Labor's plan to fund shared school facilities

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd says that if elected, his new Labor government will finance a $63 million pilot program in which sports, science and library facilities will be shared by government and private schools, including Catholic.

On a visit to Adelaide on yesterday, Mr Rudd said that the facilities to be funded under the pilot program also include trade workshops and assembly halls, The Age reports.

"A Rudd Labor government will support parental choice. We will do that by funding all schools, whether they are government, non-government, religious or secular, based on need and fairness."

Mr Rudd's pledge further distances the party from former leader Mark Latham's policy of stripping funding from a "hit list" of private schools which attracted a controversial rebuke from Sydney Cardinal George Pell in the last election.

The program would be aimed at new schools in growing areas or those that lack infrastructure such as science labs, which can cost up to $1 million.

The voluntary program would provide infrastructure grants to groups of government, private and Catholic schools that agree to build facilities together and share use and costs, the Australian adds.

The scheme will target newly built schools in areas where infrastructure is poor. It will encourage partnerships between government and non-government schools to provide necessary facilities such as science and language laboratories, and new or upgraded facilities in existing schools that could be shared with schools nearby.

"This is a new model of schooling to provide high-quality classrooms, sporting fields, science labs, libraries, trade workshops and assembly halls in new growth areas," the Opposition Leader and his education spokesman Stephen Smith said in a statement yesterday.

The initial plan is to fund 25 projects and evaluate the scheme after three years.

"Instead of seeking only to balance the demands of non-government and government schools, Labor believes there are benefits to be gained by seeking new forms of collaboration between them," the policy says. "Whether public, private, independent, religious or secular, all schools need a library, all schools benefit from having playing fields and ovals."

Mr Rudd is yet to release details of Labor's schools funding arrangements but he has made it clear no school will have its funding cut.

Melbourne Catholic schools back new report cards

In another story, parents and teachers have welcomed a decision to allow Catholic schools to choose to rank prep students from A to E under Victoria's contentious new report card system, the Age reports.

The Melbourne archdiocese last week said it had "tuned" the system to bring it into line with government schools.

More students can now get an "A" grade because it refers to those who are a year ahead of the standard rather than 18 months as initially proposed.

The new report cards became mandatory in Catholic schools last year and are compulsory in government schools from this year. "Our sense is that the common report card system has been quite successful but there has been some confusion around what the A to E meant," Catholic Education Office assistant director Debra Punton said.

Rudd tightlipped on private school funds (The Age, 20/3/07)
Labor's plan for schools to share (The Australian, 20/3/07)
Share and share alike under new Labor education policy (Sydney Morning Herald, 20/3/07)
New card gets an A-plus (The Age, 20/3/07)

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20 Mar 2007

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