Gonski study identifies education in crisis ... and a solution.
Gonski study identifies education in crisis ... and a solution.

Gonski reforms fail to enlist total support

DO YOU give a Gonski?

Well according to the Prime Minister, New South Wales does as well as South Australia and the ACT. Victoria and Tasmania are close to caring, but not so Western Australia, the Northern Territory and definitely not Queensland.

Do you give a Gonski. The phrase has been bandied about for the past 12 months gathering momentum since March as the Federal Government intensified their courting of the states in the hope they would sign on the dotted line.

In April 2010 the Federal Government initiated a review of school funding arrangements to develop a system, they said, that was transparent, fair and financially sustainable. David Gonski, an extremely successful lawyer and businessman was chosen to chair the panel which visited 39 schools, received some 7000 submissions and consulted with 71 education groups across Australia.

In November 2011 Gonski delivered their findings to the Government and when the report was released three months later it was plain to see that Australia's school system was in trouble. The 317-page document was gravely concerning, but the news was hardly surprising.

While Australia's school system fared fairly well when it came to quality indicators like the Program for International Student Assessment, our results in the past decade had suffered a definite slide especially in the top ranges.

In 2000 only one country outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and only two outperformed Australia in maths.

By 2009 six countries outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and 12 outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy.

Perhaps most concerning though was the fact that the gap between our highest and lowest-performing students had grown alarmingly with a noticeable link between low levels of achievement and discrepancies in the quality of education available, especially among students with low socio-economic and indigenous backgrounds.

There was also evidence that we had become complacent in our achievements lowering the bar at every opportunity in order to pat ourselves on the back.

There were hearty congratulations, for example, at both a state and federal level last year when NAPLAN testing showed that 92% of students were performing at or above the national minimum standard, yet the large numbers of students who in high school still can't read a simple sentence, is perhaps an indication that our minimum standards have been set far too low and are not a true reflection of performance after all.

In his report Gonski said the panel had concluded that if Australia aspired to have one of the best schooling systems in the world then it had to prioritise support for its lowest- performing students.

Each child should have access to the best possible education regardless of where they live, the school they attended or their family's income. School funding was not just a financial matter, he said, but also about strengthening and securing Australia's future.

To this end the report made 41 recommendations, the most salient of which were:

  • Recurrent and indexed additional funding of $5 billion per year with at least 75% going to government schools;
  • A new schooling resource standard to determine funding for all school sectors with cognisance to be given to disadvantages like disability, low socioeconomic an indigenous backgrounds as well as the size and location of schools; and
  • Funding arrangements to be better balanced to reflect the joint contribution of both levels of government across all schooling sectors and better co-ordinated to maximise the funding effort.

Gonski implored the Gillard government to take action urging them to commit to new funding arrangements complemented by continued and renewed efforts to strengthen and reform our school system. Australia and its children, he said, deserved nothing less.

New South Wales's Barry O'Farrell was the first premier to put pen to paper negotiating a deal that will see the state's schools arm receiving an extra $5b over six years, $1.76b of that from the NSW Government itself.

The ACT will receive an extra $190m over six years under their agreement with $87m of that coming from the Commonwealth, while South Australia has committed to a deal that will see them pocket $1.1b over the same period, $90m more than Prime Minister Julia Gillard's initial offer.

But Premier Campbell Newman has sideswiped the $3.8b proposal saying the state had yet to see figures for independent and Catholic schools. Queensland also maintains some 300 schools will be worse off under the deal despite the Gillard government's insisting that funding to most schools would increase by between 20-50%.


School reveals plight

THE funding plight of Ipswich public schools was thrown into the spotlight this month when Peter Doyle, principal of Springfield Lakes State School, wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Mr Doyle congratulated the PM on her efforts to increase school funding, after revealing that his teaching staff routinely spend thousands of dollars of their own money to pay for text books, art supplies and even food for cooking classes.

The letter was warmly received by Ms Gillard, who believes it strengthens the case for Queensland to sign up to the Gonski plan.

She posted the letter on her Twitter account - which is followed by almost 400,000 people - and urged supporters of the Gonski plan to pass the principal's letter on.


Opposition wants all in or plan is scrapped

  • Gonski - The Federal Opposition's View:

The Coalition has indicated it will repeal the Gillard government's take on the Gonski reforms before next January, should they be elected this year.

While they agree the intent of the Gonski school funding reforms is good, releasing money to fund it is a different matter.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said that if all states and territories had not signed up to the proposed deals by June 30, an Abbott government would restore previous school funding arrangements for 2014 and launch its own set of reforms.

The Opposition has said that the party believes that enabling Australia to have stronger economic growth so that the overall pool of federal funding available increases is the best way to invest in education.


Government embraces report with flood of money

  • Gonski - The Government's response:

To address the reforms suggested by the Gonski report the Federal Government responded with a total funding package of $14.5 billion over the next six years, of which they are willing to commit $9.4b with the states finding the rest. States and territories have been given a June 30 deadline to sign up.

The government will also implement the Schooling Resource Standard as a means to adequately resource each student. The per-student amount for 2014 is $9271 for primary students and $12,193 per high school student. Loading will be added to compensate for disadvantages of low SES and indigenous backgrounds, disability, limited English proficiency and small and remote schools.

In return for the additional funding the Federal Government has asked for an undertaking from the states and territories that they will:

  • Maintain school spending and stop education cuts and funding freezes
  • Commit to 3% funds growth a year
  • Invest the share needed in their state or territory
  • Sign a new National Education Reform Agreement

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