Sunday, 10 November 2019

They must need all that money.....

Government funding for Australia's Catholic and independent schools grew at almost twice the rate of public schools in the decade to 2018, new analysis shows.

Nah...there's no such thing as climate change...?

More than 350 schools and TAFE campuses will be closed tomorrow in Sydney, the Hunter region, Blue Mountains and the south coast due to forecast "catastrophic" fire conditions.

The NSW Department of Education has published a full list of site that will be closed — this number is expected to rise as authorities continue to carry out risks assessments.

Early on Monday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a state of emergency for NSW for the next seven days.

In Sydney, some of the suburban schools earmarked for closure include Manly Vale Public School, Menai High School, Oatley West Public School and Lindfield Learning Village. 

In the Blue Mountains the department is shutting down a number of schools including Katoomba High School and Leura Public School, while on the south coast and in the Illawarra, Mount Kembla Public School and Vincentia High School are among the schools closing.

On the Central Coast, Avoca Beach Public School and Blue Haven High School will be among those that shut down for the day.

The Premier ( along with our idiot Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister ) still won't acknowledge the impact of climate change for there own perverse ideological reasons. 

Friday, 8 November 2019

One day...working class voters in rural Australia will realise the National Party doesn't give a fuck about them or their children.

Government schools will not be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, prompting the teachers’ union to argue the measure is elitist and unfair.

The Australian Education Union’s president, Correna Haythorpe, said it was “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and independent schools, which also included money for drought-affected areas.

On Thursday the education minister, Dan Tehan, announced the Coalition would provide “$10m for schools that are impacted by drought so that they can provide relief to families” – modelled on its response to the Queensland floods – and an extra $5m for childcare centres.

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Pliberksek, said it was “terrific that schools will get some extra help during the drought” but said: “What about public schools?

“Public schools students and parents are struggling through this terrible drought, too. What is Scott Morrison going to do to help them?”

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

What the actual fuck?

The Municipal Association of Victoria has made the proposal in a submission to the state government's rates review.

The Ballarat Courier

Universities and fucking private schools don’t pay council rates!!! What the fuck!!!!!

Interesting development

The mother of a 17-year-old autistic boy has sued the state of Victoria over a government school’s alleged "abandonment" of her son’s education and failure to teach him the curriculum.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Never in my school

Facial recognition has moved into Australian schools - with help from the Federal Government. Five schools are now trialling the technology, but the move has alarmed some State Governments including my own.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Traffic impacts for private school.

In Australia today, just over 40% of secondary school children and almost 30% of primary school children attend a private school. By contrast, in the UK only 7% of children are privately educated

Our research shows not only do more students travel by car to private secondary schools in Australia, their car trips are almost twice as long as for government school students. As these trips are in peak hour, private schooling has a disproportionate impact on traffic congestion.

Commonwealth subsidies of private schools and their charitable status have underpinned skyrocketing enrolments. Questions over whether private schools should pay taxwhy they offer questionable graduate outcomes, their tendency towards “white flight” and social polarisation, and basic fairness have long been debated. 

But what if, in weighing up the pros and cons of private schooling, and in calculating their economic costs versus benefits, we’ve all missed something rather important? Until now, no one has considered the impacts on city traffic.

We’re helping the Queensland government improve its main transport models for Brisbane and southeast Queensland. Experts use these models to assess the best policies and projects to try to save us from congestion and to provide access to the goods, jobs and services we all need in life.

What did the research find?

We are looking at how one might better model school travel. To do so we explored the latest data from the Queensland Household Travel Survey. The datasets include all the trips to school made by over 3,000 primary and secondary school children. These surveys do not report if the child went to a public or private school. But we used advanced computing methods to match the school trip destinations with a set of known public and private school locations in the South East Queensland region. This created the first set of public-versus-private school trips we know of. 

We could then look at the share of trips made by walking, cycling, public transport and car. We were also able to report the distances travelled to the different school types. 

We presented our results in Canberra at the Australasian Transport Research Forum.

