Piccoli hits back over travel rort allegations

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has hit back at claims that an overseas trip to attend meetings alongside world leaders in education is wasting taxpayer funds.

Last week Mr Piccoli was slammed by The Daily Telegraph for taking what the newspaper called "a $43,000 taxpayer-funded jaunt to Finland and London, six weeks after travelling on a $20,000 publicly funded trip to Vietnam with his wife".

However, Mr Piccoli, who phoned from Helsinki on Friday afternoon, said he wanted to set the record straight.

"In terms of cost my part of this trip is $12,000 and that includes business class airfares and normal accommodation that government travel allows ministers," he said.

"I'm literally here for two days and then in London for four days to attend the World Education Forum, which is the internationally recognised ministerial forum for sharing and debating policy developments in education.

"There will be 85 ministers from around the world and we will talk about what's world best practice in education so there couldn't be a better reason for me to be here.

"The director-general of the Department of Education and my chief of staff are travelling with me.

"We are a team looking at how we can do things better in Australia.

"I'm also presenting a paper with a focus on rural remote reform package."

Mr Piccoli said the Vietnam trip he took in December was also about developing and promoting education, this time TAFE.

He said that claims by The Daily Telegraph that his wife paid for her flight to Vietnam but shared accommodation with Mr Piccoli without paying her half privately were simply untrue.

"My wife came at no cost to taxpayers," he said.

NSW premier Barry O'Farrell has publicly stated that Mr Piccoli satisfied all requirements.

Mr Piccoli said he was impressed with what Finland, which is often celebrated for its high educational standards, was doing.

"Finland is about the same population as NSW and they take 600 teachers in to uni each year, yet NSW take around 5500," he said.

"Because they take so few they can focus on teacher training.

"We've already announced changes to tighten things here. We want to lift the standard.

"Next year you will need three band 5s including one in English to get into teaching.

"In Finland they go even further.

"They have certified mentors, who are strictly controlled.

"Twenty years ago they were middle ranking now they are leaders and it's because of teacher training."

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