The report discusses how to fund "schools". This is a fundamental flaw in the report, as it fails to take into account the digital education revolution now taking place. The words "Internet" and "online" only occur twice each in the report. The phrase "Digital Education Revolution" is mentioned several times, but in reference to the government program of that name, not as something which is fundamentally changing the way education is delivered. Individual "schools" will continue to exist, but they will not be the primary way students are educated and so will not be a useful unit on which to base funding.
The an "Initial Government Response to the Review of Funding for Australian Schooling Report" is also available. The Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett is holding a School Funding Forum on 22 February 2012 in Canberra, on-line web streaming and Twitter: #schoolsfunding. I have registered for the event.
One of my jobs at the Commonwealth Schools Commission, used to be programming the survey of non-government schools, running hundreds of different "what if" calculations of different funding models and then the actual payments to the schools. The newly proposed system presents some new challenges for whoever programs it now.
Here is are the Executive Summary, Recommendations and Findings extracted from the report (with the formatting tidied up):
High-quality schooling fosters the development of creative, informed and resilient citizens who are able to participate fully in a dynamic and globalised world. It also leads to many benefits for individuals and society, including higher levels of employment and earnings, and better health, longevity, tolerance and social cohesion.
Overall, Australia has a relatively high-performing schooling system when measured against international benchmarks, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment. However, over the last decade the performance of Australian students has declined at all levels of achievement, notably at the top end. This decline has contributed to the fall in Australia's international position. In 2000, only one country outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and only two outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy. By 2009, six countries outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and 12 outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy.
In addition to declining performance across the board, Australia has a significant gap between its highest and lowest performing students. This performance gap is far greater in Australia than in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, particularly those with high-performing schooling systems. A concerning proportion of Australia's lowest performing students are not meeting minimum standards of achievement. There is also an unacceptable link between low levels of achievement and educational disadvantage, particularly among students from low socioeconomic and Indigenous backgrounds.
Funding for schooling must not be seen simply as a financial matter. Rather, it is about investing to strengthen and secure Australia's future. Investment and high expectations must go hand in hand. Every school must be appropriately resourced to support every child and every teacher must expect the most from every child.
The task of the panel
The review was established to develop a funding system for Australian schooling which is transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellent outcomes for all Australian students.
The panel acknowledges that schools contribute to a much broader range of outcomes for students than those currently measured by governments and which receive the greatest attention in this report. Likewise, parents choose to send their children to a particular school on the basis of more than academic results. For the purpose of this report and to adhere to the terms of reference, the panel has focused on funding for schooling and its impact on outcomes as they are currently measured by governments both nationally and internationally.
The panel considered the funding needs of students from all schools across the government, Catholic and independent school sectors. It considered the current arrangements for providing Australian Government and state and territory funding to schools, as well as other sources of school income.
In addition, the panel reflected on the forms of accountability employed by the schooling sectors, as well as the data required to monitor and assess standards of delivery and educational outcomes.
The task of understanding and responding to the challenges of the current funding arrangements for schooling is complex. There are significant differences in the way Australian schools are organised across sectors, as well as differences in the demographics of the student bodies and the challenges faced by sectors and states.
There are also differences in the way schools are funded by the Australian Government and state and territory governments across sectors and states, including different approaches to supporting educationally disadvantaged students. Further, there is not a consistent approach across states and territories to collecting and reporting data on certain student cohorts, nor on the effectiveness of funding in meeting the educational needs of students.
The panel has concluded that Australia must aspire to have a schooling system that is among the best in the world for its quality and equity, and must prioritise support for its lowest performing students. 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. Further, no student in Australia should leave school without the basic skills and competencies needed to participate in the workforce and lead successful and productive lives. The system as a whole must work to meet the needs of all Australian children, now and in the future.
The panel believes that the key to achieving this vision is to strengthen the current national schooling reforms through funding reform.
The foundations for change
Over recent years, a number of historic steps have been made to improve Australia's schooling system. In December 2008, the Australian Government and state and territory Education Ministers released the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Melbourne Declaration), setting out the national purpose and policy for Australian schooling for the next 10 years. The goals focus on promoting equity and excellence in schooling, and on young Australians becoming successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens. Central to realising these goals is providing all students with access to high-quality schooling.
