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Labor to rollback literacy.

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Media Release

Labor to rollback literacy K174 27 July 2001

Labor today revealed its plans for the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy - to roll it back.

Today, Labor State Education Ministers voted to reject the Commonwealth’s proposal that they should report to every parent on their child’s performance against national literacy benchmarks.

Instead the States retreated to the usual bureaucratic obfuscation and adopted a resolution that means that the States and territory bureaucrats will now determine which information parents receive.

I utterly condemn this cult of secrecy that breaches parents right to know about their child’s progress.

The Labor states also voted to accept a paper from NSW attacking the Commonwealth’s literacy and numeracy strategy.

The Commonwealth’s National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy requires:

that every child in years 3,5 and 7 against a nationally agreed benchmark standard; ●

states to report results publicly to parents; ●

state education ministers to sign a legal agreement with the Commonwealth that they will ensure that every child learns to read, write and understand basic maths. ●

The Labor States’ intentions are now clear. They want to renege on their commitment to teach every child to read and write properly. They don’t want to report results to parents. They want to roll back the measurement and accountability standards the Commonwealth has insisted upon. They want to repeal the legislation that gives every Australian child the right to learn these vital skills by Year 3, the age by which a child must grasp the basics, or face an uphill struggle throughout their education and indeed through later life.

Kim Beazley must now tell Australian parents where he stands on this literacy rollback. Does he stand with the Labor State Education Ministers or with the children and parents of Australia?

The Labor states will not destroy the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy while the Howard government is in power. But would the national benchmark tests, reporting to parents and the first improvements in literacy in 25 years be safe under a Federal Labor government?

Kim Beazley must declare that he will protect the National Benchmark tests and reporting to parents from his colleagues in the State Labor governments. If he does not, then his silence will tell the story - that he will cave in to the teacher unions who have always opposed literacy testing and to the Labor State Education ministers who are dancing to the unions’ tune.

I have repeatedly challenged Kim Beazley to commit himself to the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. He has never responded.

This should not be a surprise. The man who declares he wants to be the "Education Prime Minister" presided, as Education Minister, over the suppression of research showing that a third of Australian schoolchildren were failing to read and write to levels appropriate for their age.

No wonder he told his biographer, "I lost a lot of ambition and I stopped straining . … I thought that there was less capacity to achieve in that portfolio (education) than just about any I have had." (‘Beazley’ - A biography by P. FitzSimons, 1999, p. 371)

Media contact: Catherine Job 0408 648 400


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