Extra Literacy and Numeracy Funding

Many of these schools are in my electorate. Two weeks ago the Deputy Prime Minister announced the Smarter Schools National Partnerships. I looked at the figures for my electorate the other day. I could not believe what I saw: $63 million for 32 public schools and $16 million for 10 Catholic and independent schools. Schools in Blaxland have never received this much funding or this sort of investment from a federal government. All up, 42 schools in my electorate will receive more than $80 million for literacy, numeracy and extra teachers.

To put this in perspective, this is about 10 per cent of the Smarter Schools funding for the whole of New South Wales being invested in one electorate. I hasten to add that Blaxland is not often considered a marginal seat. This is funding not based on margin but based on need. It will fund extra classroom teachers so primary school classes can break into smaller groups and practise reading, writing and maths. It will fund extra personalised assistance in literacy and numeracy for children who fall behind and it will pay our best teachers more to come and work in places like Blaxland. This is the real education revolution. This is the engine behind the My School website and inside the classrooms that we are building, putting money and resources where they are needed most and in the places that they are needed most. It is what we have to do if we are serious about making sure that postcodes do not determine opportunity, because they do at the moment.

Today unemployment in Blaxland is about 10 per cent-double the national average. Teenage full-time unemployment is a chronic 45.2 per cent. We are being hit hard by the global recession. That is why I ran a jobs expo in Bankstown 10 days ago. Six and a half thousand people turned up, 1,500 squeezed through the door in the first half-hour and 500 went home with a job. The important point here is that I asked employers that day why unemployment in Bankstown is so high, and they all said the same thing: the lack of literacy and numeracy skills. This is what entrenches social disadvantage and why this funding is so important. Will it eliminate disadvantage? No, of course not, but it will change the lives of many children in Bankstown and Cabramatta and the suburbs in between.

This would never have happened under the Liberal Party. After two years, the most obvious achievement of the government has been stopping Australia going into recession. That has saved thousands of jobs. But perhaps in years to come the greatest legacy of these two years will be the investment we are now making in education, where it is needed most, and the difference it will make to the lives of so many.