Simon Birmingham: …You of course in the Catholic sector are a key part of that unique education system, and we’re an important catalyst in helping to develop the system. Overall, our system has performed relatively well, well above the OECD average for a long time. We’ve made great strides in developing a more cohesive education system, now with a robust national curriculum, one of the few federal nations with such a framework and shared national goals and decision making through the Education Council. We’ve improved levels of transparency in performance recording through NAPLAN and the My School website, and we are now moving NAPLAN online, so it will be a much more effective diagnostic tool for teachers and better enable parents in further understanding their child’s individual education progress.
However, what is new is that we need to ensure our education is not just performing better each year in absolute terms, but also in a world in which many other countries that manage to succeed in growing their economies and growing their investment in education and are therefore increasingly competitive in the normal space, is that in an increasingly globalised world we must equally perform better in relative terms to the rest of the world too.
We all need to acknowledge that while Australia’s schooling system is good and has delivered great outcomes for our country, our student performance has, according to data over recent years, been slipping. In this room, I’m sure everybody’s familiar with the PISA program and the results that show from 2012 declining levels, not just in those relative terms but also in absolute terms in terms of Australia’s performance. I’m concerned that it’s not only the overall figures that show slippage but our top students are not performing as well as the top students in other countries. Equally, that we have more low performing students than in previous years. We have seen slippage right across the curve.
The domestic testing of literacy and numeracy in NAPLAN shows that in some areas student performance has also stagnated or declined since 2008, and it’s critical that we take action to improve these results. The future workforce needs of our education system to produce graduates that are literate in literacy, in numeracy, have higher order skills, such as STEM capabilities, and who are work ready is essential. Failure to meet these needs will have a detrimental impact of course on our ultimate economic prosperity, and therefore on the wealth of our nation and our ability to sustain the high wages and high social safety net that Australia has built its successful society upon.
We know what the challenges are therefore for our education system. There’s a wide range of evidence informing us, also of what we can do to have a real effect on the quality of educational outcomes. Across all education sectors, work is already underway to better prepare schools and our students for what the future holds. Because your sector is an important part of our education system and has a key role to play in responding to this challenge, I want to focus for a moment exclusively on the Catholic education system.
When I was invited to speak at this event, one of the questions posed to me was what is my perception and experience of Catholic education and its contribution to education in Australia. As you may know and I alluded to the fact that Greg and I attended the same high school. I did not attend a Catholic school growing up. However, I do and deeply appreciate the opportunities, and the choice, and the diversity of the Australian education system, what it provides to young Australians and their parents, and that the Catholic sector is a great contributor to this. I also have a little personal advisor whom I can draw upon in my aunty- Aunty Sister Shirley as I like to call her, who is a Josephite nun and has spent most of her career before retirement teaching, of course, in the Catholic system and is a great advisor to me on many matters.
Jennifer Buckingham’s latest research looked at diversity in education and she found that, and I quote, “there is no such thing as a typical Catholic school.” I’d say Aunty Sister Shirley would concur. I think this is a sentiment everyone here can agree on, and my experience of Catholic education since I’ve become Minster for Education has only cemented this idea. Catholic education in Australia has a long and proud history. The sector has made an invaluable contribution to the shaping of Australia and plays a crucial role in helping to shape the education reforms that are currently underway. Catholic schools have, as you know, a long history of being a major provider of education. Indeed, before the advent of compulsory government schools, Catholic schools were the main educators especially of the poorer or working class populations. Catholic schools continue to proudly cater for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Catholic education provides an holistic education for their students with the focus not only on academic ability but also on instilling important values. Every year, new research is published on the importance schools play in shaping not just student knowledge but student character.
