Justine Ferrari has there commented on the news rather than reporting — not itself a criticism, as the item is so classified:
JULIA Gillard is one of only two education ministers in the nation without children, and she is the only one speaking out for parents.
Every parent has the right to know their child’s school is as good as the one down the road.
If a school fails to meet a minimum standard of quality, principals should be held accountable, teachers should be removed, the school should close. Every child deserves no less.
At present in Australia, there is no way of guaranteeing to parents that their local school is doing all it should.
Accountability is virtually non-existent and choosing schools, as Gillard said in The Australian last week, is based on guesswork, rumour and crossing your fingers.
The Rudd Government is staring down state governments and teachers’ unions afraid of being held accountable.
In doing so, it is holding true to the Labor tradition that the disadvantaged are lifted up in society through education.
Gillard and Kevin Rudd are unequivocal in their aim: every child in Australia, no matter where they live, how much money their parents earn, or what language they speak, is entitled to a good education.
Every child is entitled to leave school able to read and write, to be given the opportunity to achieve the best they can at school and afterwards. Every school has a responsibility to give children that opportunity.
It’s that simple.
I do question the last sentence. I still feel there are issues here one could drive a truck through. For example, if School A is an academically selective school which fails, however, to achieve 100% Bands 5 and 6 in Advanced English in the HSC, while School B, a comprehensive with all its potential top students creamed off into selective or specialist schools and serving a “difficult” clientele, gets 5% Bands 5 and 6 in Advanced English in the HSC, which school is “underachieving”? We know which one looks best, but that’s not the same thing at all. It could be little short of miraculous that School B has any Advanced English students in Bands 5 or 6, while the selective school’s performance may actually be rather poor, given its starting point. I hasten to add that A and B are totally hypothetical, but they do illustrate a difficulty. Tie funding to such imponderables and a whole can of worms is opened.
In the same issue of The Australian Kevin Donnelly is comparatively happy. I always worry when Kevin is happy, particularly when, in trumpeting The Australian’s leadership on educational issues, he manages to add one or more of his personal hobby-horses into the equation.
There are a number of caveats. As discovered by the then Howard government when it sought to introduce A to E reporting, defend choice in education and get rid of post-modern gobbledegook in the curriculum, there are many opposed to reform.
The Australian Education Union, recalcitrant state governments and pressure groups such as the NSW Public Education Alliance are committed to the status quo. Rudd’s comment, “I know some will resist these changes”, is an understatement, and it will take political will to achieve change.
Holding schools accountable, while a worthy policy, is only fair if they are given the autonomy and flexibility to get on with the job. Allowing schools to hire and fire staff is a good start – it is also vital that schools are not overwhelmed with intrusive and time-consuming bureaucratic red tape.
Making school performance public is good in theory; the real test involves what is measured and how it is reported.
I’ve been there on the hobby-horses before, as some of you know: just search Donnelly here, for starters, or on Floating Life 04/06 ~ 11/07. But I am retired now, so I’m not bothering. Furthermore, though what we mean by it may differ, I do agree with that last sentence: “Making school performance public is good in theory; the real test involves what is measured and how it is reported.”
Kevin Rudd’s education speech 27 August 2008.