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Preparing children to succeed: standards in our schools: address to the National Press Club [and] Questions and answers.

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Address to the National Press Club

Preparing children to succeed - Standards in our schools

7 February 2007

Today I will talk about preparing children to succeed by raising standards in our schools.

I am yet to meet a parent who does not want their child to succeed in school to the very best of their ability, so they can succeed in life.

Parents are concerned about standards in our schools.

They don’t want a revolution.

They want their children to have access to a quality education.

They want to be assured that the school education their child receives will give them fundamental skills to get a job, undertake further training or go to university, and to provide the skills they will need for life - such as financial literacy.

Are our schools providing an education of the highest standard that will give students the skills and knowledge for the jobs and careers of the 21st century?

Or are they out of step with the aspirations of students and parents, and the needs of employers?

Has the education sector grown complacent about academic standards in schools?

Generally, in fact invariably, whenever the issue of quality in education is raised, the finger is pointed at funding.

So let’s look at funding.

The majority of students in this country are in public schools.

State Governments own, operate, manage and provide most of the funding for State Government schools, with supplementary funding from the Commonwealth.

Federal funding for State schools is calculated on a percentage of the State’s investment - and has been for decades.

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If State Governments increase their investment the Federal investment increases automatically.

Contrary to the claims of Labor and the unions, the Howard Government has provided record funding to State Government schools every year since 1996.

Funding has increased by almost 120% since 1996 while enrolments in State Government schools increased by 1.1% over that time.

When the unions say there is inadequate Federal funding, it is really a criticism that State Governments are not investing sufficiently in their schools.

State Governments accredit and regulate non-government schools, while the Federal Government provides the majority of taxpayer funding.

Enrolments have increased by more than 20% since 1996.

State Governments have primary responsibility for Vocational and Technical Education, including TAFE colleges, while the Federal Government significantly supplements funding, and is funding the establishment of the Australian Technical Colleges network.

State Governments own and regulate public universities, while the Federal Government provides virtually all taxpayer funding - (I should point out that the States are in fact a drain on university finances by taking almost $150 million more in payroll tax each year than they provide in support.)

Education is a shared responsibility in this country between State Governments and the Federal Government.

When Labor tries, for example, to isolate the Federal funding component from total public funding for government schools it is trying to disguise the fact that more taxpayer funding is provided per student to State Government schools than non-Government schools.

67% of students are in State Government schools that receive 75% of total public funding.

In terms of funding for education, it is not just a matter of quantity, it is a matter of quality. It is how the funding is spent.

Increases in public spending have to lead to higher standards. The Howard Government is investing a record $33 billion in school education during the current four-year funding agreement.

However, governments cannot simply increase the level of investment year after year, cross their fingers and hope that it will inevitably lead to higher standards.

In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher noted that although there had been increases in public spending for UK schools it had not led to higher standards. She cited the case of the Inner London Education Authority, which spent more per child than any other authority in the country yet achieved some of the worst examination results.

Tony Blair, in what he has termed his “Education Revolution” has focussed on improving the quality of teachers and schools to lift standards.

Notwithstanding the billions of dollars invested in schools in Australia, there is evidence that standards have declined, particularly in the teaching of the fundamental areas of literacy and numeracy.

As the landmark Teaching Reading report from the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy said:

“Reading competence is foundational, not only for school-based learning, but also for children’s behavioural and psychosocial wellbeing, further education and training, occupational success,

productive and fulfilling participation in social and economic activity, as well as for the nation’s social and economic future.”

The same can be said for numeracy.

Employers complain of young people lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Universities admit they are offering remedial classes in English and mathematics, to bring first-year students up to an acceptable level.

The Australian Defence Force Academy says that many Year 12 school leavers are not ready for university mathematics despite achieving good results in Year 12 maths and finishing in the nation’s top 15%.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessed the literacy and numeracy skills of 15 year olds in 41 countries in 2003. The PISA testing revealed that 30% of Australian students failed to achieve a reading ability necessary to meet the demands for further learning in our rapidly-changing world. 12% did not meet the lowest benchmark.

