Doorstop interview, Napperby Primary School, Port Pirie
Topics: Federal funding for South Australian schools

Simon Birmingham: At a federal level, we’re providing record and growing investment in South Australian schools – $300 extra on average per student. But we want to make sure that schools are using that as effectively as possible, learn from some of the great things that are happening in schools, like Napperby Primary, and ensure that can be replicated elsewhere across the country.

Journalist: Why is it so important to invest in regional schools?

Simon Birmingham: It’s critical that regional schools get additional support – which they do under our needs-based funding arrangements – because they have particular needs. They’ve struggled historically with staff turnover; they battle sometimes with lower educational attainment rates. And so, we really want to make sure that kids get the best possible start, and the opportunity to succeed later in life.

Journalist: And how would you like to see regional schools use that extra funding they’re receiving?

Simon Birmingham: We really back schools to use their judgement to follow evidence. But I am particularly passionate about the early years, ensuring that schools invest time and effort in building the foundation skills that children need: the basic literacy, numeracy, reading, writing skills that are the foundation stones on which future learning occurs. So, it’s really essential that schools like this do what they’re doing; take playgroup and really early years seriously, integrate kindergarten programs into their early years of learning, and then, of course, are really focussed on how they develop those key literacy and numeracy skills.

Journalist: And from Napperby, you’re heading to Solomontown, and then to John Pirie. What are you doing there today?

Simon Birmingham: We’ll be doing similar things across all the schools we visit. Taking the time to speak with school leaders, teachers, and students to learn about the different things they’re doing, what they believe is working, how that’s helping them, and ensure that helps to inform overall Federal Government policy to make sure that we apply school policies in the future that are relevant and effective in regional communities.

Journalist: And what are your overall thoughts of what you’ve seen here today at Napperby?

Simon Birmingham: I think Napperby clearly enjoys good solid leadership from its principal. Senior teaching staff benefits from stability; they’ve all been here for a number of years. But I also see students who are confident, engaging, and interested in what they’re learning. And that’s really what you hope for.

Journalist: Tell me a little bit about how you feel about today’s visit and your overall view of Napperby Primary School?

Kendall Jackson: Well, it’s fantastic to have Senator Birmingham here, and the Minister for Education, to have a look at some of the schools within the Frome Electorate. I think it’s really important for him and the Federal Government to have an understanding of some of the needs of some of these country schools. And obviously, quite clearly, with our visit here at Napperby, the needs are being met. I mean, these students were fantastic, they’re so friendly, you can see their leadership qualities, and they’re so eager to learn. So, it’s been a really great opportunity to bring the Minister here to have a look at Napperby.

Journalist: And so, when you say needs, in a regional context, all of the schools around the area, what sort of needs do they need that this money will help them gain?

Kendall Jackson: Well, I suppose they need the extra supports. They may not have all the best technologies available to them. I know we have some issues with lots of different things living in country areas. But I think resilience is really strong in our country schools. And that shows here that the teachers are all really enjoying their jobs. You can see that the children are enjoying learning, and I think that’s the most important thing.

Journalist: Kendall, do you think education is an election issue in Frome?

Kendall Jackson: I think education is always an electoral issue. I’ve obviously got four young children, so it’s very dear to me. And I’m really keen on supporting some of our policies that we’ve got. Obviously, we’re supportive of year seven children into high school. Napperby has four year seven students here, and it’s good to see that’s not going to have an impact here because I know that has been an issue in some small country schools. But I think as time goes by, there’s lots of benefits to year sevens to high school. My son’s one of the first ones in Port Pirie, at St Mark’s, and he’s absolutely loving it. I think it’s really good for them to step up and take on that extra role of being at high school.

And also, obviously improving literacy skills is very important. And we’ve got some strong policy around improving literacy skills, too, which I think is a must these days.

Journalist: Okay, thank you.