'Crack team' plan to report on school performance

Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, speaks to the media during a doorstop interview at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, speaks to the media during a doorstop interview at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

A ''crack team of education gurus'' will be formed into a new national body to collect school performance data, Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett has said.

But Mr Garrett denied that this would simply create a new bureaucracy, telling reporters in Canberra that it was about providing ''transparency'' to schools.

The Gillard government revealed plans on Tuesday to expand national literacy and numeracy tests to include science and also to set up the data collection hub, to called the Australian School Performance Institute.

Mr Garrett is still trying to settle a deal with state and territory education ministers over policy issues, before a crucial Council of Australian Governments meeting next week where Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants agreement on landmark Gonski school funding reforms.

It is understood Mr Garrett will arrange another phone hook-up with state counterparts, after Monday's conference secured firm support from only his Labor allies in South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Mr Garrett said the School Performance Institute would be a small body and compile reports on the state of schools.

He said the public had a right to better information about schools and he could not understand why states would not want to have this level of transparency and data collection.

''I'm not proposing a new bureaucracy at all and this is not about creating a new bureaucracy. I'm proposing a single crack team of education gurus that would be able to collect this data nationally, analyse it and provide evaluation and evidence on what this data tells us,'' he said.

The Western Australia, Victoria and NSW governments have previously expressed concerns about any elements of reform that would increase bureaucracy or red tape for schools.

Mr Garrett also confirmed that he wanted to include science in the NAPLAN testing regime, which currently focuses on literacy and numeracy.

The NAPLAN tests for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are contentious with education unions amid concerns over an increasing emphasis on testing and comparing schools based on those results.

Mr Garrett said the government wanted to expand the coverage to include science from 2015, as part of an aim to ensure Australia was in the top five countries in the world in reading, science and mathematics by 2025.

He said it was important to know how students were performing in science and the majority of ministers did not raise significant objections to the NAPLAN proposal.

Mr Garrett played down concerns about over-testing, saying a student would sit the test only every two years and it was a test of curriculum rather than a ''pass or fail'' examination.

NSW and Victorian education ministers accused Mr Garrett of politicising Monday's phone hook-up in his public comments targeting states that were yet to sign up to the national plan.

Mr Garrett said he was looking forward to continuing discussions with state ministers in the lead-up to COAG.

At such a critical stage of negotiations he said it was important ''to put aside whatever small differences we may have'' and focus on the needs of the nation's school children.

Ms Gillard will meet state premiers and territory chief ministers on Friday next week. She wants to strike a deal to deliver an extra $6.5 billion in combined annual funding for schools by 2019, as part of an overhaul of the funding system.

This story 'Crack team' plan to report on school performance first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.