1500 schools to be made 'independent' by Abbott govt

THE Abbott Government will move to make 1500 public schools around the country "independent" by 2017, as part of its plan to increase autonomy in the education system.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced the initiative on Monday, saying it would give principals and school communities more power, rather than investing such power in the bureaucracy.

But the Australian Education Union criticised the proposal, which it believes would widen inequality in schools and further disadvantage students falling behind.

Mr Pyne said on radio the government would provide $70 million for the effort, which has been approved by all states and territories except South Australia.

"It revolves around teacher quality and their curriculum, but also very importantly the more autonomous a school the better the outcomes for students," he said.

"This is because the more a principal and his or her leadership team have control over the destiny of their own school, the more that seems to lift the school performance."

It is understood the initiative would be modelled on a West Australian program that creates similar arrangements for schools as local medical boards in the health industry.

Mr Pyne said it would centre on principals making the big decisions about schools, including extra-curricular activities and "what they think is the ethos of the school and where they want that school to go".

"Whether it's spending money on music - we want to give them the opportunities to make these decisions in their schools," he said.

But AEU deputy president Correna Haythorpe argued it was a "do-nothing approach" that was part of Federal Government moves to pull apart the entire education system.

"We know that disadvantage has a stronger effect on outcomes in education in Australia than in any comparable nation," she said.

"The Productivity Commission has warned that in the absence of adequate resourcing, greater school autonomy can exacerbate inequalities.

"If lifting student performance is the objective here, this policy will fail."

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