Doorstop interview, Central Coast NSW
Delivering real Gonski needs-based schools funding

Journalist: Well, both of you, first off, Simon, welcome to the Central Coast. Why are you here at Terrigal High School?

Simon Birmingham: It’s great to be here with Lucy and vising schools on the Central Coast again, but now talking about how it is our new Gonski school funding package will help schools on Central Coast to be their best, to deliver the support that students need. 

This is a new needs-based funding model and so it applies differently across the country. On average around Australia, schools will get about $2300 additional support per student. But here on the Central Coast, that’s $3000 extra per student – reflective of the particular needs on Central Coast – ensuring that schools here get the services and support they require to succeed in the future. And for a school like Terrigal High here – we’ve heard such wonderful things from the students and staff about the effort that they’re putting in and their aspirations in work – it translates to around $9.7 million in extra funding over the next decade that will come through into this school, helping them to really focus on letting every student achieve their best, to be their best.

Journalist: I guess why Terrigal High? Why not one of the other schools around town? Maybe one of the Catholic schools which has been very critical of this Gonski 2.0 funding.

Simon Birmingham: Well, here at Terrigal High celebrating their achievements and the focus on the additional support they’ll get. But all school systems will see funding growth out of these reforms. New South Wales Catholic education will see growth of around 4 per cent per student per annum across the Catholic education system. So there’s extra support there above inflation, above wages growth. And indeed, Lucy and I sat down this morning, had a round table with local school principals – including local Catholic school principals – to talk about how it works and how we can make sure that it works for everybody, and that the extra resourcing helps all students to succeed.

Journalist: A quick word, Lucy, why are you pleased that the Minister’s here on the Central Coast today?

Lucy Wicks: Because the Central Coast, our students stand to benefit greatly from these reforms. Ultimately, of course, we can talk about funding, and we will talk about funding, because it is an important part of the conversation. But what I loved hearing this morning were the stories of our young students with their hopes, with their aspirations, with their dreams; with their determination to be influencers for our nation, for our community, and indeed, even through the world through their various dreams. We want to see more of our students here on the Central Coast and right around Australia be equipped for the jobs of the future- we talked about a 10 year funding [indistinct], but if we look at the jobs of the future in 10 years’ time, some of those jobs are not even created yet. 

So the conversation that we are having with schools, and the conversation that we need to be having in terms of education, is around making sure that our students are equipped to make sure that they are ready for the jobs of the future so that they can pursue their dreams, their hopes, and their aspirations.

Journalist: Member for Robertson, Anne Charlton’s actually come out swinging this morning saying that this is all a publicity stunt – everyone here this morning. Both of you, do you have any comment to that?

Lucy Wicks: Well, I think it’s incredibly sad that the Labor candidate for Robertson firstly doesn’t get the facts straight; and secondly, supported the Labor Party voting against real money for real students and real schools here on the Central Coast to deliver real outcomes here for people who- we absolutely deserve this funding, we absolutely need this funding. And it’s incredibly hypocritical of the Labor Party to claim that they support funding and more funding for schools, and then when they have the first opportunity to vote for real funding increases – not Monopoly increases, not pretend money, not talk about something that isn’t actually funded in the Budget – when they have that opportunity, to actually vote for real increases for our schools on the Central Coast, they vote against it.

Journalist: Simon, in reply?

Simon Birmingham: Labor members have spent six years banging on about wanting to see us do Gonski. When we finally bring forward legislation that is endorsed by David Gonski, it’s remarkable that they then vote against it. And this is putting in place the true needs-based funding model that the Gonski report recommended. It’s doing so in a way that is fair for all systems and sectors, that treats everybody across the country equally and consistently, rather than the 27 different special deals and hotchpotch arrangements that we inherited.

So I hope that these are reforms that stand the test of time, because they will see needs-based funding flow fairly, according to the circumstances of each individual school into those schools in the future, allowing them to help their students to be their best. What’s really important here is not just about the quantum of money, but about how it’s used most effectively. And we have to make sure we get the best bang for our record buck when it comes to our investment in schools. And that’s why we’ve got David Gonski doing a second piece of work now, looking at how it is that our record investment can be invested to guarantee educational excellence to help inform and empower principals, school leaders, and teachers with information about how to apply this money in the most effective and efficient way possible to help students be their best. 

Journalist: Was it a challenge getting this legislation through the crossbenches?

Simon Birmingham: Well, we have demonstrated that we’re able to work with the Parliament and the people elected. And I’m disappointed that Labor stood there in a negative and obstinate way, opposing every step of these Gonski based reforms. 

But ultimately I’m pleased that the Senate crossbench came on board, helped us implement it, and what we have now is an approach where within six years all schools will reach their standard, their entitlement, in terms of the formula that’s proposed. And that is a much fairer, faster outcome in terms of consistency that anything that was on the table previously.

Lucy Wicks: Can I add to that? Because I just want to say that it was actually an incredible honor to be in the Chamber – at very early in the morning I might say, in the early hours of Friday morning around 2 o’clock – and to actually vote in support of this. Because I know what it means in terms of real funding and real money coming into our schools for our students, here on the Central Coast. It is an incredibly important reform, and what it’s going to enable is that we can actually really focus on getting the right education outcomes for our students here on the Central Coast, indeed right around the country. But as the member for Robinson, in a community on the Central Coast, that we do have some real challenges here. And this funding, $3000, is a fantastic outcome – on average – is a fantastic outcome for students here on the Central Coast.

Journalist: [Inaudible question].

Simon Birmingham: So on average, schools across the Central Coast will receive more than $7 million in additional support. And of course, bigger schools like Terrigal High receive even more; up to $9.7 million additional support flowing into this school. Again, reflects different need, different schools. Parents can see that overall, on average, there’s around $3000 extra support per student on the Central Coast – well above the national average of $2300 per student – reflective of the individual need and circumstances of schools across this community, and ensuring that Central Coast schools get their fair share in the future. 

Lucy Wicks: Well look, you know, just as I was saying before that the important component about these educational reforms is what it’s going to mean in terms of delivering better student outcomes. So that our students – whether they’re in kindergarten, or whether they’re in year 7, they’re going into high school – they can look forward to making sure that they have the right education that they need to be able to succeed in their chosen career path.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks guys.