Our Policies

Janelle Saffin and Labor are committed to improving health, jobs and education, as well as standing up for middle class and working class families. Please take a moment to read through some of our policies below or find a full list of Labor policies here.


Your Child. Our Future - Education Policy

06 Apr 2016

Labor’s  represents the most significant improvement in schools education in Australia for two generations.Your Child. Our Future

Improving education is the key to opportunity, to innovation and to the future economic and social prosperity of our nation.

No matter what their background, no matter where they live - city, suburb or in the regions – no matter what type of school they go to – Government, Catholic or Independent, Labor wants every child to have the same chance of succeeding at school, and in life, as any other child in the country.

, the Gonski funding and reforms will be delivered on-time and in-full – and the Turnbull Government’s cuts will be reversed.Your Child. Our FutureAs part of 

This $37.3 billion investment will see every child in every school funded on the basis of need.

 will drive reforms that improve teaching and learning – securing Australia’s long-term economic future and giving students the basic skills they need for the jobs of the future.Your Child. Our Future

This funding is not a blank cheque – it comes with strict obligations and benchmarks on systems, schools and teachers, so that parents can track improvements in their children’s learning.

Additional school funding is an investment, and we want to see the best possible return for every student, and as a country.

Labor is putting education at the centre of our positive program for government. 

For the Prime Minister to talk about innovation while he is cutting funding to schools, TAFE and universities is just that – nothing but talk.

Labor’s education plan will drive innovation and opportunity by improving education outcomes for all Australian students. 


Labor’s plan will see every student get a better education, in every school around Australia.

By funding students on the basis of need, this investment will flow to Government schools, Catholic schools and Independent schools.

This historic investment will allow every school to provide every child with:

  • More individual attention;
  • Better trained teachers; and
  • Better support for students with a disability

Funding arrangements will be transparent and accountable. States will be required to uphold their obligations under existing agreements and ensure that federal investment delivers evidence-based programs in classrooms, and is not used to prop up state budgets.

To drive this reform, Labor has set clear targets in school education, including:

By 2020

By 2025

  • 95 per cent Year 12 completion
  • All STEM teachers in secondary schools will have a relevant tertiary qualification
  • All students will study maths or science to Year 12
  • Digital technologies and computer science – coding­ – is taught in every primary and secondary Australian school.
  • Returning Australia to the top five countries in reading, maths and science
  • Meeting the OECD definition of a high quality and high equity schooling system
  • Ensuring that all schools have the opportunity to engage with at least one school in Asia, including online, and that every Australian student will have the opportunity, and be encouraged, to undertake a continuous course of study in an Asian language or culture throughout their years of schooling.

Australian schooling has fallen behind internationally.

According to OECD data, in the year 2000, only one country outperformed Australia in reading and maths, and in 2006 only two countries outperformed Australia in science. 

Today, 16 countries outperformed Australia in maths; 9 countries outperformed Australia in reading and 7 countries outperformed Australia in science.

These reforms bring Australia back to the front of the pack, and provide a platform for schooling to tackle all the challenges of the future economy.

This means adapting and modernising our education system so that our kids can be empowered, productive and active participants in shaping the rapidly changing world rather than be bystanders confronted with its challenges.

This means fostering the development of a dynamic education system where students learn to embrace uncertainty, encourage collaboration, harness global perspectives and make time and space for creativity.

The consequences of failing to invest in school improvement

 has quantified the national economic benefits of improving overall results and equity in our schools.Universal basic skills: what countries stand to gainThe OECD report 

If we can equip all Australian high school graduates with the basic skills needed for the global economy by 2030, it would be the equivalent to adding 2.8 per cent to our GDP today. That is the same as a $44 billion expansion in our economy today.

Given Federal Government expenditure on schools is around 1 per cent of GDP, or $15 billion, this would be an incredible return on investment.

Education is the most important prerequisite for Australia building an innovation system capable of competing with the rest of the world and building the economy of the future.

Innovation is not possible without a stronger schools, vocational education and higher education system.

– OECD, Universal basic skills: what countries stand to gain, 2015
The quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run

Labor sees education as the most important enabler for an individual’s success. That’s why we will invest in Australians from early childhood education, through to vocational education and TAFE as well as in our universities.

Labor has already announced our positive plans for a strong TAFE and a stronger vocational education sector through the TAFE funding guarantee.

Labor will also make significant investments in higher education which, from 2018, will boost per student funding by $2,500 a year, compared with the Liberals’ plan. We will also drive a significant quality and completions agenda so that, by 2020, there will be 20,000 more graduates per year. 

The reforms

 will put needs-based funding permanently at the heart of our school system – so every student in every school will get the support they need to achieve their best.Your Child. Our Future

The choice is simple: Labor believes in investing in every Australian student to give them the opportunity to reach their potential, the Liberals will just continue with a broken and unfair system that leaves most Australian kids unprepared for the future.