The equivalent international test for mathematics revealed in 2003 that 36 % of Year 4 students and 35% of Year 8 students achieved only the lowest benchmark or did not even reach the lowest benchmark. We are talking very basic maths here.

All State and Territory Governments gave a commitment in 1998 that every child commencing school from that year would achieve the minimum acceptable literacy and numeracy standard within four years. Every child.

This has not yet been achieved.

Currently, States and Territories have their own assessment programs and tests to determine minimum acceptable literacy and numeracy standards.

Data from each test is then subject to a lengthy, and I mean lengthy, equating process so that it can be reported at a national level.

Consequently the latest results available are from 2004.

These tests only assess minimum standards below which a child would have difficulty progressing at school - that used to mean they would fail.

There was very little change in the failure rates in the same grade between 2001 and 2004.

But the number of students failing increased the longer they were at school.

In 2004 the percentage of students failing was 6.3% in Year 3 - 8.8% in Year 5 - 17.9% in Year 7.

Student’s results were getting worse, not better.

Statistics can tell one story.

The personal anecdotes are also concerning.

Last Friday I received an email from a parent in Queensland. I phoned him. He teaches at a Queensland university.

His 13-year-old daughter cannot spell. He has raised his concerns with the school and was told to buy her a computer so she can use a spell-checker.

A teacher in Queensland wrote to me recently:

“I am a member of the Australian Education Union but do not feel that they speak for me on many issues. I have spent many years as a primary school teacher frustrated by what I feel are diminishing expectations of students and also by the vague curriculum guidelines that we have

to work with.”

From New South Wales:

“As someone who has run very large and small businesses, I can speak with some experience and frustration at the poor literacy and numeracy skills of those coming through the education system.”

I have received hundreds of such letters from across the country.

The Australian Government’s view is that we must introduce higher standards to lift performance, particularly in literacy and numeracy.

The Australian Government is insisting on national literacy and numeracy tests, which will be administered for the first time for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and Year 9.

For the first time students in different states will sit the same tests so that there will be increased accuracy of results, increased efficiency through reduced duplication and increased timeliness of national results and increased comparability State by State..

For the first time, there will be a national assessment of language conventions including grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Parents will be able to track their children’s progress against national standards between Years, 3, 5, 7 and for the first time in Year 9.

This is particularly critical.

Research from the Australian Government’s Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth shows that the strongest influence on tertiary entrance performance is literacy and numeracy achievement in Year 9.

While the Australian Government will continue to take a leadership role and insist on higher standards through greater national consistency, I am constantly reminded by State Labor Education Ministers and education unions that the Australian Government does not own or operate any schools or employ any teachers.

They expect to receive increased Commonwealth funding, but they don’t expect to be accountable for it, and I am told, not so politely, to butt out.

Education is a national priority and it is too important to be left at the mercy of State parochialism and union self-interest.

Last week, in support of my push for greater national consistency in curriculum, I released a report of the Australian Council for Educational Research, which compared curriculum in key subjects across the 8 State and Territory education systems.

It revealed substantial duplication in some subjects, and wild inconsistency in others.

The report makes a compelling case for national consistency in our curriculum, assessment and reporting.

I support its recommendations and will take a proposal to the education ministers’ meeting in April, seeking their cooperation.

However, the immediate response from State Labor Governments was illuminating.

Premier Iemma says New South Wales does not want the “dumbed down” curriculum of other States. Apparently if you don’t live in New South Wales you are being “dumbed down”.

The Victorian Education Minister does not want the “dumbed down” curriculum from other States, (presumably including from NSW.)

The Queensland Minister argued that we didn’t need nationally consistent curriculum because the States are continually “leapfrogging” each other. (That’s the point! They are always out of step with each other)

And my memory of leapfrog was that you were meant to leap in a forward direction.

