Newly-appointed Federal President of the Australian Education Union (AEU) Correna Haythorpe addressed its annual conference over the weekend highlighting her commitment to make The Gonski Review and needs-based funding one of the key issues in the 2016 election.
Haythorpe wants to ensure Australian children receive an education that values their potential and individuality, and that makes sure their needs are met.
“Well-resourced public schools, and the staff that make them work, are a resource that benefits the community,” she said. “Our public schools are unique because they are the only ones which are required to educate every child that arrives at the front gate – regardless of who that child is or where they come from.
“Real ‘choice’ in schooling must include a decent, well-funded public school in every community in Australia that can meet the needs of every student.”
Marking three years since the review into school funding was released Haythorpe said that needs-based funding for schools is the most important issue in the education sector and the Gonski reforms are the best chance it has had in a generation of getting real change and equity.
Haythorpe highlighted how schools in New South Wales and South Australia that have seen Gonski funding flow through to their budgets have had great results.
“Cowandilla Primary School in Adelaide received just $10,500 in its first year of Gonski funding – and yet was able to deliver a numeracy intervention program for Years 1-3,” she said. “This program delivered improvement to every single child that was involved, and will be expanded in 2015 with the second round of Gonski funding.
“Needs-based funding for schools touches on every difficulty that teachers face – whether it is class sizes, lack of support staff, or the need for literacy and numeracy programs, Gonski is our chance – we can’t have a successful society if one in seven kids are leaving school without basic skills that they need to participate in the community.
“We cannot be a successful society if children are effectively denied a quality education due to their postcode.”
Haythorpe launched a scathing attack on the Federal Government’s attitude towards public education and pointed it out as the biggest barrier Australia faces to being able to implement the full recommendations of The Gonski Review.
“This is a Government that has used the idea of a ‘budget emergency’ to abandon agreements with the States for the fifth and sixth years of the Gonski agreements,” she said. “In effect they have walked away from equity.
“They have also done nothing to ensure that State Governments actually deliver Gonski funding to schools, rather than divert it into other programs.”
The AEU has called on members for their support to ensure the continued success of its I Give a Gonski campaign while revealing its plan to bring it to the 2016 Federal Election.
“We’ve had a few wins and a few losses in the last three years, but the final result is still in play and colleagues, we will campaign for the full six years of Gonski funding and if we work hard enough we will win,” Haythorpe said.
“That’s why we’ve set up a campaign team, involving leaders from all of your branches, and are developing a marginal seat strategy. We will put people on the ground in marginal seats across the country dedicated to doing one thing: campaigning for the full six years of Gonski funding our kids deserve.
“Politicians from all parties need to hear that funding matters: to us, to parents and to students. They need to hear this as loudly and as often as possible.”