Federal Politics

Turnbull government's new education chief strong Gonski backer

 The Turnbull government has appointed a strong supporter of the Gonski education reforms - and extra spending on schools - to run the federal education department.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced on Thursday that Michele Bruniges, currently head of the NSW Department of Education, would become the nation's top education bureaucrat overseeing schools, higher education and childcare policy.

Dr Michele Bruniges says money by itself doesn't guarantee success – it depends on how you spend it.
Dr Michele Bruniges says money by itself doesn't guarantee success – it depends on how you spend it. Photo: Andy Zakeli

The Coalition has resisted lobbying by state governments to fund the final two years of Labor's Gonski school agreements and Senator Birmingham has repeatedly stressed that "more money doesn't automatically equal better student outcomes".

In a speech last October, Dr Bruniges said: "To those who say Australia has poured money into education with little to show for it, let me say the evidence is clear that levels of investment in this country have lagged behind other countries despite data showing that education produces tangible benefits for students and the economy ... [A]ctual Australian expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP has been substantially lower than the OECD average."

"More was spent on schooling in 2013 than 2000 because the inputs involved in education cost more and there were more students to educate," she said.

"In real terms over this period, the tangible resources available to students grew by less than the overall economy."

Dr Bruniges said the needs-based Gonski funding model "has changed the education landscape for the better and in the best interests of our students and young people".

"It's early days but schools are reporting that they are seeing improvements in student outcomes – not just in learning but in better social and emotional outcomes," she said.

"We have been able to do this because of the additional funding delivered through the Gonski agreement."

Dr Bruniges said: "We recognise the need for increased investment in education but we also understand that money by itself doesn't guarantee success – it depends on how you spend it."

Senator Birmingham said Dr Bruniges had spent 25 years in education, starting as a primary school teacher followed by many senior roles in the public service.

"I look forward to working with Dr Bruniges as she brings her impressive range of experience and sterling track record as an educator and leader to her new role," he said.

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