At the primary school level, where fewer children attend private schools and the lower-cost Catholic school system plays a bigger role, the differences are modest. A slightly greater share of children are driven to private schools, but the average distance for those car trips is only around one kilometre more. It’s a problem, but one of similar scale to the unsustainable and unhealthy journeys made to public primary schools across Australia.

At secondary school level, where the non-Catholic independent schools have greater market share, only 1.5% more children are driven to private secondary schools (56.5% to 54.9%) and a few more drive themselves. But the car trips to those schools are almost twice as long as to the public schools.

The private secondary school children are travelling 7.8km each way, on average, to get to and from school. As this is school travel, it happens in the morning peak hour, the worst time for traffic congestion in our cities. Private secondary schooling appears to have a highly disproportionate impact.

The landscape of private schooling in southeast Queensland is problematic. Newer private schools have opened in odd locations on the edges of existing communities, or well beyond the suburban fringe. Even some of the older established GPS schools (the “elite” ones) are far from public transport. A few offer private buses, but many parents are left with little choice. They have to chauffeur their children. 

Does the extra car travel matter?

Education departments probably don’t care. But if governments are focused on reducing congestion, which their transport departments all are, and if they are looking to reduce school-related congestion effects, then private secondary schools are the worst offenders. 

We can’t just look to the transport departments to fix such problems. They’re not responsible for creating the unsustainable car-based schooling landscape they somehow must try to serve. 

It should also worry us for the individuals involved. Car-based travel is far from optimal for children’s development. 

A litany of studies show physically active travel such as walking and cycling, including to and from public transport, is better for physical and mental health, as well as for social connectedness. The links between children’s physical activity and student learning are also well established.

Given road congestion costs in Australia are expected to exceed A$30 billion a year by 2030, we suggest the congestion costs of Australia’s private school funding model should be fully calculated, costed and included when we weigh up the costs and benefits. The Commonwealth has options should it wish to tighten up in other ways. This would include not financially supporting any new private schools located far from existing communities or good public transport services.

Comment on this article

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Rorting arseholes

‘Australia’s richest private schools – which charge students as much as an astonishing $70,000 a year for boarding and tuition – can access cash assistance from a new $1.2 billion taxpayer-funded slush fund’ 
Public schools get zip. Arseholes.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Awwwww I feel so sorry for them.

Fee increases at non-government schools are running at nearly twice the rate of inflation and have outpaced wage growth every year for a decade, adding to cost stresses felt by the 1.3 million families who pay for private education.......
The usual shit from the Financial Review . Feel so sorry for these people...not!

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Secret Catholic school funding

Catholic schools in NSW receive $300 million in taxpayer funding every six months but face far less scrutiny from the state government over outcomes and performance than public schools, prompting calls for greater transparency.

While NSW Treasury officials pored over NSW Department of Education (DOE) budgets this year, the NSW government's only budgetary oversight of the Catholic sector's annual funding was a one-page document stating how much money it would be paid.

Former NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the document, obtained by Greens MP David Shoebridge under freedom of information, showed that schools receiving large amounts of public money were not subject to enough scrutiny.

"They get more public money than quite a few government agencies," Mr Piccoli said. "I'm not suggesting they are doing anything wrong. But the public has a right to know what's happening inside the schools that are getting that money."

Catholic Schools NSW said the document was a payment notice, not an accountability document, and did not reflect its reporting requirements to the state government, which were set out elsewhere, such as the education act and regulations set out by the NSW Education Standards Authority.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Private school marketing....now there’s s surprise.

The blonde girls are in focus, studious kids are Asian and only white boys get a kick, a study of the images used in promotional material for Victorian schools has found.

Deakin University's Trevor McCandless analysed the marketing materials in government, Catholic and independent schools for his PhD thesis to see how these represented "the schools' best guess at what parents find attractive for their children".

The darker a student's skin, the less likely they are to be the centre of attention in the image or even in focus," he said.

While schools rarely mentioned ethnicity in written text, Dr McCandless' PhD thesis found they uniformly picked images in their prospectuses and videos that suggested unconscious stereotypes, resulting in a "colour-coded hierarchy [that] is repeated to the point of tedium".

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Israeli legal system helps out child abuser.....again!