Not one of them answered the fundamental question - In a country of 20 million people, why do we need to develop 8 curricula in 8 jurisdictions?

And with an increasingly mobile workforce, why should students and teachers be disadvantaged when they move interstate from one education system into another? We will work with the States to achieve what the public believes must be achieved.

Our goal should be that every child reaches the highest standard possible for that child.

The aim should not be to just meet minimum standards.

Some of the greatest gains in literacy and numeracy are to be made in our most disadvantaged school communities, including our indigenous communities.

Raising academic standards and improving educational outcomes for Australian students involves making some hard choices. It means making decisions that State Labor Governments, education unions and other vested interests will not like.

For we must open up our education systems to greater public scrutiny.

This will be resisted because it will highlight something that has been obvious to students, parents and principals - there are good teachers and schools, and there teachers and schools that need to improve their performance.

And that is why Federal Labor will not be able to deliver on promises to reform school education.

They will not take on State Labor governments nor the all-powerful teachers unions.

There is resistance to reform at every level.

As a report released this week from the Centre for Independent Studies, entitled Teachers and the Waiting Game states: “If public schools are to thrive and flourish into the future, the power nexus between teacher unions and state governments must be broken.”

The Federal Opposition spokesman on education has already confessed that he “doesn’t support imposing anything on the States in the education area”. The Australian Education Union recently threatened to withhold campaign funds unless Federal Labor backed down on calling for greater teacher accountability.

What more will the Howard Government do to achieve higher standards in our schools?

Principals must be given greater autonomy over their schools.

In particular, principals must have power over staffing.

How can we expect a principal to guarantee the quality of education in their school without some control over who is employed at that school?

The Australian Government already requires the State Governments to provide principals with some responsibility for budgets and at least a say over staff appointments.

These were relatively modest measures.

Many school principals across Australia cite as their biggest frustration the fact that centralised education bureaucracies parachute teachers into schools or summarily remove valued teachers, against the wishes of the school community and the teacher.

Just when they have secured an excellent teacher, who brings special skills and extra commitment to that school, State education bureaucracies transfer them out.

I propose to work with the States to move even further in the direction of principal autonomy and ensure they have the power to hire and fire teachers based on their performance, just as the head of any organisation or enterprise is able to do.

As the CIS study observed “Centralised staffing systems are the bastion of teacher unions, which fiercely protect regulations that shelter poor teachers and privilege longevity over performance”, noting that “poor teachers are more likely to be shuffled between schools than disciplined or dismissed, with serious repercussions for the teaching profession as well as students.”

Giving the power to principals will fix the problem of State Governments, captives of the unions, unable to deal with under-performing teachers.

International studies show that one of the characteristics of effective schools is the autonomy to make important decisions that impact on the quality of education they offer.

There must also be greater accountability to parents at the individual school level.

The States have a wealth of data about individual schools, yet they refuse to make it public.

Otherwise it would expose the truth that not all teachers are equal, not all schools are equal, and there are vast variations in how schools are resourced and how they perform.

The community has a right to know how individual schools are performing.

Parents would be in a better position to decide which school is the right one for their child if they were able to compare schools in relation to:

z staff qualifications and turnover

z suspension and expulsion statistics

z attendance and retention rates

z raw academic scores and improvements in scores demonstrating progress over time

z post-school first destinations; and

z feedback data on parent, student and teacher satisfaction levels

Making this type of information public gives parents informed choice when deciding which school their child will attend, and also creates an incentive for the school to continuously improve.

We cannot hope to raise standards in our schools if we continue with the fallacy perpetuated by State Governments and unions that teachers do not deserve incentives and rewards for better performance.

Teachers are a precious national resource. After parents, teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s educational outcomes. Like other professions, teachers should be recognised and rewarded on merit.

We must move beyond the low salaries and artificial salary caps that are imposed on the profession, and supported by education unions in their one-size-fits-all, lowest common denominator mentality.