National priorities and reforms have also been agreed by all governments through the Council of Australian Governments to progress the national goals. Key policy directions under the National Education Agreement include improving teacher quality and school leadership, greater accountability and better directed resources, integrated strategies for low socioeconomic school communities, and improving the outcomes of Indigenous students. National curriculum is being developed to set clear achievement standards for all students. The My School website is providing public access to information about school performance and resources.
While these reforms lay a good foundation for addressing Australia's schooling challenges, they need to be supported by an effective funding framework.
Australia needs effective arrangements for funding schools across all levels of government - arrangements that ensure resources are being provided where they are needed. The funding arrangements should be aimed at achieving an internationally competitive high standard of schooling, where outcomes are not determined by socioeconomic status or the type of school the child attends, and where the Australian Government and state and territory governments work in partnership to meet the schooling needs of all Australian children.
Issues with the current funding arrangements
When considered holistically, the current funding arrangements for schooling are unnecessarily complex, lack coherence and transparency, and involve a duplication of funding effort in some areas. There is an imbalance between the funding responsibilities of the Australian Government and state and territory governments across the schooling sectors.
There is a distinct lack of coordination in the way governments fund schooling, particularly in relation to directing funding to schools based on student need across jurisdictions and sectors.
There is also a significant overlap in the funding priorities of the Australian Government and state
and territory governments. The overlap leads to duplication and inefficiency, and makes it difficult for governments and policy makers to decide how best to fund the needs of school systems and schools.
It is not always clear which level of government is providing funding, nor what role the Australian Government and state and territory governments should play in funding particular educational priorities.
Not all states and territories have the same capacity to fund their school systems adequately. It would appear that some, due to current economic realities or the need to support a larger share of educationally disadvantaged students, struggle to provide the resources needed in schools.
Historically, the states and territories are the primary funders of government schools and the Australian Government is the primary funder of non-government schools. These roles are divisive within significant parts of the Australian community because they can give the false and misleading impression of a preference by the Australian Government for non-government schools over government schools, and a corresponding false and misleading view of neglect by state and territory governments of the funding needs of non-government schools.
Australian Government funding arrangements for government schools, and for non-government schools under the socioeconomic status funding model, are based on an outdated and opaque average cost measure, the Average Government School Recurrent Costs. As such, the funding that is provided to schools does not directly relate to schooling outcomes, and does not take into account the full costs of educating students to an internationally accepted high standard of schooling.
Indexation arrangements are also unclear and vary between states and territories. The indexation of
Australian Government funding for non-government schools is related only to the annual increase in the costs of schooling within the government sector, and is not related to cost increases in all schooling sectors.
Funding for school capital and infrastructure is uncoordinated and lacks planning. Many schools, particularly those in the government sector, are suffering from a lack of capital investment. This impacts on the educational opportunities afforded to the students, as well as the attitudes and morale of students, parents and the broader community.
To address these longstanding deficiencies with Australia's funding arrangements for schooling,
the panel has made a number of significant and far-reaching recommendations for a future funding system for Australian schools.
A new funding approach
The panel believes that a significant increase in funding is required across all schooling sectors, with the largest part of this increase flowing to the government sector due to the significant numbers and greater concentration of disadvantaged students attending government schools.
Funding arrangements for government and non-government schools must be better balanced to reflect the joint contribution of both levels of government in funding all schooling sectors. They must also be better coordinated so that funding effort can be maximised, particularly effort to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students.
A new schooling resource standard
The panel recommends that all recurrent funding for schooling, whether it is provided by the Australian Government or state and territory governments, be based on a new schooling resource standard.
The schooling resource standard would:
- form the basis for general recurrent funding for all students in all schooling sectors
- consist of separate per student amounts for primary school students and secondary school students
- provide loadings for the additional costs of meeting certain educational needs. These loadings would take into account socioeconomic background, disability, English language proficiency, the particular needs of Indigenous students, school size, and school location
- be based on actual resources used by schools already achieving high educational outcomes for their students over a sustained period of time
- recognise that schools with similar student populations require the same level of resources regardless of whether they are located in the government, Catholic or independent school sectors
- be periodically reviewed every four years so that it continues to reflect community aspirations and, in between reviews, be indexed using a simple measure that is based on the actual increase in costs in schools already achieving the relevant high educational outcomes over a sustained period of time.
