On 29 November 2012, the Senate referred the Australian Education Bill 2012
to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee for
inquiry and report by 13 March 2013.
Conduct of inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry in the Australian and called
for submissions by 8 February 2013. Details of the inquiry were also made available
on the committee's website.
The committee contacted a number of organisations inviting submissions
to the inquiry. Submissions were received from 32 individuals and
organisations, as listed in Appendix 1.
A public hearing was held in Melbourne on 1 April. The witness list for
the hearing is at Appendix 2.
The most comprehensive review of Australian schools in over 40 years, the
Gonski Review provided a blueprint for overhauling school education and school
funding. It considered issues relating to better educational outcomes, funding
allocation and mechanisms, and financial accountability and transparency. Key
findings of the review included:
- Australia's educational system is complex, and lacks coherence
- educational outcomes should not be determined by a student's
background or the location of their school, but by their potential;
- funding alone would not be sufficient to address Australia's
schooling needs and should be accompanied by further schools reform;
- current funding arrangements are not logical, consistent or
publicly transparent; and
- new funding arrangements should be linked to educational
outcomes, equitable and target disadvantaged and underperforming students.
The bill sets out the expectations and vision for national school reform
and the development of a National Plan for School Improvement (the 'national
plan'). It provides a legislative framework for school funding and education
delivery that will ensure all Australian children have equitable access to high
quality education. According to the Department of Education, Employment and
Workplace Relations (DEEWR) submission, the bill details five specific
legislative measure including:
(i) a commitment by the Commonwealth to support quality education for all
Australian school students;
(ii) improving the international ranking of students and Australian
(iii) development of a national plan including five core reform programs (see
para.1.13 for details);
(iv) new principles for school funding consisting of base recurrent funding
and loadings; and
(v) linking school funding and school improvement to ensure the
Commonwealth's investment in schools results in improved education outcomes.
Purpose of the bill
The bill is the first step in implementing the government's response to the
Gonski Review and the national plan, first outlined by the Prime Minister in a
speech to the National Press Club on 3 September 2012.
The bill represents nothing less than the Government's blue-print for
the future of Australian school education. The Government expects the national
plan, when fully implemented by 2020, will see an additional $6.5 billion spent
on schools each year by the Commonwealth, states and territories.
The DEEWR submission stated that the national plan:
...will outline national education reforms to enable all
students to acquire the knowledge and skills to participate effectively in
society and employment, in a globalised economy, and make successful
transitions to further education, training and work.
The purpose of the bill, as set out in the Objects (Clause 3), is to enable
schools to provide an 'excellent education' for all students; to ensure that
Australian schooling is 'highly equitable'; and to place Australian student
performance in the top five globally in reading, mathematics and science by
2025. The bill also acknowledges matters referred to in the Preamble, which set
out the Government's aspirations for school education. These focus on the
quality, equity and excellence of education for all students regardless of
their background and personal circumstances or the location of their school,
thereby enhancing Australia's economic prosperity during the Asian century.
Clause 6 commits the Government to work with state and territory
governments and non-government education authorities to develop and implement a
national plan to improve school performance and the educational outcomes of
students, drive improvement in schools and provide opportunities for school
students to develop capabilities to engage with Asia.
Clause 7 of the bill stipulates five reform directions including:
(i) quality teaching (teachers will have the skills and support they need to
deliver a high quality education);
(ii) quality learning (the educational experience for students will be
high-quality, inclusive and responsive to the needs of students);
(iii) empowered school leadership (recognising the potential for principals
and teachers to be leaders at the local level and to drive improvements in
transparency and accountability (including providing better data on
schools and students to monitor performance and drive continuous improvement);
(v) meeting student needs (recognising different backgrounds, aspirations
These reform directions, the merit of which is widely acknowledged and
supported by research, build on related developments in schools initiated by
the Australian and state and territory governments, and through the Council of
The bill provides an assurance that future Commonwealth funding will reflect a
needs-based model and consist of grants to the states and territories.
The government's intent is that following the conclusion of negotiations
with the states, territories and non-government education providers, the bill
will be amended to reflect the final agreement reached with all parties. The
bill requires a commitment by schools to implementation of the national plan
for school improvement as a prerequisite for continued Commonwealth funding.
This is set out in Clause 9 of the bill.
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