Education Resource Gaps in Australia Are Amongst the Largest in the OECD

The following is a summary of a new Education Research Paper by Save Our Schools. It can be downloaded below.

Data published by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2022 show that Australia has one of the most inequitable school systems in the OECD in how resources are allocated between schools and school systems. There are huge resource gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools in Australia that are amongst the largest in the OECD.

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Government Funding Increases Continue to Favour Private Schools

New figures again demonstrate the bias against public schools in Australia’s school funding system. Government funding for Catholic and Independent schools has increased much more than for public schools since 2009. Government funding has enabled private schools to have a much higher income per student than public schools and to provide more teaching and material resources per student than in public schools. It is extraordinary, but shameful, that Australia’s school funding system so favours the privilege over the under-privileged. The new figures show that the Commonwealth and state governments must fully fund public schools in the new funding agreements being negotiated at present.

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Tasmanian Political Parties Must Step up for Public Schools

School funding in Tasmania is heavily biased against public schools. Government funding increase have favoured Catholic and Independent schools over public schools. Public schools have fewer resources than private schools and are significantly under-funded while private schools are over-funded. There is vast inequity between rich and poor in school outcomes. High proportions of disadvantaged students do not achieve expected standards and the large majority of these students attend public schools. There is an urgent need to ensure that public schools are fully funded to meet their challenges. All Tasmanian political parties must make this commitment in the election campaign.

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PISA Results Intensify Pressure on Governments to Fully Fund Public Schools

The OECD’s 2022 PISA results reveal Australia has one of the most unequal school systems in the OECD and that inequality is increasing. There are large achievement gaps in reading, mathematics and science of five or more years of learning at age 15 and the gaps have widened since 2006. As well, a large and growing proportion of disadvantaged students do not achieve international standards.

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Government Funding of Public Prmary Schools

The following is an overview of a paper on primary school funding and outcomes prepared for the Australian Government Primary Principals’ Association. It can be downloaded below.

Over the past twelve years, government funding increases have heavily favoured private primary schools over public schools. Since 2009, funding for private primary schools has increased by about three times that for public schools. Funding increases for Catholic and Independent primary schools have ensured their income per student is much higher than that of public primary schools. This provides private primary schools with a large human and material resource advantage.

Public schools are massively under-funded and this will continue until at least the end of the decade unless the current funding arrangements are dramatically revised. Public schools in all states except the ACT will be only funded to 91% or less of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2029. By contrast, Catholic and Independent schools will be funded at over 100% of their SRS.

The misdirection of large funding increases to the more privileged Catholic and Independent school sectors has major consequences for national student achievement because money matters in education. Inadequate funding means that public primary schools cannot fully address major learning challenges. Public schools enrol over 80% of low SES, Indigenous, remote area and high disability students. Large proportions of disadvantaged primary school students do not achieve national standards in literacy and numeracy and the achievement gaps between them and high SES students amount to about two years of learning by Year 5.

The new National School Reform Agreement and the new Commonwealth-State funding agreements to be negotiated next year which will apply from 2025 should ensure that public schools are funded at 100% of their SRS. This should include removing the provisions in the current agreements that allow the states to defraud public schools by counting expenditures excluded from the design of the SRS towards their share of the SRS.

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Close the Achievement Gaps Between Rich and Poor

New analysis of the latest NAPLAN results reveals large achievement gaps in literacy and numeracy between rich and poor students at all Year levels tested. The gaps are up to five and more years of learning by Year 9. Very high proportions of disadvantaged students need of extra help at school to make expected progress through school. The vast inequities harm individual lives, restrict economic growth and foment an unequal and divided society.

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Expert Panel on School Reform Must Support Closing the Gap Between Rich and Poor

Save Our Schools (SOS) today called on the Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA) to address the shocking gaps in school outcomes between rich and poor. Trevor Cobbold, National Convenor of SOS, said that there are massive achievement gaps between highly advantaged and highly disadvantaged students that must be closed.

“Closing the achievement gaps is the fundamental challenge facing Australian education. The Expert Panel must ensure that its policy recommendations for the next NSRA are focussed on closing the gaps. It must set clear targets to achieve greater equity in school outcomes.

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Our Better Angels: Should We Include or Segregate Students?

A disputed recommendation from the Disability Commission’s Report is whether or not segregated education should be phased out from 2025. Those Commissioners advocating such a change are on the side of our better angels. It is proper to have an inclusive society and we should condemn any section of our community that segregates sections of the population. Any form of segregation evokes the injustice experienced when societies were divided by the colour of one’s skin. This segregation is motivated by a child’s ability, on the face of it equally offensive. So, why is there some support for segregation in education and why is this only a problem for students with disabilities?

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The Next Schools Agreement Must Embrace Key Principles for School Funding

Save Our Schools (SOS) has called on the Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement to recommend some key principles to guide the future funding of schools. These principles should include fully funding public schools by 2028, no special deals for private schools, a greater role for the Commonwealths in funding public schools and an end to the defrauding of public schools by state governments.  SOS has also recommended the Panel adopt a target of halving class sizes in disadvantaged schools.

These recommendations are outlined in the SOS submission to the Expert Panel. It says that the Panel must consider the funding principles to guide the next NSRA. There is no justification for the claim that school funding is outside the terms of reference of the Panel. Future funding principles are well within its terms of reference because the terms require the Panel to consider how funding can better linked to student outcomes. In part, the terms of reference ask the Panel to ensure public funding delvers on national agreements. This necessitates some basic principles to guide future funding. Developing such principles would not transgress the Minister’s edict that the Panel should not review how the SRS is calculated.

The key principles recommended by SOS are:

  1. Funding for public and private schools should be based strictly on a needs-basis in order to deliver increased outcomes for students in the priority equity cohorts;
  2. The Commonwealth Government should play a greater role in funding for increased equity in education;
  3. The Commonwealth-State funding agreements must ensure that both parties live up to their commitments and responsibilities to deliver equity in education;
  4. Public schools should be fully funded at 100% of their SRS within the life of the next NSRA;
  5. The integrity of the SRS must be maintained and not diluted;
  6. There must be increased reporting on target outcomes and the use of taxpayer funding.

The submission also calls for the next NSRA to support halving class sizes in disadvantaged schools.

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Fully Funding Private Schools is No Solution to Inequity in Education

This article is a summary of a new Education Policy Brief. The full Brief can be downloaded below.

The proposal of Tom Greenwell and Chris Bonnor to fully fund private schools. subject to them not charging fees and not enrolling students on the basis of ability, abrogates key long standing principles of public education, namely, that public schools are secular and do not discriminate on the basis of student background. The proposal explicitly permits private schools to promulgate their religious beliefs and values and to discriminate against students and teachers who do not share these beliefs. This is anathema to the founding principles of public education. Public schools must remain secular and take all comers, whatever their background, to provide access to education for all and to promote understanding and tolerance between different social groups.

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