Further collaborative work involving all governments and sectors will be required to settle the levels of the schooling resource standard per student amounts and loadings in the lead-up to implementation from 2014. Ongoing responsibility for indexing and reviewing the resource standard should be
entrusted to an independent and expert National Schools Resourcing Body.
A fairer funding framework
The per student amount plus loadings would represent the total resources required by a school to provide its students with the opportunity to achieve high educational outcomes for their students over a sustained period of time. It would be funded from public funding from all levels of government, as well as any private sources.
In recognition of the role of the government sector as a universal provider of schooling, all government schools would be fully publicly funded to the level of the schooling resource standard plus any applicable loadings.
In the non-government sector, public funding would generally be provided based on the anticipated level of a school's private contribution. The private contribution anticipated for a school would be initially based on the socioeconomic status (SES) score of the school, reflecting the capacity of the school community to support the school. Work would commence as a priority to develop, trial and implement a more precise measure of capacity to contribute.
A minimum private contribution of at least 10 per cent of the schooling resource standard per student amounts would be anticipated for non-government schools in the lowest quarter of school SES scores, that is, with a score up to between 90 and 95. A maximum private contribution of up to between 75 and
80 per cent would be anticipated for schools with an SES score above around 130.
Some non-government schools would be fully publicly funded where they serve students or communities with very high levels of need, for example, special schools, majority Indigenous schools, and remote 'sole provider' schools.
On the basis of the Australian Government's announcement that under a new funding arrangement no school would lose a dollar per student as a result of this review, the panel has recommended that a minimum public contribution per student for every non-government school be applied, set at between 20 and 25 per cent of the schooling resource standard excluding loadings. Detailed transitional arrangements will need to be developed once schooling resource standard per student amounts and loadings are settled.
A more balanced alignment of public funding responsibilities for government and non-government schools should be negotiated between the Australian Government and the states and territories as part of the transition to a new funding model. The Australian Government should assume a greater role in the funding of government schools. Similarly, the states and territories should assume a greater role in relation to non-government schools within a framework that provides them with the resources to assume this greater role and gives all schools certainty and stability around future funding levels.
The additional costs of supporting students with disability should be included as a loading in the schooling resource standard once nationally consistent data on student numbers and adjustment levels becomes available. This loading for students with disability would be fully publicly funded as an entitlement in all schools regardless of sector.
Public funding for school systems would be provided to system authorities for distribution to their schools. There would be an expectation that systems would be publicly accountable for their decisions on the redistribution of that funding. Non-systemic schools would receive funding directly from governments.
There is also potential for all Australian schools, especially in the government sector, to connect with philanthropic partners to deliver time, money and expertise to schools. Nationally, better arrangements are required for schools and donors to make these connections.
Better coordination of infrastructure
To complement the recurrent schooling resource standard, there is a need for an expanded stream of Australian Government capital funding for both the government and non-government sectors.
For existing schools, Australian Government capital funding should be made available to schools through grants for specific major works and infrastructure projects. Grants should be selected according to guidelines and managed by relevant bodies in the government and non-government sectors.
In relation to new schools and major school expansions, there is a need for a more coordinated approach to planning. The panel recommends this should be carried out by new, cross-sectoral School Planning Authorities in each jurisdiction. Access to Australian Government capital funding through a School Growth Fund would be conditional on approval of the project by the relevant School Planning Authority. The funding amount provided under this fund would need to be developed following an assessment of demand and need in each state and territory.
There is also a need for greater transparency and accountability for the condition of school infrastructure in Australia. This will be facilitated by the operation of the School Planning Authorities in each jurisdiction, as well as work by the National Schools Resourcing Body to develop expected standards to which buildings must be maintained and built, and greater monitoring and reporting on the condition of school infrastructure in all sectors and states.
National Schools Resourcing Body
The panel's framework for funding schooling requires a more sophisticated approach to governance of Australia's schooling system. In particular, the effectiveness of the schooling resource standard rests on confidence in the independence and transparency of the process for setting the per student amounts and loadings.