An Israeli court has granted bail to Malka Leifer, a former Melbourne private school headteacher wanted on 74 charges of child sexual abuse in Australia.

In a twist in the judicial saga that has dragged on for five years, Leifer is due to again be placed under house arrest. She was re-arrested just last year after police accused her of feigning mental illness.

Judges ruled the prosecution had until Friday to appeal the decision, which would have Leifer live at her sister’s house near Tel Aviv.

Manny Waks, founder of Kol V’Oz, an Israel-based organisation against child sex abuse in the global Jewish community, said the decision was “an absolute travesty and continues to bring shame on the State of Israel”.

From the Guardian

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Could ( I know they won't) Labor de-fund private schools? I know the answer.

The UK’s Labour Party recently voted in a policy to effectively abolish private schools and integrate them into the state system.

This is a courageous move designed to redress social inequity – many of those working in the top levels of the UK government were educated in private schools. Two of Britain’s three most recent prime ministers went to the prestigious Eton College, which charges annual fees of more than £40,000.

The UK opposition party’s plan will likely warm the hearts of similarly minded Australians. Many of the same arguments about educational inequality have been floated in Australia. Many individuals and organisations have also, for years, been calling for the government to stop funding non-government schools.

But implementing a policy in Australia like that proposed in the UK would prove very difficult. For one thing, it’s a matter of numbers. Only 5% of the United Kingdom’s students go to a private school. The challenges are magnified in Australia where nearly 15% of students are enrolled in independent schools and nearly 20% in Catholic parish schools. 

But beyond that, Australia’s complex set of school governance structures would make such a move very unlikely to succeed.

Eight education systems

Under UK Labour’s proposal, if it took office, private schools would lose their charitable status and any other public subsidies or tax breaks. Their endowments, investments and properties would be “redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions”.

For Australia to do the same, at the outset, it would be a constitutional issue. The Australian Constitution empowers states and territories to provide school education, thus creating eight different education systems. For Australia to abolish private schools like that proposed in the UK, a choice from three possible processes would need to occur to get around this issue. 

First, Australia could change the Constitution. Second, all states and territories could voluntarily cede their powers for schooling back to the Commonwealth. Or third, each state and territory government could agree to enact the policy in its own jurisdiction. 

Only eight of the proposed 44 changes to the Australian Constitutionhave been agreed to since Federation. And given the political territorialism that exists between states and territories, it is hard to imagine any of these solutions being implemented.

Assuming one of the above could be enacted, taking over existing non-government schools would be further complicated by the diverse nature of school governance structures. Australia’s different school governance structures would make it almost impossible to cede all private education to the Commonwealth. from shutterstock.com

In addition to being registered with their relevant state or territory government authority, more than 1,000 non-government primary and secondary schools are registered with the Australian Not-for-profit Charities Commission

This means there are no “owners” who financially gain from operating the school. Financial surpluses are not distributed to shareholders but must be reinvested in the school.

For a government to take over a not-for-profit charity in such a way would cause extreme anxiety to the thousands of community organisations which also exist under this legal structure. 

Another group of non-government schools are governed by church authorities. A school such as William Clarke College in Sydney’s north-west, for instance, is governed by an ordinance of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney whose own authority is derived from state legislation. A smaller number of schools, such as Newington College in NSW or the eight Queensland Grammar Schools, are governed directly through acts of parliament. 

To absorb these schools into one government system would require a change to a range of legislation covering charitable and religious organisations. Given various state and territory governments can’t even agree on the age students should start school, achieving consistency in the legislative realm seems remote. 

We should keep working to reduce inequality

Advocates of private schooling in the UK have hit back at Labour’s proposal, indicating lengthy, and costly, legal challenges. These could range from parents’ rights to make choices for their childrens’ development (enshrined in Article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) through to property and charitable trust laws

Resistance to the proposed policy change from the UK Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (that describes itself as an association of heads of “some of the world’s leading independent schools”) is already fierce and suggests the same would likely be the case in Australia. 

One consequence of inaction is growing inequity. Successful education systems prioritise equity and quality. Analysis of social disadvantage by the OECD found more than 52% of Australian disadvantaged students are enrolled in disadvantaged schools. This is compared to the OECD average of 48% and 45% in the UK (world leaders are Nordic countries at an average of 43%). 

