PM, Barnett in school truce
Prime Minister Julia Gillard tours South Fremantle High School. Picture: Lincoln Baker / The West Australian.

Colin Barnett's tough talk over Julia Gillard's proposed education reforms was replaced with a conciliatory tone after he met the Prime Minister yesterday.

The Premier came out swinging on morning radio in response to the Prime Minister's wholesale backing of the school funding model recommended in a review by businessman David Gonski.

The reforms propose each Australian student, public or private, be funded to a certain standard with extra financial support for disadvantaged students.

But WA already funds its students well above the Gonski benchmark, prompting Mr Barnett to claim the reforms would require the State to lower that rate and amounted to a Federal takeover of schools.

"The prospect that you're going to have schools in WA run by some runny-nosed bureaucrat in Canberra is farcical," he told 6PR radio.

"I will do anything that improves education standards, that is important, but I will not reduce State Government spending on State Government schools as is suggested."

Ms Gillard, speaking after declaring South Fremantle Senior High School the first carbon-neutral school in Australia, sought to allay Mr Barnett's fears.

"The only people who will run schools in WA will be the people of WA," she said. "The whole reform drive here is to put more power and more control in the hands of school principals."

After emerging from a 30-minute talk with Ms Gillard immediately after her school visit, Mr Barnett said: "It was a good meeting and I was pleased with it.

"The Prime Minister and I agreed that there would be no reduction in State Government funding of State schools, that is a good result.

"Also the Prime Minister made it clear that the Commonwealth didn't have any ambition of running schools or employing teachers, so that gives me a greater sense of comfort."

Mr Barnett stopped short of signing WA up to the Gonski reforms, saying there was still a lot of work to do, but he agreed to further talks with the Commonwealth.

Earlier yesterday, Ms Gillard opened the Association of Mines and Exploration Companies convention, where she likened the school reforms to prospecting for mineral wealth.

"You (delegates) understand a 13-year pipeline of investment in mines," she said.

"I have a 13-year pipeline of investment in minds."

'The only people who will run schools in WA will be the people of WA … the drive is to put more power in the hands of principals.'" *Julia Gillard *

The West Australian

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