I will put to State Governments a proposal for the inclusion of a performance element in teacher salaries, focusing particularly on teachers in disadvantaged schools who are making a significant difference to their students’ achievements, and work with the States to improve the status of the teaching profession.

Let me tell you about a school in Victoria - Bellfield Primary - that exemplifies much of what I am talking about.

It is in one of the lowest socio-economic areas in the State and was among the lowest achieving schools in literacy and numeracy.

In 1998, only 33% of Year One students could read with 100% accuracy - the Victorian average was 67.4%. Likewise for other years in the school.

By 2003, the number of Year One students reading with 100% accuracy had improved from 33% to 97.4%. Similar results were achieved throughout the school.

It went from being one of the lowest performing to one of the highest achieving schools in the State in literacy and numeracy.

The principal John Fleming, who drove these outstanding results, is now employed in a private school.

There are other dedicated teachers who are striving to make a difference in some of our most challenging and disadvantaged schools.

I want to see teachers of the ilk of John Fleming and schools like Bellfield rewarded for the difference they make to the lives of young Australians.

And I point out that the successful teaching methods employed by John Fleming are in line with the findings of the Teaching Reading report, to the effect that the focus in teaching literacy should be on phonics instruction.

I urge the Deans of Education at our universities to adopt the recommendations of that report in relation to the way university students are instructed to teach reading in our schools.

In addition to performance-based pay for teachers, I believe there must also be rewards for schools that are able to improve student performance in the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy.

With the start of national testing and assessments in 2008, we have an opportunity to identify the schools across the country which are adding value to the lives of their students, by significantly improving their literacy and numeracy skills.

These schools will be rewarded.

The 2008 tests provide another opportunity. The Australian Government already provides reading assistance vouchers to students who fail to meet minimum State literacy standards in Year 3.

As we are testing Year 9 students for the first time in 2008, we must once again step in to raise the bar.

Given the importance of literacy attainment in Year 9, those students who fail to meet minimum standards will also be supported.

To ensure a continuous supply of specialist knowledge in schools, the Australian Government will also explore alternative pathways into the teaching profession.

There are people with valuable knowledge, experience and expertise, who don’t have a Bachelor of Education, but who are keen to bring their talent to our schools.

I am asking Teaching Australia, the body established by the Federal Government to raise the status, quality and professional standing of teachers, to provide advice to the government on alternative pathways for teacher registration.

We need a teacher training and registration process that is nationally consistent, not only for the benefit of the current teaching workforce, but also to make it easier for potential teachers to enter the profession, including as adjunct teachers.

This will increase the diversity and skill base of the profession, and help address issues such as teacher qualifications in science and maths, and specialist subjects - particularly in conjunction with performance pay and more flexible working conditions.

Building on our existing reform agenda, these measures will go a long way to achieving higher standards in our schools.

We need to ensure our students leave school with at least the fundamental skills to ensure they can get a job, directly from school or after further education and training. How will young Australians judge the quality of their education? By the opportunities and options available to them - entry to university, vocational training, a job, a career, and the life skills they acquire.

Our schools must have stronger links to employers and the business community.

Business leaders must engage in the future of our nation's children and our education system to ensure that students leave school with strong literacy and numeracy skills and are ready for further education and the workforce.

I am already supporting our universities to build links with business.

We are ensuring the VET sector is in constant dialogue with business and industry.

This is an issue of national importance to our long-term economic prosperity and I will shortly establish a Schools-Business Dialogue, bringing together in Canberra this year business leaders, parents, teachers, educators and State Education representatives, for the purpose of determining better ways for business and schools to engage and exchange ideas.

This will be a forum that focuses on the quality of education - and the most efficient use of existing resources.

We must build a bridge between business and schools, so there is a greater connection between what students learn at school and what employers believe are the necessary skills for the workplaces of the future.

That bridge will ensure the goals of educators are aligned with the expectations of employers.

Parents and the community can then have more confidence that the nation’s children are being prepared for success.

