The Southern Cross : June 2010
The Southern Cross June 2010 Page 7 www.adelaide.catholic.org.au feature New Education Minister Jay Weatherill talks to REBECCA DIGIROLAMO on the role of Catholic education, state government funding, controversial NAPLAN testing and Mar y MacKillop's canonisation. As the son of an Anglican family and a western suburbs public schoolboy, Jay Weatherill had a healthy teenage rivalr y with the Catholic kids from St Michael's College. Fast for ward 20 years or so and, as State Education Minister, one of his goals is to strengthen ties between public and Catholic schools. In his third month as head of education in South Australia, Mr Weatherill has told The Southern Cross he wants the Catholic, public and independent education sectors in South Australia to learn from each other's strengths and weaknesses. "I regard my role as Minister of Education as one that includes the whole of the education system: public, independent and Catholic." Among his first engagements as Education Minister was meeting Catholic Education SA director Jane Swift and Sister Catherine Clarke, from the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools. He is also planning to meet with the Federation of Catholic School Parent Communities and has visited three Catholic schools so far. He currently has his depar tment investigating how public schools can join in on commemorating the canonisation of Mar y MacKillop -- Australia's first saint. "I think (Mar y MacKillop's life) is a very important part of the education stor y in South Australia." Mr Weatherill was appointed minister to the education and early childhood development por tfolio following the March State election, which claimed the Adelaide electorate of former Education Minister Jane Lomax Smith. A major education election issue was more direct funding for Catholic and independent schools. Mr Weatherill said the government would honour its election promise of $5 million per year for students with disabilities in non-government schools, $8 million over four years for behaviour management, new arrivals suppor t and English as a second language students and $8 million over four years to target maths and science. He said the issue of disparity of per capita funding between Catholic schools in South Australia and those in other states would be dealt with by a national review panel examining school funding arrangements. Catholic schools, he said, were "a vital par t of the diversity" of education in the state and pointed out the strong role Catholic and independent schools had in the new South Australian Cer tificate of Education (SACE). "You just can't underestimate how much the new SACE is being influenced by the best that is happening in each sector," said Mr Weatherill. "Ever ybody has something they can learn from the other side." Including the joint problems too. In recent weeks, the news dominating education has been the investigation of three South Australian teachers, including one from Rostrevor College, following allegations of misconduct in NAPLAN (National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy) testing. Mr Weatherill and Catholic Education have been working closely on the issue. He said: "These tests play a valuable role for the principal, teachers and parents who want to know what is happening in the classroom." Mr Weatherill completed his secondar y education at Henley High School and graduated from Adelaide University with a law and economics degree in 1986 before establishing his own law firm in 1995. He practiced law until he was elected Member for Cheltenham in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and in 2010. Mr Weatherill is married to Melissa with two young daughters, Luci and Alice. He has held a range of por tfolios, including environment and conser vation, aboriginal af fairs and reconciliation, families and communities, housing, ageing, disability and gambling. Rivalry a thing of the past TIME OUT: State Education Minister, Jay Weatherill with wife Melissa and children (from left) Luci and Alice.