The panel recommends the establishment of an independent National Schools Resourcing Body that will form the core of the governance necessary to ensure that funding for schooling is provided in a way that maximises its educational impact.
The National Schools Resourcing Body will be responsible for the ongoing development and maintenance of the schooling resource standard and loadings to ensure that they remain contemporary and aspirational. The panel considers that it should have the necessary expertise, independence and budget to support its roles. The body would also be required to commission and undertake research and analysis that will further current thinking on how to measure effectiveness
in schooling. This will necessitate significant improvements in the collection of nationally comparable data. It will ensure that the funding framework continues to be developed and enhanced through solid evidence and intellectual rigour.
Stronger governance and accountability
The panel recognises that its reforms will require the support and commitment of all Australian governments. The existing framework of intergovernmental agreements on schooling should be revised to ensure that it meets the requirements of the new funding framework and reflects the renegotiated roles and responsibilities of funding partners. This should also include the development of state and territory bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth that reflect specific funding
and educational requirements in jurisdictions. Funding agreements with non-government system authorities and independent schools should likewise be amended to reflect changed roles and conditions, as well as provide greater funding certainty through 12-year funding agreements.
School systems play a valuable role in funding and supporting schools and should continue to play a significant role in the detailed allocation of block funding from governments to their member schools. However, there should be an expectation that systems will be publicly accountable for their decisions on the distribution of funding.
The required additional investment
On the basis of the determinations made by the panel for the purposes of the modelling, the results indicated that if these arrangements had been implemented in full during 2009, the additional cost to governments would have been about $5 billion or around 15 per cent of all governments' recurrent funding for schooling that year.
Based on its current proportion of total funding, the Australian Government would bear around
30 per cent of the increase. How the additional cost is actually borne will need to be discussed and negotiated between all governments.
The panel acknowledges that governments will need to work collaboratively to finalise the necessary details, funding responsibilities and transition arrangements.
The panel accepts that resources alone will not be sufficient to fully address Australia's schooling challenges and achieve a high-quality, internationally respected schooling system. The new funding arrangements must be accompanied by continued and renewed efforts to strengthen and reform Australia's schooling system.
Australia's schools, government and non-government, should be staffed with the very best principals and teachers, those who feel empowered to lead and drive change, and create opportunities for students to learn in new ways to meet their individual needs. Classrooms should support innovative approaches to learning, not only through the curriculum, technologies and infrastructure, but
also through the culture of the school. Principals and teachers should encourage a culture of high expectations, continuous learning, and independence and responsibility for all students. They should also forge connections with parents and the community, as key partners in children's learning and attitudes to school.
For these practices to be championed in every school, the Australian Government and state and territory governments must continue to work together, in consultation with the non-government school sector, to progress the current school reform agenda.
Australia and its children and young people, now and in the future, deserve nothing less.
The Australian Government and the states and territories, in consultation with the non- government sector, should develop and implement a schooling resource standard as the basis for general recurrent funding of government and non-government schools. The schooling resource standard should:
- reflect the agreed outcomes and goals of schooling and enable them to be achieved and improved over time
- be transparent, defensible and equitable and be capable of application across all sectors and systems
- include amounts per primary and secondary student, with adjustments for students and schools facing certain additional costs
- complement and help drive broader schooling reform to improve Australia's overall performance and reduce inequity of outcomes.
In a new model for funding non-government schools, the assessment of a non-government school's need for public funding should be based on the anticipated capacity of the parents enrolling their children in the school to contribute financially towards the school's resource requirements.
For the purposes of allocating public funding for non-government schools, the Australian Government should continue to use the existing area-based socioeconomic status (SES) measure, and as soon as possible develop, trial and implement a new measure for estimating the quantum of the anticipated private contribution for non-government schools in consultation with the states, territories and
From 2014, non-government schools should be funded by the Australian Government on the basis of a common measure of need that is applied fairly and consistently to all.