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NPC Q&A Julie Bishop 7-2-07.doc Page 1

This transcript is taken from a recording, and freedom from errors, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


(Questions & Answers)

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

KEN RANDALL: Thank you very much Minister. As usual we have a period of questions from our media members starting today with Sophie Morris.

SOPHIE MORRIS (Financial Review): You said you want to reward those schools which improve the literacy and numeracy skills of their students. Are you talking there about a federal pool of funding in an election year like the Investing in Our Schools Program from last year? Does that appeal to you because you can bypass the

states and deal directly with schools? And what about those schools that are struggling to improve their student skills, don’t they need extra support?

JULIE BISHOP: What I’ll be doing is taking a proposal to state education ministers. The case for greater support for schools in terms of the delivery of literacy and numeracy is compelling and I’ll work with the states on the best way that we can

recognise and provide incentives for schools that are improving literacy and numeracy standards. The focus will be on our most disadvantaged schools who are raising standards such as in the case of Bellfield and so, once we have the national assessment results in 2008, we’ll be in a position to judge the schools that will be eligible for such funding.

MARK DAVIS (Sydney Morning Herald): My question is about your proposal for performance-based pay element in teacher salaries. I wonder if you could give us more details? I’m interested in the issues like do you think individual teacher pay should be able to go up in reward for performance, or would it be on a schoolwide basis to reflect school performance? Would pay be able to go down for poor performance as well as up for good performance? And would this system increase overall labour costs in schools and, if it did, would the commonwealth meet that cost?

JULIE BISHOP: I am putting together a range of options to take to the state education ministers and there are a number of ways that we can address this. I want to see individual teachers have more control over their careers. Currently the salaries in teaching are notoriously low. Currently there is an artificial salary cap on teachers’ salaries; they get to a particular point in their career and can go now further. And so I want to put forward a range of proposals and options that we can discuss with state governments to ensure that we can put more incentives into the system. All of the evidence and surveys shows that one of the main reasons why young people are not going into teaching is because of the status of the profession, in terms of the low salaries, and the lack of career progression and the lack of any element of performance-based pay. So let’s address the root cause of the problem and provide flexible working conditions and a greater range of options for the delivery of salaries

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to our teachers. They should be treated like other professionals and I will look forward to a useful dialogue with the states on what can be achieved.

LIZ BELLAMY (Canberra Times): My question relates to a report commissioned by the federal government which was handed down last year relating to the issue of rural education. It made sort of calls for the relaxation of income support provisions for rural students claiming that many were being sort of barred from further tertiary education. What’s the government done on that?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian government recognises that students who live in rural and remote areas face particular difficulties. That report and other reports are feeding into a range of options that I’m currently looking at to see if we can address some of the disadvantages that students face when educated at a school in a rural and remote area. That’s why the issue of principal autonomy is also so important. It will give principals in rural and regional schools the ability to attract the people that they want attracted to a rural and regional school or remote school and provide the sort of conditions that will attract people to those areas. That’s another reason why I’m supporting performance-based pay, differential pay for teachers and the opportunity to reward teachers for outstanding performance, which could include an element of working in rural and remote areas. And teacher quality is the key element in students’ educational outcomes, so if we focus on quality teachers the students will have better outcomes.

In relation to students’ access to university and the like, we are providing a range of benefits and support to ensure that students do receive support when they seek to go to university. In fact we have scholarships, Commonwealth learning scholarships, some 43,000 that are specifically directed to students in rural and regional areas who are wanting to go on to university—that’s at a cost of about $400 million—so we are providing support for students specifically from those areas.

DAVID CRAWSHAW (AAP): We have several experts at the moment warning of a crisis in mathematics in Australia and today we see RMIT slashing its maths staff. Is there a crisis and what are you doing about it, if so?