In Australia, we are currently having a discussion on the changing role of schools and how they are the first point of call for addressing domestic violence or extremism. Catholic schools’ emphasis on values means we are already in a much stronger position than perhaps some other schools to help to tackle these issues in your communities. This delivers benefits to the individual student but in turn positively contributes to development of the Australian community. The importance of Catholic education in Australia can be measured by the steady growth in the sector. In 2014, the proportion of Australian children enrolled in the Catholic sector was 21 per cent. It is the largest non-public school sector and its growth shows that many Australian parents value it.
The role of the Australian Government in education should be complimentary to our state education authorities, and the important non-government sector authorities. Because of the federation and what that means for the delivery of schooling, my job is to provide national support, national leadership, national oversight, to how we as a nation can move towards improving the education system. Our government’s Students First policy is comprised of four pillars of priorities, which evidence shows make a real difference to the quality of schooling in the outcomes of our students. These are teacher quality, school autonomy and leadership, parental engagement, and strengthening the curriculum. There has, over the life of our government, been considerable progress in implementing each of these initiatives and I want to touch on these briefly.
We have accepted all but one of the 38 recommendations from the 2015 Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group to improve the quality of our graduate teachers. We’re determined that this is one review of teacher education unlike the previous 101 reviews which shall be implemented. The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, AITSL, is progressing the Government’s response and I want to thank the NCNC for your continuing contribution on this, and especially Stephen Elder who as a member of AITSL has made most important contributions. As a result of full support from the Education Council, and I want to pay particular tribute to my predecessor Christopher Pyne for driving these reforms and that support. A host of reforms to teacher education are now happening, and I expect all to be implemented by 2017.
Following the review of the national curriculum, there have been a number of revisions recently endorsed, in fact, at the last meeting of education ministers that Christopher attended, which is a great achievement for school education. It will help teachers to do their job, for example, the curriculum will facilitate learning of foundation skills such as reading that explicitly teachers’ phonetic awareness, phonetics fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension.
Our Independent Public Schools Initiative, which is about promoting greater school and principal autonomy, because research shows that is second only to classroom instruction amongst school related factors that impact on student learning, is being implemented across all jurisdictions and impacting on 5000 schools. And in relation to parental engagement, which is of course the single largest factor in the likely outcomes of a child from their schooling, our government announced in the 2015-16 budget a $5 million communications campaign, we’ve launched the learning potential app for parents which gives them practical tips and information of how to be more involved in their child’s learning from the earliest years in the highchair right through to high school and will be regularly updated. Perhaps more importantly, in a longer term sense, we’re directing funding over the next four years to the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth to fund research and resourcing to help parents engage in their children’s education. We have much to learn from schools in your sector about parental engagement, and I know representatives from your parent bodies are here tonight have been having discussions with both my department and my staff.
Parental engagement is an area about which I am incredibly passionate, because I know that if we are to look for the lowest cost area that can make the biggest difference in terms of our educational outcomes, it will be by better informing and enabling parents to provide assistance from the earliest years to their children, to know what the best and most practical assistance can be, to be engaged through their schooling, and to set ambition for their children in their engagement with schooling.
In addition, because the Government understands that around 75 per cent of the fastest growing industries require skills in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, we announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda in December some $65 million for new STEM programs, including new partnerships with schools, enhanced digital literacy through whole of school approaches, new computing challenges for years five and seven students, new actions in cracking the code, additional ICT summer schools, and increased investment in early learning opportunities in the STEM space, as well as support for specialist travelling ICT teachers in each state or territory. We’re further working through the Education Council to develop the National STEM Strategy, which the Commonwealth started in May last year.
I know that the Catholic system will play an invaluable role in this and indeed in some of that preschool involvement. I was delighted to be alongside St Ignatius College and St Joseph School in Norwood in Adelaide recently with Christopher Pyne for the launch of some of our STEM initiatives.
