Lennox-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack.
Lennox-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack. Jacklyn Wagner

Gonski reforms 'biggest win' for North Coast schools

THE historic deal struck today between the NSW and Federal Governments over the Gonski reforms is the "biggest win" for North Coast schools in decades, says Lennox-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack.

From 2014, school students on the New South Wales North Coast will each receive an education worth more than $9,000 a year.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had failed to get the majority of state governments on board to contribute to the costs of the reforms during COAG meetings last week.

But she joined with Premier Barry O'Farrell in Sydney today to ink the final $5 billion Gonski deal for the nation's most populous state.

The deal will see the Commonwealth pump $3.3 billion into the state on the condition the state delivers $1.7 billion for the reforms.

The majority of schools in Northern NSW fall into the "provincial" and "regional" target categories which are set to benefit the most under the new funding criteria.

Ms Cusack, who has long advocated for the NSW Government to sign up to Gonski, believes the new funding will close the achievement gap for the region's students who have previously been hampered by social and locational disadvantage.

Extra funding will also be made available to address unique local challenges which have long been overlooked - assistance for the sharp increase in disabled students and learning support for the population of indigenous students, which is significantly larger on the North Coast than other parts of NSW.

"It is a game changer...a once-in-a-generation reform and it will make a huge difference to our neediest children and their families," Ms Cusack said.

"I am overjoyed the O'Farrell Government has conquered the herculean task of finding the money to do the deal.

"The difficulty cannot be underestimated, and it's only been accomplished by putting children first."

While Ms Gillard described the partnership as an historic day for Australia's education system, Mr O'Farrell also referred to a "sting in the tail", with a likely withdrawal of education funding if NSW did not sign up.

However, he said he believed the deal was in the best interests of the state, and remained confident the money would be in the Commonwealth's May budget.



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