Which governments give a Gonski?

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The many QTU members who have been actively engaged for months in the federal schools funding review campaign should congratulate themselves on an outstanding outcome.

Today’s announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard that her government will implement the Gonksi review’s funding model is a win for QTU members and for the children in their classrooms.

The challenge remains on how – or whether – state governments around the country will take on their share of responsibility for delivering the extra funds needed to ensure that Australian education funding can finally match the need in our schools, particularly those in remote areas and those with high proportions of students facing educational disadvantage.

The signs in Queensland are not promising, given the Queensland Government’s brutal cost-cutting regime and the fact that it has shown scant regard for the value in investing in education for the sake of the state’s people as well as its economic future: education does not rate as one of the LNP’s “four pillars” of economic growth, despite the fact that an investment in human capital is vital for the growth of any industry. 

The need for more education funding in Queensland is pressing. For decades, this has been one of the lowest spending of states, while Queensland’s state education system is one of the country’s most diverse.

The Gillard announcement highlights 

  • A political leader finally acknowledged that education is an investment, not a cost.
  • The estimated extra spend on education nationally will be $6.5billion per year.
  • Loading for disability has been included, along with loading for Indigeneity, low SES backgrounds, limited English skills and location in regional and remote areas. 
  • Part of “A National Plan for School Improvement” is to give “new teachers more time to plan their classes and mentoring with more experienced teachers”.
  • The Prime Minister committed to consulting further with teachers and principals, and said that Australia must improve the value and status of teachers in the community.

And lowlights…

  • The Prime Minister continues her obsession with My School and various ‘objective measures’ of school performance; yet she herself said “schools are human organisations” and any measurement must take that fact into account.
  • A similar concern exists around the Prime Minister’s comment on schools “being required” to have annual school improvement plans to which they will “be held to account” – it may surprise the Prime Minister to discover that Queensland schools have been doing just that for more than a decade. In the same way, she doesn’t seem to understand that teachers already do work in a collegial way in annual performance appraisals.
  • The Prime Minister’s speech included the usual school autonomy rhetoric such as “giving school principals more power to run their schools the way they want, including hiring staff and controlling their budgets” – that’s fine if the working conditions of all staff are respected and protected, and principals are not faced with “controlling” a budget inadequate for their school’s needs.

Kevin Bates
QTU President

3 September 2012