Let me turn to a couple of other issues that I have little doubt will be of interest to your sector. Firstly, the roll of the Commonwealth in schools, especially in relation to non-government schooling, and secondly and somewhat related to the first, future school funding. Over the past two years there has been growing debate about what role the Commonwealth should play in schools. As I mentioned before, the Commonwealth is not constitutionally responsible for schooling, it does not run any schools, register schools or employ any teachers. It’s clearly the responsibility of states, yet we’ve long had a stake in schools dating in particular back to the Menzies era. Strong schooling, student outcomes, and post-school transitions are fundamental inputs to Australia’s productivity, economy, and society. Australia is a relatively united country in terms of values and culture, so it makes sense to ensure that we have a cohesive system so that every child is able to receive quality education, wherever they live and wherever their parents may move to. This requires the Commonwealth to take an active interest in matters in providing national leadership, setting priorities, identifying gaps, ensuring national policy oversight facilitation, providing national performance assessment and reporting to keep the states and the systems honest and competitive and enhanced information provision.
We do this through cooperative arrangements with the states and territories, your sector and through supplementary funding, especially the additional support provided to the non-government sector. I understand the concerns the non-government sector has to ruin changes in relation to funding from the Commonwealth. I want to be clear that I can see no particular reason that our relationship will change in relation to funding in future. This does not mean that there cannot be improvements in relation to arrangements. The challenge, however, is to ensure they’re as effective and efficient as possible, improve the overall performance of our system, without increasing the burden of regulation in the sector.
Finally, I want to conclude, of course, in the areas of funding. As we progress through the third year of our current quadrennial funding model, and what will happen post-2017. Given the intensity of this debate about the Commonwealth’s future spending post-2017, one of course would be forgiven for thinking that the Commonwealth is the prime funder of schools in Australia. We’re not. The Commonwealth only funds about one-third of the total public funding for schooling in Australia, the rest provided by the states and territories. Two-thirds of our funding does go to the non-government sector, and our total share of funding to government schools has not only been growing but growing faster than the states and territories. In fact, whether it is just in the non-government sector, the government sector, or overall, school spending has been growing faster than the states and territories.
Between 1999-2000 and 2012-13, Commonwealth real, per-student expenditure has grown by 3.6 per cent – higher than benchmark economic growth of 1.5 per cent, while state and territory funding grew by 1.3 per cent. The Commonwealth is confronting issues that are three-fold. First, after many years of real increases in school spending for all our sectors, our performance is failing. How can we improve it? Second, that Australia faces changed economic circumstances, so fiscal restraint is required, not for ideological reasons, but for reasons of economic necessity. What is a suitable level of expenditure for schools, and more importantly how can we invest that funding most effectively?
As the Prime Minister stated in Parliament a week ago, we are not entering into a competitive spending race with the Opposition, which has recently announced, as usual, a big spending program. Recent independent analysis has highlighted it has rubbery forward estimates in the Opposition’s costings, questionable costings that would involve more of a command and control system for schools and teachers. We don’t intend to follow Labor’s trajectory. We won’t proceed post-2017 with their recklessness, we will show greater fiscal responsibility with a genuine desire to make our system work better for all students.
We appreciate the importance of education, we’re committed to getting higher outcomes, and we know that it’s fundamental to our national prosperity. We won’t be shirking our responsibilities and we will make sure that what we do post-2017 seeks to make a number of changes to current funding arrangements that need to be cleaned up and improve those arrangements form 2018 onwards. This will require consultation work with your sector. The Australian Government has been clear that from 2018 our arrangements will be informed by negotiations with the state and territory governments and non-government education authorities. Many of the problems with current arrangements are shrouded in secrecy – there are some 27 different agreements that exist across different states, territories, and sectors. We want to make sure we understand all of the issues for current arrangements and that we are fair in the approach we take. We want to consult on a set of principles to guide the development of funding for 2018 and beyond.
