Addressing disadvantage in schools

Media Release
  • Minister for Education and Training

A new report out today has confirmed that despite ever-increasing record levels of funding, the learning gaps of Australian students from different backgrounds continue to grow while our international rankings slip.

Australia’s education spending is at record levels that the OECD acknowledges as above the average yet the Grattan Institute’s Widening Gaps report shows that the gap between students with parents with low education and those with highly educated parents grows from 10 months in Year 3 to around two-and-a-half years by Year 9.

The report does not call for more spending but for better information so properly trained teachers can diagnose student levels of learning and identify that in a class there are wide variations of performance. This is in line with Peter Goss’ previous report Targeted Teaching: how better use of data can improve student learning.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the report is a wake-up call for those policy-makers who are fixated on how much Australia spends on education, rather than the Turnbull Government’s focus on spending its record $69.4 billion investment in education initiatives that make a difference for students.

"This report validates our focus on teacher quality and demonstrates that we need to ensure all teachers are skilled in ensuring every student in a class is progressing, with a years’ worth of learning equating to a years’ worth of progression, to the best of their abilities," Minister Birmingham said.

“Australia is investing record funding in education that will continue to grow, all targeted based on need, and the Turnbull Government is focused on improving student outcomes through measures we know are effective – teacher quality, a better curriculum, greater parental engagement and support for principals to make local decisions about their local school.

“The Grattan Institute’s report highlights the need to focus education reform conversations on how to lift standards, not a simplistic debate about how much we spend. This report and our slipping OECD rankings have come about despite funding growth in education of more than 100 per cent in real terms between 1987/88 and 2011/12.

“Australia’s education spending is at record levels and is above the OECD average, yet since 2000 we’ve slipped from 4th to 14th in the OECD’s rankings of reading literacy, 11th to 19th in mathematics and 8th to 16th in science.

“The Turnbull Government is delivering needs-based funding. Real improvements will only come about by real action, not by just throwing money at the situation and continuing the status quo as Labor is proposing to do.”

The Turnbull Government is focused on strategies that will improve student outcomes such as through:

  • Teacher quality – including through its literacy and numeracy test that will ensure teachers are in the top 30 per cent of Australian adults in terms of their skills in those areas
  • Engaging parents – such as by improving My School and through the popular Learning Potential app
  • Strengthening the curriculum – rolling out a curriculum that goes ‘back to basics’ and supports a greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills
  • School autonomy – including with a $70 million Independent Public Schools initiative that gives government schools more control of local decision making and encourages stronger links with parents and the community.

Minister Birmingham said he welcomed the new analysis from The Grattan Institute because it adds to the evidence base that will help Australia improve student outcomes.

“Robust data analysis is key to ensuring Australia’s schools policy approach is focused on outcomes. We want to more accurately measure student performance and deliver those measurements as quickly as possible which is why we are working with states and territories and non-government schools to move national assessments like NAPLAN online,” Minister Birmingham said.

For more information

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