The New South Wales (NSW) government of Premier Barry O’ Farrell has signed up to the federal government’s education reforms which were prepared in the light of the recommendations presented to the prime minister in the Gonski report.
Doing so, NSW has become the first state to have signed up the long-standing reforms, just four days after the last Commonwealth of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, where state and territory governments refused to sign up to reforms.
The inking of the agreement would now see an influx of $3.3billion from the federal government into the NSW primary and secondary education system.
The state government would itself invest $1.7billion.
“What this means is that $5billion of extra money would flow into NSW schools,”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said while addressing a media conference after the signing ceremony.
“On top of that it would mean that there would be better indexation arrangements than there would have been had this agreement not been struck,” Gillard added.
“Australians have got a clear choice, a choice between ensuring that we properly fund and work for improvement in our schools or a choice to see our schools go backwards with cuts to funding,” Gillard remarked.
“What the approach of the current system would lead you to on average is a cutback of half a million per school. So the choice is pretty clear,” the prime minister said.
“What this agreement means on average is an additional $4,300 per child, an additional $1.5 million per school,” Gillard further added.
Gillard further informed that this injection of funds into NSW would lead to meaningful changes in the way lessons were imparted to students.
Entry requirements for courses in teaching would be strengthened and regular appraisals of the performances of teachers would be conducted, she said.
She further added that dedicated and hardworking teachers would be rewarded with remunerations of $100,000 or more, per annum.
These new funds would also help NSW students in improving their basic literacy skills and would help schools in organizing training in Asian languages for their pupils, the prime minister said.
These broad based reforms would help 1.1 million school children across the country’s most populous state, the prime minister informed.
Expressing his views on the Gonski plan, O’Farrell reminded that since the release of the report, the NSW government had always accepted its recommendations in principle.
However the decision to sign up to the deal was only made after the details of funding arrangements between the state and the federal government were finalized.
“It was not an easy decision,” the premier said.
“A decision not to sign up comes with a pretty big sting in the tail,” he further added.
Commenting further, the premier said that the $1.7billion that the state government had to fork out, would be delivered through revenue increases across the board.
Raising fees for Technical and Further Education (TAFE) courses and pushing back the announced tax cuts to businesses, were two of the options being currently explored by the state government, the premier informed.
Experts believe that the signing of the agreement between the NSW and federal governments would now create pressure on other states to do the same.
However, there is little sign of any other state showing flexibility on this issue.
Earlier, this news was received with strong criticism in Victoria, where Premier Dennis Naphthine said that the deal offered to NSW was different to what was presented to the states at the COAG meeting on April 19.
He claimed that NSW had received preferential treatment on account of being the most populous state in the country.
“The key sticking point for the federal government is to tell us what the actual deal is,” Napthine said.
These criticisms have been denied by federal authorities who have said that the deal offered to NSW reflected the prime minister’s promise of injecting $2 for every dollar that the state governments invested in education reforms in their respective territories.
Expressing his views on the agreement, the Australian Education Union’s federal president, Angelo Gavrieltos called upon other states and territories to sign up to the federal government’s educational reforms plans.
“Our message to all premiers across the country is very simple. Don’t stand in the way of funding reform,” he said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
He called upon the governments of other states to allocate additional resources towards school education in their respective jurisdictions so that students across the country could realize and achieve their full potential.
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