Questions Without Notice - Better and fairer education
Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (14:41): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese government doing to make sure that the next school funding agreement delivers a better and fairer education system? How is this different to previous approaches?
Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:42): I thank my friend the sensational member for Paterson for her question!
We've got a good education system in Australia, but it could be a lot better and a lot fairer.
In January, the Productivity Commission released a report that revealed if you're a child from a poor family, or from the bush, or an Indigenous Australian then you're three times more likely to fall behind at school. That report told us that over the last 10 years we've seen the reading skills of children in primary school improve but that the gap between reading skills for children from wealthy families and poor families at primary school got worse.
That report also told us that if you're a child from a poor family and you go to a school where there's a lot of disadvantage then it's harder to catch up. That weighs heavily on me, because I went to a school like that. These are the sorts of problems we have to tackle.
Funding is important, but so is what it's spent on, what it's invested in and what it's tied to. That Productivity Commission report was critical of the current schools agreement. It said that it lacked real targets and that it lacked the practical reforms we need to tie that to, to tackle these sorts of problems. I have told this parliament before that the next agreement will do that—that it will have those targets and that it will have those sorts of practical reforms.
Yesterday I announced the expert panel whose job it will be to provide education ministers with what those targets should be and what those reforms should be that we tie future funding to.
Leading this work will be Dr Lisa O'Brien, the Chair of the Australian Education Research Organisation and the former CEO of the Smith Family. Dr Lisa O'Brien will lead a team that also includes Ms Lisa Paul, Professor Stephen Lamb, Dr Jordana Hunter, Ms Dyonne Anderson and Professor Pasi Sahlberg. They'll report to me and other education ministers by the end of October.
This is a big year for education.
Last month, the Prime Minister announced that Professor Deborah Brennan will lead the most comprehensive review of early education in Australia's history. At the other end of the education spectrum, Professor Mary O'Kane is leading the Universities Accord, the biggest review of higher education in 15 years. In between is the work that Dr Lisa O'Brien will lead.
Weaving through all of this, though, is a common thread. It's about opportunity. If you're a child today from a poor family or from the bush or if you are an Indigenous Australian, you're less likely to go to preschool, you're more likely to fall behind at primary school, you're less likely to finish high school and less likely to go to university. This is a chance to change that.