Where they are being properly delivered, needs-based school reforms are already making a big difference in our classrooms – improving results and changing lives. They are simply too important to abandon.

To deliver an education system that provides students with the skills they need for the jobs of the future, Labor will:

  • Implement the Gonski agreements on time and in full and reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts
  • Provide long-term funding certainty so schools, principals and teachers can focus on improving outcomes for their students
  • Enforce transparency and accountability measures to federal investment actually reaches classrooms and drives evidence-based improvements in teaching and learning


 and more one-on-one attention,Tailored support

Labor’s approach to schools is simple: every child should get a great education.

make sure every child gets more attention, more tailored support, and more one-on-one time.Labor’s positive plan for schools will 

All students will benefit. Especially for those with the most to gain, with needs-based loadings for:

  • Students with a low socio-economic background
  • Indigenous students
  • Students with disability
  • Students with limited English
  • Small schools
  • Rural, regional and remote schools


Investing in schools to improve literacy and numeracy

 will ensure all students are supported to improve their literacy and numeracy skills and reach their full potential. Labor’s plan will deliver:Your Child. Our Future

  • More one-on-one support and attention for every student
  • Early intervention programs in every school, so that students don’t fall behind
  • Remedial literacy and numeracy support in every school
  • Extension classes to challenge students that are excelling in class
  • Increased Year 12 completion through more alternative and vocational pathways, so all students leave school with the skills they need for jobs in the modern economy
  • Access to specialist allied health support – like speech and occupational therapists
  • A focus on evidence based teaching and learning to make sure our schools do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t
  • More subject choices
  • More extra-curricular activities

Early intervention for every student that needs it

 and too many of these students stay behind. Without early intervention these challenges are exacerbated, compounding year after year.[1]More than one in five Australian children aren't reaching key milestones when they start school

.[2]Evidence shows that with the right early intervention, these students catch up

 will make sure early intervention programs are in place in every school, so that no student is left behind, and every student fulfils their potential.Your Child. Our Future

Evidence based learning for every child

For effective early intervention, teachers need access to data about student performance in real time.

With the continual integration of technology and digital platforms in Australian classrooms, the opportunities for real time analysis will open a new frontier for adaptive assessment and, as required, teacher intervention.

It will give teachers more tools to know when a student is struggling, or excelling, and enable more targeted teaching.

 will allow schools to invest in the tools and training they need to target and adapt teaching to meet the needs of every student.Your Child. Our Future

Targeted teaching and data analysis is improving outcomes for Australian students

In 2015 the Grattan Institute showed how targeted teaching and the use of data was being used to improve student learning in Australian schools.

Using adaptive and diagnostic testing, teachers have been able pinpoint student progress and target their teaching to what each individual student needs to learn next. By continually tracking progress every student can be supported to learn those skills and concepts they have not mastered and stretched to achieve their best.

Teachers report students are more engaged and better behaved in class. Most importantly, one of the trial schools in a disadvantaged area is on track to improve the proportion of early primary students meeting learning benchmarks by 20 percentage points.

The Grattan Institute also found that targeted teaching and better use of data could be rolled out across school systems if teachers are supported to work collaboratively and have access to the right professional development, tools and system.

Source: The Grattan Institute, Targeted teaching: How better use of data can improve student learning, 2015.


Investing in our teaching workforce for higher teaching standards

If we want our school system to be among the best in the world, we need make sure we attract excellent candidates to the teaching profession and equip them with the skills they need to make a difference in the lives of students.

A Labor Government will work with universities, school systems, teachers and principals to improve the quality of teaching and learning by:

  • Enhancing entry requirements for teaching degrees, improving initial teacher education, and ensuring better ongoing professional development
  • Ensuring all teachers have the skills and support they need to target evidence-based teaching to the needs of individual students

More professional support for teachers in the classroom

Evidence shows that the skills and practices of teachers in the classroom have the greatest direct impact on student outcomes.

Teachers who are masters of their discipline are better able to inspire students and prepare them for the workforce and further study.

 will ensure better professional support for teachers in every school by:Your Child. Our Future

  • Making sure they have access to specialist and lead teachers, including STEM specialists, inclusion specialists and senior teachers experienced in reviewing and improving teaching practice
  • Using technology so every teacher can benefit from access to specialists – regardless of school size and location
  • Making sure all secondary teachers receive subject-specific ongoing professional development, so they can keep up with developments in their field and the skills students will need to succeed in the workplace and further study

Lifting the qualifications of STEM teachers in the classroom

75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations today require skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), and employment in STEM occupations is projected to grow at almost twice the pace of other occupations.