The Australian Government and the states and territories, in consultation with the non-government school sector, should make reducing educational disadvantage a high priority in a new funding model. This will require resourcing to be targeted towards supporting the most disadvantaged students and should:
- capture variation in performance within categories of disadvantaged students
- significantly increase support to schools that enrol students who experience multiple factors of disadvantage
- significantly increase support to schools that have high concentrations of disadvantaged students.
In contributing towards the additional costs of educating disadvantaged students, governments should move away from funding targeted programs and focus on ensuring that the states and territories and the non-government sector are publicly accountable for the educational outcomes achieved by students from all sources of funding.
Governments should continue to contribute towards the costs of educating disadvantaged students by providing recurrent funding that provides additional assistance for:
- students where the need for assistance is ongoing and reasonably predictable
- schools with the highest concentrations of students who need support to achieve improved educational outcomes.
Future funding arrangements and governance structures for schooling should aim for sustained improvements in the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students, as part of achieving better outcomes for all students. To achieve this, additional funding provided to schools to overcome disadvantage should be invested in strategies that:
- improve practices for teaching disadvantaged students
- strengthen leadership to drive school improvement
- focus on early intervention for students at risk of underperformance
- are flexibly implemented to address local needs
- encourage parent and community engagement
- are based on robust data and evidence that can inform decisions about educational effectiveness and student outcome.
The Australian Government, in collaboration with the states and territories and in consultation with the non-government sector, should develop and implement a new funding model for schools based on the principles of:
- fair, logical and practical allocation of public funds
- funding in response to need
- funding from all sources must be sufficient
- support for a diverse range of schools
- driving broader school reform
- partnership between governments and across sectors
- transparency and clarity
- value for money and accountability.
The Australian Government, in collaboration with the states and territories and in consultation with the non-government sector, should:
- initially base the per student component of the resource standard on an outcomes benchmark that at least 80 per cent of students in reference schools are achieving above the national minimum standard, for their year level, in both reading and numeracy, across each of the three most recent years of NAPLAN results
- conduct additional research to validate the composition of the reference group used for setting the per student amounts to apply from 2014 onwards
- broaden over time the scope of student outcomes covered in the benchmark to include other nationally consistent, whole-of-cohort measures
- review regularly the scope, methodology and data required to set the student outcomes benchmark.
The schooling resource standard should:
- be a recurrent resource standard, which includes a provision for general maintenance and minor acquisitions below an established capitalisation threshold but does not include capital costs
- include the full costs of delivering schooling services regardless of whether these are delivered in an independent school or a systemic school
- exclude adjunct service costs.
The Australian Government should negotiate with state and territory governments and consult with the non-government sector with a view to implementing a national schooling resource standard that allows flexibility in how it is applied across jurisdictions. This process should be guided by the following principles:
- the states and territories should have an incentive to take part in new funding arrangements
- the states and territories and the Australian Government should share any efficiencies in the provision of education on the basis of the schooling resource standard
- no state or territory should be disadvantaged in relation to Commonwealth Grants Commission or GST allocations as a result of their cooperation with the Australian Government in implementing the schooling resource standard.
The schooling resource standard should be used by the Australian Government as the basis for determining its total recurrent funding for government and non-government systems and schools and for the allocation of that funding across systems and schools. It should also be adopted by the states and territories to guide their total recurrent funding for government and non-government schools and the allocation of that funding to individual non-government systems and schools.
The Australian Government should work with the states and territories and the non-government sector to further refine the indicative schooling resource standard amounts for primary and secondary students. This should occur by mid-2012 to facilitate negotiations over the implementation of the new funding arrangements for schools. This work should commence immediately with the National Schools Resourcing Body to take responsibility for progressing it as soon as it is established.
The schooling resource standard should include loadings for:
- school size and location
- the proportion of students in a school who are Indigenous or from low socioeconomic backgrounds, with loadings to increase for schools where the concentration of such students is higher
- the proportion of students in a school with limited English language proficiency.
Loadings for students with disability should be added as soon as possible once work underway on student numbers and adjustment levels is completed. The Australian Government should work with the states and territories and the non-government sector to develop and check specific proposed loadings by mid-2012.
