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Transcript of doorstop: Canberra: Thursday 11 March 2004: unfair system of funding of our schools.

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Jenny Macklin MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment, Education & Training Federal Member for Jagajaga




Subjects: Unfair system of funding of our schools

MACKLIN: The announcement made by the Prime Minister and Brendan Nelson today is just a continuation of this Government’s very unfair system of funding of our schools. It continues to give very large increases in funding to those wealthy elite schools that do not need that funding. One of the major things that has happened today is that for the first time ever the Federal Government, this Howard Government, is giving more funding to non-systemic independent schools than they’re giving to Government schools. So, 450,000 students in non-systemic independent schools are going to get more funding than the over 2 million students in government schools around Australia. This just demonstrates how unfair this system is. The Government is giving an increase in funding over the next four years of about $2 million to the very wealthy Kings School in Parramatta in Sydney, compare that to the $750,000 that Fairvale will get, a disadvantaged school also in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. That just demonstrates how unfair this package is. The next thing I’d say is that it’s very important to recognise that the vast bulk of funding in this package in this package is just indexation. It is just money that’s going to be paid to the states to keep up with costs. It does not, in fact, significantly increase funding to government schools where the vast majority of Australian children are educated. I’d just say to the Howard Government, it’s time we had a schools funding policy that focussed on need. That gave the significant increases in funding to those schools, government and non-government schools that really need it. We need to have an end to this very unfair system of funding that is being continued today.

JOURNALIST: And what do you think about the fact that the funding is actually tied to school performance and reports to parents.

MACKLIN: Labor supports giving decent reports to parents, as a parent I must say that I appreciate getting annual reports from the school my youngest child goes to. We certainly got reports on literacy and numeracy at years 3, 5 and 7. I think those things are good - many of them actually already happening, so I have no doubt that parents want those sorts of reports and we’d certainly work with the states to continue that reporting.

JOURNALIST: So the national bench marking tied to the funding isn’t a problem for you?

MACKLIN: We’ll we think national consistency across the states is a good idea. We’ve already made that plain both to the Federal Government and to the state governments. We want to work with the states to make sure we see greater consistency.

JOURNALIST: Many of the benchmarks they mention seem to be already signed off on by MCEETYA, are there any in there that you don’t agree with or that you have concerns over?

MACKLIN: Well that’s exactly right. Most of these things have in fact have already been agreed. Many of the states are already implementing improved reporting to parents. They are already seeking greater consistency across the states so I look forward to working with the states to get better reports for parents and I’m sure that will be an improvement both for the parents, the teachers and the students.

JOURNALIST: If the ALP is elected, do you tear up this funding agreement and re-allocated the funding over 2005 - 08? What happens?

MACKLIN: Labor will put forward an alternative, an alternative that is based on need. We want to make sure that all funding that goes to each and every school around Australia guarantees that children no matter where they are get a great standard of education. Labor will make sure that government schools and needy non-government schools are properly funded, we do want to make sure that all children get that great start in life that comes from having a properly resourced school.

JOURNALIST: What about the requirement that schools report absentee rates and they also report where their students go after they leave school?

MACKLIN: Well I don’t think there is any doubt as a parent and I think teachers as well and school principals do want to make sure they know where students are. Once again I know this is being done in some places and we can work co-operatively to make sure that happens.

JOURNALIST: When is Labor going to announce its policy?

MACKLIN: We will release our policy in the not too distant future but what is important to recognise today is that the package that has been announced - the vast bulk

of the money is just indexation. This really does no more for government schools other than just meet costs. And what it does in the non-government sector is continue to give large increases to those schools that are the wealthiest in this country.

JOURNALIST: …… (inaudible) ….than they would under this package?

MACKLIN: Labor will announce the details of our policy at some later date.

JOURNALIST: but a significant number?

MACKLIN: We will announce the details at a late date.

JOURNALIST: The Government is obviously trying to run a fear campaign around the ALP on private schools that you are going to take money away from all of them. Is it only category one schools you are going to target?

MACKLIN: Well there are no such thing as category one schools any more. What we have is an SES system of funding that does not include the resources that are available to the school. So what Labor wants to do is make sure we not only count the Commonwealth and state contributions in assessing need, we will also count the resources that available to schools - the private resources such as fees.

JOURNALIST: That system of funding would be modified or ditched altogether…?

MACKLIN: We would build on the SES system by adding the private resources that are available to schools.