After sitting on the sidelines for months since her appointment as Labor’s Education spokesperson, Tanya Plibersek has finally decided to insert herself into the national conversation about how to improve student outcomes and has embarrassingly contradicted herself in a series of interviews on key portfolio topics.
Just this morning the Shadow Education spokesperson lauded Labor’s approach to education funding.
PLIBERSEK: Fran, we would have reached the recommended level – for the majority of states that signed up with Labor – in 2019. They would have reached the Schooling Resource Standard, which is the rate that the Gonski model –
KELLY: Not some of the poorer schools, according to the Grattan modelling.
PLIBERSEK: Fran, the states that signed up early would have reached the Schooling Resource Standard by 2019.
– Interview – ABC Radio National, 7/12/2016
However Ms Plibersek seems oblivious to the fact that under the transition arrangements and 27 special funding deals Bill Shorten stitched up as education minister before the 2013 election, overwhelmingly schools do not meet the ‘Schooling Resource Standard’ (SRS) by 2019, or in some cases within the next 150 years.
It is the second time in a week that Ms Plibersek’s support for the SRS and the principles of needs-based funding have been exposed as hollow after claiming to support needs-based funding one day and then changing her position less than 24 hours later.
GILLON: Well do you agree some schools are over-funded?
PLIBERSEK: Some schools are above the Schooling Resource Standard but there's a very small –
GILLON: So you agree with the Minister as well that some schools are over-funded?
PLIBERSEK: No, I acknowledge that some schools are over the Schooling Resource Standard, but there's a tiny fraction of them… there's a couple of hundred that are above the Schooling Resource Standard
– SKY News, 2/12/2016
Asked whether funding should be redistributed from wealthy to low-income schools, Ms Plibersek said: “People find it a compelling thing to talk about but I think it misses the point entirely.”
– Fairfax, 3/12/2016
Ms Plibersek’s flip-flopping on the principle that funding should be distributed according to the needs of schools makes it clear she is more interested in politicking than policy depth and favours point scoring over addressing the needs of Australian students.
While Labor and Ms Plibersek are distracted searching for their positions on how to help support students to get the most out of their schooling, the Turnbull Government has clear priorities:
- Remove the funding inconsistencies and inequity Bill Shorten built into the system when he was education Minister and which a Gonski report author has described as a “corruption” of needs-based investment in schools
- Grow our record level of school funding from $16 billion in 2016 to $20.1 billion in 2020 and ensure it is distributed according to need
- Tie that record level of funding to states and territories implementing evidence-based reforms outlined by the Turnbull Government including a ‘back to basics’ focus on more teachers specialising in literacy and numeracy and qualified to teach science, technology, engineering or maths subjects, setting minimum literacy and numeracy standards for Year 12s and the introduction of a ‘light touch’ phonics assessment for year one students to identify those students struggling earlier
I call on Ms Plibersek and Labor and the states and territories to put the politics aside and seriously engage with us to deliver the reforms Australia's school system needs.
For further information on the Turnbull Government’s Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes reforms, visit https://www.education.gov.au/quality-schools-quality-outcomes