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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 17710

Transcript of doorstop interview

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/03/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17710

PM: I'd like to start by introducing the people who have joined me today here at this wonderful school. We're here with the school principal, Jan Day, looking at her section of the My School website, which I'll explain shortly. I'm also joined by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, by the local Federal Member, Andrew Leigh, by the local Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, and also by Barry, who is well known to all of you as our wonderful leader of ACARA - the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority.

And we're here today because the My School website, My School 2.0, will go live on Friday. Principals around the country today will be able to access their school's My School website. They will be able to see what their school's entry will look like on My School.

This is the final check and validation of this information as principals around the country are able to log on and see how their school's information will be presented on the My School website, and that's what we've just been doing for Turner School, with principal Jan able to look at the information.

My School 2.0 has some significant changes from the first version. They are very big improvements. For the first time ever, people will be able to see the amount of money that goes into educating their child, the amount of money that comes from the Federal Government, from the State Government, and from private sources like the fees that parents pay. They will be able to compare the amount of money spent on their child's education with the education of children right around the country.

We have never had this information as a nation before. Politicians haven't had it, governments haven't had it, teachers and principals haven't had it. This is the first time ever as a nation we will be able to see this information.

I've always believed that making this information transparent would transform the way that we talk and think about education in this country. For the first time ever we would be able to have an informed conversation about the amount of money going into schools and the outcomes that those schools are achieving.

And, for the first time ever, My School 2.0 will allow you to look at a child's educational journey over time. Because we've had national testing for three years now, we have children who have sat the first national test now having sat the third national test, and we are able to chart the growth of those children in their education over the years in between. So, for the first time ever the My School website will be able to give you an understanding of the growth and journey that children are on as they go from one level of education to another. So, for example, children who have been in Grade 3 at a school, we will be able to see their results in Grade 5 and see how they are progressing compared with children in similar schools and compared with the national average.

So, this is an important development to give parents even more information than the first version of the My School website. I believe that on Friday, when the My School website goes live, we will see parents around the country logging on to get this information about their child's school. We'll see parents around the country logging on to see about the schools in their local area to help inform them about the choice they will make for their child's education. I suspect too, we'll have lots of curious Australians who are doing things like looking at the performance of the school that they went to, and all of that is fantastic because it informs our national debate about education, and all of it's fantastic because it enables parents to come to schools, to talk to school principals, to talk to teachers, with more information than they have ever had before about their child's education.

When I was Education Minister, I wanted to bring transparency to school education. I always believed parents had a right to know what was happening in Australian schools, the nation had a right to know what was happening in the nation's schools, and the nation would best improve education if we had that information available to us.

I'm very proud that we're able to now launch My School 2.0 on Friday, and I'm very pleased that principals today will be able to get access to their own school's information.

I'd like to turn to the Minister, Peter Garrett, who has led this part of the journey to get us to My School 2.0.

MINISTER GARRETT: Thanks very much, Prime Minister.

Principals are a really important part of the school community. They're the entry point for parents, they provide the leadership in schools which is so essential. And for principals to be able to have access to their portal today and see this new provision of rich and deep information is a giant step forward in empowering principals in their leadership and in their teaching, and in informing the community about how their schools are travelling in education.

As the Prime Minister has said, this is a major step forward for transparency. We're getting the blinds up, we're opening the curtains and letting the sun shine in on schools in a way that all Australians can see, share, understand and talk about.

And in particular, I think what's really critical about My School 2.0 is that it will stimulate a conversation around this country on a level playing field where everybody has access to a rich field of information about their children's schools, where kids, teachers, the community itself, can have a full and clear understanding of how schools are travelling and also of the resources that they have as well.

So this is an exciting period in the transformation of our understanding about education, and it is a strong indication of the commitment that we have to transparency.

On Friday, people in Australia will be provided with more new information about schools than has ever been the case before. And that'll be good for us, because it'll mean that our conversations about education, our understanding about what works in schools, and also as policy makers and as politicians where we need to look in terms of education in the future can happen.

So thank you very much Jan for hosting us here today. This is a beaut school. We can see from the kids that they're a happy bunch of students, that's fantastic, and I was so pleased to hear you say that having access to your portal will provide you with the sort information as a principal that you need as well.

PM: And we can see the merits of this school through the local Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, who attended here.

OK, we're happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, last week there were 23 schools that the financial data still wasn't accurate for, they said they still had problems. That was revealed at Senate Estimates. Have all these been ironed out already, or are they still having problems, and are you confident that private schools and public schools will feel confident in their data and be able to compare their financial data on the site?

PM: Well, I'm confident that the data on the site has been through assurance processes, including an assurance process involving Deloittes. This has been a huge thing to do. It's been a lot of work, and it's taken more time than we initially anticipated, but ACARA, under Barry's leadership, has worked through a series of assurance processes, including having schools themselves able to look at and comment on their own information.