Schooling resource standard per student amounts applying in 2014 should thereafter be indexed annually based on actual changes in the costs of schooling incurred by reference schools. Both the per student amounts and the loadings should be reviewed by the National Schools Resourcing Body before the commencement of each funding quadrennium. Indexation and review should occur within an institutional framework that ensures that the process is independent, transparent and rigorous.
Australian governments should fully publicly fund the recurrent costs of schooling for government schools as measured by the resource standard per student amounts and loadings.
Australian governments should base public funding for most non-government schools on the anticipation that the private contribution will be at least 10 per cent of the schooling resource standard per student amounts.
Australian governments should fully publicly fund the recurrent costs of schooling for non-government schools as measured by the resource standard per student amounts and loadings where the school:
- does not charge compulsory fees and has no real capacity to do so, or
- provides education to students with very high needs, such that without full public funding of the school's resource standard those needs would not be met.
The eligibility of particular non-government schools for full public funding should be determined by the National Schools Resourcing Body.
To meet the Australian Government's announcement that no school will lose a dollar per student as a result of this review, a minimum public contribution towards the cost of schooling should apply to
non-government schools at a level between 20 to 25 per cent of the resource standard per student amounts without loadings.
For the purposes of allocating public funding for non-government schools and systems, all Australian governments should:
- adopt a common concept of need for public funding based on the capacity of the school or system to contribute towards its total resource requirements
- commence work as a priority to develop, trial and implement a better measure of the capacity of parents to contribute in consultation with the non-government sectors.
The Australian Government should continue using the existing area-based SES measure until this better measure is developed.
For the purposes of allocating public funding for non-government schools, the minimum private contribution should be anticipated for schools with SES scores in the lowest quarter of scores. The minimum public contribution should apply to schools with SES scores above around 130. The precise school SES scores and the shape of the anticipated private contribution between these two points should be set in a way that balances:
- minimising the extent and incidence of any differences between the schooling resource standard required by each non-government school and system and the resources currently available to it from all sources
- preserving reasonable incentives for an adequate private contribution towards the schooling resource standard across non-government schools with various capacities to contribute.
The Australian Government and the states and territories, in consultation with the non-government sector, should negotiate more balanced funding roles as part of the transition to a new funding model for all schools, with the Australian Government assuming a greater role in the funding of government schools and the states in relation to non-government schools. This should occur within a governance framework that gives certainty and stability around expected future funding levels for schools from all government sources and operational independence for non-government schools.
Given the primary responsibility of government and non-government system authorities for the funding and operation of their schools, public funding for systems should be assessed and calculated at system level provided that systems:
- are transparent about the basis on which they allocate any public and private funding to member schools and the purpose for which it is spent
- report publicly when the allocation of total resources to schools deviates significantly from the principles in the schooling resource standard
- continue to report income and expenditure from each source for individual member schools on the
My School website.
In establishing a baseline level of existing funding for the schooling resource standard and loadings, the Australian Government should roll in, to the maximum possible extent, all general recurrent funding for schools as well as targeted funding programs for non-government schools and National Partnerships, subject to appropriate transitional arrangements.
In order to successfully implement the funding reforms in this report, the Australian Government should, in collaboration with state and territory governments and in consultation with the
non-government sector, develop transitional arrangements that:
- provide certainty to systems and schools about funding during the implementation period, consistent with the Australian Government's announced commitments
- recognise the need for extensive negotiation involving all governments and non-government school authorities along with associated changes to agreements and legislation
- acknowledge the fiscal pressures on governments while moving to reap the benefits of a more outcomes-driven approach to funding as quickly as possible.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments, in consultation with the
non-government sector, should, as a matter of priority, progress work on collecting nationally consistent data on students with disability and the level of educational adjustments provided to them to enable national data to be collected and reported from January 2013.
The National Schools Resourcing Body should work with the Australian Government and state and territory governments in consultation with the non-government sector to develop an initial range for a student with disability entitlement. The entitlement should be:
- provided in addition to the per student resource standard amounts
- set according to the level of reasonable educational adjustment required to allow the student to participate in schooling on the same basis as students without disability
- fully publicly funded and applied equally to students in all schooling sectors.
The National Schools Resourcing Body should undertake work to determine the resourcing needs of government and non-government special schools catering for students with disability.