Those principles include being cost conscious, the funding model must be based on a realistic appraisal of the current budget situation and not commit future governments to unaffordable arrangements. There should be a contribution for every student, the Commonwealth recognises the importance of a diverse schooling sector, of parental choice, and of providing a funding contribution for every student to assist in the delivery of education. That funding should be needs based. Funding should be directed where it is needed the most, recognising the different costs of educating particular groups of students, be they students with disabilities, indigenous students, students from low socio-economic areas, or students from regional or remote communities. Funding models should be stable, provide a degree of predictability to school systems and schools individually, and should not change significantly from year to year. And that funding needs to be simple, fair, and transparent so that people can understand it, not just the people in this room, not just the people who write academic papers, but ultimately parents and communities can understand it.
However, funding arrangements should not be a distraction from the real work of promoting quality. We need to make sure that debate in Australia shifts and changes. I appreciate that in this room, you want to have confidence and certainty in relation to funding streams, but the national debate does need to shift from one about being around inputs and the total dollars that are spent on education to one about outputs and how we lift those most effectively. We need to focus on performance by driving national assessment and reporting, using evidence and information for innovation and reform.
The basics are not negotiable – literacy and numeracy skills are essential, we must aim to match the best standards in the world. What an education must also ensure children have a well-rounded education, skills to lead and fulfil a productive life, that when they leave school they are able to go on to further training, further education, or successfully enter the workforce. The reform challenge ahead is to drive innovative ways to generate the complex skills and creativity Australia requires to compete in the modern economy. When I was invited to this event to speak tonight, there were a number of questions that were posed which I have attempted to answer through my comments.
I’d like to conclude with one question to all of you – what is your vision for the future of education in Australia? But more particularly, if you were to be advising me as the Minister for Education, what are the areas in which you believe we can best focus attention to best improve the outcomes and opportunities for Australian students in the future? I’m a minister who wants to listen, wants to learn from those who know best and have the greatest experience, and I really do value your input and your opinions. Thank you very much for having me here tonight; I look forward to taking some of your questions and look forward to not just in the minutes or hours ahead but in weeks, months, and hopefully years ahead to hearing your answer to the questions that I’ve posed tonight. Thanks so very much.
[Audio not available] … leaders with the skills to be able to make the most of that autonomy and the opportunities that it provides, so I fully agree that clearly, as part of the teacher quality agenda, providing that professional development support and ensuring that the best teachers have the best opportunities to enhance their skills is very important.
Question: Minister thanks very much for your talk. If I could just pick up on that one – I think teacher quality is obviously important [indistinct] …type of process start [indistinct] our schools, something Minister Birmingham alluded to, issues around [indistinct] domestic violence, more broadly issues the schools are asked to perform, asking teachers to do all of those things, [indistinct] …seriously at, just as we would start looking [indistinct] ask primary school teachers to [indistinct] experts in everything. To rethink what our workforce [indistinct] the system, so that’s a comment. The question now, you made the reference to funding, for it to be simple and fair, which I would prefer to [indistinct] system [indistinct] paraphrase, he said a simpler system won’t [indistinct] fair system [indistinct] complex, this funding [indistinct].
Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Leanne.
I had to do a Lateline interview earlier on and I’m pleased Emma Alberici didn’t ask me that question.
There’s no doubt, no doubt, that of course the more loadings you put into a system, the more aspects that deal with differential considerations, of course, the less simple that it becomes. When I speak of simplicity, I’m meaning a clear understanding that it is consistent as best it can be across states and territories, and ideally across systems. Now, that’s not to say, of course, that governments are about to find a magical way to fund every student the same, whichever school they’re going to. But it is, I think, important that we do have a simpler to explain system, that yes, by virtue of being means-based has complexities attached to it, but does not mean that when a students shifts across a border, even though all of the other circumstances surrounding the life of that student, the funding equation may change. And there’s also a challenge there in terms, of course, how it is that funding models are applied.
