Call to Keep Funding Loadings for Disadvantaged Students

A new education policy brief published by Save Our Schools has confirmed the need for higher funding loadings for schools with greater concentration of disadvantaged students. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that a proposal by Independent Schools Victoria to remove additional funding for highly disadvantaged schools should be rejected by the Federal Government.

“The proposal is hypocritical, disingenuous and indefensible. It ignores a corpus of research evidence that supports more funding for disadvantaged schools.

“It will drive another stake through the heart of the Gonski funding model, reduce opportunities for low SES students and preserve the large achievement gaps between rich and poor. It is designed to protect the privileges of the wealthy schools represented by Independent Schools Victoria.

Mr. Cobbold said that the SOS policy brief provides a new analysis based on the most recent My School data.

“Our analysis shows a clear trend for schools with greater concentrations of students in the lowest SES quartile to have lower average NAPLAN results (see Chart, p.6). This finding is consistent with those of many research studies in Australia and overseas.

“For example, the average NAPLAN Year 9 reading score of schools with less than 10 per cent of students in the lowest SES quartile was 144 points higher than schools with more than 70 per cent in that quartile. This gap is equivalent to about seven years of learning.

“The trend is similar for Year 5 reading, although the gaps are smaller. Year 5 students in schools with more than 70 per cent of students in the lowest SES quartile are, on average, about three years behind students in schools with less than 10 per cent in this quartile.”

Mr. Cobbold rejected the claim by Independent Schools Victoria that the low SES concentration loadings will lead to greater social segregation between schools.

“This is a ludicrous proposition. There is no evidence to support it. On the contrary, in New Zealand where concentration loadings are applied for low SES schools, increasing social segregation is being driven by school rankings with schools manipulating enrolment zones to recruit more high SES students and exclude low SES students.

“The publication of school results and league tables give schools a greater incentive to recruit high achieving students because they are lower cost and boost school rankings and reputations.

“The barefaced gall of this argument is astonishing from an organisation representing the wealthiest schools in the state that have self-segregated by setting high fees and selecting their students. The hypocrisy is all the more glaring given its chairman is also the chair of one of the most expensive and exclusive schools in the country – Geelong Grammar. The hypocrisy is all a bit ‘rich’.”

Mr. Cobbold said that submissions to the Federal Government review of the low SES loadings should be made public.

“At this stage, no one knows exactly what Independent Schools Victoria (and other organisations) has said to the Government. We only know from press reports that its submission is consistent with its submission to the Senate Select Committee on School Funding earlier this year which called for the concentration loadings to be removed.

“The process for this review was appalling. Participants have been selected by the Government, discussions are held behind closed doors, and submissions are secret. There can be no public confidence or trust in the process and its outcomes.

“While SOS has been excluded from participation in the review, we believe that the proposal to remove the disadvantage concentration loadings should be closely scrutinised. Our research shows that the proposal is wholly without foundation and should be rejected by the Federal Government.”

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