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Grattan Institute school funding report

Grattan Institute's funding plan sparks further debate

The Conversation and co-written by Peter Goss and Rachel Griffiths, presented the core concepts contained within the Grattan Institute’s latest report on school funding: ‘Circuit breaker: a new compact on school funding’. The authors find that the schools funding system is leaving many students behind, while some schools remain overfunded. However, ‘lifting all schools to their target funding levels is extremely costly under the current model’. The current system incorporates indexation rates that the report says are now too generous under current low rates of wage growth, and thereby reinforces disparities between the schools that need additional funding and those already over funded. Instead, the Grattan Institute proposes three steps to ‘align’ funding by 2023:

  1. ‘Fix’ funding arrangements to set schools on a corrected funding course, while also reviewing the formula for determining needs-based targets
  2. Introduce transparency in funding arrangements with the creation of an independent body
  3. Find ways to ensure funding improves teaching and learning outcomes
This plan would require politicians to renege on Julia Gillard’s promise that no school would ‘lose a dollar’ under Gonski reforms, so that over-funded schools would lose money. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has voiced his support of the report, which he believes falls in line with the Government’s plans for education reform. “The Turnbull Government is determined to establish a new schools funding deal post-2017 that will leverage evidence-based reforms to boost student outcomes and that will ensure need informs how our record level of funding is distributed,” Senator Birmingham said. However, the concept hasn’t received support from the Independent Schools Council of Australia, with its Executive Director Colette Colman stating that the report didn’t ‘recognise the complexity of funding arrangements or acknowledge the diverse nature of independent schools’, according to the Financial Review.]]>

Your School 2016 cover image

The Australian’s Your School publication highlights divide

Using the recently released NAPLAN results to create a ranked list of Australia’s schools, The Weekend Australian‘s Your School analysis demonstrates a clear divide in the results of high-fee private schools compared with those of their public school counterparts.

The publication provides information on over 9,000 schools nationwide, including state-by-state rankings of schools, which can be sorted by secondary, primary, most funded, least funded and more.

Independent schools currently make up three-quarters of all high schools in the top 100 according to overall performance.

The Your School analysis arrives at a time when the school funding debate appears to have been rekindled in maintstream media, recently stoked by comments from the Federal Minister for Education, Senator Simon Birmingham on ABC’s Q&A programme.

However, social and financial disadvantage have significant influence on education and, as Senior Lecturer in Research Methodology, Education Assessment and Evaluation at Sydney University, Rachel Wilson told The Weekend Australian, NAPLAN ‘was not a particularly sensitive test and was designed to set up benchmarks to identify schools that were performing poorly’.

As an example, Ms. Wilson points out that “Tasmania has a much lower income per capita and much higher levels of disadvantage and that’s reflected in their poorer performance”.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe concurred, saying that public schools are “performing as well as private, once socio-economic background is taken into account”.

Education evidence base draft report from the Productivity Commission

Productivity Commission: Education spending hasn't raised standards

a new draft report about the national education evidence base, indicating that increases in education spending hasn’t resulted in a positive uplift in standards. The draft report, which was commissioned by the Federal Government in March, says that better education outcomes will result from the ability to identify and evaluate better policies, programs and teaching practices based on available data. Commissioner Jonathan Coppel highlighted the disparity between the “14 per cent real increase in spending per sudent over the last ten years” and the fact that “student performance remains broadly static and in some areas has actually decreased”. “More resources, performance benchmarking and competition between schools alone, although important, are insufficient to achieve gains in education outcomes,” Commissioner Coppel said. The report goes to the heart of the ongoing political debate between Labor and the Turnbull Government regarding the Gonski education reforms, and the effectiveness of education spending. In addressing the point of contention, the Productivity Commission is of the opinion that ‘there is little evidence or systematic processes in place to evaluate policies, program and teaching practices to identify what works best in schools and early learning centres’, despite the amount of data that is collected to monitor and report on student and school outcomes. “Teachers have the greatest impact on student performance, after accounting for the characteristics of students themselves. Looking within the classroom, particularly teaching practices, is thus paramount to improving education outcomes across all schools and all students,’ said Commissioner Coppel. NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli slammed the report on Tuesday, in a response that implied it was a waste of money, saying “I hope no one paid for this report … it tells us nothing that we didn’t know four years ago”. Mr Piccoli said the report covers only 1.5 per cent of the proposed Gonski funding timeframe, but could be used as an argument to discontinue the funding. “I’m disappointed,” he said Piccoli. “When [the federal government] sees a report like this, they see it as a justification for not funding the final two years of Gonski. They see this as vindication.” Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham had said the Government would await the commission’s final report before considering a response. ‘We also know there are some schools whose students perform better than expected compared with similar schools. We should be lifting the bonnet on these schools to find out what they are doing, and carefully evaluating if we can apply their methods across schools.” The report also identifies better data sharing between jurisdictions as beneficial, suggesting existing privacy protections be overhauled and a universal student tracking system be introduced to gain better insight into why some schools consistently foster greater outcomes. “We are not looking to add to the compliance burden of educators. In fact, our report makes recommendations for reducing the existing burden by collecting data more cost-effectively and also making better use of existing data,” said Productivity Commissioner Julie Abramson.]]>

Australian flag

Election Week One: Turnbull’s $73.6bn promise

The marathon campaign in the lead up to July’s Federal election has already yielded some indication of what to expect from the major parties with regard to education spend and policy.

As mentioned in our update of two weeks ago, the Federal Budget announced an increase of $1.2 billion over three years for school funding, but it comes with a number of caveats.

The amount was announced as part of an overall budgetary commitment of $73.6 billion – the total amount the Commonwealth is planning to provide schools over the next four years. The majority of this money was already budgeted for.

The additional $1.2 billion promised by the Coalition will be delivered using state and territory assessments of the neediest schools, as was recommended by the Gonski review, along with a number of other conditions (such as a standardised Year 1 assessment of literacy, phonics and numeracy against national standards, as well as a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy skills for Year 12 students).

While the additional funding has been welcomed, it has also been noted that it only partially restores the funding cuts introduced by the Coalition in 2014.

By comparison, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor have promised an additional $4.5 billion over two years, which is slated to include $1.8 billion for regional and country classrooms.

While more money sounds like it will produce a greater windfall for Australian schools, the priority in which they receive these funds is still determined by the individual states and territories, not by the Commonwealth, thereby producing markedly varied results across the country.

The argument being made by the Coalition and a host of pundits is simply that increasing funding does not necessarily increase the performance of schools and, in turn, the academic performance of students themselves. However, this is exactly what the Gonski review was supposed to achieve and it is this element of the academic system that needs to discussed in detail by the major parties.

For yet another election campaign, we can all expect to hear the term ‘Gonski’ much more in the weeks to come.

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