JULIE BISHOP: We must get to the core of the problem and, that is, the teaching of maths and science in our schools because unless we engage and excite and enthuse young people about the study of maths and science they won’t go on to study it at university. If you haven’t got students committed to maths and science in year 11 and 12, they’re not going on to university to study maths and science. So that’s where we must focus our efforts and that’s why the Australian government puts money into and supports programs such as Primary Connections—that is, ensuring that students are exposed to the wonders of science in primary school. That’s why we support CSIRO’s program of school activities to support the interest of students and teachers in science at schools, that’s why we support Questacon’s travelling science circus, to interest students and support teachers in the teaching of science and mathematics. And so our focus is very much on the core of the problem and, that is, ensuring that students are learning science and maths at school and taking those subjects in years 11 and 12 so that they will go on and study it at university.

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RHIANNA KING (West Australian): You spoke today about greater accountability and asking the states to make schools put information about teachers public. Are you considering linking this to federal funding and how would this work? Are you talking about some kind of internet database that parents and teachers could access?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian government already requires of state governments that certain information should be made available to parents and this is a requirement of the current funding agreement. And this year will be the first year that schools will be required to make certain limited information available to parents. What I am proposing is that we make the range of information that state governments currently

hold about individual schools available for the public, not only for prospective parents and current parents of children at school but for the community at large. It’s already a condition of funding; I propose to take it further.

LINCOLN WRIGHT (News Limited): I’d like to ask you a more purely political question, apart from Jeanette Howard you are the most powerful woman in the Howard cabinet and you’ve been very successful. Now Kevin Rudd has hired Maxine McKew to be his adviser, and there’s talk from my colleague Glenn Milne that she might in fact run for a seat in Sydney, which is quite possible, because Labor is trying to pitch to an aspirational electorate who likes to see glamorous women, like yourself and Maxine, in power.

Now I’ve got two questions: firstly, is it lonely at the top, for you in a rather blokey Howard cabinet and, secondly, do you think that there is a good argument behind Mr Rudd’s point of view that the Australian electorate would like to see interesting, intelligent women running the country a little bit more?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian public want to see people with experience running this country. What they want to see is someone who has the experience to manage a complex national economy, they want to see people with the experience to manage complex national security issues, they want to see people with experience to manage complex national reform issues like water, and we currently have that person in John Howard.

In relation to the number of women in parliament, of course we would all like to see more opportunities for women to enter parliament, after all they make up 50 per cent of the population, and I’m very comfortable working in a party that has a record number of women in that party.

DAVID DENHAM (Preview): I can’t really match that last one, Minister. I’ve got a double-barrelled one because I’m going to be quick with these. The first one is: as soon as you have a national standards regime in place testing students and schools, you’re going to finish up with a league table, and there is going to be schools and students at the top and schools and students at the bottom. Don’t you think that really puts undue pressure on those schools at the bottom? Because they … everybody is going to … parents are going to be driving their children away from that and its just going to get worse and worse like all the money in the UK league goes to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, and nothing goes to all those teams down at the bottom,

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So while you’re thinking about that, the talk today that you gave, to me, emphasises too much on money. You talk about performance pay, business linking in with schools, jobs for employees, knowledge and skills for jobs and careers of the 21st century. Now that’s good, but I’d like to tease a little bit more out of you on this, because, as Clive Hamilton said—I think it was him—he said, we’re not really going through education so that people can get jobs to buy things that will impress their neighbours that they don’t really like. We want to really do more than that, and there’s something lacking to me in here about the real purpose of why we’re educating and what we’re educating for in this day and age. And I don’t deny that we need literacy and we need mathematics, but I’d liked a bit more on the bigger picture stuff and the philosophical goals.

JULIE BISHOP: Education is the fundamental, the essential, the enduring foundation for national prosperity and national cohesiveness. Education is directly linked to prosperity and what my paper focuses on is ensuring that the education that is currently on offer in Australia is of the highest possible standard so that every child

can achieve to their highest standard, that we don’t accept lowest common denominator thinking, that every child has the ability to reach their potential, and that will then translate into economic prosperity and social cohesion. I don’t think there is

any argument about the two ... the linking between the two. In fact I thought it was so obvious that perhaps I didn’t need to state it, and so the focus was, let’s look at how we’re going to ensure our children succeed, however one defines success. That’s why I’ve talked about life skills as well as the fundamental skills that anybody needs in a civil society: literacy and numeracy.