So, I'll turn to Barry just for the technical description of what's occurred to assure the information.

MCGAW: There's a small number of schools still for which the data are not completely finalised. All of the data on finances have come from the schools, not from ACARA, but in some cases there are some inconsistencies. In some schools we will know the total but we won't know, necessarily, some of the breakdowns, and we'll just say breakdown pending, but the total will be there and the amount per student will be there, but it's just over 20, now, yes. That's out of 1,060 independent schools.

JOURNALIST: And is it problems with their data, or problems with their methodology (inaudible) collate that data?

MCGAW: No, no, it's questions about the data itself that we're resolving. The resolution that's required is in the data, not in the transformation.

PM: And just, I think we should just remind ourselves, to get a sense of scale here, we're talking about 9,500-odd schools around the country, the information for which is on the My School website, and you've just heard Barry McGaw, leading ACARA, say the numbers that are still working through some potential issues are around about 20, so given how huge the amount of work has been to get to this stage, given the fact the nation has never had this information before, I think people would very quickly see from those statistics that they will be able to get on the My School website on Friday with confidence about the information.

JOURNALIST: Will totals be published for all schools, or will there be some schools that-

MCGAW: -There may be a couple for which even that's not clear, but most of them it's just some sub-elements that are not clear.

And I should say, for all the government schools there was a huge task as well, because a lot of the services that independent schools have to pay for themselves are paid for by government schools in central offices or regional offices. So, we've identified the costs of all of those services and we've attributed the relevant share to each of the government schools, and the same in the case of the systemic Catholic schools.

Without doing all of that, their costs would be under-reported and the comparison with the independents wouldn't be fair.

JOURNALIST: So, when will that data be up, the 20 schools? Will it be whenever it's ready, or will you wait till My School 3.0?

MCGAW: Oh no, we won't wait until 3.0 next year. We'll have a date on which we put it up, but we've been working with these schools pretty intensively and have still not finally resolved them, so as soon as we can, we'll do it, but we're not going to wait 12 months.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Minister Garrett just said this provides a level playing field, but won't presenting the financial information actually show that it's not a level playing field in education in Australia, and that elite private schools actually, per child, receive a huge amount more money than a public school like this?

PM: Well, it will show us the accurate information. I didn't want the debate on education in this country to be about what people might think is the case. I didn't want it to be based on assumptions. I wanted it to be based on accurate information. I wanted people to see school by school what the amount of money available to educate a child was.

Now, we've had an education debate in this country which for years has concentrated on school systems - public education, independent schools, the Catholic system. Well, kids don't march into the gate of a school system each morning. They march into the gate of a school, and what's important to that child's education is what is happening in that school. That's why we need information at the school level, and we will never have had this information before.

Now, I can't tell you, standing here, what it's going to show, what assumptions people have made about education it's going to prove true and what assumptions it's going to smash to the ground. I suspect both will happen. I think this will transform our education debate, because we will be talking about the information at the level it matters - each school, because that's what matters to a child's education, what's happening in his or her school.

JOURNALIST: This data is, I suppose, expected to show large increases in per student funding between some schools, maybe differences in per student funding of $10,000 or maybe even more. Is that kind of disparity in resources defensible if we as a nation believe in equity and equal opportunity?

PM: Well, what this data, I think, is going to show us is it's definitely going to give us more information about school finances than we've ever had before. Because you also get the results, the outcomes in national testing in this data, you'll be able to look through and you'll be able to compare schools servicing similar kids, maybe with similar amounts of money being brought to the educational task, but getting very different results, and that's going to tell you that really there could be a quality improvement in the school that's falling behind, even with that level of resourcing, because somewhere else in the country, with that level of resourcing, with kids from those kind of backgrounds, another school is getting a better result - and that's fantastic, because we'll be able to share the best practice and we'll be able to work to resolve the underperformance.

It may well also show us that if you get kids of similar backgrounds and you give them very different resourcing levels that that shows in the results, too, that the resources matter, and we as a nation need to understand that and we need that to inform our debate about school funding, and of course we've got the school funding review in progress, led by a very remarkable Australian, David Gonski, so the information that the nation will be debating following My School will be information that's necessary to properly inform that school funding debate.

But I don't think we should make quick assumptions here. I think we're going to learn a lot of things about quality of education in terms of teacher practice and school methods. I think we'll see some schools, very similar resources, very similar kids, very different results, and that's going to be about the quality of practice in that school. I think we'll also see some schools, similar kids, very different resourcing levels and very different results, and that's going to tell us something about the power of the money, but we need to understand both - quality practice and the power of the money - to inform our education debate.

MINISTER GARRETT: Thanks Prime Minister. Can I just add, on level playing field - what I'm talking about there is a level playing field for all of the community to have access to all of the relevant information about schools. We've never had that before.