Ensuring that Australia’s workforce is ready for the jobs of the future begins in schools – ensuring that STEM teachers are equipped to teach with expertise and enthusiasm to encourage students to pursue STEM subjects through to Year 12.

Yet today in Australia, about 40 per cent of teachers teaching science and maths in years 7 to 10 do not have a STEM tertiary qualification; senior secondary student participation in STEM subjects has fallen to the lowest levels in 20 years, and maths and science literacy has fallen over the past decade.

Labor has already announced a comprehensive strategy to lift the number of qualified STEM teachers in schools and provide upskilling opportunities for existing teachers to ensure they have the STEM knowledge necessary to adequately teach these subjects.

A Shorten Labor Government will:

  • Make sure that by 2020, all secondary STEM teachers are tertiary  qualified in their discipline
  • Establish a STEM teacher training fund to support 25,000 primary and secondary school teachers over five years to undertake professional development in STEM disciplines
  • Encourage STEM graduates to teach, by offering 25,000 Teach STEM scholarships over five years, to address the shortage of qualified teachers
  • Recipients will get $5,000 when they commence a teaching degree and $10,000 when they complete their first year of teaching
  • Give every child in Australia the opportunity to learn coding and computational thinking in school
  • Inspire more students to study maths or science to Year 12

School leadership

Principals have incredibly important – and difficult – jobs. Yet Australia does not have a nationally consistent approach for preparing principals for the role.

School leadership is crucial to driving improvement in teaching and learning.

, we need to be preparing the next generation of school leaders.[3]With 80 per cent of principals aged over 50 and many set to retire in the coming years

A Shorten Labor Government will support principals and improve school leadership by:

  • Identifying potential school leaders early, and preparing them for the role through formal leadership pathways
  • Working with principals associations to put in place a national approach to best practice qualification, certification and recognition.
  • Enhancing links between universities and schools to strengthen the ongoing professional development of principals
  • Ensuring better on-going support to help principals improve their schools through evidence-based change


Supporting children with disability

The most important factor in making sure students with disability get the support they need at school is fully implementing needs-based funding in our schools.

It is widely acknowledged that there are many students with disability whose needs have not been adequately identified.

In 2013, Labor established Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) to determine the level of adjustment and support required for all students to fully participate in school education. Part of this process was to determine the level of unmet need.

The Turnbull Government has chosen not to release the outcomes of the NCCD and has left many students without the adequate support they need.

A Shorten Labor Government will work with the states and territories to properly fund a disability loading in line with the outcomes of the NCCD process.

Students with disability, their parents and teachers have waited long enough.

.That is why Labor will provide $320 million from 2017 in additional funding – more than reversing the Turnbull Government’s cuts to the More Support for Students with Disabilities program

 will also implement the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry into the Education and Attainment of Students with Disability, including:Your Child. Our Future

  • Establishing a national strategy to improve the education of students with disability;
  • Making it mandatory for all initial teacher education courses to teach best-practice skills in inclusion
  • Prioritising the development of a national approach to modifying the curriculum for students with disability.

Too many students with disability missing out

Students with disability are too often missing out on the opportunities to learn that are taken for granted by other students. According to a recent survey of parents:

  • One in five students with disability does not attend school full time; and
  • One in four students with disability has been denied school enrolment. [1]

Students with disability are also significantly less likely to finish school – with lifelong impacts on people’s employment prospects and economic participation:

  • 26 per cent of people with a disability do not go beyond Year 10, compared to 18 per cent of people without a disability; and
  • 36 per cent of people aged 15 -64 years with reported disability had completed year 12 compared to 60 per cent of people without a disability. [2]

2. National Disability Services, Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the education of students with disability, 2015.
1. Children With Disability Australia, Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the education of students with disability, 2015. 


Giving teachers the resources they need

Labor is making this significant investment to ensure that every student in every school has a great education – and that starts with making sure every teacher and principal has the resources they need to provide the best education possible.

will mean more resources will flow into all classrooms, so schools can deliver improved programs that respond to individual student need. School systems will have flexibility to choose the programs that will deliver the best results for their students.Your Child. Our Future 

Without this investment too many students will simply be left behind.

Schools will have the flexibility to invest in resources such as:

  • In-classroom technology to support learning
  • Music, sport and drama programs
  • Access to specialist allied health support – like speech and occupational therapists
  • More subject choices
  • More extra-curricular activities

Real engagement with parents

Parents are their children’s most important teacher. Research shows that outside-school influences, like the home environment, have a very significant impact on student learning and development.

For parental engagement to drive improved outcomes, we need to go beyond simply involving parents in school life and create partnerships with them that are focused on their child’s learning.

 will:Your Child. Our FutureIncreased investment in schools will ensure teachers have the time and the tools they need to better engage with parents 

  • Improve communication with parents, so they know what their child is doing at school and what they can do to support learning at home
  • Make sure disadvantaged schools have formal programs that get parents involved in their child’s learning at the earliest stage
  • Improve initial teacher education and ongoing professional development to ensure all teachers have the skills to support sustained family engagement


Federal investment in schools should reach our classrooms.  This funding is for students, not to prop up state budgets.