On you’re first point about the release of information about schools, I support parents and I support the public having comparative information about how our schools are performing. We can’t hide the fact that some schools are not performing well and in fact this will focus government’s mind on the schools that need support. Currently that fact is being disguised and parents are not made aware of information that would enable them to choose the right school for their child.

SIMON GROSE (Canberra Times): I’d like to ask you about science funding rather than education. You put out a series of releases last month announcing some four-year funding for a few institutions, one was CSIRO, and it was a bit strange cause you said that CSIRO would get more than $2.5 billion for the four years starting July, but no more detail, that works out at an annual increase of $25 million, which is effectively a reduction in funding compared to inflation and the cost of research.

You’re opponents claim that you’d lost the battle in the expenditure review committee, so I was wondering if you could share with us some of your experiences in the expenditure review committee on this matter and whether, come the budget … when the budget comes, how much more than $2.5 billion can CSIRO expect over the next four years?

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JULIE BISHOP: The Australian government supports CSIRO as our premier scientific organisation. It has a national and international reputation which we can all be proud. Every year that we’ve been in government we’ve increased funding for CSIRO. Can I point out that the last time CSIRO had its funding cut was in 1995 when the then minister for finance, Beazley, slashed $20 million from CSIRO’s budget. Now, on coming to office in 1996, the Howard government restored that funding and has increased it, and under Backing Australia’s Ability, CSIRO received an enormous boost for the National Flagships program, where they are focusing on research in specific areas of national priority.

In relation to what goes on in ERC, it’s a very long game, and somebody reported on their version of what might have happened in round one—there are many rounds to go.

SAMANTHA MAIDEN (Australian): Samantha Maiden from the Australian ….

JULIE BISHOP: Samantha, congratulations. I understand that you have some very good news.

SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Thank you for announcing it on national television

JULIE BISHOP: My absolute pleasure

SAMANTHA MAIDEN: I thought that Lincoln’s question was a little rough on the seniority and glamour quoting of Helen Coonan, who is, of course, in the leadership group. There’s been a long line of coalition education ministers who’ve talked about performance pay, we’ve even heard before about Bellfield Primary School. There hasn’t been much action, however, some say it’s a failure to progress at a policy level; I suppose we wouldn’t call that a failure quite yet. How tough are you prepared to get with the states; will you put it in the funding deal for the next four years; and can you also rule out any changes to the socioeconomic status model, the SES model that funds private schools which you’re department has recently reviewed?

JULIE BISHOP: I attended my first education minister’s meeting last July and that was when I first heard about Bellfield. The issue of performance pay is an issue who’s time has come. We can no longer expect to attract and retain the very best people into teaching if we don’t recognise a few fundamental facts: they are professionals, they ought be treated as professionals and they deserve an element of performance-based pay.

Now I will take this proposal to the state education ministers in April. I hope to work cooperatively with them on this issue. The consequences of not embracing what is clearly a sensible change, that the public understands that we need to engage better and more teachers, is always the leverage that the federal government has, and that is funding. But first I want to ensure that the states are given every opportunity to work with me at the April meeting to introduce this much needed element to raise the status of the teaching profession.

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MICHAEL MADIGAN (Courier Mail): You’ve said you’d give headmasters the authority to hire and fire teachers. How far would you see that power going? Would you, for example, see a headmaster dismissing a teacher from the profession, or would it just be simply moving the teacher on to another jurisdiction?

