10 NEWS FIRST
WEDNESDAY, 31 JANUARY 2024
SUBJECTS: Fully and fairly funding all Western Australian public schools; Building a better and fairer education system; Hamas-Israel conflict
NARELDA JACOBS: Returning now to the federal government’s $3 billion boost to public school funding. Education Minister Jason Clare joins us now from Perth. Minister, you’ve just announced WA public schools will be the first to benefit. So, what will the extra money be spent on?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: This is a landmark day for public education, Narelda. We’ve announced today that Western Australia will be the first state in the country where all public schools are fully funded. That’s using that funding formula that David Gonski set all those years ago. At the moment, private schools, non-government schools are fully funded or on a path to that level. But no public school in the country is apart from the ACT.
What we’ve announced today is an extra $777 million in Commonwealth money over the next five years, matched by a similar amount by the WA Government to make sure that we do fully fund our public schools here in WA and that we tie that funding, to answer your question, that we tie that funding to the sort of things that we know work that’ll help children who fall behind in the classroom when they’re little to catch up and to keep up and to finish high school. Because at the moment, I’m sad to tell you, we’re seeing a drop in the number of kids finishing high school and there’s a link between that and kids falling behind when they’re little in primary school.
JACOBS: You mentioned Gonski, that review in 2012 recommended these changes, but since then, private schools have received twice as much as public schools. So, why has it taken so long?
CLARE: You can point to 10 years of Liberal Government who ripped up a lot of that original agreement. We’re back in government and I want to make sure that we finish the job.
I want us to be a government that invests in all our schools to build a better and a fair education system and use that money on the things that we know work to help children who fall behind when they’re little to catch up and to keep up and to finish school.
That’s why this agreement today is so important. As you pointed out, private schools are at that level, public schools aren’t. This will make sure that they are in WA. And this is just the start. I want to do the same deal with other States and Territories where the Commonwealth chips in, the States chip in and we work together to get this job done.
JACOBS: The Australian Education Union has welcomed the announcement, but says a bigger investment is needed to fully fund public schools by 2026 and secure the future of the teaching profession and quality of education. So, will there be more?
CLARE: The job’s never done. I mentioned yesterday we’ve got a shortage of teachers around the country. We’ve got a teacher shortage crisis. Not enough young people going to uni to want to be a teacher and too many teachers leaving the profession. There’s a lot of work that we need to do as a Commonwealth Government and State Governments working together to make sure that we get more people into uni to become a teacher, to finish the course, to get into the classroom and make sure that we support them with good pay, good conditions, as well as a healthy dose of respect. The fact is, Narelda, that most teachers don’t feel like they’re respected by the community. And if you don’t feel like you’re respected by the community, then you’re more likely to leave the job. In a place like Singapore, most teachers feel like they’re respected by the community and as a result, you’ve got a queue out the door in Singapore of people wanting to be a teacher. I want to change the way that we as a country think about our teachers and the way that our teachers think that our country thinks of them.
JACOBS: Just on education standards. How soon will students and their families see improvements?
CLARE: I want to make sure the money is tied to the things that work. It’s about early identification of children that are falling behind. That’s why things like a phonics test in year one, a math test in year one, to make sure if kids are falling behind or not is important. And then if you identify a child who’s falling behind when they’re little, when they’re six, that you intervene early.
A classic example of what we can do here with this money is catch up tutoring, where you identify a child who needs extra help, get them out of a classroom with 30, put them into a classroom with three, four or five kids and provide them with that extra intensive support. And we know from work that’s been done over the last few years after Covid, that if you do that, a child can learn as much in six months as they’d normally learn in a year, then put them back into the classroom where they’re better prepared to keep up and to finish school. That’s what this money can do. It can help children that we identify early as falling behind to catch up and then to keep up and finish school.
JACOBS: Minister, if I can turn our attention to events in the Middle East, there’s a meeting taking place in New York between the UN, Australia and other countries who’ve pulled funding to the UN agency providing aid to Palestinians. Could this meeting lead to a reinstatement of funding for UNWRA?
CLARE: It’s a very important meeting, Narelda. Obviously very, very serious allegations relating to UNWRA. That’s why there’s been a pause by the Australian Government in funding. I’m glad the UN is investigating. I’m glad that Australia is at the table looking at this. There are children in Gaza that are starving right now that need support, need food in their bellies to survive, need that aid and medicine that UNWRA can provide. That can be the difference between suffering or not between life and death. And so, I’m glad that Australia is at the table and I’m grateful for the work that Penny Wong is doing in this area.
JACOBS: If their services were so important, why was Australia so quick to pull the funding but not take actions in support of the ICJ’s preliminary finding? Given Australia’s a party to the genocide convention, are we doing enough to prevent genocide and keeping people from starving in Gaza?
CLARE: I think Australia, like many other countries, was shocked by the allegations and welcomed the fact that the UN have said that they would quickly investigate this. That’s appropriate. But we also want to make sure that we get the money we’re investing into the bellies of kids who need it so they don’t starve. I think something like 10,000 kids have died in Gaza over the course of this war, have been killed over the course of this war in just over 100 days. Those kids that haven’t been killed aren’t at school at the moment because 50 per cent of the schools have been blown up in Gaza, 60 per cent of houses have been destroyed, 70 per cent of hospitals have been destroyed. We all want to see this war end as soon as possible. That’s why we voted for a ceasefire in the UN. We also want to make sure that we can do everything we can as a country to help provide the support to people who are starving on the streets and need our support. But the investigation by the UN is important and I’m so glad that Australia is part of that.
JACOBS: So, do you want the funding to be reinstated now? That’s something that we could do now?
CLARE: I want the UN to investigate what’s happened and make sure that it’s fixed and I want Australia to be part of that. And we are.
JACOBS: All right. Thank you very much, Minister Jason Clare appreciate your time.