Better Schools for the ACT

My Chronicle column this week looked at the benefits for all Canberra school students from signing up to the national schools agreement.
Funding Allows ACT Schools to Flourish, The Chronicle, 4 June 2013

When surgeons are talking about the path to understanding a new procedure, they use a simple maxim: “see one, do one, teach one”. It sums up the fact that you haven’t really understood a topic deeply until you’re able to teach it to someone else.

Whether it’s bricklaying or algebra, teaching is hard. We remember things best when we’ve done them ourselves , rather the simply being told the answer. And yet until we’ve done a task right, we often don’t know what it feels like. If you’ve ever tried to teach a child to ride a bike, you’ll know the delicate balance between risk and safety.

Our schools today teach some extraordinary stuff. A student who has mastered the Australian Curriculum knows more about maths, chemistry and geography than anyone alive just a few centuries ago.

Canberra’s students are the best-performing in Australia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do better. I regularly have the pleasure of visiting local schools to see the work they’re doing, and how they’ve been using new resources to improve learning outcomes.

The historic Building the Education Revolution program means that Florey Primary School has new science labs where children can follow in the footsteps of the great Howard Florey, discoverer of penicillin. At Amaroo School, teachers can slide back the dividing walls between classrooms and teach in teams. At the Forde campus of Burgmann Anglican School, the new multipurpose hall has sharply raked seating so all children can see the stage.

We’ve also been helping teachers. At Giralang Primary, I’ve met with the literacy and numeracy coach who is working to make great teachers even better.  These coaches are funded by the government’s national partnerships, and they help make sure that best-practice teaching techniques are deployed in all classrooms.

Last week, we saw an historic school funding announcement that will ensure ACT schools have a strong funding base into the future. As the Gonski Review’s 2011 report on school funding revealed, our current school funding model is broken.  The new school funding agreement will deliver an additional $190 million to ACT schools.  Loadings will provide more resources to children from regional areas, disadvantaged backgrounds, and children with disabilities.

The greatest value of the National Education Reform Agreement is that it puts school funding on a growth trajectory. At present, federal schools funding is indexed to average schools spending across the nation. So when state governments cut education spending, federal spending on Canberra schools automatically drops.

Now, ACT schools will be funded according to a Schooling Resource Standard. No school will lose a dollar of per-child funding. The Gillard Government has committed to grow its school education spending by 4.7 per cent per year from 2014. In return, ACT has agreed to grow its own school budget by 3 per cent per year from 2015 onwards.

Thanks to a partnership between the ACT and federal governments, Canberra’s schools have the funding base they need to prosper into the future.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser, and his website is

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