PISA Results Demand a Massive Increase in Funding for Government Schools

Save Our Schools today called for a massive boost in funding for government schools in the light of the new PISA results released yesterday. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the new results are a national disgrace.

“The new PISA report shows that Australia’s education system continues to let down the most disadvantaged in our society. It shows large and growing achievement gaps between rich and poor. This is a national scandal for a society that prides itself on a “fair go” for all.

“Students from low socio-economic status (SES) families are two to three years in learning behind their high SES counterparts. They are nearly three years behind in reading, just over two years behind in mathematics and about 2½ years behind in science. These gaps have increased since 2006.

“One-quarter of all 15 year-old low SES students are not achieving the international reading proficiency benchmark, 28% are not achieving the mathematics benchmark and 22% are not achieving science benchmark. This compares with only 4-5% of high SES students not achieving these benchmarks. These gaps have also increased since 2006.

“In contrast, the proportion of high SES students achieving the highest proficiency levels is about 5 times that of low SES students.

“There are similar achievement gaps between remote area and high SES students while the gaps between Indigenous students and high SES students are even larger. Remote area students are, on average, 2½ to three years behind while Indigenous students are three to four years behind.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the vast majority of low SES, Indigenous and remote area students attend government schools but they are not being given the resources they need to improve the results of these students.

“The new PISA report shows that government schools are performing as well as Catholic and Independent schools when socio-economic disadvantage is taken into account. However, government schools are not able to close the achievement gaps because they are not getting the funding they need. The summary PISA report says this very clearly: “…more must be done to address the level of resourcing in schools that the majority of Australian students attend” [20].

“Current government funding policies are misdirected. The wealthiest private schools in Australia have double or more the resources of government schools while enrolling few students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet, they receive government funding of $2000 to $4000 per student. This is 4 to 8 times more than the additional funding provided for disadvantaged students in private or government schools.

“The Federal Government’s new funding program for disadvantaged schools provides only miniscule additional funding. It amounts to a little over $500 per student which is less than a 5% increase on average government school expenditure per student.

“In contrast, academic research studies show that the additional funding needed to get low SES student results up to the average for all students is 100-150% more than the cost of educating an average student.

“We have a long way to go to improve the education prospects for the most disadvantaged groups in our society. Government schools serving disadvantaged communities need the kind of resourcing levels now only available to the wealthiest schools in Australia.”

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