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Gonski review « Previous | |Next »
February 21, 2012

Behind the ongoing leadership tensions the ALP's reform momentum continues. This time it is the Gonski review into funding arrangements for Australia's educational institutions and system.

This is a split system that has many problems, including top-down testing, extensive tracking, highly variable teachers, state federal conflicts, multiple tensions over funding and a 30-year drift of middle class families out of public schools and into the private education system. The review is the biggest review of school funding in decades --the first comprehensive schools funding review since Whitlam.

It was needed given Australia is failing to maintain a knowledge and skills base that can change and adapt to keep up with other nations tin a global economy. It was needed because of the kids currently sitting in crumbling classrooms in underfunded schools surrounded by other kids with complex layers of difficulty and disadvantage.

PopeGillardeducation .jpg

The report is the biggest review of school funding in decades and it recommends an injection of A$5 billion to the education sector, three-quarters of which would go to public schools---about $3.8 billion for the public system, which educates the vast majority of disadvantaged students. There is no hit-list in the report, no attempt to contain non-government schools funding.

It came up with a needs-based funding model that could be applied across private and public schools. Its reworking of the Australian system leaves most of the essential features in place, while attempting to improve the performance of the schools on the bottom, which mostly happen to be public schools.

The Gillard Government has refused to commit to additional funding, repeatedly citing the need to return the budget to surplus. The states will yell loudly. The Coalition will scream class warfare on the private schools in the form of hit -list evoking Mark Latham.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:19 AM | | Comments (8)


From what I can make out we have consultation with education stakeholders, state governments and communities. Isn't that a repeat of the public inquiry process itself?

The Gonski report proposes a more prominent role for the Commonwealth in school education, a more integrated relationship between the levels of government in the governance of Australian schooling.

It's a Canberra takeover yell the conservative states.--eg., WA. So they effectively sidestep the imbalance of responsibility of state and federal government for public and private schools.

I can't help wondering whether money alone can make much difference to the public system.

The private system now has two big advantages; it can expel troublesome students as a last resort, and the predominance of middle-class students means that the private system is capturing the advantage of having most of the kids who have been read to and otherwise encouraged to learn whilst they were infants.

These are advantages which it will be hard to reverse without forcing more of the "quality kids" back into the public system through steep fee rises. That would mean big cuts to Govt. subsidies to the private system. I don't see how a Fed. Govt. which is hanging by a thread in Parliament could do that.

Differences in performance can be addressed in public schools through a strong focus on elements of schooling such as teacher and principal quality, early intervention, targeted programs with proven success at overcoming educational disadvantage.

The flow of the children of well-off and well-educated parents towards private schooling is likely to continue.

The policy idea underpinning Gillard's reforms is that the quality of the public service can be increased by imposing market disciplines of choice and competition into the public schools sector.

Associated with this is the assumption that inequality in education is primarily caused by a poor quality public system, poor teachers, or individual attributes . Yet research in Tasmania has shown that a third of Tasmanian school children are below academic benchmarks when they enter school, and that, without additional and on-going support this performance gap typical continues on past the early school years, particularly in measures on language, literacy, and reading.

Australia's public spending on schools is below the OECD average and the gap is increasing. Hence more funding is needed is we are to become smarter and use our knowledge.

Australia has chosen a marketplace that creates competition and drives educational standards. This system works in terms of winners and loser. and in no way encourages, fairness.

We do have lots of rhetoric about fairness though even education is seen as a race where children start in different places and can access different resources.