The following is a summary of a new research paper by Save Our Schools analysing the latest NAPLAN results. The paper can be downloaded below.
The latest NAPLAN reslts shows shocking inequalities in school outcomes between highly advantaged and disadvantaged students in Australia. Very high proportions of low socio-economic status (SES), Indigenous and remote area students do not achieve national literacy and numeracy standards compared to very small proportions of high SES students. By Year 9, low SES, Indigenous and remote area students are several years of learning behind their high SES peers. There has been very little progress in reducing the learning gaps between rich and poor over the last decade or so.
The paper shows that 29% of low SES Year 9 students were below the national reading standard in 2022, 38% were below the writing standard and 16% were below the numeracy standard. One-third of Indigenous students were below the reading standard, 44% were below the writing standard and 19% were below the numeracy standard. Nearly one-quarter of remote area students were below the reading standard, 35% were below the writing standard and 13% were below the numeracy standard. By contrast, 3% of Year 9 high SES students did not achieve the reading standard, 7% did not achieve the writing standard and 2% did not achieve the numeracy standard.
These are shocking inequities. For example, it is totally unacceptable that the percentage of low SES Year 9 students not achieving the national reading standard is 9 times that of high SES students and the proportion of Indigenous students not achieving the standard is 11 times that of high SES students. Remote area 8 times.
Year 5 low SES, Indigenous and remote area students are about two years behind Year 5 high SES students in reading, writing and numeracy. Year 9 low SES, Indigenous and remote areas students are four years or more behind high SES students in reading, writing and numeracy. The NAPLAN scores of Year 9 low SES and Indigenous are similar to or below those of Year 5 high SES students while those of remote area students are only slightly above.
There has been no learning improvement amongst low SES students since 2008 and declines in many cases. None of 18 indicators of learning showed any improvement. There was no reduction in the proportion of Year 5 and Year 9 low SES students not achieving the reading, writing and numeracy national standards. NAPLAN scores fell in Year 5 writing and in all in Year 9. Achievement gaps between high and low SES students either increased or showed no statistically significant change.
There were several improvements in learning by Indigenous students. Learning improved for 11 out of 18 indicators. The percentage not achieving national standard decreased in Year 5 reading and numeracy and in Year 9 numeracy. NAPLAN scores also increased significantly in Year 5 reading and numeracy and in Year 9 numeracy. Achievement gaps between high SES and Indigenous students decreased at both Year levels in all domains except Year 9 reading.
There were some learning improvements amongst remote area students but generally there was no significant changes or decreases in learning. Only 5 of the 18 indicators showed any improvement. There was no significant change in the percentage not achieving national standards in Year 5 and increased proportions below standard in Year 9 reading and writing. NAPLAN scores increased in Year 5 reading and numeracy and Year 9 numeracy but there was no improvement in the other learning domains in Years 5 and 9. There was no reduction in the achievement gaps between high SES and remote area students in Year 5 and Year 9 reading. The gaps in Year 9 writing and numeracy fell but this was mainly due to declining results for high SES students.
These are an appalling inequity that have continued for far too long. They are an indictment on our education system, governments, and society. Australia has a highly inequitable, discriminatory, class-ridden education system that makes nonsense of the idea that we are an egalitarian country.
Funding failures by successive Commonwealth and state governments are a major factor contributing to these education inequities. Over 80% of low SES, Indigenous and remote area students attend public schools. Despite this, government funding increases since 2009 have heavily favoured private schools.
Combined government funding per student, adjusted for inflation, increased by $830 per student in public schools compared to $2,839 per student in Independent and $2,490 per student in Catholic schools. In percentage terms, the increase in funding for Independent school (45%) was nearly six times that of public schools (7.8%) and the increase for Catholic schools (32.2%) was over three times that of public schools
Public schools across Australia are vastly under-funded to meet the challenges they face. They are currently funded on average at 87.1% of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). Public schools in all states except the ACT are funded at well under their SRS. They will remain under-funded until at least 2029 under current funding arrangements
By contrast, private schools, who serve only a small minority of disadvantaged students, are significantly over-funded. On average, they are currently funded at 104.3% of their SRS and will remain over-funded for the rest of the decade, Private schools in all states except the Northern Territory are funded at over 100% of their SRS.
The decision by the Education Ministers Meeting to extend the current National Schools Reform Agreement to 2024 is disastrous for public schools because the current funding agreement is blatantly biased in favour of private schools. First, the funding agreement only provides for public schools to be funded at 95% of their SRS by 2029 while private schools are funded at over 100% of their SES ntil at least 2029. Second, the agreement allows state governments claim certain non-school expenditures as part of its share of the SRS of public schools but not for private schools. The effect is that public schools will be funded at less than 91% of their SRS until at least 2029 while private schools are funded at over 100% of their SRS for the rest of the decade.
At present, there is no indication when public schools will be fully funded. Numerous studies show that money matters in education, especially for disadvantaged students. Yet, public schools and the vast majority of disadvantaged students continue to be denied the funding needed to achieve greater equity in education outcomes. The decision of the Education Ministers Meeting is a betrayal of public schools and disadvantaged students. It will ensure that the appalling inequities in school outcomes between rich and poor will continue for even longer.