This article is the second in a series on mapping the extent and differences in school autonomy across jurisdictions and school sectors in Australia. The aim is to provide an up to date information base for further discussion of issues around school autonomy.
The information provided below and in forthcoming articles is a first go at developing a comprehensive overview of school autonomy in Australia.
The allocation of staff to schools is determined by a staffing formula. School principals contribute to the decisions on resourcing and the appointment of teachers in schools. Principals and relevant qualified staff members select classified teachers and temporary and casual teachers for their school. They have a degree of autonomy over non-teaching staff resources and the capacity to convert either staff resource budget allocations or operational grant funding between its categories to meet the needs of the school.
Specialist staff are allocated to regions which appoint staff to schools. The Department runs the staff transfer system but principals are consulted on transfers.
Queensland schools currently have primary control of a non-staff budget. Each school is given a budget to cover operational costs. Schools are also provided with a range of targeted grants to support students who require additional support in addressing their learning needs. Principals and school councils have responsibility for managing the school grant and are able to determine the school priorities based on their school strategic plan and annual operational plan.
Queensland schools have primary responsibility for the maintenance and replacement of equipment and facilities. Contract management and procurement is a centralised responsibility. The Department is responsible for the majority of works contracts in schools, particularly cleaning, and it is also responsible for major capital works and upgrades.
A P-12 curriculum framework guides teaching and learning across all subject areas in all Queensland schools. Within the framework, each school can develop its own curriculum plan which gives details of what is taught. The Australian Curriculum for English, Maths and Science for Years P-10 is being introduced from 2012 and history from 2013.
Queensland state school communities have the option of establishing school councils. There are approximately 220 school councils in Queensland out of over 1200 government schools.
Increase in school autonomy
Approximately 130 government schools will participate in the Empowering Local Schools program. It is intended in increase local decision-making capacity in relation to staff management and school budgets. Schools will have greater flexibility in managing their school funds through the removal of tied funding to meet their local student needs – for example purchasing additional classroom support based on the needs of the school’s students. More schools will also be encouraged to establish school councils to enhance community engagement in decision-making.
The Queensland Government has also announced its program for Independent Public Schools which will operate separately to the Empowering Local Schools initiative. It plans to make 120 government schools Independent Public Schools over the next four years, with 30 schools transitioning each year. Each school is required to establish a school council. Principals will be able to determine their own staffing profile which must be approved by the school council. They will also be able to choose whether to recruit staff directly or through existing internal applicant pools or transfer. Schools will be given a one-line budget that includes school operating grants and a staffing budget. They will also receive a student support staff allocation for literacy and numeracy, English as a second language, guidance officers, behaviour management teachers and support for disability students.
Schools have limited discretion in the appointment of staff. They advertise positions through a central system and are offered a list of eligible staff from which they can select. They select teachers through an ‘open selection’ process based on merit, offer conversion to permanency to individual temporary teachers at the school level, and offer temporary contracts for up to three years. Most staff are employed and paid through the Department of Education. Schools can determine the staffing mix. Some limited central management occurs for unplaced teachers and teachers returning to the metropolitan area from regional areas.
Under new funding arrangements, the bulk of resources for schools are allocated through a resource entitlement statement which includes a base allocation for each school, a per student allocation, program allocations and supplementary funding. Schools have autonomy over the allocation of these resources.
A new student centred funding model is the main source of funding. It provides student per capita funding to schools in place of the previous enrolment step formula for teachers, ancillary staff and leadership. Schools have a one-line budget for core staff and special needs staff. Schools are provided with an annual allocation to manage operational activities at the school level, including for maintenance. Contract management is handled at the school level.
The South Australian curriculum framework is mandatory for all South Australian government schools for Years K-10. The Australian Curriculum for English, maths, science and history is being implemented and will replace the SA curriculum frameworks for these subjects. The frameworks will continue to guide teaching and learning in other subjects.
South Australian Government schools have operated under local management arrangements since 2000 when school councils were established. Prior to this, school councils operated as advisory bodies. School councils have joint responsibility with the school leadership team for strategic planning, reviewing the school’s learning plan, allocating the financial resources available to the school, reviewing the budget, and participate in the selection of the principal. Councils also manage and employ non teaching staff such as canteen managers and out of school hours care staff.
Increase in school autonomy
About 60 government schools in South Australia will participate in the Empowering Local Schools program. Under the program schools will be able to form confederations to work together to achieve greater flexibility including shared staffing arrangements. Regional and rural schools can join with schools in metropolitan areas to increase the curriculum options available to their students and small regional schools can join with other schools to form ‘centres of excellence’ in areas such as joint financial management.
Schools will be provided funding to change or improve their operations or service delivery in areas such as governance, school operations, maintenance and infrastructure, and workforce issues such as staff recruitment and performance.
Staffing is a central office responsibility. All schools are allocated a basic quota of teaching staff using a formula based on enrolments and school related indices. There are also staffing supplementations for the early years of schooling and upper secondary years. Non-teaching administrative and support staff are also allocated by a staffing formula. Cleaning and grounds maintenance staff are also centrally funded and appointed. There is also a centralized transfer system.
Schools are provided with a funding grant to cover educational and operational expenditure. It includes a general grant for things such as professional development, materials, maintenance and minor works, utilities and other items.
Major maintenance and capital works is carried out by the Department and covers expenditure above $20,000.
The Australian Curriculum for English, maths, science and history is being implemented in Tasmanian schools. The Tasmanian curriculum applies to other learning areas.
All Tasmanian state schools are required to establish school associations which are composed of elected members representing the parents, staff, students and the community. The principal is an unelected member of the association.
School associations participate in the formulation of school policies and priorities, provide advice and recommendations to the principal in relation to the general operations and management of the school, participate on the selection panel for the appointment of the principal, and approve the school budget.
Increase in school autonomy
Up to 22 Tasmanian government schools will participate in Empowering Local Schools. Schools will have a one-line financial budget. Schools will be able to establish new advisory boards to include representation from local community members, industry and the Aboriginal community. The boards will encourage increased involvement of school parents in decision-making. Schools will be able to explore options such as partnerships with neighbouring schools, increased eLearning, different operational structures, and flexible staffing options.