PMB: Education Policy

13 February 2017

I rise to speak on the private member's motion moved by the member for Sydney and Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the government's failure in school education policy. The member for Berowra says that the worst kind of politics is the politics of gesture. I would say that the worst kind of politics is the politics of deceit—saying that a vote for the coalition/Liberals is the same as Labor on education. We heard that loud and clear. The bunting was everywhere in that election. I say to you that that is the worst kind of politics: saying to the parents and children of Australia, 'A vote for us is the same as a vote for Labor on needs-based funding.' Clearly it is not. Again, I pick up on the member for Berowra's point that funding has increased. Of course it has: the population increases, inflation increases, teachers' wages increase. That is not the same as a unity ticket on education. Let's be absolutely clear: this government does plan to cut $30 billion from school funding—breaking that election promise to match Labor's Gonski funding dollar for dollar.

In my electorate of Paterson it will mean $43 million. Let me say that again: $43 million. The very fact that schools in my electorate have benefited so greatly from the first years of Gonski means that they will be hurt so greatly by the cuts in coming years. Gonski funding has meant so much to so many. For this government to go back on its words and rip the funding out of schools is shameful. For example, my old school, Kurri Kurri High, has received $244,000 in Gonski funding to date. With that they have employed a full-time teacher to work with Aboriginal students. They have seen writing results improve by 200 per cent. The employment of two experienced HSC markers and retired teachers to work with every individual HSC student has doubled the number of band 5 results its students attained in the HSC and resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in the number of students not completing the HSC. An extra deputy principal has been employed to focus on creating world-class teachers who learn from professional development and the latest research, and this has led to an introduction of an innovative project with year 7 working in hubs to increase their engagement.

So Kurri Kurri High has had $244,000 in three years, and that has dramatically boosted Aboriginal performance, improved HSC retention and HSC results, and improved learning for year 7s. Because this government has gone back on its word to deliver the full Gonski rollout, Kurri Kurri High School will miss out on $1.1 million. Imagine what they could do with that. Maybe that is all they will ever get to do.

Another school in my electorate making great leaps and bounds for students with Gonski funding is Rutherford Public School. Rutherford Public, to date, has received $595,407 in Gonski funding and has invested in substantial additional professional learning for teachers. Through the employment of extra staff it has provided innovative transition programs for students entering kindergarten and for students moving from year 6 to year 7. We all remember what it was like thinking about going to high school; it really can be a traumatic time. They have employed additional literacy and numeracy teachers to help students with those critical skills. The Gonski funding has contracted health professionals, including a speech pathologist to work with teachers in language development. It has employed a community liaison officer to promote school attendance, parent inclusion and community engagement. It has been able to fund extracurricular activities such as a gymnastics program, a school band, physical education and student welfare programs.

With its $595,407 Rutherford Public School has invested in its teachers, in programs to help students transition between stages, worked on literacy and numeracy, engaged a speech pathologist, engaged a community liaison officer and funded student welfare and extracurricular activities. Unless Gonski funding is fully rolled out, Rutherford Public School will miss out on $2.7 million. Imagine what they could do with that.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I could be here all day telling you all the important steps forward that have been taken under Gonski in my electorate of Paterson, but time does not permit it. What I do want to say to you is: we cannot afford to miss out. These are not just large sums of money; they are opportunities for us and our country to prosper.