Australian analysis also highlights a growing concentration of advantaged students are already in educationally advantaged schools. 

Creating a socially and politically just education system is a worthy objective. But it’s not just a public-private issue. 

Segmented schooling also exists in some Australian government schooling jurisdictions. For example, NSW has a highly stratified government education system which includes single-sex schools and various selective schools (academic, performing arts, sports and technology schools). 

This creates enrolment interest from families living outside local communities, exacerbating infrastructure pressures in government schools. And some of NSW’s selective schools have concentrations of students who are far wealthier than in some private schools. 

The debate over what our society wants from schooling is about equitable opportunities for everyone. The policy outlined by the UK’s Labour Party raises fundamental questions about the role and process of education in society. There seems value to ask the same for Australia.

The fact is Australia has one of the most socially segregated education systems in the world, & despite knowing exactly which schools need additional resources, the Federal Government has entrenched a schools funding regime that shifts billions to advantaged children.

From the Independent 

Friday, 27 September 2019

Bloody Finns

Full story in the Guardian
Finland: "In class children are listened to, respected, school lunches are free, detentions are rare & exclusions pretty much unheard of. Kuusimäki gave his last detention 15yrs ago, & is visibly horrified at the idea of excluding a child from school."

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Story from 2017 and we are yet to see it happen.


Education Minister Simon Birmingham released a report today recommending that all Year 1 students in Australia complete a phonics test.

The panel responsible for the report has recommended that Australia adopt the Year 1 phonics screening check that has been used in England since 2011.

But what is it? And will it help children learn to read and write?

What is phonics?

Phonics is the process of matching sounds to letters. It is an important skill when learning to read and write in English.

There are two main approaches to teaching children phonics — synthetic phonics and analytic phonics.

Analytic phonics starts with taking a word that children know the meaning of, and then analysing it to see how the sounds in the word match the letters we see within the word.

So five-year-old Emma will learn that her name starts with the sound "e" which is represented by the capital letter E, followed by the sound "m" which is represented by the two letters "mm", and ends with the sound "u", which is represented by the letter a.

Synthetic phonics starts with letters which the children learn to match with sounds. The meaning of the words are irrelevant, and indeed, inconsequential.

The theory is that the children should master letter/sound matches first before trying to attend to meaning.


Which phonics method is better?

There is no evidence that one phonics approach is better than the other. In England, the US and Australia, there have been major inquiries into reading and all have concluded that systematic and explicit phonics teaching is a crucial part of effective reading instruction.

But none have found any evidence that synthetic phonics approaches are better than analytic phonics approaches, or vice versa.

All inquiries have concluded that whatever phonic instruction method is chosen, it should be one part of a suite of skills children should have when learning to read.

What is the phonics test?

The phonics test is based on synthetic phonics. The children are given 40 words on a computer screen, with no context. The words are not put in a sentence, or given any meaning.

This is deliberate, and an important feature of a synthetic phonics approach, as the children must show they are not relying on meaning or prior experience with the word in order to successfully decode it.

To this end, 20 of the words the children are given are nonsense words, like "thrand", "poth" and "froom", to ensure they are not using meaning to decode the words.

Why are we introducing it?

Senator Birmingham is concerned about the numbers of students in Australia who are struggling with literacy.

The decline in literacy standards of Year 9 students is very concerning, and he is right to be looking for solutions. But the solution will not be found in this phonics test for six-year-olds.

As the test has been has already been in use for six years in England we are fortunate to be able to learn from their experience.

A major evaluation of the test conducted by the Department for Education in England found that the test is not delivering improvements in literacy capabilities, and in fact, is delivering some unwanted side effects, like class time being spent learning to read nonsense words rather than real words.

Numerous other recent studies of the implementation of the phonics test in England provide valuable information that allow us to test the claims for the test against research evidence.


What does the research say?

Claim: The phonics test has improved reading results in England since its introduction.

