How Far We've Come with NGS Super - Giving a Gonski...

Part 5: Giving a Gonski...

Squiz it to me

Set the stage for me…
It's 2010, Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister, and Julia Gillard is the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister for Education. Enter a prominent business figure - David Gonski. 

What's his story?
He has been called the 'Chairman of Everything' because of his directorships of Coca-Cola Amatil, Hoyts, the Australian Stock Exchange, ANZ, Morgan Stanley, and the Future Fund. Fun fact: he and Malcolm Turnbull were schoolmates.

Got it. So, why was he in the news?
He was drafted by Gillard to head up the expert advisory panel for the Review of the Funding of Schools in Australia. In mid-2010, she commissioned Gonski to look into an overhaul of school funding and approaches to boost the academic outcomes of Aussie students.

Sounds big...
It was. Gillard said the vision was that "every child should have access to the best possible education, regardless of where they live, the income of their family, or the school they attend".

So, what happened?
The review garnered over 7,000 written submissions and conducted 80 consultation sessions with stakeholders and experts. By the time the review report reached the government in late 2011, Julia Gillard had become the prime minister.

What were the findings?
The final report contained 41 recommendations, the most significant relating to a major funding model overhaul. The plan called for a 'per student' funding standard, also known as Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

Break that down for me…
So the SRF was benchmarked to the funding received by high-achieving 'reference schools.' At these schools, at least 80% of students consistently achieved the national minimum standard in their NAPLAN tests over 3 years. Think of it this way - the SRS is what the experts reckon it costs to produce successful students.

Right - so all schools were to get that amount?
Not quite. Recognising that not all schools are equal, loadings would be applied on top of the SRS based on location, size, and if students had disabilities, low English skills, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, or socio-economic disadvantages.

And how does it work?
For public schools, it's pretty straightforward. But for independent and Catholic schools, the SRS is a reduced amount reflecting the school's ability to chip in for its own costs. That’s rolled up in a formula called the Capacity to Contribute (CTC), which calculates how much the SRS is trimmed. 

So did this approach work?
The consensus is no. Over the last decade, most public schools have still been waiting to hit their full funding as per the SRF. And plenty of non-government schools are still getting more than the formula stipulated.

Politics… When it was rolled out, Gillard promised no school would lose a dollar of funding. And then in 2017, PM Malcolm Turnbull asked his former schoolmate David Gonski to come back and have another go (welcome, Gonski 2.0…), and he made a similar promise to schools and parents. So although the funding pot grew, the politics of ensuring no school is worse off makes it difficult to implement the reforms faithfully.

Where are we today?

The Albanese Government has initiated the Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System. 

The context: It will shape the next big Commonwealth/state/territory funding deal called the National Schools Reform Agreement.

Why it's important: As we touched on in part 4 of this series, academic results in our primary and high schools have been declining, and the Albanese Government has signalled that funding will be tied to performance.

The numbers:

2 in 3 - Aussie students are enrolled in public schools. The federal government covers around 20% of the costs, while the state/territory governments shoulder the rest in line with their constitutional responsibilities.

80% -The share of education costs covered by the federal government when it comes to supporting independent and Catholic schools. In 2023, the estimated total federal government funding for schools will reach about $27.3 billion.

• $13,048 - The amount our governments are contributing per primary student per year at public schools. For high school education - it's $16,379. Governments also provide capital funding to schools to keep the buildings in good nick…

Where to from here?

The Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System report was delivered to federal, state and territory Education Ministers in October - they’re currently looking it over. This article from The Conversation explains what it is and how it links to school funding.  

• The Guardian did a series on ‘The Gutting of Gonski’, and this article dives into where our state and federal governments stand on meeting their 2023 school funding targets. The bottom line: the feds are almost there, but the states are lagging behind. 

• The private vs public school debate is a big one… And in 2023, despite rising cost of living concerns, more parents are opting for the private school route. The states/territories that have the highest numbers of enrolments in non-government schools? The ACT with 39% of students, closely followed by South Oz at 37%. The Northern Territory has the lowest proportion of students enrolled in private schools at 27%

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