Right now, we run a complicated formula across the Commonwealth Government to determine how we’re funding a student. We then send a lump sum payment to a state or territory or to a school system or to an approved authority, and they then run their own formula across it as to how they send money through. Now, I appreciate that a system like yours wants to have the autonomy, and ought to have the autonomy to make decisions about how resources in your system are carved up. Because I’ve seen fabulous examples, particularly when I was directly responsible for vocational learning, where I’ve no doubt that you are dramatically subsidising loss making activities to support certain students in one location out of funding that could otherwise, if you were to apply a very strict and rigorous formula, would otherwise have gone elsewhere in the system.
But that then begs the question of well, we shouldn’t feed a notion that there’s a magical formula applying at the top of the system here somehow, which is exactly how the funding actually equates when you get to the school environment. So, I think part of, I guess, that simplicity as well is in trying to change the public debate so that there’s an understanding that school systems are making their decisions, and that the responsibility then lies on those school systems to explain to their school communities and their parents how it is that they have reached their funding conclusions.
Question: Minister, Tony O’Byrne, Catholic School Parents Australia. Can I just commend you on your comments referring to parental engagement. We’re certainly working with our secondary and primary principals’ associations on that, and last year Senator Scott Ryan spoke to one of our meetings and commented, as you have tonight in terms of potentially how really tapping into parental engagement might be a low cost alternative to return greater learning outcomes, because [indistinct] meeting today were accidentally being [indistinct] and just to let you know that we think we’re very much on that same wavelength that you talked about tonight, so rather than question, just we think very positive comment – parental engagement is an area we can focus on. Perhaps not just from the prospective parents, but equally skilling up our teachers in terms of technology to more effectively interact with parents, and we think that’s an area to focus on in the future. Thank you for your observations.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Tony. As I say, I’m very passionate about working in that space, and really do believe that where we can try to make some improvements. The challenge of course is how you dramatically lift early years, before you even get to the school environment so you’re getting the best possible outcomes there. The research – again, I think it was a piece of Jennifer’s work, or she highlighted it to me, that indicates some 20 per cent of children, or 30 per cent from low socioeconomic or disadvantaged areas, are getting to school and starting school with insufficient vocabulary to succeed at school. And that of course sets in place a whole pattern of failure where students don’t enjoy or are unable to engage into a learning environment in the school.
It of course increases the costs in the school and the interventions that need to be acquired. So the more we can try to address some of those outcomes in the early years, and we can – Senator Ryan and I, the portfolio has parents who perhaps have a- ministers who are parents who perhaps have a particular focus in the early years. I think Scott’s son Nicholas is wedged in age between my three-year-old girl and my five-year-old girl, so we’ve got a succession of small people there that probably do shape our thinking, especially at that point in the life cycle.
Unidentified speaker: [Indistinct] Morgan, the director of education in [indistinct].
Question: Thanks Minister. My question is you know, when you get a group like us and we talk to you, and essentially we’re given aggregated position on Catholic education, yet you know, if you cut the data across Australia, you know, you see that rural and regional areas seem to have much lower outcomes than the rest of the urban centres. And you know that’s true right around the country, I mean the state systems, their aggregated positions as well, but I’m interested in whether the Government’s getting specific policy considerations, this difference between almost a two-speed or a multi-speed Australian outcomes in rural, regional and remote areas.
Simon Birmingham: Did Bridget put you up to that question?
Question: I didn’t do it.
Simon Birmingham: One of the department’s great chairmen is [indistinct] education, of course. It certainly – it’s in the forefront of the [indistinct] Bridget has led, and driven the Government in many ways to undertake in a- look at tertiary access and tertiary outcomes from rural and regional communities and the reality that even if you succeed in setting an ambition, when it comes to then university offers being made, there’s still a barrier that exists with more students choosing not to accept those university offers from rural and regional Australia, than from metropolitan areas. You’re of course coming back a step further than that in terms of the outcomes for rural and regional schools, and yes, we were only talking yesterday, without going into depths of course in development in my office, but we were having a discussion about languages and the rather continuing harbour state of language uptake in Australian schools, and how it is that you would try provide better uptake in languages. And the department rightly pointed out the vast number of Australian schools that have only a tiny number of teachers. And so the practical problem that that entails – if we wanted to drive a languages policy, especially into primary school environments, how it is that you would have the necessary capabilities across that vast number of small schools with small numbers of teachers.
