Gonski Funding Will Future Proof Access to Quality Education

As a young man in his new country, he is entitled to access quality education locally. He has come to Australia as a 17 year old refugee without family of any description and often has home utilities cut off. Yet through a personalised learning program which is appropriately resourced, his life experience possibilities and opportunities are now much richer.

Purposeful, targeted and strategically planned resourcing will, can and does provide significant learning opportunities for our students most in need. The education funding reform has been expertly and fairly developed.

As a principal leading a school in a low socio economic community, I can attest that Gonski has begun to afford some of the young people in our school access to their entitled quality education, albeit on a small and restricted scale at this point. Our school community continues to develop and implement programs and employ expert personnel best-suited to targeting student learning needs.

For our refugee and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students, students with poor language proficiency or disabilities, accessing deep and purposeful learning can be difficult if not marginalising in schools. This year as Gonski rolls in we have employed skilled personnel to work with students in need of school engagement by enriching their capacity as we target educational disadvantage.

As an informed school community we have strategically identified and developed a scaffold approach to skill development, confidence in learning and individual learning plans for students.

Already we are experiencing an increase in submission of class work for those students targeted and importantly, attendance rates for 2014 at this stage have soared by nearly 3%. Previously the National Partnership investment for our school, which is coming to a close was supporting extremely impressive trend data in HSC results.

This is a tipping point for our school community. We are seeing aspirational goals broaden with unprecedented offers and acceptances to university as an additional option available within our community. Our HSC results are flourishing with ATARs into the very highest bands. Those students are now returning role models for the next cohort of young people in our school. These results are doorways for each of the students. In fact 63% of ATAR students are accepting university courses, this has trebled within two years.

The Gonski education reform will enculturate and enrich achievable and accessible aspirations. I see the change, I see the light of opportunity in my students’ faces, each with a life story that touches heart and mind. Many of our refugee students are pursuing tertiary education. Proud parents, family or carers resettling in this country speak of never imagining such a possibility for their children. Gonski makes this possible, Gonski makes it a reality!

For our most recent group of young people graduating in 2013, approximately 63% of those attending university this year are first generation university learners. 100% are low SES, with a further approximation of 59% having a language background other than English and 15% as refugee students now attending university.

This is life changing for each student captured in the data, therefore it is life changing for the social capital of their community and consequently for Australian Society. This is the investment of targeted educational funding reform for our nation. Our strategic plans are the blueprint for further support of those students in need.

Yet our students, community and nation need the clarity and certainty of the full Gonski reform. Gonski is a coherent methodology where all schools would benefit from stability and consistency with the same approach to resourcing. The reform is premised on investing in all schools to ensure that students are meeting expectations and are resourced to a minimum standard. This can only occur with the full six years of Gonski.

As committed educators, school and system leaders, parents and community members, we cannot abandon what is possible, what is for the short and long term public good of each of our students/children and the social capital of our communities. Our young people in need are ALL entitled to access quality education regardless of school, educational jurisdiction, state or territory.

Such a significant aspirational change for our school community has not before happened over the previous couple of decades. I cannot rest and let current education policy exclude young people from these life changing opportunities again.

We are responsible for ensuring education in Australia is a priority and remains so. How do we future proof access to quality education for each of our current and future young people in schools in NSW and Australia? Gonski!

Lila (Liliana) Mularczyk
Principal, Merrylands High School
President, NSW Secondary Principals’ Council

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