And this is going to be an absolutely transforming moment in education here, because everybody will be viewing the information from the same level. We will have access to the same level of information.

No doubt there's differences in the school systems and in individual schools, but to have that provision of information now on My School 2.0 will hugely expand the capacity of us as a nation to have a robust and well informed discussion about education; and given the significant number of reforms that we've already got underway as a government, for people to better understand some of the things that we're doing as well.

JOURNALIST: Last year, when the initial site was launched, the website was down for some time because so many people were wanting to get access to it, so have you made any plans to prevent it from going down this time?

PM: Yes, we did get overwhelmed by the community's enthusiasm, but Barry can talk about that.

MCGAW: Actually, last year the website never went down. What we did was to control the numbers that could get on so that those that were on didn't have a degraded experience, so it was physically never down. Some of the activity on site was actually web robots just scraping data from the site, so we'll stop that this year by having one of those capture screens where you have to type in scrambled words that you have to do with Facebook and others, so that that's got to be done on the first page of the website before you can get in so only a human gets beyond the first page.

And then, in addition to that, we've increased our capacity and we have a completely duplicated system, and if anything happens with the first one we can go to the second. We don't anticipate the problems this time, but I just emphasise that last time it was load and a desire to not have everybody on with degraded performance but to keep some off until others got off.

JOURNALIST: So there'll be more people able to get access to the site this time?

MCGAW: Oh yeah, and the problem last year was only between 7 and 9 in the morning on the first day, really.

JOURNALIST: Are there issues still to be resolved with (inaudible)

MCGAW: No, we gave schools the chance to, we gave them their draft ICSEA value, and we gave them the opportunity to request a review. We made it clear that if you wanted your ICSEA reviewed, it had to be on the basis that you had additional information that was not already available to us, and we made clear to schools exactly what data we had and how we'd used it, how it was actually being used, and at that point a very large number actually withdrew their requests for review. Some produced additional information and their ICSEA has been recalculated. Where they've not produced additional information, the ICSEA will stand.

JOURNALIST: How many schools have had their ICSEA reviewed?

MCGAW: I can give you that number offline. I do know the number, but it's not, it's in the order of, it's around 100-200.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if MPs like Tony Windsor are receiving death threats, is that a sign that the carbon debate has gone too far and people need to take a step back?

PM: I think Australian democracy has always been one where we can have robust debates where people can passionately put their ideas, and that's what I intend to do in the debate about carbon pricing.

Of course, there is no excuse in a society like ours, in a peaceful, wonderful country like Australia, for people making threats or people engaging in any acts of violence. There's absolutely no excuse for that. It's not part of our democracy. It's not part of the Australian way.

JOURNALIST: Are you aware of any threats made to Labor MPs?

PM: No, I'm not. No, I'm not.

JOURNALIST: Would it help of Cory Bernardi and Scott Morrison were sacked from the Opposition frontbench? Are they generating that sort of angst in the community?

PM: Look, I don't think he question of Mr Morrison or Senator Bernardi is about what Mr Windsor said yesterday. That's about simple decency and about bipartisan support for a non-discriminatory immigration policy. That is, not discriminating against people on the basis of religion. So, on that simple matter of principle, that we are not a nation that discriminates on the basis of religion; neither Mr Morrison nor Senator Bernardi should continue to hold their positions on Tony Abbott's frontbench. He can't say he supports a non-discriminatory immigration policy and have those two people serve in the executive of his political Party.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: I think the Liberal Party is incredibly divided on questions of immigration, and on questions of multiculturalism. I think they're incredibly divided on a set of questions that are very important to the future of the nation.

As I said in the parliament yesterday, I do believe that there are Liberal Party members who don't want to see the race baiting, they don't want to see the politics being played with grief that we've seen in recent weeks, they don't want to oppose the National Broadband Network, and they don't want to oppose carbon pricing. There are Liberals with those views in the Liberal Party and that is why they're so divided, so subject to internal debates.

If we just look at the question of carbon pricing, two days ago we had Malcolm Turnbull say there wasn't an economist he'd ever heard of who would endorse Tony Abbott's plan for reducing carbon. We had Malcolm Turnbull two days ago saying Tony Abbott's plan would lead to waste.

Yesterday, we had Professor Garnaut saying that it would lead to tax increases or to service cuts for Australians, and here we are today and we are able, as a Government, to release figures from the Department of Climate Change that says Tony Abbott's climate plan would cost this nation $30 billion and that would put a burden of $720 on every family in the country. Now, that's the carbon pricing debate.

There are Liberals like Malcolm Turnbull who understand that pricing carbon's necessary and the kind of market-based mechanism I'm committed to is the best way to do it.

Thank you very much.

Transcript 17710