News National Pyne under pressure over school deals

Pyne under pressure over school deals

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Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne faces increasing pressure to honour schools funding deals struck between the former government and a majority of the states and territories.

Mr Pyne this week announced the coalition government would only honour one year of the four-year funding agreements entered into under the previous Labor regime and allocate a further $230 million in 2014 to the states that did not sign onto the so-called Gonski scheme.

He will sit down with state and territory counterparts in Sydney on Friday to discuss a new system to start from 2015, based on the old Howard coalition government model.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, whose state signed a four-year funding agreement, said he expected the deal to be honoured and the Gonski model upheld.

“The NSW government has an agreement with the commonwealth government, given effect in commonwealth legislation, which we expect to be honoured,” Mr Piccoli said.

The previous funding model, based on socio-economic status, had failed, he said.

Mr Pyne has also put Catholic schools offside with his comment on Thursday that they did not sign up to the Labor government’s schools plan.

National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) executive director Ross Fox said there was no uncertainty about the agreement.

“The signature that mattered most to determine funding for Catholic schools for 2014 and beyond was that of the governor-general when she assented to the Australian Education Act which was passed by the Australian parliament earlier this year,” Mr Fox said.

Mr Fox said the legislation and its related regulations set in place the funding for Catholic schools for 2014 and beyond, and no formal legal agreement had been required.

Mr Pyne conducted a series of media interviews on Thursday in a bid to sheet home blame to the Gillard and Rudd governments for their “shambles” of a schools funding plan.

He said the focus of education reform needed to be not so much on money but teacher quality, parental engagement, local decision making, a “robust curriculum” and a funding model that was “fair, national and needs-based”.

“One of the great failures in education in the last 10 years in Australia has been that governments have decided if we announce a large spending program in education, that will solve every problem,” he said.

The minister said he expected a “very warm reception” from his colleagues.

“We are all friends and we are all trying to do the best thing possible for students and schools,” he said.

Labor made deals with NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, as well as independent and Catholic schools, but Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory held out.