Evidence: Year 1 children in England are certainly getting better at passing the phonics test. Over the past six years, pass rates have increased by 23 per cent. This means around 90 per cent of Year 1 children in England can now successfully read nonsense words like "yune" and "thrand".

However research has found that the ability to read nonsense words is an unreliable predictor of later reading success.


And so far, the phonics test in England has not improved reading comprehension scores.

As the test only tests single syllable words with regular phonic patterns, it is not possible to know how many English children can read words like "one", "was", "two", "love", "what", "who", or "because", as such words are not included in the test.

This is unfortunate because these are amongst the 100 most common words in the English language, which in turn make up 50 per cent of the words we read everyday — whether in a novel, a newspaper article or a government form.

"Yune", "thrand" and "poth", on the other hand, make 0 per cent of the words we read.

Claim: The phonics test will pick up children who are having reading difficulties. Senator Birmingham has stated "the idea behind these checks is to ensure students don't slip through the cracks".

Evidence: Research in England has found that the test was no more accurate than the teacher's judgement in identifying children with reading difficulties. Teachers already know which children struggle. As researchers, teachers and principals have all said — teachers need more support in knowing how to support those struggling children.

Claim: The phonics test will provide detailed diagnostics to support teachers to make effective interventions. The chair of the panel recommending the test says that the phonics test will drill into the detail of phonics to establish what children know.

Evidence: A thorough analysis of the test's components found it fails to test some of the most common sound/letter matches in English, and indeed screens for a very limited number of the hundreds of sound/letter matches in English. They found that children can achieve the pass grade of 32 from 40 with only limited phonic knowledge.

Other research found the test fails to give any information about what the specific phonic struggles of a child might be , or whether the struggles are indeed with phonics.

These limitations mean the check has negligible diagnostic or instructional use for classroom teachers.

Learning lessons

Australia is in the fortunate position of being able to learn from the research that has been conducted since the implementation of the phonics test and mandatory synthetic phonics teaching in England. The lesson is clear. The test is unable to deliver what was hoped. Australia should look elsewhere for answers to its literacy challenges.

Already state education ministers have begun to let Senator Birmingham know that they will not be taking up the offer of the national phonics test.

This may be an issue where Australia is able to overcome its intellectual cringe, and act on the research evidence rather than old colonial ties.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

All strength to them

The British Labour Party votes to ban all private schools. Meanwhile, in Australia......

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Yeah sure

‘Private schools have been hit by a drop in enrolments, forcing some to take on debt to compete for students, as parents squeezed by rising costs and sluggish wage growth opt for the public system. The proportion of children in government schools grew in 2017 and 2018, Census data shows, ending a run that stretches back to 1970 in which private schools increased their share of Australia’s student population.

Analysis by ANZ reveals that it is mid-tier private schools, which charge between $10,000 and $20,000 a year in tuition fees, that have been most affected by the shift.

Enrolment numbers at schools in this range have declined 0.9 per cent in the past two years, including an 0.6 per cent slump last year, the analysis shows.

Lower-fee schools that charge less than $10,000 a year, and top-tier schools that charge more than $20,000 a year, have been less affected by the drift back into the public system and have continued to grow.’


I don’t think this is the only reason. I think it says a lot more about crappy teaching practices, homophobia and dodgy teaching .

Saturday, 7 September 2019

NSW government stinks

On March 7 this year, the  NSW Government announced an additional $500 million in capital funding for private schools. Last week in Budget Estimates it was revealed that there is still a $620 million backlog in NSW public school maintenance.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Finland oh Finland.....

From the Washington Post

Finland has been in the spotlight of the education world since it appeared, against all odds, on the top of the rankings of an international test known as PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, in the early 2000s. Tens of thousands visitors have traveled to the country to see how to improve their own schools. Hundreds of articles have been written to explain why Finnish education is so marvelous — or sometimes that it isn’t. Millions of tweets have been shared and read, often leading to debates about the real nature of Finland’s schools and about teaching and learning there.

We have learned a lot about why some education systems — such as Alberta, Ontario, Japan and Finland — perform better year after year than others in terms of quality and equity of student outcomes. We also understand now better why some other education systems — for example, England, Australia, the United States and Sweden — have not been able to improve their school systems regardless of politicians’ promises, large-scale reforms and truckloads of money spent on haphazard efforts to change schools during the past two decades.