JULIE BISHOP: I would give the principals—and this is what I’ll be asking the states and territories to work with me on—I would be asking for principals to have autonomy over staffing issues, in other words the power to hire and fire from their school just like any other head of any other organisation has. Now, that person would obviously be registered as a teacher, and is therefore entitled to go into the job market

for teachers; just like if a lawyer is no longer employed at a firm, if they are registered as a lawyer, credited as a lawyer, they can go on and apply for jobs elsewhere. But we’ve got to put power in the hands of principals to hire and fire so that they have control over the quality of education that is delivered in their schools. We cannot

expect principals to guarantee quality if they have both hands tied behind their back and this is the issue that principals raise with me across the country. If they could hire the people that would add value to their school, if they could fire the people who were

detrimental to their school, then they would be in a better position to assure parents and the community that they’re delivery a quality education for the children that attend that school.

There are many examples of music teachers who’ve built up a wonderful music school within a school in a disadvantaged area and that teacher just being plucked out for no reason and replaced with a teacher who is clearly not being dealt with as an underperformer in a previous school situation, and that person’s put into that school and they’re expected to live with it. Well, that’s got to stop. We must give principals the authority, the autonomy, over staffing matters, including staffing budgets.

JEWEL TOPSFIELD (Age): When you talked about the need for parents to know how individual schools are performing, are you also talking about independent schools and Catholic schools, or would you just be looking at the state schools?

JULIE BISHOP: I’m talking across the system. Parents have a right to know, they have a right to comparative information about our schools. Schools that receive public funding should make data available to the public.

JASON KOUTSOUKIS (Age): Minister, do non-government schools use performance pay structures in that system and how does it work? Are you proposing that teachers’ performance be assessed on the marks their students get or is there a

more … is there a different way of assessing a teacher’s performance? And are you concerned that you are, in fact, providing an incentive for teacher to, you know, skew their classes marks in some way, or their students marks, to get that performance bonus?

JULIE BISHOP: There are numerous examples in Australia and overseas of performance-based pay for teachers and yes, in the non-government sector, they are increasingly introducing performance-based pay. It depends on the school as to the way they do it, but you can measure a teacher’s performance. The unions say it’s too complex, you can’t do it. Oh yes you can. And there are many, many options

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available and we’ve seen it in schools in the UK, we see it in schools across the world and in the non-government schools sector where they have introduced recognition of performance as part of the salary package and you use a number of criteria to

establish performance, just as you would for any other professional. It can be a combination of the student outcomes—and now that we’ve got national testing and if this information is public, you’d be able to have that data—there can be what commitment they give to the school in extracurricular activities, a whole range of areas that you can base performance on. But the fact is the state governments already have this information. They already have information about individual teachers and individual schools. There is nothing to stop them using that information now as a basis for introducing performance-based pay for our teachers, and there is so much at stake here. We have got to attract and retain teachers in the teaching profession. They are a precious national resource, let’s treat them as such.

GLENN MILNE: In the context of Malcolm Turnbull’s bravura performance at question time yesterday—this is a theological question,—scientists in recent times have driven the debate on climate change, you’ve emphasised the importance of science and science teaching—and I dare say you control a fair bit of the funding in that regard—I wonder which church you belong to in terms of climate change, and will you be doing anything to increase funding to scientists generally to examine this problem?

JULIE BISHOP: I’m of the view that climate change exists, that human endeavour has contributed to it and to global warming. Already CSIRO receives substantial funding to focus on solutions for some of the problems that are raised—I mentioned the national flagships earlier; their flagships focus on water and energy and climate change—and so, we’ve provided funding to our premier science organisation to come up with a range of initiatives working with business and industry and our research organisations and universities to see if they can address some of the complex problems that do arise. For example, how to develop clean coal, what we can do about geosequestrian, a whole range of issues, nuclear power, of course, is an option we must consider.

Our Chief Scientist Jim Peacock is talking often about the issues we confront and face. So the science portfolio will continue to see if we can come up with scientific research that addresses the problems and that will be our contribution to the global debate on climate change and global warming—our ability to come up with scientific solutions and research that will hopefully provide some solutions.

KEN RANDALL: Minster thank you very much for coming back again today, we do have this memento of the day before you go back to the rough and tumble of politics at Parliament House, thank you again.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Ken.