Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett
Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett

Funding legislation for education reforms passes

FEDERAL Education Minister Peter Garrett is hopeful of reaching an agreement with all states and territories on the National Plan for School Improvement after legislation securing the funding passed the lower house on Wednesday.

New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are the only ones to have inked a deal with the Commonwealth on the $16 billion needs-based education funding reform.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has set a June 30 deadline for states to get on board.

"I am very hopeful that this will encourage the other states to sign on," Mr Garrett said, describing it as an "historic day".

"This has been a long journey. Some would say it's been arduous but there is no question it's been a step-by-step process. Today's step is a very big one. It's a very big one."

It came as principals and leaders in education policy prepared to meet in Brisbane on Thursday for an Independent Schools Queensland think tank, which will give a report card on progress towards improving the education of all Australian school students.

ISQ executive director David Robertson said delegates to the Melbourne Declaration Report Card: The First Five Years think tank would rate progress towards meeting the educational goals all governments and school sectors agreed to almost five years ago.

"The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians committed all governments and school systems to addressing specific goals over a 10-year period. These goals aimed at ensuring equity and excellence for all, and equipping students with the skills to become successful, confident and informed citizens," Mr Robertson said.

"Since then, and particularly in the light of Gonski, the education policy debate has been dominated by discussion on whether more funding or other reforms are needed to lift the quality of education."

Guest speakers will include Dr Ben Jensen, the school education program director at the Grattan Institute, who is the author of several major reports on how to improve teaching and learning in Australian schools.

Dr Jensen has identified teacher training as a key area for improvement, arguing that the massive increase in education spending in the past decades has largely been wasted because it failed to invest in improving the quality of teachers.

The think tank will also hear from Dr Paula Barrett from the Pathways Health and Research Centre, who will discuss strategies to prevent anxiety in school students, often triggered by stresses such as exams and bullying.

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