Interview on Channel 9 Today with Ben Fordham
Topics: Release of Gonski 2.0 report




Ben Fordham:              Welcome back to Today. Well, more now on the drastic plan to improve Australia’s education system. The Education Minister federally, Simon Birmingham, joins me now. Minister, good morning to you.


Simon Birmingham:     G’day, Ben. Good to be with you.            


Ben Fordham:              Good to be with you. This report says a whole generation of Australian school children have failed to reach their full potential. We have heard this before. Today you’re saying we need to draw a line in the sand.


Simon Birmingham:     Well, this is a landmark report. It does indeed identify that we have had significant failings in terms of student achievement in Australia over recent years compared with other countries. But it’s a blueprint for change now. It identifies very clearly that we need to change the way the curriculum works to actually give clear steps in terms of the progress of Australian students, that we need to put new tools in the hands of teachers to enable them to chart the progress of each of their students and that ultimately these types of measures can lift the performance, not just of under-achievers, but of all students so that as a nation we perform much, much better.


Ben Fordham:              That sounds good, Minister, but in practical terms what can we do to get those outcomes lifted?


Simon Birmingham:     So, what we have to do is make sure that in the early years children are getting the literacy and numeracy skills by age eight that is required for them to be able to succeed. And the report outlines clearly that if we give priority in terms of the curriculum changes and the new tools for teachers in those early years that that will help. Then, of course, in the latter years, you’ve got to make sure that not just are those foundations are in place, but also that students leave ready to engage in a workplace successfully. And that’s around having richer, deeper skills, collaborative skills, on top of higher levels of knowledge, all of which are again identified in the report as the types of steps we can take to achieve that.


Ben Fordham:              Am I right in saying that part of the argument here in the report is that we need to cater solutions and strategies for the individual, as opposed to treating them en masse?


Simon Birmingham:     [Audio skip] Ben, that the report identifies we should stretch each individual student to their maximum capabilities. It says there are too many coasting and cruising kids in Australian schools and classrooms who aren’t being extended in terms of their learning. So, what we want to make sure is that an A grade student, who might already know everything in the years’ worth of subject, is actually taught new content during that year so that they’re extended even further. Which is why these types of individualised targeted teaching programs can ultimately give us more high achievers, as well as lift our underachievers.


Ben Fordham:              It sounds like more work for teachers.


Simon Birmingham:     Well, it doesn’t have to be if we apply the type of recommendations here that a better structure to the curriculum, more tools for teachers to be able to track individual progression, and apply that according to their classroom teaching practices. Better advice for teachers, then in terms of if a student is at a certain level and progressing in a certain way – what programs, resources they should apply in the classroom. All of those things can ultimately help teachers make better use of their time and get better outcomes for their students.


Ben Fordham:              NAPLAN seems to receive a pretty poor report card in this report. Will you scrap it?


Simon Birmingham:     No. NAPLAN doesn’t receive a report card here. In fact, the NAPLAN data has been essential to be able to deliver this report, to do the analysis that underpins it. But in time, it may well be that the type of assessment tool that’s proposed will overtake NAPLAN in terms of the quick data it gives back to schools and teachers and parents, as well as better richer information to policymakers.


Ben Fordham:              One piece of feedback that seems to be coming through to us this morning is that we need to pay our teachers more. If we’re going to expect more of our teachers and better results, we need to renumerate them accordingly.


Simon Birmingham:     Well, with that, the report’s clear that what we should do is focus on how we keep our best high-performing teachers in the classroom mentoring new teachers. I hope that states and territories will look at their enterprise bargaining arrangements in that regard to really give recognition to those lead and highly accomplished teachers in our systems. Teachers do an incredible job, a hardworking job, but we have to give them the tools and the policies and the curriculum that enable them to succeed for our kids and that’s what this report spells out.


Ben Fordham:              We appreciate your time this morning, Minister. Thank you.


Simon Birmingham:     Thank you, Ben.


Ben Fordham:              Simon Birmingham joining us, Georgie.