A hard marker

"Right now Australia risks slipping behind" ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"Right now Australia risks slipping behind" ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

SCHOOLS will have to produce performance plans outlining how they will improve students' results in exchange for increased funding and control over their own budgets under the Gillard government's blueprint to boost the education system.

Greater transparency through the MySchool website - including the possibility that private schools would be required to reveal the value of their assets - will also be one of the key demands made by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, before she agrees to provide any additional money.

''We need to make sure that all our schools have all the resources they need to do the job,'' Ms Gillard told The Sun-Herald. ''Some need more money and they will get it. But we need them to sign up to improvements.''

Her government had been expected to release its response to the Gonski report tomorrow but that will not happen until next month when a national plan for school improvement will be unveiled.

Ms Gillard will spend the intervening period making the case for why she believes schools must lift their game. ''We will only stay an economic powerhouse if we win the education race,'' she said.

''Making sure our kids get the best education will help them get high-skilled, high-paid jobs and keep our economy strong years into the future. The fact is right now Australia risks slipping behind. Four of the top five performing school systems in the world are in our region and they are getting better and better. Australia should be on that list.''

The government wants principals to be given control over their own budgets and more power over the hiring and firing of teachers, a move that would give them a greater say but also more responsibility for their school's performance.

Increased training for teachers as well as annual performance reviews are also part of the government's plan to lift education standards.

The demands by the federal government stem from its frustration that it has little say over exactly how education funding is spent once it is distributed to the states.

The NSW state government last month announced a new funding model for schools but has not committed to any extra funding.

Education groups fear the government is avoiding the issue of discussing the main recommendation from businessman David Gonski's review - an injection of $5 billion a year, based on 2009 figures, with the lion's share to go to public schools.

The model aims to address disadvantage by allocating a standard amount for every student, with loadings for students with disabilities and those from low-income, indigenous and non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Figures discussed by state and territory education ministers at a meeting last month highlight the different educational outcomes attained by students depending on where they go to school.

Only 58 per cent of students who live in low socio-economic areas finish year 12 compared with 64 per cent of those living in middle-income areas. That figure rises to 77 per cent for those students living in high-income areas, according to a report prepared by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Labor would have the support of the independents and the Greens if it went ahead with the Gonski recommendations.

The opposition has promised to keep the existing funding model and to repeal legislation that resulted in less money going to private schools.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said yesterday the high cost of the government's immigration program meant that it could not afford to implement any Gonski recommendations.

This story A hard marker first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.