Press Conference with Minister Buti – Grovelands Primary School WA – Friday 26 March 2024

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE

GROVELANDS PRIMARY SCHOOL

FRIDAY, 26 APRIL 2024

SUBJECTS: School Upgrade Funding for WA public schools; Public school funding and next National School Reform Agreement; HECS-HELP; Education Ministers Meeting; Tax cuts; Family violence

MARK BRADSHAW, PRINCIPAL OF GROVELAND PRIMARY SCHOOL: Okay, well, it’s my pleasure today to welcome Minister Buti and Minister Clare to Grovelands Primary School here in the city of Armadale. We’re very excited to be hosting this announcement and we’re very excited about the future prospects it will bring. Grovelands is a school that’s very much at the heart of this community and it’s my pleasure to welcome both ministers here today.

TONY BUTI, WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you very much, Mark, for welcoming us here at Grovelands Primary school. I’m here with the Federal Minister for Education, Jason Clare. It’s great to be here to announce the Australian Government’s school upgrade round two where we have 13 schools to the tune of $25 million the Federal Government’s prepared to be upgrading a number of schools in Western Australia. Of those 13 schools, eight are in the metropolitan area, five are in the regions, and we have six ed support services, which I am particularly happy that the Federal Government has seen fit to fund.

These upgrades will be really important such as the upgrade that will happen here at Grovelands. They’re a major investment. At least $250,000 add to the part of the upgrade investment to qualify. The Federal Government and the State Government were really, really keen that where schools that are most in need, so we looked at socioeconomic background, also First Nations, also students with special needs. So it’s going to the schools that are in most in need. That’s why we have schools in Esperance, we have schools in the city, and we have schools in remote areas. I’ll hand over now to Minister Clare. 

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks, Tony. It’s great to be back in WA. Thanks, Mark, for inviting us to be here at Grovelands. As Tony said, Grovelands is one of the schools that’s benefitting from round two of the Schools Upgrade Fund. It’s about $600,000 to upgrade the canteen here as well as the assembly area here. As part of $25 million that will be invested in schools, more than a dozen schools here in WA, in particular schools that need the funding the most. Whether it’s upgrading classrooms, or upgrading sporting facilities, or outdoor learning facilities, we’re investing money in the sorts of things that are going to help children to learn and investing it in schools that need it the most.

Bricks and mortar is important and what’s even more important is what happens in our classrooms and the incredible work, the magic, that our school teachers do in our schools. And I was here in February with Tony to announce our plan to fully fund WA public schools. That involves investment over the next five years of more than $700 million extra funding by the Commonwealth to make sure that we get all the WA public schools fully funded by the start of 2026. Some schools will be fully funded by the start of next year, all schools, all WA public schools will be fully funded by the start of 2026 and that will be a game changer for public education here in WA.

And what we want to make sure is that we tie that funding to the sort of things that are going to help our kids who fall behind when they’re little, to catch up in primary school and to keep up in high school and to finish high school.

I saw a report come out last week that showed that over the course of the last seven years, we’ve seen a drop in the number of kids in Australia finishing high school, from 85 per cent in 2017 down to 79 per cent last year, and if that’s not a crisis, I don’t know what is.

We live in a world today where we need more kids to finish high school, not less, because more and more of the jobs of the future require you to finish high school and then go on to TAFE or to university and at the moment over the last decade or so, we’ve seen a drop in the number of kids finishing high school overall, and particularly in public schools.

That report that came out last week showed that we’ve seen a 10 per cent drop in the number of kids in public schools finishing high school over the last seven years, from 83 per cent to 73 per cent, and we’ve got to turn that around and that’s, in part, what this funding is about. Tying it to the sort of things that are going to help children to catch up, to keep up, and to finish school. And Tony and I and our departments are now working on the details of a bilateral agreement that will set out what that funding will be used for.

More broadly, we want to make sure that all public schools right across the country are fully funded and I’m committed to working with the States and Territories to do that. Today just around the corner from here, we’re going to be meeting with Education Ministers right across the country. We’re going to talk about the next National School Reform Agreement and what we need to put in it to make sure that we turn this around.

