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Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services in education released

Data from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services in childcare, education and training, released on 5 February 2024, has prompted calls for a fairer system where all public schools are fully funded.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) says the new figures – showing private school funding increasing at almost twice the rate of public school funding – underline the urgent need for a fairer system where all public schools are fully funded.

Data from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2024 shows public school funding increased by 20.3% (or 2% per year) in real terms between 2012-13 and 2021-22. Private school funding from governments increased over the same period by 37%.

The AEU said the report also shows private schools have fewer students per teacher than public schools.

“This is despite public schools educating the vast majority of students with higher needs including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, rural and remote areas, students with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students,” it said.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said only 1.3% of public schools are funded at the government Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) compared to 98% of private schools. The SRS is the minimum amount of funding a school needs to meet the needs of its students.

“We don’t have a level playing field in education where every child gets the full support they need to succeed,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Inequality in funding is driving inequality in outcomes between students of different backgrounds and locations. Those unacceptable gaps can be as large as six years of learning between students of the same age. Making our education system fairer starts with fairer funding,” she said.

An Expert Panel warned governments in December that the fact that inequality in funding persists – and is predicted to persist in nearly every jurisdiction – is an issue that requires urgent action.

“The call to action around reaching full funding for government schools – across all jurisdictions – is all the more urgent because of the full funding arrangements that already exist in the non-government sector,” the Expert Panel said.

Ms Haythorpe said the Prime Minister promised to work with State and Territory governments to deliver full funding of public schools.

“The Prime Minister must keep his promise this year and ensure all public schools are funded at 100% of the SRS by 2028, at the latest,” she said.

She said the Commonwealth Government’s current offer of 22.5% of the SRS should be revised to 25% of the SRS for all states and 40% of the SRS for the Northern Territory by 2028.

“There also needs to be a significant investment of capital funding in new bilateral agreements struck this year,” she said.

“With full funding, principals and teachers can change the lives of students across the nation. It will mean more help for children at risk of falling behind and more support for teachers inside and outside of the classroom to cut their workloads and help address the growing needs of students.”

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