve the very formidable problems in special education for handicapped children. The Interim Committee has recommended expenditure of $34.2m for capital and recurrent purposes and in addition, a sum of $9.4m for training and replacement courses for teachers of the handicapped. We will continue with the grants under our predecessors' Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act and also with grants for training teachers for special education under our teacher education programs in colleges of advanced education. It is imperative, however, that these should not constitute a series of operations unguided by an overall strategy and philosophy, and I propose to outline such a philosophy now.

Local communities and local government should become much more actively involved in supporting action for the families of handicapped children and for the handicapped children themselves. The role of voluntary organisations will remain a role of vital and essential importance.

Our Department of Education, enlightened and guided by the Pre-School Commission and the Schools Commission-or in the event of the destruction of the Schools Commission by the Senate, the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission- should consider itself as having a special obligation to children and young people up to the age of 1 8 who have these special needs.

Special Education- Aims of the Government

The principal aims of the Government in the area of special education for the handicapped are as follows: First, the development of each handicapped child to the fullness of his potential as an effective, integrated, self-respecting and independent person. Second, recognition that the ability to work and to be self-supporting is absolutely crucial to adult independence, to happiness, and to self-respect, and to gaining the respect of others. Handicapped education must always aim at this independence and at this capacity for self support. Third, the condition the child must surmount is not the only objective of remedial action. The focus should be on the child as a total person, living in a. family and a community. Efforts to assist him ought not to be concentrated solely on his handicap. Fourth, we need a comprehensive screening .system for the early indentification of handicaps- in child care centres, in pre-school, in primary school and in secondary school. As an aside let me say we need a system which can also identify talent and foster skills well above the ordinary levels. This is especially necessary at the secondary level when the life style and the life aims of the young person are being determined.

To implement the report of the Interim Committee for the Schools Commission on the subject of handicapped children we must develop a system of administration which actually expresses compassion. If we are to detect need in children we must face the fact that families most at risk are least likely to go voluntarily to infant welfare clinics, least likely to use child care centres, least likely to have the services of competent medical practitioners, social workers or psychological advisers. Research is needed to identify what characteristics of children are most predictive of subsequent education and social difficulty. We just do not have enough trained people capable of physical, intellectual, emotional and social assessment of any child. This is why the Government is giving high priority to accelerating the training of social workers and medical practitioners.

General Recurrent Grants

For the first time in Australia the national Parliament is now being asked to make direct grants towards the recurrent expenditure of government schools in the States. Our predecessors did this for non-government schools. We intend to do it for all schools, with grants determined on the basis of relative need. The Bill appropriates $ 1 75.9m for government schools and $64.8m for Catholic systemic schools over the 2 years 1974 and 1975. It also provides the mechanism for the payment of grants to other non-government schools estimated to cost $70m over the 2 years.

There has been a great deal of public comment on the Interim Committee's approach in this area. Criticism has been directed at the allocation of categories of relative need to some nongovernment schools, including some Catholic schools, in substitution for across-the-board per capita grants to all non-government schools. The Interim Committee, of course, worked within a Government directive that it should make its recommendations on the basis of relative needs and priorities, without any pre-determined basic level of support to all these schools.

The non-systemic schools, after the determination of appeals, recently accounted for 734 schools and some 308,500 students in 1972. Among them, category A schools, which are to receive no recurrent grants because of their very high present use of recurrent resources, account for 50 schools and 33,300 students. By contrast the Catholic systemic schools- which are predominately the parish primary schools- account for some 1400 schools and 290,000 students. They educate 78 per cent of all nongovernment primary students and 16 per cent of all primary students.

The Interim Committee found that Catholic systemic schools were operating in 1972 at an average standard of some 80 per cent of the average of government schools. This year they have received grants from the Australian Government at $62 per primary pupil. In 1974 under this Bill, they will receive average grants of $90 per pupil and in 1975 the figure will rise to $135 per pupil.

I invite the Senate to consider what might have happened in 1974 and 1975 if the previous Government had remained in office and its States Grants (Schools) Act of 1972 had continued. For the purpose of comparison let us assume that the cost of operating the goverment schools, on which the 20 per cent calculation is based, would rise by 10 per cent in each year, with the projected student numbers spread between systemic and non-systemic schools as in 1972. In tabular form we see-

 

This estimate reveals that on these assumptions, in 1974 the total contribution from the present Government would be $3m greater than under the previous arrangement and the Catholic systemic schools will receive $5.6m more. When we look at the second year, 1975, our program will provide an additional $20m for all non- government schools, of which the Catholic systemic schools will receive $ 1 5.2m.

Change in basis of Allocation of Recurrent Grants

In accordance with our policy of making grants to schools in the States on the basis of relative need, we have provided in the Bill, at clause 66, for the termination at the end of 1973 of the across-the-board per capita grants approach of our predecessors in assisting non-government schools with recurrent expenditure. Clearly the

Catholic systemic schools will benefit greatly under our approach.

Continuing Efforts by the States

There are 2 respects in which we wish to have a particular understanding about the new arrangements. First, the grants to be made available under the various programs I have mentioned are intended to be additional to continuing efforts by both the States in respect of their own government schools and by the nongovernment school authorities. We look to the States to maintain the percentage of their total capital expenditure they have allocated to schools in recent years and to continue to devote to the operation of their primary and secondary schools the percentage of net budget expenditure which applied in 1971-72. Second, as recommended by the Interim Committee, the State education departments and the Catholic systemic school authorities will have wide discretion in the use and distribution among schools of both the general recurrent grants and the additional grants for disadvantaged schools. We expect them to adopt the relative needs principle in their allocations and to follow the guidelines of the Interim Committee and the Schools Commission.

Local Initiative

In the administration of the programs emphasis will be placed on the devolution of responsibility and local initiative. The Schools commission will have 2 way consultation with an advisory board in each State and will establish specialist committees to assist it. In addition to the work of the Catholic Systemic Boards in each State to which I have referred, there will be a single priority committee for all non-government schools in each State, with most members nominated by the schools themselves. These committees will initiate recommendations for grants for general school buildings and libraries for all these schools. The Education Department in each State will determine its own projects under each program.

The Future

I am sure all honourable senators will agree that this legislation marks a turning point in Australian education. We are commencing a new deal for Australian schools and Australian school students. There can be no room for complacency about what can be achieved under this major initiative by the Australian Government. Nevertheless, as the schools program gathers momentum during 1974 and 1975, preparations will be made by the Schools Commission for a researched and planned policy for the following triennium to carry forward the development of our schools.

In commending this Bill to the senate I place on record the Government's and the nation's appreciation to Professor Karmel and the members of his Interim Committee. When the Prime Minister appointed the Karmel Committee it was expected to do for schools in the seventies what the Murray Committee did for Universities in the fifties and the sixties. I am confident that they have done a good deal more because of the magnificent foundation they have set for the achievement of acceptable standards of a high order for all Australian schools.

Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.

 







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