But we’re also going to talk about a whole bunch of other issues today as well. How do we make sure that we turn around the shortage of school teachers that we have in Australia. We’ve got a teacher shortage crisis in Australia at the moment. The same data that came out last week had some good news; it showed that there were more teachers in our schools last year than the year before. It showed attendance is up last year, better than the year before. But it’s still early days. There is still a lot more to do to tackle the teacher shortage crisis that exists in our schools today. We’re going to talk about that.

We’re going to hear from principals, representatives of our high school principals and our primary school principals about the sort of challenges that they’re facing so Ministers can hear it from principals right across Australia. We’re going to talk about the impact that mobile phones have in our schools and that vaping is happening, in particular in our high schools. The impact of banning mobile phones in schools across the country so far and what we need to do to get the vapes out of our schools and out of the corner stores across the road from our schools. We’re going to hear from Dr Tim McDonald an expert in behaviour management and the sort of skills that teachers have or want or need to manage disruptive classrooms.

We’re also going to talk about the safety of our kids in childcare centres and we’ve been working on this for a while and we’re going to have more recommendations come before us today to consider about the use of mobile phones by staff in childcare centres.

And then, finally, we’re going to look at university governance; who should be on university boards, how the industrial relations system in universities works at the moment and how it should work and the transparency of university salaries. So lots on the agenda and looking forward to that meeting today. We’re both really happy to take the questions. 

SPEAKER: I guess maybe more WA related, the funding to this area, can you just tell us what it will be, is it more just an upgrade on the area?

BUTI: Well at this particular school, you are actually standing in the place where the upgrade will take place. So as you can see, it is in much need. It’s very tired. So this is the major assembly area for Grovelands Primary School so the money will be used to upgrade it so we can add something that students will be proud to come to their assemblies and also their parents and also the staff.

SPEAKER: And what plans do you have for other schools around WA?

BUTI: As I said, there’s 13 schools as part of this announcement with a generous offer from the Commonwealth. That will be used from schools as far as Esperance, they’ve got a major upgrade that they want to engage in. There will be a school only a few kilometres from here, the Armadale Senior High School and [indistinct] centre, over $2 million is going to be invested in upgrading that school. This is in addition, of course, to the State Government’s very extensive capital works project in the education system in Western Australia, so we’re really committed with the Federal Government to ensure that we have the schools that students will be proud to come and learn in.

SPEAKER: And what are the benefits of the investing in infrastructure at schools?

BUTI: I’ve always said that if a student can come to a school and feel proud of the school environment that they are learning in, that will make them feel better. So I think it just helps with the overall learning experience of students and also staff that come here every day to experience.

SPEAKER: Now, teachers went on strike, you know, we just saw a couple of days ago. What are you doing to invest in staff and staff retention rates?

BUTI: Well, we have an [indistinct] program of attracting teachers to the profession to Western Australia and to retain them in the profession. We have, at the moment, an attraction retention scheme and we are sitting down with the union, and we are seeking to work through any issues that still remain, and we’re confident that we can reach a resolution and settle this and so for the benefit of teachers and the benefit of public education in Western Australia.

SPEAKER: Minister Clare, so can you tell us a part of this government funding to build infrastructure in schools, what have you been seeing across all of Australia?

CLARE: Just to underline the point Tony made, State Governments do the heavylifting here. They do most of the investment in the capital works for our schools right across the country. This is extra support that the Commonwealth can provide. Bricks and mortar are important, and pride is important and when a school has the facilities that it needs it has a big impact on learning and schooling, and that’s why we made the promise in the election to invest in infrastructure for public schools and we’re delivering on that promise.