Funding for capital purposes should be available to both government and non-government systems and schools outside of the framework of a recurrent schooling resource standard.
School Planning Authorities with government and non-government sector representation should be established within each jurisdiction and work to develop a coordinated approach to planning for new schools and school growth.
The Australian Government should establish a School Growth Fund for new schools and major school expansions, with the School Planning Authorities solely responsible for the approval of funding to projects.
Australian Government investment in non-government school infrastructure should be maintained and continue to be provided in partnership with relevant Block Grant Authorities.
The Australian Government should provide an additional amount of funding to support major works and infrastructure in existing government schools in each state and territory.
The National Schools Resourcing Body should develop a national definition of the maintenance and minor works responsibilities of schools and education authorities required to be addressed from recurrent funds. This definition should be considered and agreed by the Australian and state and territory governments as a basis for capital and recurrent funding arrangements.
The Australian and state and territory governments should, in consultation with the non-government sector, strengthen public accountability for the public funding of school capital projects.
School Infrastructure Development Grants and the School Growth Fund should be supplemented annually in line with movements in the Producer Price Index Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Non-Residential Building Construction.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments should establish a National Schools Resourcing Body. This body would be made responsible for a range of tasks including:
- the ongoing maintenance and development of the schooling resource standard and loadings
- the annual indexation and periodic review of the schooling resource standard and loadings based on the latest available data
- ongoing research, analysis and data improvement to ensure continuous improvement within the schooling sector
- developing expected standards to which school buildings must be maintained and built.
Members would be appointed to the body on the basis of merit and expertise, and be independent of government. The body should be provided with a realistic operational budget funded by all governments to support the commissioning of research and data work as appropriate.
In establishing a National Schools Resourcing Body, the Australian Government and state and territory governments should also establish a representative advisory group to provide advice to the body on schooling matters. Membership should include representatives from both the government and non-government school sectors.
The current National Education Agreement should be revised to ensure that it meets the requirements of the new funding framework and reflects the renegotiated roles and responsibilities of funding partners. This should also include the development of state and territory based schedules attached to the revised agreement that reflect specific funding and educational requirements of that jurisdiction.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments should negotiate revised funding agreements with non-government system authorities and independent schools to reflect roles and additional conditions under the new funding framework and in line with a renegotiated National Education Agreement with state and territory based schedules.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments should legislate the proposed
funding framework to ensure certainty and transparency of public funding for all systems and schools. Legislation at both levels of government should operate together to ensure that the total level of public funding is guaranteed for all systems and schools over a 12-year cycle.
The National Schools Resourcing Body should work with the states and territories, the
non-government school authorities and the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to develop a more robust national data collection, consistent with the proposed funding framework, that allows for a deeper national understanding of schooling outcomes. The appropriateness of what data should be used should be jointly worked through by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs, ACARA and the National Schools Resourcing Body.
The Australian Government should create a fund to provide national leadership in philanthropy in schooling, and to support schools in need of assistance to develop philanthropic partnerships.
Australian schooling needs to lift the performance of students at all levels of achievement, particularly the lowest performers. Australia must also improve its international standing by arresting the decline that has been witnessed over the past decade. For Australian students to take their rightful place in a globalised world, socially, culturally and economically, they will need to have levels of education that equip them for this opportunity and challenge.
The challenge for the review is to design a funding model that adequately reflects the different needs of students to enable resources to be directed to where they are needed most. All Australian students should be allowed to achieve their very best regardless of their background or circumstances.
Australia's schooling system needs to help ensure that the targets for students attaining Year 12 or equivalent qualifications are met and that students leave school with the skills and capacities required to actively participate in society, and contribute to Australia's prosperity.
Data indicate that Australia is on track to achieve the broader Year 12 or equivalent attainment
target for 2015. However, the lack of data to measure progress against the target to halve the gap for
Indigenous students in Year 12 or equivalent attainment is of serious concern.
The performance of Australia's schooling system is about more than just literacy and numeracy
results in national and international assessments and Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates. Defining and measuring the broader schooling outcomes is difficult and requires further development and information gathering if Australia wants to be able to gauge the effectiveness of its schooling system as a whole.
Australia lacks a logical, consistent and publicly transparent approach to funding schooling.
