Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Questions without notice

Education funding


Education funding

John PESUTTO (Hawthorn – Leader of the Opposition) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Education. Last month’s Futurity Investment Group cost of education index revealed that Melbourne is the most expensive location in Australia to receive a government school education, with families paying an average of $102,807 per child. Meanwhile, new data released today from the Productivity Commission confirms the Victorian government spends the lowest amount per child on school education of any state or territory in the nation. Why should families spend the most whilst the Victorian government spends the least on educating Victorian kids?

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! When the house comes to order I will call the minister. Question time could go for an hour and a half today. The Premier will come to order.

Natalie HUTCHINS (Sydenham – Minister for Education, Minister for Women) (14:57): I welcome the opportunity to talk about what it is that we are delivering here in our state schools. We are very proud on this side of the house because we believe that every child deserves the same opportunity for a quality education.

A member interjected.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition asked the question. I expect him to listen to the answer. The constant across-the-table is unacceptable.

Natalie HUTCHINS: Thank you, Speaker. We believe that no child should be left behind, and I find it extraordinary that the opposition would quote a private company’s report into spending that is really based on parents in this state choosing to have private tuition for their kids in place, when actually this government has extended its successful tutor learning initiative, something that everyone on this side of the house is absolutely proud of. This is somewhere we have stepped up to give that very vital individual support to those kids most in need across our state school system. As students went back to school last week, many of them were introduced for the first time to tutor learning, and I can tell you now from the visits that I have made to about a dozen schools in the last week I hear constantly from parents, from teachers and from principals the benefits of having tutor learning in our schools that is funded by this government.

This absolutely goes to the heart of addressing cost-of-living issues for our families, but that is not all we are doing. It is not just the employment of almost 6000 tutors that we are rolling out across our schools. It is not only that. We are also proud to support affordable uniforms through the wonderful work of State Schools’ Relief that is being done across our school system. We are testing the eyesight of our most vulnerable kids and providing free glasses to those kids in place, giving them the support they need to make sure they get the best education possible, not to mention the breakfast programs that this side of the house has watched roll out now for many years – 28 million breakfasts are supplied to students in schools across our school network, a fantastic achievement. Can I thank our partners at Foodbank for the work that they have done in not only helping us get the essentials out for breakfast but also the fantastic job over the summer in providing around 6000 packs to families who were in desperate need of some support in meeting the demands and the cost of living.

We have also covered the cost of course materials for VET classes as this new school year has rolled out. We heard loud and clear that this was something that our kids needed in order to be properly equipped in their VET classes, and that is something I know that many of us are very proud of seeing in our schools. And of course we are supporting where it is needed: for the most vulnerable families who are the most financially stressed, free camp support and excursion support. I have got to say, it is a bit of a game changer, the Positive Start initiative. It reached nearly 6000 students throughout the 2022 school year. That will continue to roll out into this year – free camps, sports programs, cultural experiences – making sure that no kid is left behind. That is in stark contrast to those opposite who did nothing but cut our school system – cut Free Fruit Friday. They have done nothing in the space of –

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, the minister is now straying into debate. I would suggest she go back to the talking points.

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister was being relevant, but I do ask you to come back to the question, Minister.

Natalie HUTCHINS: We are absolutely committed to seeing that our kids get the resources they need across our public schools, and we will continue to deliver in 2023.