Federal Labor expects that States and Territories will honour their funding obligations in accordance with existing agreements.

 to the original agreements – Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory – in line with the original offers made by Federal Labor in Government.not signatories will providing funding for those jurisdictions that were Your Child. Our FutureIn addition, 

A Shorten Labor Government will work with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to ensure that they can participate in these nationally significant reforms and make sure that students in these jurisdictions get the full benefits of these schools funding reforms over time.

Labor will work with states, territories and school systems to ensure that our investment is being used to improve results at a local level and this is being transparently communicated to parents.

Parents need to be sure that taxpayers’ money is reaching the classroom and delivering evidence-based programs that boost student results. With Your Child, Our Future school system will need to be transparent and accountable for how they distribute additional funding to improve student outcomes.

The choice is clear – Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to schools

Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to schools

The Liberals promised a “unity ticket” on school funding. Instead, they ripped billions out of Australia’s schools and dumped the Gonski reforms.

The 2015-16 MYEFO – the first budget update under Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison – confirmed billions of dollars in cuts to Government, Catholic and Independent schools.

Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts mean:

  • An average cut of $3.2 million per school – the same as sacking one in seven teachers
  • Less individual support
  • Fewer subject choices
  • Less support for students with disability
  • Literacy and numeracy programs cut
  • Less training and support for teachers

The Government has been repeatedly warned about the impact of these cuts:

 (National Catholic Education Commission, 6 February 2015)“Fees will increase, schools could close and the quality of education will be compromised.”

 (Independent Schools Queensland, 12 May 2014)“Over a period of time, this could only lead to a reduction in programs and education quality, or in the case of independent schools, significant increases in fees.”

The Liberals’ education cuts will leave every student in every classroom worse off, lock our schools into a cycle of inequality and put Australia’s future prosperity at risk.

The need for reform

In Government, Labor recognised the urgent national importance of excellent and equitable schools and commissioned the biggest review of our school funding system in 40 years – the independent Review of Funding for Schooling.

The review involved more than 70 education groups, 39 school visits in every state and territory, and more than 7000 submissions. It found that falling attainment and growing inequality needed to be urgently arrested.

 and recommended the implementation of a needs-based, sector-blind system.“Australia lacks a logical, consistent and publically transparent approach to funding schools”The reviewers also found that 

Labor adopted these reforms and put in place a six-year transition to a national school funding model that would make sure every student in every school had the support and opportunities they need to achieve their best.

– p212, Final Report: Review of Funding for Schooling, 2011
additional investment needed to implement a schooling resource standard is necessary because, without it, the high cost of poor educational outcomes will become an even greater drag on Australia’s social and economic development in the future. The need for the additional expenditure and the application of what those funds can do is urgent. Australia will only slip further behind unless, as a nation, we act and act now.With increasingly intense global competition for innovative, creative and skilled people, Australia needs to work harder and more cleverly than ever to maintain a knowledge and skill base that can adapt to change and keep up with the world around us. Australia’s declining educational performance internationally is something of which no Australian can be proud. Turning this around will require concerted effort and attention and will take time. Above all, the 

Since the Review of Funding for Schooling, the need for investment and reform has become more urgent.

Between 2008, when NAPLAN testing was introduced, and 2015 – overall levels of achievement have not significantly improved.

This led the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority to warn:

 (ACARA CEO, 5 August 2015)“The 2015 results show that at a national level we are seeing little change in student achievement in these important areas of learning.”

Financial implications

Labor is committing to fund a permanent and ongoing shift to needs-based funding in our schools because every child in every school should be equipped with the basic skills to secure the jobs of the future.

The independent Parliamentary Budget Office has costed the impact of funding years five and six at $4.5 billion.

To ensure these reforms are permanent and ongoing, Labor has provisioned $37.3 billion for the package over the decade from 2015-16 to 2025-26 (inclusive of Labor’s commitment to fund years five and six).







School Reform Funding






Disability interim funding






Children with a Disability Australia






Total funding






This funding will be offset, over the forward estimates and the medium-term, by existing improvements to the Budget proposed by Labor including making multinational companies pay their fair share of tax reforms to the taxation of multinational entities, reducing superannuation tax concessions for millionaires, increasing the changes to tobacco excise, ceasing the Emissions Reduction Fund, and not proceeding with the Liberals’ new Baby Bonus. 

The Gonski reforms represented a structural shift in the way our schools are funded.  The first six year agreements are being honoured by Labor with this announcement.





Show your support for Labor’s plan for innovation through education


We'll Put People First.