Page 3826 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 September 2018

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Australian government to do so. But I see education as an investment: an investment that should deliver great opportunities for all of our students.

One of the very first issues I turned my mind to in taking the education portfolio is educational equity. This is a term that Ms Lee says she does not understand, and I am not surprised. But most decent people in our community do get it. It is not hard to understand. As associate dean of research at Monash University Laura Perry notes, there are three relevant dimensions: opportunities, things like access to resources and quality teachers; experiences, things like engagement, sense of belonging, classroom interactions and relationships; and outcomes.

Equity of outcomes is vital and is very often the key focus. But as well as achieving equity in opportunities and experiences, lots of research evidence shows that excellence and equity in education are entwined. The OECD, for example, states that the highest performing education systems across OECD countries are those that combine quality with equity. The highest performing education systems, like Finland’s, do not waste their time in considering data. They get on with the job of giving their children a great education.

One of the defining characteristics of a fair and just society, the kind of society that this side of the chamber believes in and strives for, is that all individuals have equal opportunity to realise their potential, irrespective of the circumstances in which they are born or that they face. So it should come as little surprise that over my time as minister I have focused on equity. Part of that has been ensuring that every student has equal access to modern tools and facilities required for learning, like Chromebooks; equitable access to early learning before school; and support for positive school culture through, for example, the government’s significant investment in school psychologists. But I have also been focused on making sure that all students are achieving positive outcomes and go on to a decent adult life. I make no apology for centring the focus on children and young people experiencing disadvantage, because these are the people who need the most support in our community.

The government has acknowledged for a long time the need to support academic achievement in schools and has been interrogating the issues and acting on good evidence as it becomes available. It was the government’s acknowledgement of the potential unequal outcomes among this group that led to the Lamb report. That report flowed into the Auditor-General’s report, an independent inquiry and report to which the government agreed in principle to six of the seven recommendations and noted one.

The government welcomed the advice and recommendations of the Auditor-General, and since the report’s release, even prior to formally responding, the government has been implementing a range of initiatives arising from or relevant to the report’s recommendations and findings. For example, flowing from these reports the government has acted to implement evidence-based, data-driven improvement to literacy teaching practice through working with Christine Topfer, a respected literacy learning expert, on the early years literacy project. Separately from these reports, the government has been supporting the excellent work of Tim Lowrie, who has been

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