Birmingham Obfuscates on School Funding and Results

The PISA results published in December present a major conundrum for education policy makers. The decline in results across the board for Year 10 students are in sharp contrast with the general improvement in Year 12 results over the past 10-15 years. Why the trends in results for students only two year levels apart are so disparate is a puzzle that requires serious investigation.

Instead, we saw an opportunistic response from the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, who was quick to pounce on the PISA results to justify dismembering the Gonski funding plan. It was just another opportunity to repeat highly misleading claims that school funding increases don’t improve school results.

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Birmingham is Wrong Again on School Funding and Outcomes

The following is the text of a new Education Policy Brief by Trevor Cobbold published by Save Our Schools.

Introduction
The Federal Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham was quick to pounce on the PISA 2015 results published in early December to put another knife in the Gonski funding plan. He took the opportunity to repeat his highly misleading claim that school funding increases don’t improve school outcomes. His oft-repeated claim serves one purpose only – to justify his Government’s refusal to fully fund Gonski.

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More School Funding Cuts by Stealth

The following is a summary of a new Education Policy Brief from Save Our Schools. The full Brief can be downloaded below.

The knives are out on school funding in the lead-up to the national education ministers’ meeting next week to determine the funding arrangements to apply from 2018. The cuts are being disguised by fiddling with the rates of annual increases in funding provided by the current funding model. It amounts to a confidence trick on the public. School funding is being cut by stealth.

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Schools in Deep Water Over Mandatory Swim Lessons

Earlier this week principals in Victorian government primary schools were stunned to learn that as from the beginning of 2017 that all students would have to be able to swim 50 metres continuously by the time they finished year 6. Swimming would become a mandatory part of the new Victorian Curriculum as part of the Andrews Government’s aim to prevent deaths by drowning.

It didn’t help that principals found this out via the media.

There is no disagreement about the goal – having all children competent in swimming is a no brainer. But, as is too often the case, the devil is in the detail and in this case the detail doesn’t stack up. More’s the pity because with some meaningful consultation between the government and school principals, so many of the self-inflicted obstacles to potential success with this initiative could have been avoided and the government would have been on a winner.

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Private School Funding is Corrupted by Special Deals

This is a summary of an open submission to the National Education Ministers’ Council by Save Our Schools on the future funding arrangements to apply from 2018 that are currently being negotiated behind closed doors between the Federal and state/territory governments and between the Federal Government and private school organisations. The submission can be downloaded below.

The Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, says that he wants to fix the “corruption’’ at the heart of the Gonski funding model. He should start on the special deals and arrangements that provide several billion dollars in over-funding to private schools that corrupt the principle of needs-based funding for schools.

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End the Corruption of Private School Funding

Governments should end special funding deals for private schools according to a submission to the national education minister’s council by Save Our Schools. SOS convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that special deals have corrupted private school funding and provide more than $3 billion a year in over-funding. Continue reading “End the Corruption of Private School Funding”

School Autonomy in England Fails to ‘Unleash Greatness’

The UK Government promised to ‘unleash greatness’ in English schools with its radical school autonomy plan to convert all schools to independent academies. A new comprehensive review of the experience with academies shows the plan is failing. It concludes that academies are an imperfect way to address the challenges faced by struggling schools and their students and that school autonomy has clear limits as a school reform strategy.

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Private Schools Do Not Have an Entitlement to Taxpayer Funding

There is a good case for government funding of private schools whose resources are below what is needed to ensure an adequate education for all children. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that children educated in the private sector are not disadvantaged in their access to quality education by their parents’ choices. Their education should not be allowed to suffer because their parents choose to send them to an under-resourced school.

Similarly, disadvantaged students such as low SES, Indigenous, remote area and disability students should be entitled to the same funding loadings whether they attend public or private schools. As part of ensuring access to quality education, governments also have an obligation to regulate private schools to ensure students receive a high quality, fully rounded education and to ensure their personal safety and welfare.

However, private schools whose private-sourced income exceeds a community standard, such as the base Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) used for the Gonski funding model, should not be entitled to baseline funding by governments. The argument that all children, including those attending high fee, exclusive schools, are entitled to government assistance for their education is a spurious argument. Government funding compounds their large resource advantage over public schools.

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Funding Increases for Victorian Elite Private Schools Far Exceed that for Disadvantaged Public Schools

Government funding increases for Victorian schools have dramatically favoured elite private schools over the most disadvantaged public schools in recent years. Total government funding per student in high fee, exclusive private schools increased by nearly three times more than for the most highly disadvantaged public schools between 2009 and 2014. The average funding increase per student for the 35 most advantaged private schools was 27% compared with only 10% for the 37 most disadvantaged public schools [see Chart 1 below].

The large disparity in funding increases was due to the failure of the Victorian Government to increase funding for disadvantaged public schools while boosting its funding of private schools. The funding increase from the Australian Government was similar for the elite private schools and the disadvantaged public schools – 30% and 34% respectively. However, the Victorian Government, which accounts for about 80% of public school funding, increased funding for the most disadvantaged schools by only 6%. In contrast, it increased funding for the elite private schools by three times as much – 18%.

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