Among these important lessons are:

  • Education systems and schools shouldn’t be managed like business corporations where tough competition, measurement-based accountability and performance-determined pay are common principles. Instead, successful education systems rely on collaboration, trust, and collegial responsibility in and between schools.
  • The teaching profession shouldn’t be perceived as a technical, temporary craft that anyone with a little guidance can do. Successful education systems rely on continuous professionalization of teaching and school leadership that requires advanced academic education, solid scientific and practical knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training.
  • The quality of education shouldn’t be judged by the level of literacy and numeracy test scores alone. Successful education systems are designed to emphasize whole-child development, equity of education outcomes, well being, and arts, music, drama and physical education as important elements of curriculum.

Besides these useful lessons about how and why education systems work as they do, there are misunderstandings, incorrect interpretations, myths and even deliberate lies about how to best improve education systems. Because Finland has been such a popular target of searching for the key to the betterment of education, there are also many stories about Finnish schools that are not true.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Victorian NAPLAN madness

The Victorian Government’s plan to link Year 9 NAPLAN results to job applications will have a raft of untold negative consequences for students and should be abandoned immediately.

Linking standardised tests results with career opportunities does not lead to better student engagement or better pathway outcomes. This approach seems to put political and bureaucratic objectives ahead of what students really need.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Crying poor

Some schools have swimming pools. Others have orchestra pits. But Mitchell High School just wants some new plastic chairs.

The chairs in the Blacktown school's hall are 20 years old; they are stained, marked by graffiti and their legs are beginning to rust.

So Mitchell High, like many schools, competed with other community organisations in their electorate under the My Community Grant project, which lets constituents vote on the projects they deem most worthy.

Many of the proposals provide an insight into the ageing facilities and tight budgets at the state's public schools. Some are asking for money to erect shade cloths, or upgrade their drainage, or pay for a wheelchair-friendly gate. Mount Hunter Public School wants about $20,000 to upgrade its old, sparse playground.

Yep

Teachers need school supplies and the resources to help students succeed — not guns. K. Harris ( Democratic Candidate) 

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Good point

Serious question. If the Catholic Church refuses to obey the law & report child rapists,how can it possibly be allowed to run schools?

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

A view from a Finnish expert

Teachers and principals are advanced professionals akin to their peers in Finland, Singapore, or any other country. 

But, as I have noticed, and what was well reported in recent ABC reportage, this world-class educational excellence is very unevenly distributed around this country and its communities.

Frankly speaking, "Rich school, poor school: Australia's great education divide" is a depressing read. 

Having world-class schools is not the same as having a high-performing school system. 

David Gonski's Review Panel in its 2011 report got it to the point: 

"Funding for schooling must not be seen simply as a financial matter. Rather, it is about investing to strengthen and secure Australia's future. Investment and high expectations must go hand in hand. Every school must be appropriately resourced to support every child and every teacher must expect the most from every child." 

In other words, we need to fix current inequalities in and out of schools before educational excellence can truly be achieved.

It is that simple. The evidence is clear and so should be the road ahead.

Pasi Sahlberg is professor of educational policy and deputy director at the Gonski Institute for Education in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Fucking hell!

The richest 1% of schools spent $3 billion. The poorest 50% spent $2.6 billion combined.
The poorest 50% of schools teach nearly five times as many students.


An ABC News investigation has revealed for the first time the gaping divide that separates the capital expenditure of Australia’s richest and poorest schools. 

It is based on school finance figures from the My School website — a dataset so tightly held that in the decade since its creation, it has only been released to a handful of researchers under strict conditions. Independently compiled by ABC News, it provides a more detailed picture of school income and expenditure than any publicly available data. 

The investigation, which encompasses more than 8,500 schools teaching 96 per cent of students, reveals:

“Certainly the public investment in private schools, and the public investment in the wealthiest schools, is a factor,” she said.

“They have that security of their operating costs being heavily subsidised — or, for some schools, completely covered — so they can use other money for their building projects.”

