SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 12 DECEMBER 2023
SUBJECTS: Report into the next National School Reform Agreement; A better and fairer education system; MYEFO.
PETER STEFANOVIC: State Education Ministers are refusing to set national targets to address the low rates of literacy and numeracy in Australia. The Federal Education Minister, Jason Clare, will be forced to negotiate bilateral agreements with each state and territory to push through his reforms. He did attempt to guarantee free catch-up tutoring and school and community health integration, as well as about $7 billion a year in extra taxpayer funding. And he joins me now, the Education Minister, Jason Clare. Minister, it is good to see you.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G’day
STEFANOVIC: So, when you have a vision for something that isn’t shared by state education ministers, do you feel like banging your head against a wall?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: I think it is shared. Yesterday wasn’t about signing up to reforms or targets. Yesterday was about releasing that independent report that sets out the sort of things that we need to incorporate into a new National School Reform Agreement next year.
This is a two-stage process. One, conduct an independent assessment of the sort of big reforms we need to implement in our schools. And then step two is next year, doing a deal with the States and the Territories to make sure that we fix the funding of our public schools and tie that funding to the sort of things that we know work that are going to help children in our schools who fall behind to catch up and to keep up and to finish high school.
STEFANOVIC: Right. I do want to ask you about funding, but, I mean, they don’t want to set national targets for literacy and numeracy. They aren’t on board with catch up tutoring, which you and I have spoken about before. I mean, are you at least disappointed about that?
CLARE: No, I don’t think that’s right. Ministers do get that catch up tutoring is the sort of thing that we need. We know it works. We see it in New South Wales and Victoria happening right now. It’s one of the good things that came out of the pandemic, the idea of helping children who fall behind to get out of a classroom of 30, put them in a classroom with three or four, and children can learn as much in six months as they would ordinarily learn in twelve months.
The point I want to make is yesterday was about releasing the report with these recommendations. Next year is about a national agreement and bilateral agreements. We need to do both. A national agreement for the next decade to put in place the funding and the reforms needed, but also individual agreements with each state and territory that will also include individual targets and funding on the key reforms that are needed in each state and territory.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, that funding gap, though, it’s a whopper. $6.6 billion or thereabouts. So, where’s that fix coming from?
CLARE: Almost no public school in the country is fully funded at the moment. Non-government schools are, they’re either funded at that Gonski level or above it or on track to get there. But no public school is, they top out at about 95 per cent of what David Gonski said they should be. That’s not fair. That needs to be fixed.
We said before the election and since the election that we’ll work with the States and Territories to fix that funding gap. But I’ve also said there are no blank cheques here. We need to make sure that we tie that funding to the sort of things that we know work, like catch up tutoring that we know will help children who fall behind to catch up and to finish school. And the negotiations that kick off next year are all about the funding that the Commonwealth and the States and Territories put in to help to make sure that we fix that funding gap.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, so is it an option because the difference between private and public schools is so vast, would it ever be a consideration to cut funding from private schools and send it over to public schools?
CLARE: One of the things Malcolm Turnbull did was put funding for private schools on a trajectory down to that 100 per cent of the Gonski level, and that hits in 2029. The real problem is that public schools aren’t on a trajectory to get to 100 per cent by 2029 or ever. They top out at 95 per cent at the end of the decade and in the case of the Northern Territory, never.
Now, we’ve got to fix that. You can’t have two different school systems that aren’t fairly funded. So, I want to fix that. But as I said, there can’t be blank cheques here. We’ve got a good education system, but it can be a lot better and a lot fairer if you’re a child from a poor family. If you grow up in a neighbourhood like I did when I was a little kid, go to a public school like I did in the Western suburbs of Sydney, like Cabramatta, you are three times more likely to fall behind at school. And only one in five of those kids at the moment is catching up by the time they’re in high school.
The result of all of that is that we’re now seeing, over the last six years, a drop in the number of people finishing high school, particularly in public schools, and particularly in families from poor backgrounds. And this is happening, Pete, at a time where we need more people to finish school and then go on to TAFE and university, because most of the jobs being created now require you to go to TAFE or uni.
So, unless we implement the sort of reforms that are going to help children who fall behind to catch up and finish school, then we will be doing a disservice, not just to them, but to the whole country. And that’s what the agreement we develop and strike next year has to be all about.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just a final one here, Minister, looking like you got another $10 billion to bank or even redistribute, according to MYEFO. Chalmers with all the details tomorrow. Is it the right call to bank it, though, when people need cost of living help?
CLARE: I won’t pre-empt what Jim announces tomorrow, but we know that Australians are doing it tough. What the numbers also show is that inflation is now coming down, that wages are going up. That’s a good thing. Unemployment is also very low. That’s a good thing as well. What we need to do, what we are doing is making sure that we manage taxpayers’ money, responsibly. You see that in the budget surplus that we’ve delivered, and you’ll see that in the numbers tomorrow.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Jason Clare, the Education Minister. Thanks, Jason. Talk to you soon.