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Funding public education

The Australia Institute: Education funding over tax cuts

Boosting public education delivers greater benefits to Australian living standards than company tax cuts, according to progressive think tank The Australia Institute (TAI).

A report released by the group last week reviewing OECD data found no relationship between company tax rates and general living standards.

On the other hand, there is a positive correlation between public education spending and living standards, it finds.

In his briefing notes on the report, Senior Research Fellow for TAI, David Richardson concludes that: “The data presented here clearly suggest that if there were a choice between funding company tax cuts or more education spending, governments would be well-advised to concentrate on the latter”.

The information arrived at a critical time during the final weeks of the Federal Election campaign, with the Turnbull Coalition focusing on promising tax cuts over Labor’s ongoing support for fully funding the Gonski education reforms.

SBS News reports Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the TAI report ‘blew Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s economic plan to pieces’.

“Wages are flat-lining and living standards are falling, and Mr Turnbull’s only solution is to give more taxpayer money to big business and the banks.

“Labor wants to invest in people, and the Liberals want to blow up the budget with a $50 billion giveaway to big business.”

In contrast, a spokesman for Treasurer Scott Morrison told the study had only “observed the obvious point that when countries have higher GDP they can spend more on education because their economy is growing”.

“This report does nothing to counter the overwhelming body of evidence, including the previous support of the Australian Labor Party, for the economic benefits of lower tax rates on business that enable them to invest and grow.

“If we have uncompetitive tax rates compared to our regional trading partners then investment will flow to those countries and not Australia. That will result in fewer jobs and lower standard of living.”

Melbourne Girls College Youth Parliament team

Mental health a real issue for youth

Melbourne Girls College students taking part in this year’s YMCA Youth Parliament have argued for improving Victorian students’ education in mental health.

The team of six Melbourne College students believe mental health deserves much greater prominence in the Victorian school curriculum and is a major issue for young people not currently being addressed.

Ms Dakotah Taylor debating in  Parliament. Photo: Lexie Huculak.The YMCA Youth Parliament takes place every year and invites young people to voice issues they are most passionate about.

More than 20 bills first tabled at Youth Parliament have gone on to influence state legislation.

Dakotah Taylor debating in Parliament.
Ms Dakotah Taylor debating in Parliament. Photo: Lexie Huculak.

The students are not alone in their concern. Mission Australia’s 2015 survey of Australian youth revealed almost 30 per cent of young people considered mental health to be a major issue affecting their lives.

Team member Dakotah Taylor said discussions about mental health needed to be more accessible to young people.

“We have to remove any stigma and negative connotations when it comes to this issue, we need to eradicate the fear of seeking help.’’

The students also call for psychologists to be placed in schools and compulsory mental health first-aid for Year 8 and 10 students.

Community information sessions, to ensure local support, were also part of the proposed bill.

Team member Catherine Butchart, said her team wanted to address the statistic that a quarter of Australians aged between 16 and 24 have experienced a mental health disorder in the past 12 months.

The bill also calls for the mental health education program to start with primary aged children.

Mount Waverley Secondary College teacher Stella Lumb supported efforts to increase attention to youth mental health.

“Mental health issues stem from various things,” she said. “One program is not enough to cover the diverse range of students who suffer from mental health issues.”

Mrs Lumb said that better support is necessary for students “to be accepted for who they are and be themselves.”

She believes that it is difficult for students to open up and talk about their problems with a psychologist they don’t know.

The Mental Health bill will now be passed to Minister for Youth Jenny Mikakos for consideration.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 1800 650 890 or at

Netania Lim is a Youth Press Gallery Journalist for YMCA. She is studying Laws(Hons)/Arts at Monash University. @NetaniaLim

Feature image: Melbourne Girls Grammar Youth Parliament team. Photo: Emily Greco.


30 per cent of WA principals assaulted in 2014

The Western Australian Primary Principals’ Association (WAPPA) has called on the Government to introduce legislation that would see mandatory jail sentences for anyone who assaults a school principal or deputy.

The association’s President, Stephen Breen, cited data in an interview with ABC News, which shows that primary school principals and deputies were eight times more likely to be assaulted than a member of the public.

According to Breen, assaults are “happening in schools every day”.

“If you look at the state stats, it basically says that we have eight assaults in schools every day.

“A lot of them involve children attacking staff and we deal with that, but a lot of them involve members of the community coming into the school.”

ABC reports that as many as 30 per cent of school principals and deputies were assaulted in 2014 alone.

In the hope of creating a strong deterrence, Breen has called for members of WAPPA to be added to a list of public officers covered under section 297 and 318 of the state Criminal Code – a code that stipulates jail terms in the case of assault – which is usually reserved for police , ambulance and custodial officers.

“The data is shocking, absolutely shocking,” Breen said. “We had something like, in our system in 2015, 1,606 assaults on staff.”

Exam room.

Queensland to welcome ATAR in education overhaul

Queensland’s new budget was reveal this week, and with it details regarding how the state plans to transition from its outdated Overall Positions (OP) system to the more widely used ATAR.

25 per cent of the State Government’s budget is to be allocated to education, with $24 million over the 2016-17 financial year going towards the assessment transition.

Forward estimates reveal $72.4 million is expected to be spent on delivering the new system, which will become available for students entering Year 11 in 2018.

“New senior assessment arrangements will combine the advantages of school-based assessment developed and marked by classroom teachers, with external assessment set and marked by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority,” Education Minister Kate Jones told Brisbane Times.

An additional $102 million has also been slated for enhancing school support and administrative staff over the next four years.

“The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring state schools are equipped with high quality admin and support staff so that principals and teachers can focus on maximising student learning outcomes,” Jones said.

“Changes in salary classifications for business service managers, administrative officers and others school support staff will be implemented from 2017 to better reflect the range of their responsibilities in contemporary schools.”

Diversity issues in computer science classes.

Want to address diversity in tech? Encourage girls to study computer science

Abutting the debate around STEM skills, questions regarding diversity in Australia’s tech sector have also been raised, with just one quarter of IT graduates and 10 per cent of engineering graduates being women.

According to the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda: ‘we need a concerted, national effort to overcome the cultural, institutional and organisational factors that discourage girls and women from studying STEM’.

Part of its ongoing research for Digital Careers, CSIRO has found that the diversity in tech issue begins at school, where there’s a marked lack of girls studying computer science at both primary and secondary levels.

Led by Dr Jason Zagami from Griffith University, the research has been published under the title: Female participation in school computing: reversing the trend, which attempts to identify some of the key reasons why girls aren’t getting involved.

The report found that computer science has not yet reached the same level of integration into schools as compulsory subjects like mathematics and general science.

In particular, the study suggests that maintaining girls’ interest in computing is critical through Years 7-8, as this is where female participation starts to decline significantly.

Dr Karsten Schulz, Manager for Digital Careers, explains that addressing parent preconceptions, exposure to positive role models and developing programs specifically for girls are all methods for maintaining their interest in the subject.

“Hearing from successful females working in the field and being exposed to the different career options available in the industry will help young girls to consider computing subjects and professions,” Dr Schulz says.

The report also suggests schools introduce code clubs for girls in early years, before social pressure begins to rise.

Digital Careers is a Government-backed education industry collaboration that combines research, primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.