Sheidow Park Primary School spent $25,005 over the five-year period. It received no capital funding from government.

“The school has never had lots of money and principals have had to be very careful with what they’ve done,” Ms Gorman says.

  • Half of the $22 billion spent on capital projects in Australian schools between 2013 and 2017 was spent in just 10 per cent of schools
  • These schools teach fewer than 30 per cent of students and are the country’s richest, ranked by average annual income from all sources (federal and state government funding, fees and other private funding) over the five-year period. 
  • They also reaped 28 per cent (or $2.4 billion) of the $8.6 billion in capital spending funded by government. 

University of Sydney associate professor Helen Proctor described the figures as “extraordinary”.

Sheidow Park Primary is a public school 20km south of Adelaide. Its sits among the poorest 20 per cent of schools on the income ladder. 

Despite soaring enrolments — student numbers have nearly doubled since 2013 — the last major capital project at Sheidow Park was a gymnasium completed in 2011 as part of the Rudd government’s school building program, known as Building the Education Revolution.

“At the end of the year, when we walk around the school, it’s not: ‘This needs fixing, so we’ll fix it’. It’s always… ‘What’s the worst of the worst?’” Ms Gorman says.

“It’s tricky because you don’t want to be the poor neighbour down the road. You want to put your best foot forward… But I guess it’s the inequity that annoys me the most.”

You don’t have to look far to find that inequity. About half an hour’s drive north is Saint Ignatius’ College in Athelstone, a Catholic school among the richest 10 per cent in Australia. It spent just over $30 million on capital projects (including $124,000 from the federal government) in the same period Sheidow Park spent $25,005. 

Enrolments at Saint Ignatius’ shrunk by roughly five per cent over that period.

Capital funding: A complex system

Capital funding is considered separate to recurrent funding, which covers the ongoing costs of running a school. Recurrent funding cannot be spent on capital projects.

Part of the problem with the current system, according to critics, is that private schools have two public sources of capital funding — the Commonwealth and the states — whereas public schools only receive capital funding from state governments.

So far in 2019, the Commonwealth Capital Grants Program has allocated more than $146 million to fewer than 140 non-government schools. According to the Federal Government, the CGP is “to improve the infrastructure in [non-government] schools that do not have enough capital resources.”

However, the Australian Education Union has previously drawn attention to projects in wealthy private schools that do not appear to meet this criteria.

It is calling on the Federal Government to establish a Commonwealth capital fund for public schools, in line with the recommendations of the 2012 Gonski review.

But while the debate over capital grants rages, numerous education researchers point to a far larger source of public money as the real problem. 

Are taxpayers funds making the system more unequal?

Some education experts believe increased public funding has allowed many private schools to amass funds for capital expenditure from private sources.

“I’m not at all surprised to see some well-off private schools at the top of the list for capital spend. Parents and others are of course welcome to fundraise for the schools they support,” said the Grattan Institute’s school education program director Peter Goss. 

“But every one of those schools also receives substantial recurrent funding from the Australian Government and it’s legitimate to ask whether taxpayer funding is contributing to making our education system even more unequal.”

Adrian Piccoli, director of UNSW’s Gonski Institute for Education and NSW education minister from 2011 until 2017, said the way government funding was distributed to private schools meant “there is the ability to shift money from recurrent to capital”.

“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that happens… It’s very hard — and I say this as a former minister — to see what non-government schools spend their money on,” he said.

“I was always astounded that we [the NSW government] gave the Catholic system $800 million a year and, basically, they filled out a one-page form to verify that they’d spent the money appropriately.”


Sunday, 11 August 2019

Choice....sure.

Once upon a time, Sydney families did not angst about where to send their children to school. If they wanted public education, they chose the local one.

But due to policy shifts over the past few decades, parents now feel they have a right to choose their child's school. Some base their choice on NAPLAN results, some base it on a school's reputation, some base it on the socio-economic status of its students.

Some base it on practical considerations, too. Families might choose a school that's on their way to work, or close to grandma, or has subject offerings that appeal to their child, like a dance program or a school newspaper.

Choice is good for the families that know how to exercise it, but bad for the system.