Interview - ABC Brisbane, Rebecca Levingston
SUBJECTS: National School Review Survey
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Australia's Education Minister wants to hear from you. Jason Clare today is launching the National School Review Survey. So what's that all about? Let's ask the Minister himself. Jason Clare, good morning.
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, JASON CLARE: Good morning, Rebecca.
LEVINGSTON: What is the National School Review Survey?
CLARE: We've got a good education system in Australia, but it can be a lot better and a lot fairer. We're working now on a new National School Reform Agreement that's going to drive future funding for our schools and the reforms that we tie to funding. Funding is important but so is what it's spent on. What this survey is about is asking teachers, asking parents and students, what are the things they think we should be investing in our schools that are going to make a real, practical difference.
LEVINGSTON: Okay, so teachers, parents, students, pretty much anyone can contribute.
CLARE: That's right.
LEVINGSTON: So, what specifically are you asking about? What kinds of questions?
CLARE: I want them to zero in on what are the things that are going to improve educational outcomes at our schools. What are the things that are going to help with student health and wellbeing and what are the sorts of things they think will help to support and retain our teachers. These are the three big things that we're focusing on in the next National School Reform Agreement and there's a reason for that.
First, with teachers, we've got a teacher shortage crisis and if we can use funding tied to practical things to support and retain teachers, then we'll go a long way to addressing the teacher shortage crisis. So we're interested in ideas there. Second, the health and wellbeing of our students is crucial. If you're happy and healthy you're more likely to learn. The pandemic exacerbated the mental health crisis that we're seeing in our schools, that existed before and after. So we're interested in ideas about what are the practical investments that we should make in schools that will help students in that area. And then thirdly, and arguably, most importantly, it's about improving educational outcomes, helping children who fall behind. If you're a child from a poor family or from the regions or if you're an Indigenous young person, you're three times more likely to fall behind and you're more likely to stay behind, not catch up, and the gaps in learning get worse with every year at school.
We're interested in ideas and advice from teachers but also students and parents about what are the practical things that we should fund in our schools that will help children to catch up and keep up.
LEVINGSTON: Jason Clare, the Federal Minister for Education and he wants to hear from you on this National School Review Survey. It opens today just for a month for teachers, parents, students to have a say on schools. Everything from teaching in the classroom to mental health to retaining educators.
What teachers often tell me, Jason Clare, is that the curriculum is crammed and the expectation on teachers to do everything from, you know, learning the basics in academia through to some of those mental health responsibilities. It's too much. Are you anticipating that some things will come out of the curriculum?
CLARE: I don't know that it's necessarily about the curriculum, but it is about what extra supports can we provide for teachers in schools. What the survey asks is should we be investing this money in funding additional teacher aides, for example, or more administrative paid support in schools so they can take the burden off teachers and give teachers more time in the classroom to teach and prepare lessons. For example, one of the questions says, should we be investing in adaptable lesson plans, so teachers spend less time preparing for lessons and have that available to them. Often the arguments made that that's really useful for a teacher who is in their first or second or third year. The other area that comes up a lot is small group tutoring. There's a lot of evidence building that shows that if children are falling behind in the classroom, if you get them out of the classroom into a group of a handful of students with a qualified teacher or an educator who has got a lot of experience here, then that can really help a student who has fallen behind to catch up. Likewise, psychologists, counsellors, nurses, the sort of areas like speech pathologists and occupational therapists, these are all the areas where there's a lot of work happening overseas about if you put that investment in a school, you can help teachers with some of the challenges and issues that students bring to school. So, we want the advice and the thoughts of teachers and parents and students about what they think the priority should be.
LEVINGSTON: Minister, you said this is about a better and fairer education system. Right now, in simple terms, what is the difference in funding for public versus private schools?
CLARE: At the moment, non-government schools are funded by and large above the Gonski school resource standard and that will taper down to about 100 per cent of what David Gonski said it should be by 2029. Conversely, government schools are funded at less than that level and expected to hit around about 95 per cent of that level by the end of the decade. Some states sooner than others. So, there's a 5 per cent gap and what the Albanese Government is committed to do is, working with state and territory governments around the country, to make sure that every school, public and private, are fully and fairly funded.
LEVINGSTON: Sorry, just to put that into simple terms, Minister. At the moment, private schools get more from the Federal Government than public schools?
CLARE: Yeah. It's important to understand the Federal Government funds around about 80 per cent of the investment in private schools and about 20 per cent of the investment in public schools. You've got to combine the money from state governments and federal governments to look at the total funding pool for schools. When you calculate all of that, what it shows is that non-government schools by and large are above the Gonski school resource standard, government schools are under. We've got to fix that funding gap, but we've also got to fix the education gap that I talked about, where you've got children from poor backgrounds, from the bush, and Indigenous Australians more likely to fall behind and more likely to fall out of school. Here's our last, best chance to get this right, to fix the funding gap, but also make sure that we've got better and fairer schools and close that education gap for children right across the country.
LEVINGSTON: I reckon there would be around-the-table support for that and hopefully there will be some pretty obvious answers in there as well. Like any good student going into, well it's not quite an exam, it's a survey, but is it going to be - is it multiple choice questions?
LEVINGSTON: Is there space for people to actually write, you know, sort of more detailed response? How is the survey set up?
CLARE: Both. There will be a lot of options for people to choose, but if they've got other ideas they can insert that as well. Simply go to education.gov.au and give us a piece of your mind. Tell us what you think. Teachers and parents and students are at the coal face here. They know what works, they know what doesn't, I want to feed that into the panel that will advise Education Ministers on what are the practical things we should tie this funding to, and that report comes to Education Ministers at the end of this year.
LEVINGSTON: Alright, well, we'll give you an A plus for aspiration and then we'll mark you again on the actual delivery. Minister, thanks so much for your time.
CLARE: Fair enough. Thanks very much, Rebecca.
LEVINGSTON: Jason Clare, the Federal Education Minister. So that survey is up and running.