Gonski Report released but struggle for funding fairness continues

The long-awaited final report of the Gonski Review into Schools Funding recommends an injection of an extra $5 billion a year for schools.

The report argues that the greater part of this money ($3.8b) should flow to public schools, because of the significant numbers and greater concentration of disadvantaged students that attend them. The current funding arrangements were found to be complex, incoherent, inefficient and lacking in transparency.

According to the report, the aim of schools funding should be to ensure that “every child should have access to the best possible education, regardless of where they live, the income of their family or the school they attend”.

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • a significant increase in funding for all schools, with the largest part of this for government schools
  • greater coordination between levels of government in funding all schooling sectors, with an emphasis on improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students
  • the establishment of an independent and expert national schools resourcing body
  • public funding to non-government schools based on the anticipated level of a school’s private contribution and range from 25 per cent of the standard (for very wealthy schools) to 90 per cent of the standard
  • greater capital funding and infrastructure planning across sectors.

The review also calls for the abolition of the average government school recurrent costs (AGSRC) and the development of a new schooling resource standard, which should:

  • form the basis for general recurrent funding for all students in all schooling sectors
  • consist of separate per student amounts for primary and secondary students
  • provide loadings for the additional costs of meeting certain educational needs (e.g.  relating to socio-economic background, disability, English language proficiency, Indigeneity)
  • be based on actual resources used by schools to achieve high educational outcomes for their students
  • recognise that schools with similar student populations require the same level of resources, regardless of sector
  • be periodically reviewed
  • be indexed.

While the report recommendations fall short of everything that public school advocates would have hoped for – and a major difficulty for the review committee was the government’s foolish requirement that no non-government school should be financially disadvantaged – it provides a solid basis for building a fairer and more effective schools funding system.

However, the government is already showing signs of cold feet. Instead of embracing the report’s recommendations, the government has announced further consultation. The review commissioned research that thoroughly examined the key issues and was informed by well over 6,000 submissions from across all schooling sectors, across all Australian states and territories. The research has been done; the consultation has been had. It’s time for the government to act.

You can access a full copy of the report and provide input to the federal government at www.schoolfunding.gov.au

In the interests of public education, take a few minutes to visit the site and urge the government to quit procrastinating and implement the recommendations of the Gonski Review.

John McCollow
Research Officer

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 2, 16 March 2012, pp8-9