Saturday, 2 April 2016

Principals say yes to Gonski

Why would you want to stop Gonski funding as the evidence mounts that it is working?

It makes no sense, but that’s what we have seen from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week, with a series of bizarre thought bubbles about ending Federal Government spending on public schools, and still no commitment to the full six years of Gonski.

Yesterday’s COAG meeting between Mr Turnbull and State and Territory leaders passed without any decision on how schools are to be funded beyond 2017.

Mr Turnbull told media afterwards that the Federal Government was “not wedded to the full Gonski” but we still don’t know his plans for funding after 2017.

State and Territory leaders roundly rejected Mr Turnbull’s proposal for the States to charge their own income tax and use it to fund public schools, while the Federal Government funded private schools only.

This is good news.

The Gonski Review was clear that the Federal Government needed to take more responsibility for funding disadvantaged schools not less.

Setting up different funding systems for public and private schools would shift us further away from needs-based funding and entrench inequity.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said that he would continue to argue for the full Gonski and Mr Turnbull needs to take notice of the views of his fellow Liberal and deliver funding in full.

In recent months we have seen more and more evidence that Gonski funding is beginning to make a difference in schools.

The Australian Education Union’s State of Our Schools survey for 2016 was made public this week and showed that 67 per cent of public school principals say their school is receiving Gonski funding. That’s a big jump from just 34 per cent in 2015, and reflects the extra funding which is finally flowing to schools in Victoria.

Half of the schools receiving Gonski funding in 2016 received over $100,000 and 27 per cent received over $400,000.

These are significant amounts and have allowed schools to invest in programs which deliver extra support to their students.

In fact 95 per cent of principals whose schools got over $200,000 in funding said Gonski was a making a positive difference to their school.

Principals reported spending their funding on a range of ways to benefit students:

  • Professional development to improve quality of teaching (53 per cent)
  • Additional student support staff (51 per cent)
  • Specialist Literacy and Numeracy Teachers and Coaches (40 per cent)
  • One-on-one support for students with learning difficulties (34 per cent)
  • Additional classroom teachers to cut class sizes (21 per cent)

 Despite the positive results on Gonski funding there were still some disturbing findings from the survey, which show the need for greater resourcing of schools.

45 per cent of principals say their school is either under-resourced or significantly under-resourced.

From 2015 to 2016 there has been an increase from 38 per cent to 48 per cent of principals who find it more difficult to fill staff vacancies.

Fundraising is still a mainstay of school budgets, and it used for things as basic as textbooks, sports equipment and maintenance.

These are worrying signs and show that we need the full funding the Gonski Review recommended.

We can’t continue to have a situation where 1-in-7 15 year-olds struggles to read properly, and 1-in-5 struggles with basic maths, and where poor performance is linked to social disadvantage.

This year is crucial for Gonski and the I Give a Gonski campaign. We are stepping up our efforts with advertising on free-to-air TV and in print, as well as grassroots initiatives like the Gonski Doorknock.

We will keep fighting up until election day to convince Mr Turnbull that the full six years of Gonski is in Australia’s long-term social and economic interest.

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