Relations between the Australian Education Union (AEU) and the Government are at boiling point following new allegations by its federal president, Correna Hayhorpe, that Tony Abbott “doesn’t care” about school equity.
The passionate speech by Haythorpe at its federal conference in Melbourne marked the three year anniversary of the Gonski report’s release.
“This government simply doesn’t care about equity or needs-based funding,” Haythorpe said.
“In fact, the main barrier we face to getting Gonski in full is the attitudes of the Federal Government.”
The AEU federal president quoted Abbott’s past comments that “the real injustice was being done to private schools” as their public counterparts received 79% of funding while only educating 66% of students.
“Let that sink in for a moment, and think about the privileged, entitled worldview that produces opinions like those,” Haythorpe said.
“No wonder we have a government which has talked about everything in education except funding equity.”
Haythorpe accused the Government of instituting “a hopelessly-biased Curriculum Review run by the usual suspects from right-wing think tanks”, adding that the states and territories are yet to agree on any changes to the curriculum.
In a tacit reference to private school elitism, Haythorpe argued that parents should not have to pay for services that “should be a child’s right”, and went on to applaud the “unique” nature of the public school system and its inclusive values.
“Our public schools are unique because they are the only ones which are required to educate every child that arrives at the front gate – regardless of who that child is or where they come from.”
Australia could not be a successful society if children were “effectively denied a quality education due to their postcode”, Haythorpe said, concluding the speech with a call to action for advocates of public education.
“Ask yourself: ‘What happens if we lose?’ If we give up, who else is going to drive equity in education?
“What will happen to generations of children who will be deprived of what education can provide?”
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you agree that the Government has been careless about school equity?