Statements on reports
I am pleased to be able to make a contribution, and I seek to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee report on the 2016–17 budget estimates of May 2016.
In doing so I seek to draw attention to the particular presentation made by the Minister for Education and the questions answered by him on that occasion.
The minister in his opening statement drew attention to the fact that the government came to power on a promise that it would make Victoria the education state.
The minister went on to detail the expenditure included in the budget in relation to capital and meeting its Gonski requirements.
It was a budget that addressed a wide range of educational issues, including funding for infrastructure projects at a number of secondary schools in regional Victoria. Schools in the Shepparton district, I can say from information provided to me by the minister’s office, have received a total of $1.95 million as part of their planned maintenance program since 2014. In addition to this Congupna Primary School, Waaia-Yalca South Primary School and Zeerust Primary School received a total of $350 000 in capital funding in 2016–17, and that was through the School Pride and Sports Fund.
While it has been pleasing to see this investment in my electorate, I must say that I have looked at the NAPLAN results just released for our four secondary colleges. In Shepparton and Mooroopna alone, each of these schools is performing substantially below the national average in both reading and numeracy. Parents are leaving the state secondary education system in our area on a continuing basis, and in the meantime our private schools are bursting at the seams. Enrolments have fallen at Mooroopna Secondary College from 772 in 2008 to 374 last year and to less this year. McGuire College enrolments have fallen from 735 in 2008 to 490 in 2016, and enrolments at Shepparton High School have fallen from 904 in 2008 to 670 in 2016, and they are continuing to fall.
In a grievance debate contribution in this Parliament last year I spoke of the disparity between educational outcomes for students in metropolitan and regional areas. The Auditor-General’s report of April 2014 entitled Access to Education for Rural Students really talked about what most of us who live in regional Victoria know, and that is that rural populations in Victoria suffer from a disproportionate level of disadvantage. It found that students from rural Victoria represent about 30 per cent of the total school population, but far fewer of those students go on to attend university or even to study at a certificate IV level or above, as compared with the figures for those in metropolitan areas. The Auditor-General’s report also found that rural students are behind their metropolitan peers on academic achievement, attendance, senior secondary school completion and connectedness with their school.
These are all ingredients that we are seeing in our Shepparton and Mooroopna secondary colleges at the moment, and I am very concerned about it. There is a disparity that should not be tolerated. I have been studying the issue for some time, and I am convinced that steps can be taken both by government and by our community to address what is now clearly a very unsatisfactory situation that our colleges are in.
The latest reports from two major international assessments of student learning, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, back up with many statistics, including the fact that educational disadvantage is a significant problem across the whole of Australia. If Victoria is to be the education state, as the minister states, as it is referred to in that report, then there is a great deal of work that needs to be done in addressing the problems in my own electorate, and it is something that is very important to me and also to members of the community, who are now speaking openly about this problem.
There are those who argue that some of these assessment systems are not reliable. They criticise NAPLAN and they often criticise others, but PISA is an international comparative study of student achievement directed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and it measures how well 15-year-olds, who are nearing the end of the compulsory schooling, are prepared to use their — —
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member’s time has expired.