Interview on Channel 9 Today with Chris Uhlmann
Topics: NAPLAN and Civics/Citizenship test results


6:33 AM         

Chris Uhlmann:           There’s some worrying news for parents this morning with a new report revealing millions of Aussie children are failing to meet minimum education standards in basic skills. Overall the latest NAPLAN results show an overall decline in basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy.

The Minister for Education is Simon Birmingham. Good morning.

Simon Birmingham:    Good morning Chris.

Chris Uhlmann:           Minister, what’s gone wrong?

Simon Birmingham:    Well Chris, this is a worry. We see, at best, stagnating results. There are pockets of improvement – for example, in Indigenous students, we’re seeing some gains – but elsewhere we’re seeing declines and certainly the results overall are not what you would expect for a system which is seeing record and growing sums of funding invested into it. That’s why we want to build upon our reforms already of improving the training and quality of teachers coming out of universities, changes to the curriculum to allow more time to focus on the basics. We want to see further reforms there to allow earlier identification and better evidence based practice in schools to ensure kids are getting the basics for success.

Chris Uhlmann:           Minister, haven’t we heard this before? Because we’ve spent increasing amounts of money on education – or at least you keep saying that we are – and our results aren’t getting better so what’s going wrong and what’s your message to parents who’d be worried about it?

Simon Birmingham:    Well Chris, indeed. We are spending record sums in Australian schools and the Turnbull Government’s got a plan for a further $25 billion over the next decade and we have to make sure that that money is used effectively because it’s not the sum we spend, it’s how it’s invested in schools that matters. Now, I just took you through a couple of our reforms around teacher training, around changes to the curriculum that we’ve already implemented which hopefully we’ll see benefits from in years to come. But building on that we want to see earlier screening, nationally consistent screening of year one students across the country to identify whether they’re getting the literacy and numeracy skills to succeed so we can have early intervention in place. And of course we’ve asked David Gonski and a panel of education experts to look at that record investment and provide practical advice to schools on how they can make sure it is being used as effectively as possible.

Chris Uhlmann:           But again we hear that sort of rhetoric all the time, Minister, but if you go back with some of these long runs and particularly on boys’ education, we now see that one in four boys are falling short on minimum NAPLAN standards. Now, we’ve seen figures on boys that are bad back to the 1990s; so how are we going to make that better?

Simon Birmingham:    Well indeed, Chris, and I guess there again I would focus on making sure there’s early identification of problems. Making sure then that targeted intervention. But ensuring that if there is intervention it’s intervention that’s based on evidence and proven programs. I think too often in the past we’ve seen reading type programs rolled out in schools that haven’t delivered the turnaround in student performance that they should have. So we need to make sure that teachers can turn to a credible, proven evidence bank of programs and tools to actually apply in the classroom. And indeed there’s a message there for parents and families too, which is you must engage at an early age in terms of reading at home. You have to manage technology in the home environment to make sure kids are getting the type of skills they need to succeed at school.

Chris Uhlmann:           Simon Birmingham, thank you.

Simon Birmingham:    Thank you, Chris.