Prime Minister Julia Gillard is bracing for another fierce national debate about education, as the federal government prepares to launch its improved My School website.
The online resource, which compares schools’ literacy and numeracy scores with the results of statistically similar institutions and to the national average, will be updated in December to make it more comprehensive and accurate.
Ms Gillard unveiled the original version of My School in January while serving as Labor’s education minister.
Parents welcomed the site, but school groups railed that it was too simplistic and could lead to the creation of league tables naming and shaming poor-performing institutions.
The government has sought to address those concerns by publishing more information online, including each school’s 2009 recurrent income and capital expenditure, broken down by source of funding, in an Australian first.
School profiles will detail the proportion of students from language backgrounds other than English, while literacy and numeracy test results will show academic trends over time, now three years of figures are available.
Giving a preview of My School version two on Wednesday, Ms Gillard said the additional data would help parents make more informed decisions about where to send their children.
It was also expected to reignite the education debate.
“(Parents) should go down and talk to the principal, you should go down and talk to the various consulting forums that schools have about what this means for your school, and what’s going to happen next,” she told reporters in Canberra.
“I suspect that people will have a lot of conversations with us (too), and I’ll have a lot of conversations with state governments. I think they’ll be pretty good conversations.”
School Education Minister Peter Garrett warned that with the amount of funding spent on each child in every school soon to be available for parental perusal, the government would be putting
lacklustre institutions on notice.
“Remember that the commonwealth is now making significant investments through the national partnerships … in teacher quality, literacy and numeracy,” he said.
“We are also going to be able to effectively monitor the worth of that investment over time. That will be a very powerful tool for policy makers.”