As you will have noticed, this week’s media focus has been on education funding and the state of Australia’s schools. I think that is a great thing. Too often education policy does not receive the attention it deserves because the nation’s news outlets seem fixated on personal political scandals or the Opposition leader’s latest histrionics about how the price on carbon will send us back to pre-industrial times and ruin our weekends.
The spotlight, of course, has been on the Gillard Government’s National Plan for School Improvement. The plan will establish a new school funding model, which is based on the needs of individual students and directly linked to things we know will improve school results. In order to make this happen, the Prime Minister has committed that for every extra dollar that the Tasmanian Government is prepared to invest, the Federal Government will pay two.
It follows the findings of the Gonski Review, a far-reaching investigation into the funding of Australia’s education system undertaken by an expert panel headed by businessman David Gonski. The Review highlighted that Australia is investing far too little in education and that our performance has fallen in the last decade, with one in seven 15 year olds not achieving basic reading skills. In addition to this, an alarming gap is opening up in the standards of school performance depending on where students live. In fact, students in disadvantaged areas are up to three years behind their peers from wealthy areas.
Teachers, parents, communities and organisations such as the Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends Inc all agree that we need to fix a system which is broken.
The new funding model is based on the core recommendations of the Review, including a per student amount and loadings for disadvantaged schools and students. This is why it is so important that Premier Lara Giddings signs up to the plan and dedicates the necessary funds.
This is a plan for properly resourcing all our kids, teachers and classrooms for generations to come. With an extra $400 million to be made available across all Tasmanian schools, we will see properly resourced schools, extra training for teachers and focused programs for students.
When it comes to education reform we can afford to be bold.
We all know that when this country sets its mind to something and prioritises funds it is incredible what we can achieve, whether that be successfully hosting the Olympic Games or making groundbreaking medical research findings. If Premiers and Chief Ministers around Australia get on board and back this plan, it will take all our schools into the top five in the world by 2025.
Surely that is a target we can all commit ourselves to.
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