Because that’s where we need to think evermore about how we can use technology as our friend in the education environment, how we can ensure that although you may not have teachers present in our school that teach the languages, that we can provide the foundations and the systems that can enable languages to be taught into those schools with small numbers of students. I think they’re the areas where perhaps what is at present, still quite early stage work in looking at different learning platforms and sending them out, particularly in preschools around foreign languages, if I could use that as an example, to see whether we can get enhanced language awareness and take-up in preschools, even where you don’t have preschool or early learning educators with a language skill, is the type of model that I would hope we can eventually start to apply to a system in those rural and regional communities.
But I’d also say then [indistinct] back to funding question as well, that … and we’d expect a Coalition government – and certainly we would be very conscious in the funding models of making sure that we consider the additional costs and additional need that often exists in rural and regional areas and how we cope with that.
Unidentified speaker: Last two questions; one from Stephen Alba.
Question: Thanks for speaking to us tonight. I found your speech much deeper and much more meaningful than many that I’ve heard before, and it pays tribute to you and your commitment to education, so thank you for sharing your views with us. In posing questions to explains to us, in posing questions back to you, the federal election is not that far off…
Simon Birmingham: [Interrupts] Do you know something I don’t?
Question: Ha, well … no, but I’ve done a few calculations. Double disillusions, [indistinct] the table, we’ve had that [indistinct] et cetera, et cetera. Regardless, this is the year that we’re going to be able to have an election. We already had mention from the ALP, [indistinct] give us as we go into the election, and pick up all the points that you raised today, [indistinct] check et cetera, et cetera. And we’re not a cargo cult and I’ll tell it again, we’re going to make some change [indistinct] once we get to [indistinct] what the ALP is telling us, because we know that anything else part [indistinct] et cetera, et cetera. So, we’re far more sophisticated than you may think we are, but the reality is, because we get to a point where we haven’t had a national [indistinct] there’ll be soon, engage with you about how we’re going to go forward into [indistinct] funding. We have a statement by the previous Minister, Christopher Pyne, as to where he wants to fund us at and where the Government wants to fund us at. But I think going into an election, that’s unrealistic. We need to impress upon you that if you’re going to make this an operation, then you’ve got to have a highly educated population. If you look at the Catholic sector, where we sit, high performance, high equity is set up to … with the people. So we’re actually doing our fair share of the lifting in respect of this Country. So my question to you is take all the points that you’ve raised, you know, the [indistinct] the flaws in respect of the ALP’s commitment to us. So my question to you is where are you at and where do you think it might fall?
Simon Birmingham: So Stephen, firstly let’s appreciate, as I said in the speech, funding’s at record levels. Both parties are committed to growth as with that record base. It should not be forgotten in the debate around school funding that nobody’s proposing actually cuts to funding. What we have is a policy dispute about the trajectory of growth of a bay record base, and although the party is committed to a very large trajectory of growth, and the current budget outlines a lower trajectory of growth in relation to the Coalition, and I have no doubt that ours will remain a lower trajectory of growth in light of that. We won’t be [indistinct] more. But I do also appreciate that, particularly for the non-government sector for whom the Commonwealth Government is the prime funding body, that there is an acute awareness about whether or not that funding will grow at a level sufficient to meet the real cost of growth in delivering education in the schools.
I’m well aware of that, and so that is something that I am conscious of, both as I enter budget discussions within the Government and ultimately when we come to the point of striking funding deals, and knowing that states will still fund more than 80 per cent of the cost of government schools. We’ll of course need to be the prime funder in terms of meeting cost increase of delivery in those schools, and we will need to be the prime funder in terms of meeting the increased cost of delivery in non-government schools.
