Ross Stevenson: [Indistinct] has made no major gains in literacy and numeracy since 2012, despite the Government push to make Victoria the education state. To me, you can read these NAPLAN figures and construct whatever argument suits your purposes about because if you go through and take out the Australian Capital Territory because it’s not a state, Victoria does really, really well in just about everything except maybe spelling. Simon Birmingham is the Federal Minister for Education and Training. Minister, good morning to you.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning guys, good to be with you.
Ross Stevenson: Hard to… you suspect it’s going to be these NAPLAN results are going to be used by people to achieve whatever end of the argument they want to achieve. As the Education Minister, what do you say about them?
Simon Birmingham: Look I think we have to look at the results and they obviously can be broken down at different levels. At a national level overall we see as the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority’s indicated a general plateauing of performance. Now you’re right, Victoria has historically been a high performing state and continues to uphold its end of the bargain there which is great in Victoria, but overall nationally we do need to have a look at why it is that performance is plateauing and especially why it is that we’re not getting the type of gains that you’d hope to receive when we’re putting in record sums of funding that have grown by more than 23 per cent at a federal level over the last few years.
Ross Stevenson: That’s a fair point, where… a couple of questions… how do we rank with sort of brainiac countries?
Simon Birmingham: Look Australia still has a high performing education system. There are countries that do better than us, but our teachers, our schools, our systems do a pretty good job by Australian kids to set them up for success in life but we should always be striving to do better. We do face increased competition in terms of educational success around the world and so that means we really need to focus on the things that can make a difference and the Turnbull Government went to the last election outlining a range of potential reform priorities, from the way in which kids are accessed in the early years, to what’s reported to parents, to minimum standards in… for school leavers and to supporting our best teachers and they’re the types of things I want to work with the states and territories on.
John Burns: Just how much responsibility does the education system schools and teachers have in respect of literacy and numeracy of young children who probably these days when they’re at home don’t read or need to count?
Simon Birmingham: John I think you hit on an important point there and that is the significance of parental engagement and what happens in the home environment and you know I’ve previously really urged parents, particularly of newborns to concentrate on reading to their children and then ultimately with their children through all of the early years and the more support that happens in the home environment, the better the results are in the school environment as well.
Ross Stevenson: Hey Minister, can you answer me this – I took the Australian Capital Territory out for the… in order to make Victoria look good but it’s small and it’s obviously got a lot of federal money in it. We’ve got two territories in Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The Australian Capital Territory is ranked number one I think in every single classification, the Northern Territory not only last but so far last it is ridiculous.
Simon Birmingham: Yeah okay, problems in the Northern Territory are tragic and really challenging issues and of course when we talk about it, we have been over the last couple of weeks, the juvenile justice system in the Northern Territory, there’s an obvious link when you talk about prevention there as to how it is you get kids, particularly indigenous kids better engaged and supported in the schooling environment through their early years to prevent them from ending up in trouble in the courts and ultimately in those types of detention centres and clearly as a nation, we’ve continued to fail to successfully break those patterns and cycles of failure and we have to double down and work even harder in the Territory to do so in the future.
Ross Stevenson: Minister, thank you for your time this morning. Simon Birmingham, Federal Minister for Education and Training.