The Lost Decade of School Autonomy in NSW

It is just over ten years since the school autonomy program called Local Schools, Local Decisions commenced in NSW. It has been a lost decade. It was supposed to increased student results but high inequity in education continues with more bureaucracy, less central support for schools and bigger workloads for principals and teachers.

The stated goal of Local Schools, Local Decisions was to improve student outcomes.  There is scant evidence of this in NSW NAPLAN results. They show shocking inequalities in school outcomes between highly advantaged and disadvantaged students with few improvements since 2010. 

Continue reading “The Lost Decade of School Autonomy in NSW”

Achieving Equity in Education is Contingent on Clearly Defining It

The following is an importannt paper by Professor Pasi Sahlberg of the Melbourne Graduate School of Educatian, University of Melbourne. It was originally published in the JJournal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of NSW. It is re-published here with permission of the Society.

When I arrived in Australia four years ago from Finland, I was inspired by this question: How can we make Australian school education more equitable? At the time of my arrival The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and several domestic reviews and research had pointed out the poor state of equity of Australian education. It was not that policies and strategies would have been blind to see these inequalities that had jeopardised learning and opportunities for better lives of millions young Australians. It was more about lack of clarity of what equity in education means, why it matters for the nation, and who should be held accountable for improving equity.

 One of the first question I had in mind was this: What do Australian adults think about educational equity? Do they think our school education is fair for all students? Is school education inclusive in a sense that it would offer opportunities to succeed to all kinds of learners? What does equity in education mean? Do they care about this issue at all?

Academics normally think about systematic ways to answers basic questions like those above. So did we. A national survey (Gonski Institute, 2020) that included more than two thousand adults in NSW explored their beliefs and attitudes about educational equity. The results were unexpected, at least to me. By using a scale from 1 to 10, the importance of achieving educational equity in Australia was rated 9, on average. These same people rated the NSW school systems a 6.3 on a 10-point scale evaluating their performance on educational equity. Nine of ten respondents thought equity should be either a single or dual priority in Australian education. They expected equity and excellence from school policymakers.

My takeaway was that NSW parents that constituted most of our survey respondents want more equitable education in Australia. Many of them see it as a moral imperative, some even as a human rights issue. The survey also showed that people have a wide range of beliefs regarding what equity is all about. Often educational equity was seen as a synonym of equality of educational opportunity. Sometimes if meant fairness in education outcomes. People clearly have wide range of meanings to explain what equity in education is about.

Continue reading “Achieving Equity in Education is Contingent on Clearly Defining It”

School Autonomy and Social Justice in Education

The following is a speech by Trevor Cobbold to a form at Deakin Univeristy to launch a report on School Autonomy Reform and Social Justice in Australian Public Education. The Report is available here.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the project team on its work. It has provided one of the most comprehensive reviews of the literature on school autonomy and contributed greatly to our knowledge about the implementation of school autonomy in Australian schools and its impact on students, teachers and principals.

Rather than review the array of its findings I would like to focus on a few key issues:

  • The meaning of social justice in education;
  • School autonomy and student achievement;
  • School autonomy and the bureaucratisation of schooling.
Continue reading “School Autonomy and Social Justice in Education”

The School Funding System is Heavily Biased Against Public Schools

The following is a slightly revised version of a presentation by Trevor Cobbold to a Policy Symposium on Funding, Equity and Achievement in Australian Schools held at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education on 17 April.

Ten years ago, the Gonski funding model promised much to reduce the vast inequity in school funding and outcomes. What we got was the reverse, courtesy of sabotage by successive Coalition governments, which have always favoured choice over equity, and because of the failure of state governments to deliver adequate funding for public schools.

School funding in Australia is in a parlous state. It is heavily biased against public schools and systematically favours private schools in terms of past funding increases, resource levels and current funding arrangements. Fixing this is not on the immediate agenda of the Albanese Government. All it has done is delay addressing it with yet another inquiry when we already know what has to be done.

Continue reading “The School Funding System is Heavily Biased Against Public Schools”

A Golden Age of Tax Concessions for the Rich

New data released by the Australian Treasury in February shows it is a golden age of income tax concessions for the rich. Tax concessions for the wealthy in Australia are at unprecedented levels. They benefitted nearly $40 billion from seven major tax concessions in 2019-20. The avarice of the rich is robbing disadvantaged schools and other public services of much-needed revenue. It has huge social and economic costs.

The latest tax expenditure statement (now called Tax Expenditures and Insights Statement) shows that the top 10% of taxable income earners received $39.1 billion from just seven forms of tax concessions. The total revenue forgone from these seven tax concessions in 2019-20 was a$84.4 billion and 46% of this went to the top 10% of income earners.

Continue reading “A Golden Age of Tax Concessions for the Rich”

50 Wealthy Private Schools Raked In Over $600 Million in Donations & Investment Income

The wealthiest, most exclusive private schools in Australia are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. This is a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 50 private schools received $611 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $461 million and investment income was $50 million. Just 10 schools raked in $291 million, or nearly one-third of the total of donations and investments. The average income from these sources was $12.2 million per school over the five years. This is in addition to their income from fees and other charges.

Continue reading “50 Wealthy Private Schools Raked In Over $600 Million in Donations & Investment Income”

Wealthy WA Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations

The wealthiest most exclusive private schools in Western Australia are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. It exposes a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 11 WA private schools received $69 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $53.2 million and investment income was $15.8 million. Just one school, Christ Church Grammar, raked in over half the total of donations and investments. The average income from these sources for the other ten schools was $3.3 million per school over the five years.

Continue reading “Wealthy WA Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations”

Wealthy Qld Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations

The wealthiest most exclusive private schools in Queensland are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. It exposes a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 23 Queensland private schools received $118 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $84 million and investment income was $34 million. Just nine schools received $83 million over the period. The average income from these sources for the 23 schools was $5 million per school over the five years.

Continue reading “Wealthy Qld Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations”

Wealthy NSW Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations & Investment Income

The wealthiest most exclusive private schools in NSW are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. It exposes a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 41 NSW private schools received $287 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $226 million and investment income was $61 million. Just eight schools received $146 million over the period. The average income from these sources for the 41 schools was $7 million per school over the five years.

Continue reading “Wealthy NSW Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations & Investment Income”

Wealthy Victorian Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations & Investment Income

Victoria’s wealthiest most exclusive private schools are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. It exposes a major flaw in how private schools are funded. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. It means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. It shows that the funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 44 Victorian private schools received nearly $300 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (download table below). Donations totalled $215 million and investment income was $84 million. Just nine schools received $175 million over the period. The average income from these sources was $6.8 million per school over the five years. Each of the 44 schools received more than $1 million over the five years.

Continue reading “Wealthy Victorian Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations & Investment Income”