Now what the magical answer will be at the end of those budget deliberations and those calculations across how we work in tandem with the states and territories so that every sector can ensure that its needs in terms of meeting the real cost of health and education occurs, I’d love to give you the answer on. I’d love to give you the exclusive. I wish I had all the answers already myself, but all of that is of course our works in progress. You’re right, it’s an election year; I’m conscious of the urgency, I’m conscious of the fact that sectors like yours want enhanced certainty from us and we’ll do our best to deliver it.
Unidentified Speaker: Peter Hamilton, last question.
Question: I’ll just move down here so I can be heard. Minister I’d just like to go on…
Simon Birmingham: That’s not a Port Power tie is it?
Question: No it’s not, it’s actually one that my wife chose, so whatever the significance is I’m not …
Simon Birmingham: Well actually my wife would choose a Port Power tie, so we differ on that.
So he’s got no idea what I’m talking about.
Question: Sorry. Lost on me. I presume it’s a rugby league thing.
Simon Birmingham: No videos tonight, please.
Question: If I could just build on something that Stephen said, and Stephen’s question that’s really about the immediate issue around government funding and predictability and so forth. And like him I would acknowledge the four pillars that you had mentioned and the other good initiatives. However, could I just offer a thought in regard to how we think about funding arrangements across education for all of our sectors? There’s a lot of reference to the PISA results and you mention tonight how our results are slipping. I think there’s a very simple exercise worth undertaking which is to look at the countries that have improved their PISA results and to look at their pattern of educational expenditure against their GDP, and that is quite illuminating.
While we have had increases in funding in Australia, particularly in our sector which are very much appreciated, when you look at places like Finland and some of the Asian countries, their growth in proportion of education funding that’s a part of the GDP of their nations has actually outshone the Australian experience.
Now, I’m not unrealistic about budgeting limitations and about the fact that we have expenditure on education, both as state and federal arrangement, and I’m not expecting for a magic pudding solution, but could I suggest that maybe the reference point going further, both for state and federal government, might be the consideration of the proportion of GDP that is spend on education, and I’m referring here to school education not tertiary education as you heard given that ratio. And I think we will find as a nation while we have had increases, we are slipping in regard to our proportion of GDP that is going into education. So that’s a challenge for all of us, both in the non-government sector to consider the private income contributions that need to be made, both at the state government level for their consideration of what should be done, given that their budgets are probably healthier than the federal government at the moment, and also for the government, the federal government as well. So, I just simply like to note the proportion of GDP I think might be a reference point that we could make going forward in regard to how much educational [indistinct] …I’ll leave that with the Minister thank you.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you for that, and so it’s a valuable thought. There are of course nations in the OECD who spend less than us and get better outcomes and there are those who spend more than us and get better outcomes and vice versa. So there’s not of course a magic answer in that sense, but I appreciate the tone of it. There’s also one quirk in relation to when whole of education expenditure is considered – Australia’s relatively generous system of taxpayer subsidised student loans are all way up for the higher education sector are always appropriately factored into that equation compared with other nations where those loans are often offered on a more commercial basis and students have a greater impost in paying them back.
But the point is for everyone, we should always be looking to best practice around the world, and the best practice of course applies across every equation, including looking at how funding is delivered, what attributes are that we should be looking for if we need to provide additional funding to apply an appropriate needs based system. Well, what are those things that make a difference elsewhere in the world, just as in terms of what’s actually occurring in our schools where we’ve seen significant growth in funding over recent years? There really is a need to make sure we’re doing the hard yards across each of the different systems and each of the different jurisdictions, to compare schools of similar socio-economic background with one another, to see where some are lifting their performance and to understand why they have lifted the performance, why they have used the increased funding more effectively than others and to ensure that we can apply that learning across all of similar categories.
Thanks, thanks for the thought and thank you everybody.