Doorstop interview, Melbourne
Future schools funding arrangements; Report on Headspace; Politics in classrooms

Simon Birmingham:     Today’s the day where I hope State and Territory Education Ministers will recognise that they need to focus on how we can best use the record growing levels of investment in Australian schools, the types of reforms required to lift up plateauing or declining performance across a number of measures. 

I’m taking a comprehensive package of reform to this meeting today, not seeking or expecting the states to accept and adopt every single measure, but getting a commitment from them I hope to be able to work on an implementation plan of appropriate reforms at a national level to reverse our decline in school performance. 

Journalist:        The Labor states are pretty clear that they want Gonski back; is that a possibility at all?

Simon Birmingham:     We’re putting record growing sums of money into Australian schools already and that will keep growing each and every year into the future under the Turnbull Government. States can come and plead for even more money if they want. I want to focus on the best things for Australian schoolchildren, and that of course is to ensure they’re getting quality education in the classroom by skilled teachers with relevant curriculum standards.

Journalist:        Will you commit though to the full level of Gonski funding in 2017-2018? Is that a possibility?

Simon Birmingham:     The Turnbull Government has already laid its budget. It’s a budget that grows from $16 billion in funding this year to more than $20 billion by 2020. Growth above inflation, above enrolments; real growth that we want to make sure is leveraged to get the best possible outcome and reforms for Australian school students in the future.

Journalist:                    What if a deal isn’t reached today? What happens if a deal isn’t reached today?

Simon Birmingham:     Well today is about further discussions. We’ve been clear for a long time that school funding arrangements will be settled by COAG, by First Ministers early next year and that’s the timeline we’re still working towards.

Journalist:                    If I can briefly ask on Headspace, the report out today saying there’s only a small impact on youth mental health. What’s your reaction to that?

Simon Birmingham:     Well, I’m confident that Headspace working with governments and all other experts wants to pursue continuous improvement. There’s little that can be more important than of course the mental health of young people and their wellbeing, and that requires us all to work collaboratively on continuous improvement which I’m confident Headspace will be doing.

Journalist:                                Well is the Government open to reviewing that funding for Headspace and the support for youth mental health in light of it?

Simon Birmingham:     They’re really matters for the Health Minister to discuss.

Journalist:        And just one on the teachers punished. What would you like to see- they’ve defied orders in Victoria?

Simon Birmingham:     Well the Victorian Minister along with other ministers made clear that it was unacceptable, and if it’s unacceptable then I expect standards, processes and protocols to be upheld and that I hope the Victorian Minister will do just that. 

Journalist:                    Government says it’ll only- it’s up to principals. He’s not going to force them to enact that. So would you like principals to punish?

Simon Birmingham:     Well, there’s a question there, isn’t it, as to whether Daniel Andrews and James Merlino are running the education system in Victoria, or whether they’re beholden to the unions and too scared to do anything.