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Federal budget 2016

Budget 2016: Mixed bag for education spending

The Federal Government has released its budget for the year ahead, announcing a total spend in education of $33.7 billion, yet not all areas of education are set to benefit.

Despite the spending, the government announced cuts of $152.2 million over four years to the Higher Education Participation Program, as well as $20.9 million over four years from the Promotions of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Program.

By comparison the $33.7 billion in spending includes an increase of $1.2 billion of school funding, to be delivered between 2018 and 2020, as well as $118.2 million over the next two years going towards students with a disability.

As pointed our by Senior Lecturer in Education Policy at the University of Melbourne, Glenn Savage, the increase in funds falls ‘short of the $4.5 billion promised by Labor between 2018-19 as part of the Gonski reform model’.

However, the increase is nevertheless likely to be warmly received by educators who have been fearing cuts, with the government previously hinting it might cease all funding to public schools altogether.

‘The funding increase is out of step with education minister Simon Birmingham’s repeated claim that funding does not matter as much as other features of schooling such as curriculum or quality teachers. If this were truly the case, then why the funding increase?’ Savage questions in a brief letter to SBS News.

What funding does exist for schools is expected to be delivered on a needs-based plan. which may require students as young as five or six facing tests in order to determine whether they qualify for extra assistance.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said these changes have been introduced to improve student performance.

‘It is completely unacceptable that the performance of our students in fundamental skills like literacy and numeracy continues to slip even while our funding continues to significantly increase,’ Birmingham told the Sunday Telegraph.

The changes also include minimum standards for students to pass Year 12, as well as changes to teacher pay structure, with performance set to be rewarded over length of service.

Several issues have also been deferred in this budget, with higher education reform pushed back one year and little to be seen for early learning.

Bernardi email

Cory Bernardi email to Melbourne mother faces criticism

An email reportedly sent by Senator Cory Bernardi to a Melbourne mother on the topic of the Safe Schools program has received criticism from the Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham.

On Monday night, mother of two, Pia Cerveri received a reply to an email she had sent Bernardi containing her opinion regarding his stance on the anti-bullying program.

Beyond informing Ms Cerveri that she “clearly” hasn’t “any idea what is in the program”, Mr Bernardi’s email went on to say the Safe Schools website links to “bondage clubs and adult sex toys” before telling Ms Cerveri he worried for her children.

Read the full email at the link below.

At the time of writing, it has not yet been confirmed by Mr Bernardi or his office that he had sent the email himself, although the email address used has been verified as his.

Having overseen the Government’s handling of a review on the Safe Schools initiative, Mr Birmingham expressed his displeasure in the language used in the email in an appearance on Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’.

“There is certainly language I wouldn’t use and that is not an accurate reflection of what is in the Safe Schools program,” he said. “There are genuine concerns contained in that about the type of websites that you can link from in relation to some of the recommended sites of the Safe School program. That is where we have taken action, but other areas of that, frankly, are not an accurate reflection and not terribly helpful.”

The exchange follows the news that the Government had recommended sweeping changes to the program, in which it would be limited to being available only to secondary schools, requiring parent consent for children to participate and also removing external links from the Safe Schools website.