Release type: Transcript


Interview - Sky News First Edition


The Hon Jason Clare MP
Minister for Education


PETER STEFANOVIC: One third of Australian kids are failing to meet new proficiency standards for literacy and numeracy, according to new NAPLAN data that's out this morning. You might see it in all the front pages. Well, joining us live now is the Education Minister, Jason Clare.

Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, looking at this data, unions have called the numbers unacceptable. The opposition has called them an embarrassment. How do you respond to it?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: I've said a number of times that we need serious reform in education. This report makes that blisteringly clear. Based on the new levels that we've set for NAPLAN this year, it identifies that one in ten children are below what used to be called the minimum standard. But not just that, what it shows is one in three children from poor families or from the bush or Indigenous children are below that minimum standard. And it's worse than that, Pete, because we now know that if you're below the minimum standard when you're in third grade, then chances are you're going to still be below the minimum standard when you're in Year 9. Only one in five children who are below the minimum standard in primary school are above it by high school. And as a result, a lot of those children drop out and don't finish high school. And this is happening at a time where we need almost everybody to finish high school, because that's what you're going to need to get the jobs in the economy that lies ahead. You're going to need to finish high school and then go on to TAFE or uni.

STEFANOVIC: They are big costs. Look, 662 billion spent as a total since NAPLAN's testing started. 72 billion in the last year alone. I mean, is that not a spending failure if it's not working, if you're not getting the stats to back it up?

CLARE: No doubt a big investment in our schools, and that's important. But not every school is funded equally. That's part of the challenge here, mate. Non-government schools are, by and large, funded above the level that David Gonski said they should be at, and they're on a track to go down to the level that David Gonski set by the end of the decade. But public schools aren't, and that's where a lot of the children that are most disadvantaged, that are in this bottom category, are learning, in public schools. In public schools right across the country, except for the ACT, they're expected to top out at about 95 per cent of the funding David Gonski said they should be at over the course of the next ten years, unless we do something about it. And we committed before the election, Pete, and I've said it since, that we've got to work with the States and the Territories to fix that funding gap. But not just that, we've got to tie that funding to the sort of things that are going to help children who fall behind at school, and that's what I'm determined to do.

STEFANOVIC: So, just on that, why do private schools get more funding than public schools?

CLARE: It's based on historic reasons, but also based on that Gonski model. The Commonwealth provides 80 per cent of the funding to non-government schools, and the States provide 20. With public schools, we provide 20 per cent, and the States currently provide about 75 or up to that. So, there's a gap there that needs to be fixed. That's what the negotiations next year with the States are all about. But I'm not interested in blank cheques, this is our last best chance to get this right. We need to make sure next year that we tie funding to the sort of things that are going to work, that are going to make a difference, that are going to help children who fall behind in primary school to catch up in high school, and to finish Year 12.

STEFANOVIC: So, how do you do that? I mean, catch-up classes have been identified this morning. Some have suggested smaller classes are needed. So, what's your fix?

CLARE: I talked about this at the Press Club a couple of weeks ago, about the benefit of catch-up tutoring. I see it at Chullora Public School, around the corner from my office, where you've got one teacher and a couple of children who've been identified as falling behind. They can learn as much in 18 weeks as you'd normally expect a child to learn in 12 months. I see it in Alice Springs, I was there a couple of weeks ago at Gillen Public School, where they're doing exactly the same thing.

I said at the Press Club, what if we industrialise this and did this more right across the country? I've asked Dr Lisa O'Brien, the former head of The Smith Family, to provide me and Education Ministers with advice on what we should tie funding to next year, that's really going to make a difference, that's going to help children who fall behind to catch up. And it strikes me that this is one of those things that could really help.

STEFANOVIC: Right, so, is it just classes that come after school?

CLARE: No, they're during school hours. At Chullora, where I saw it happen a couple of weeks ago, often what you'll find is that children are identified as falling behind in literacy and numeracy, and they're taken out of the classroom four times week for what might be 30 or 40 minutes with one teacher and two or three children, and that intense support helps a child to learn much quicker and to catch up and then go back into the mainstream classroom.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, I hope that can work. Jason Clare, a big job on your hands there. Appreciate your time.