In June, the Liberals cut $17 billion from schools. Worse, Malcolm Turnbull made a decision to put elite private schools first.
As well as his cuts, Mr Turnbull has come up with a new, unfair way of distributing school funding.
The Federal Government will now pay 80 per cent of the cost of educating a child at a private school, but just 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child at a public school.
In effect, that means public schools will suffer huge losses, while many elite private schools (who charge twenty or thirty thousand dollars a year) will get multimillion dollar increases.
Inexplicably, an overwhelming majority of the Greens partyroom tried to help Malcolm Turnbull do this.
States and territories run public schools – 70 per cent of all Australian schools. None of them have signed up to Mr Turnbull’s new policy.
That’s because they know just how unfair it is. The Liberals have also ripped up Labor’s plan to improve schools, including enhanced professional development for teachers, and comprehensive literacy and numeracy support in the early years of schooling. In government, Labor enshrined our ambition for schools in Australian law.
We legislated goals such as having a highly equitable school system, more students finishing Year 12, and closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
This year, Malcolm Turnbull dumped that ambition, too. So after more than four years in government, the Liberals are not only providing less money for schools, they have no plan to help improve them either.
While Mr Turnbull is cutting schools, he’s happy to spend more than $65 billion to give big businesses and millionaires a tax cut.
His priorities are all wrong. Teachers, and our kids deserve better. Labor has committed to restoring the $17 billion the Liberals have cut from schools.
Unlike Malcolm Turnbull, we will make sure that the biggest funding increases go to the neediest schools, in the fastest time.
This year, I have been encouraging a public discussion about how we can help improve the status of teaching in the Australian community.
As every teacher and every parent knows, a good education, provided by terrific teachers, is the ticket to a lifetime of opportunity.
But I worry that young people who are high achievers, passionate about making a difference, are counselled against becoming teachers by their families, their career counsellors, and sometimes even their own educators. I think that is wrong.
I want our young people competing to get into teaching in the same way they compete to get into medicine.
I want our community to encourage young people to consider teaching as a rewarding, fulfilling and respected career: a first choice, not a fallback.
I am concerned about the academic aptitude of some students currently being accepted into teaching courses.
While scores like ATAR are certainly not the perfect measure of the likely aptitude of a teacher, the trends in ATAR scores for education courses are of concern.
A common feature across all high performing school systems is that they draw their teachers from those in the top 30 per cent of academic aptitude.
In 2005, one in three teaching entrants had an ATAR or equivalent of 80 or above. By 2015, that had fallen to one in five.
While ATAR is not the only measure we should be looking at when it comes to deciding if someone will be a great teacher, it is a worry that these entry scores are continuing to trend down.
It is a sign that teaching courses are not as attractive as they should be. This is both an entry-level issue and an exit level issue; around one in 20 teaching graduates are failing their final literacy and numeracy test.
It seems unfair to students paying to undertake a university course that at the conclusion of a four-year degree they do not possess passable literacy and numeracy skills.
It makes me question how those students were able to commence their degrees, and certainly how they were able to graduate.
I think it would be better to expect all potential entrants into teaching to take a literacy and numeracy test before starting their course.
If students do not pass, that would provide universities an opportunity to offer them a bridging course.
I also think we can better embed evidence-backed practise in our education system, and build greater links between universities and schools.
In my view we can learn from the health system model, where many practicing doctors actively engage in research and clinical trials.
Doctors want their patients to participate in clinical trials, because they are closely monitored and evaluated, beyond their immediate medical needs.
I believe that if we better support the intellectual pursuit of teaching instead of criticising the profession we will keep our best teachers, and we will continue to attract the best and brightest into our system.
Next year will be a big year for school education, with Labor committed to funding our schools $17 billion more than the conservatives and committed to a reform agenda that will ensure every school is a great school, and every child is learning.
I look forward to working constructively with you for all our children.