President's comment, 26 November 2013

We need the truth on the Gonski reforms.

Recent days have seen extensive media coverage of whether, or not, or how, or where, or how much of the Gonski school funding model will be implemented by the new Federal Government.

Despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pledge not to let his government be caught up in the 24-hour media frenzy, his Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, seems to have missed that message and is governing by media via confused and confusing statements about  the Gonski school funding reforms.

Mr Pyne is being disingenuous (at best) in his comments that most jurisdictions hadn’t signed binding agreements.

Deal or no deal really isn’t the question.

Before the federal election, the then federal opposition was loud in its claims to be on a “unity ticket” with the ALP on school funding reforms. That was a clear commitment to voters right around Australia that the Coalition would honour the Gonski reforms.

The key aim of the reforms was to provide extra funding to support schools in helping their students overcome educational disadvantage; that aim is now enshrined in law in the form of the Australian Education Act 2013.

Yet this system is now one that Mr Pyne is calling a “shambles”, “inequitable” and “utterly incomprehensible”.

Perhaps Mr Pyne needs a reminder of the provenance of the school funding review.

The final report of the “Review of funding for schooling” was released in December 2011 ( It was prepared over 18 months, and was informed by more than 7000 submissions, school visits by the expert panel, and meetings with hundreds of education stakeholders and practitioners across the country. It drew on evidence-based research from across the world.

Its focus was “to develop a funding system for Australian schooling which is transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellent outcomes for all Australian students” across all sectors.

The funding model proposed did exactly that. It put forward a consistently applied school resourcing standard plus loadings for specifically identified characteristics of educational disadvantage. As the report said, “Australia and its children and young people, now and in the future, deserve nothing less.”

Mr Pyne is claiming that the “funding envelope” remains unchanged. It remains to be seen if that claim is upheld and is directed in a way that truly does deliver funds to the schools with the students with the greatest need, and in a way that allows those schools to be able to commit to long-term program and service delivery for not only their current students, but the future students in their local communities.

To do anything less would be a betrayal of the trust of teachers, principals, students and their families, and a broken promise to the voters of Australia.

Kevin Bates