But there’s more we need to do than just provide money for bricks and mortar. And that’s why we’ve put on the table the biggest offer by the Commonwealth Government, if delivered, in investing in public schools in this country ever. Billions of dollars on the table to transform our public schools in this country, to make sure that where children need extra help that they get it. That’s why I’m so proud of the deal that Tony and I have done for WA here, an investment that’s going to be a game changer for Western Australia. The bilateral agreement that we’re working on now will detail what that funding will be used for to support our teachers and support our students and give them the resources and support they need to make sure that more kids finish school.

SPEAKER: And I guess in terms of lifting teacher wellbeing and staff retention, what’s being done federally?

CLARE: One of the things that we’re looking at today is the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan. We’ve got three challenges when it comes to the shortage of teachers – not enough people wanting to become a teacher. We’ve seen a drop over the last ten years of about 12 per cent in the number of people enrolling to become a teacher. There’s some early signs now that we’re turning that around. That’s a good thing. The Be That Teacher campaign we ran last year as well as the $40,000 of scholarships that we’re offering people to become a teacher, we think is starting to have an impact, but it’s early days.

Second, we need more people to finish their teaching degree. Only one in two people who start a teaching degree finish it, and that’s why the re-engineering a teaching degree, making sure that what students are taught at university are the fundamentals they need to succeed at school. The skills to teach children to read and to write, to do maths, and to manage difficult classrooms. And we agreed last year to some significant reforms there that we’re now implementing, and we’ll have more to consider today at our meeting in terms of quality assurance of those changes.

And the third challenge is helping to make sure that once a teacher starts at school, that they stay. The first two years of a teacher’s experience at school are critical. We see a lot of teachers leave in the first two or three years. So it’s make-or-break in the first two years. The advice coming to us is things like mentoring, professional development, or professional learning, and support, all the wraparound supports for a brand new teacher can be make-or-break. Just one of the things that we’re looking at in the context of this bilateral agreement.

SPEAKER: Just in line with that as well, sorry [indistinct] to keep you up, you said that students are not finishing their degrees, will the Government change HECS indexation to relieve debt, like the debt burden on students?

CLARE: I’ve made the point inside the Parliament and outside the Parliament that we need to make HECS fairer, and we’ve got the report of the Universities Accord team that sets out a number of recommendations about how we can do that. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer said last week that we’re looking at what we can do here. We’ll have more to say on that shortly. So watch this space.

SPEAKER: I’ve got a couple more for you as well. [Indistinct] last year Australians saw the biggest jump in personal income taxes. Why are we paying so much tax and do you think it’s justified?

CLARE: That data is based on old information over the last decade. I have no doubt the former Coalition Government was one of the highest taxing governments in Australian history. In just over 60 days every Australian worker that pays tax will get a tax cut and that’s a good thing.

SPEAKER: And there’s a push from carer groups for the Government to pay superannuation on carer payments, similar to what they’ve done with paid parental leave. They say without it, carers are missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement savings, making them more dependent on aged pensions. Is it time to change that?

CLARE: I haven’t seen that report, but I will leave that to the responsible minister.

SPEAKER: And last one. Should there be a royal commission into domestic violence?

CLARE: Again, I’d leave the specifics of that to the responsible minister, Amanda Rishworth. But I think over the last week or two, Australians have been shocked and horrified about the violence that we’ve seen not just at shopping centres like Bondi or in churches, Wakeley near my electorate, but in family homes. And it’s a salutary reminder about just how serious this issue is. I know in my own neck of the woods in Western Sydney, people are still shocked, nervous, and worried and reeling from what they’ve seen. There’s a role here for everybody, whether it’s politicians or parents, or teachers at schools.

When I was little, my dad used to tell me boys don’t hurt girls. No-one should hurt anybody, but he instilled in me boys don’t hurt girls. Parents do have a role here. The values that we instil in our kids when we’re little stay with them when they become adults and have an impact on how we live our lives. The schools do, too. The schools have got a role to play here too.

Respectful relationships are part of the Australian curriculum and we are talking here today about bricks and mortar and the promises we made in the election to invest in capital works in our schools, but we also made a promise to invest about $77 million in Respectful Relationships Education in our schools and that money is now rolling out to States across the country. Thanks very much.

ENDS