President's comment, 27 Feb 2013
Gonski – the word is hope, not hoax
As I visit schools across the state, I get a clear sense of the positivity of teachers. A positivity generated by the innate motivation for engagement in the teaching profession: caring for children. However, more and more I also perceive an undercurrent of despair as teachers and school leaders struggle against under-resourcing, rapidly expanding expectations and an intensely negative political campaign to denigrate school education, particularly in the public sector, and our profession.
Enter Gonski. For the first time in 40 years, the education debate has swung around to a positive focus on students, their needs and the capacity of the current funding model for education to meet those needs. The conclusion of the Gonski review expert panel was that disadvantage in all its guises has a negative impact on educational outcomes for students and that a new funding model for all schools was the only way to overcome this. Furthermore, the need to undertake this radical change was urgent.
For teachers and school leaders across Australia, this was a sign of hope. A hope that the decades of working in a system deprived of even the most basic necessities of modern education might be drawing to a close. A hope that the energy and resources of the teaching profession might be liberated to focus on improving student outcomes rather than holding together the cracks in the education system. A hope that the promise of a quality education for every child in their local community might be realised in our teachers' lifetimes.
In the 12 months since the release of the Gonski review recommendations, the debate on education funding reform has touched on many issues: some valid and some spurious. What the debate has not done is question the core principles and findings of the Gonski panel that education funding should be based on need. It is now universally* accepted that disadvantage exists, that the current school funding model entrenches and exacerbates that disadvantage and funding reform for schools must happen urgently to overcome the ongoing negative consequences for students.
Recent comments by members of the Queensland Government that the Gonski reforms are “a cruel hoax” are cruel comments that ignore the overwhelming evidence and support for truly needs-based funding.
Governments at all levels have failed to deliver for the children of Australia. Gonski represents the hope that this failure can be redressed. Regardless of political ideology, the state and commonwealth governments must sit down now, plan for Gonski implementation at the first opportunity and act. Australia’s future depends on it.
27 February 2013
*Federal Shadow Minister for Education Christopher Pyne is one of the few who continues to insist that the current model is fair and needs-based.
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