Question: Naplan Results 2017


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:24): My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister advise why the NAPLAN results in South Australia have shown lower mean scores and fewer children meeting the national minimum standards than all other states—Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, in particular—across the majority of categories?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:24): I am interested to hear that the question was worded more carefully than that of his predecessor in the role of opposition spokesperson earlier today, who seemed to completely disregard the question of facts being used in this parliament.

Mr Knoll interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Schubert is warned for the second and the last time.

The Hon. P. Caica interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Colton is called to order.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: There are good signs within the NAPLAN results as well as challenges within the NAPLAN results, but the opposition shows absolutely no interest in the work that has been done by teachers across the state, nor by the students across this state.

The SPEAKER: Point of order, member for Unley.

Mr PISONI: By the minister offering commentary on the opposition, she is entering debate.

The SPEAKER: Yes, I uphold the point of order.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: What we have seen is that year 7s—and the only policy the opposition in fact took to the last election on education was to move where year 7s are taught—did better against any other jurisdiction than the other years.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: I trust that the member for Morialta is going to make a point of order that none of us can hear the minister because of the bellowing of the leader, or was it something else?

Mr GARDNER: Prior to that, she was defying your ruling to get back to the question.

The SPEAKER: No, in fact she made the briefest aside while talking about year 7 results. The leader is warned. Minister.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: Numeracy on all levels for all age groups is up slightly on last year, but do we ever hear about that from the opposition? Not a word because all they are interested in doing is running down the work of schools in this state. Here is where we do need to act because being stable—which is broadly the case across Australia from last year to this year; broadly, when you look at the statistically significant differences, the results across Australia have remained stable—is not good enough. We need to not just remain stable: we need to get better.

We need to get better because the modern economy is putting increasing demands on the skills and knowledge of students as they exit school at the other end. They need to be good at literacy and numeracy in order to obtain all the other skills and all the other content knowledge that they are going to need in order to work in the workforce. What we need to do is not run down what schools are doing now and what students are doing now but come up with ideas on how to improve, how to lift standards. To do that, you need money.

Because this government stuck to Gonski without a word—not one word—from the other side about Gonski, because this government has stuck to our side of the bargain, we are increasing funding to education in the next two years and we will be able to spend it in a way that will make a difference. Therefore, yesterday we announced the $67.5 million that we will be spending over the next four years to target not only students who are not meeting the standards that are required but also students who are not growing—students who might have done reasonably well but did better two years earlier and need to live up to their potential. We are spending money on that.

Imagine the world where the Canberra government stuck to their side of the bargain the way we did. Imagine that world where we would have $210 million more for every school in this state over the next two years, if they had stuck to their bargain. Admittedly, it could have been worse because, under the Hockey budget, we would have lost $335 million but, instead of being supine and accepting whatever it is that Canberra gives us and blaming the schools and saying that money does not make a difference, we stood up and fought.

Not just this Labor government but every school community stood up and fought and said 'That's not good enough.' They insisted. We did not win all the money back and that is to the everlasting shame of this federal government, but we won some of it back and we will spend it because we need to spend it on interventions that will make a difference. It is not about how you front NAPLAN: it is about the individual student and their experience, and we need to be able to do interventions to support them.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:29): Supplementary, sir: in relation to the $67.5 million that the minister announced the direction of yesterday, will that money be going to schools directly and, if so, in what way will the government be directing the nature of its use by principals? Or will the relevant new staff be attached to head office instead?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:29): I am so grateful for what could have always amounted to a government question—$67.5 million. I am glad you asked. What we will be doing is analysing the data partly from NAPLAN because we might as well make use of this diagnostic test in a diagnostic way for the individual students.

We will be using that data and will be using the data that is captured from within the schools to identify those two categories of students that I just referred to briefly at the end of my previous answer—but it is possible that members of the opposition did not hear me because they were too busy talking—one category being the students who are not meeting the minimum standards and the other category being students who are not making sufficient progress based on their previous indicated capacity through previous results.

What we will do is identify where the funding will go, to which schools, for which students. The money will go to the schools. The money will go to primary schools in the public system. How that money is spent will be guided by experts, by people who actually know about education, not by the cheap commentators who like to get on and just slam our schools and say they are doing a terrible job, worst in the nation, which is not true—is not true. We will have an independent panel of experts who will be able to help guide which interventions are effective, which style of pedagogy, what approach, but the money will be spent by and in our schools.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:31): Supplementary: given the minister's explanation to that question, will the money form part of the grants to the schools each year, or will it have a specific directed purpose and restrictions on the principals and their ability to spend it so that they comply with the recommendations of the panel the minister has described?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:31): The language in that question is quite extraordinary. The money will be spent in the schools and by the schools, with guidance from people who are experts so that we have proper evidence bases. But this, 'Will they comply? How will you make sure? How are you going to bind them up?'—it would be surprising to think that it is the other side that says that we should have more autonomy in schools.

In fact, we already have significant autonomy, and what we need to do is make sure that we get the money out to them and we get the support for making the right decisions. This, 'Can we have a list of the procedures on how we are going to bind our principals up?' No, you can't.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:32): Supplementary: does the $70 million that the minister is talking about comprise the entirety of the additionality funding of the state component of NERA, apart from the part that is going to the non-government schools, or are there further parts that are still to be determined what they are being spent on?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:32): No, it doesn't.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:32): Supplementary: how much of the 2018 and 2019 components of the state's NERA funding is yet to be determined what it will be spent on?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:32): The member asked me this question in estimates and I have taken it on notice.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:32): Supplementary: since then, the minister is aware that she has identified a portion of it. When will she be able to provide an answer on how much additionality funding the state is providing?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:33): It is on notice: you will get an answer.