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Kenny Report, Sky News, 23 February 2022

Chris Kenny: Let’s catch up with Sarah Henderson, who’s now the shadow education minister, joining us live from Melbourne. Thanks for joining us, Sarah. You must be licking your chops with the Aston by-election coming up to actually talk to mortgage belt voters day in and day out about these cost of living pressures and how Labor’s doing nothing to address them.

Senator Henderson: Well, Chris, good evening and wonderful to join you, and absolutely we know that for the people of Aston and frankly for all Australians, the Albanese Government has no economic plan. Cost of living is going through the roof. And frankly, Labor is just concerned about its own pet projects. The people of Aston have a real opportunity to send a very strong message to Anthony Albanese. He’s broken a myriad of promises, including, of course the $275 lower electricity prices that he promised would be delivered. That clearly is a broken promise along with a whole lot of other broken promises, including on education, I should say, Chris. This is a government that is dragging Australians down week by week, and that’s why it’s so incredibly important to vote for Roshena in Aston and the Liberal Party on the 1st of April.

Chris Kenny: Okay, now I have spoken to you many times about the ABC and communication matters. Now you’ve got the education portfolio. So I want to get your first thoughts on education, Alan Tudge, who’s of course resigned to cause that to Aston by-election. He did a lot of good work as education minister trying to force schools and the education sector back to the basics, back to a positive view of our history. Enough of the black armband view and the rest of it. But we know Dominic Perrottet in New South Wales is looking at paying the best teachers more. Also Jason Clare, Labor’s Federal Education Minister, looking at a big review to try and improve our education standards. It’s very difficult to change this stuff from the Federal Parliament, isn’t it, because it’s mainly the state governments that control what happens in our schools. What would if you could do three things to improve school outcomes in this country, what would they be?

Senator Henderson: Well, firstly, Chris, I have very big shoes to fill. Alan Tudge did an exceptional job as the former minister for Education, really holding the states and territories to account and driving some really important reforms in childcare, in our schools and in our universities, including focusing on getting back to basics, focusing on reintroducing phonics in our schools, on building a stronger curriculum, on getting rid of the activism. And of course, that’s the stance that I have taken since I’ve become the shadow education minister. Parents want education in the classroom, not indoctrination. And despite an enormous increase in funding over some two decades, we are seeing a slipping of standards in our schools. And even, Chris, when it comes to teachers, we’re seeing a 30% drop in people enrolling in teaching courses and only 50% of those who enrol in teaching courses are actually finishing the course. Things are going badly wrong.

Chris Kenny: Sorry to jump in there. One of my theories on teachers, you know, apart from pay in a career path you want to look for. I don’t think they have enough autonomy. I think there’s too much control. Give teachers back the power in the classroom so they can teach their way and have some autonomy about their discipline and their classroom standards.

Senator Henderson: And that goes to giving principals more autonomy as well. Chris, I raised this in Senate Estimates. I raised it again today in my address to Universities Australia. We’ve seen, for instance, some states dictating that teachers should only teach the Yes case on the voice to Parliament. And I’m deeply concerned about that … a teacher’s job is to teach children how to think, not what to think. So we really need to dramatically see standards improve. And while I welcome the reviews and there’s not just a review into the school reform agreement, but also the University Accord and the Productivity Commission review into childcare, I am worried that Labor is driving a review vortex already. The Australian Education Union has raised concerns about Labor’s commitment to deliver additional funding to schools, which has now been put on the back burner. As you outlined there’s a lot of hard work to do.

Chris Kenny: We know the issues just get cracking rather than having reviews. Good to talk to you about this stuff, Sarah. We’ll keep on it because I think people are really, really focused on improving these education standards. Appreciate your time.

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