There is an imbalance in the provision of funding to government and non-government schools by the Australian and state and territory governments. In particular, the Australian Government could play a greater role in supporting state and territory governments to meet the needs of disadvantaged students in both government and non-government schools.
In recognising the many benefits of government and non-government school systems, future funding arrangements for schooling should continue to enable systems to make decisions around the redistribution and allocation of resources at the local level, with enhanced accountability.
The Average Government School Recurrent Costs measure lacks a convincing educational rationale. Meeting Australia's educational challenges requires a funding benchmark that is linked to educational outcomes and is able to respond to changes over time in performance and the delivery of schooling.
Public funding arrangements need to reflect the nature of the educational challenges faced by a system or school given its characteristics and student population, regardless of whether it is in the government or non-government sector.
Within the new funding framework there needs to be an explicit difference between setting a standard for the resourcing of schooling and indexation for changes in the costs related to the delivery of that standard.
For the purposes of developing future recurrent funding arrangements, it would be appropriate to continue to exclude the user cost of capital, depreciation, capital expenditure and payroll tax. Superannuation and long service leave expenses should be included.
The most efficient way to meet the Australian Government's announcement that no school would lose a dollar per student as a result of this review is through a minimum public contribution towards the cost of schooling in non-government schools.
Poor-quality school infrastructure and facilities can contribute to a decline in enrolments in some schools.
There is no national standard against which the adequacy of school facilities can be assessed. Therefore, it is not clear whether all school facilities are appropriate to provide a high-quality 21st century education.
The adequacy of school facilities should be defined in terms of their educational value, and the definition should be flexible to take into account differences in educational needs between schools and changes over time.
In order to address deficiencies in school and regional level planning, government and
non-government school systems need to ensure that schools and their communities are more involved in the development and planning of school facilities to ensure that the best design outcomes are achieved.
The enforcement and public reporting against equity and educational objectives should ensure that the public investment into infrastructure and capital projects is being directed towards those schools that require the most assistance.
Current planning processes are not sufficient in responding effectively to changing educational needs based on demographic and social change. There should be effective coordinated planning between schooling sectors and at the local area level.
There needs to be an improvement in the accountability and coordinated planning by all schooling sectors around the use of public funding in the establishment of new schools. Public investment in new schools should take into account the needs of the community and the facilities currently available for students.
New funding arrangements for schooling should aim to ensure that:
- differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions
- all students have access to a high standard of education regardless of their background or circumstances.
Strategies to address educational disadvantage in school are most effective when integrated with, and complementary to, approaches to support early childhood development.
The key dimensions of disadvantage that are having a significant impact on educational performance in Australia are socioeconomic status, Indigeneity, English language proficiency, disability and
There are complex interactions between factors of disadvantage, and students who experience multiple factors are at a higher risk of poor performance.
Increased concentration of disadvantaged students in certain schools is having a significant impact on educational outcomes, particularly, but not only, in the government sector.
Concentrations of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and Indigenous students have the most significant impact on educational outcomes.
The existing resourcing provided to the government and non-government school sectors for students with disability remains an issue. Students with disability in non-government schools receive substantially less public funding than their counterparts in government schools.
The lack of robust, nationally comparable data on funding for disadvantaged students and its impact on improving educational outcomes is a significant concern. If Australia is to achieve greater equity in educational outcomes across its schooling system, these data will be paramount in ensuring funding is directed to where it is needed most, and improvements can be measured and strengthened over time.
An evidence base is emerging from National Partnership arrangements demonstrating that investment in integrated strategies that are responsive to local circumstances and need can be effective in improving outcomes for disadvantaged students. Critical elements in these strategies include building teacher capacity, strengthening instructional leadership and engaging parents and the broader community.
All schools are responsible for supporting students who are unable to remain within a school, and should have welfare policies that seek to find the most appropriate learning environment for their needs.
The panel notes the Australian Government's response to the recommendations in the Realising potential: Businesses helping schools to develop Australia's future report, particularly those aimed at building capacity in schools to develop partnerships with community and business....
From: Towards a new school funding system, David Gonski, Ken Boston, Kathryn Greiner, Carmen Lawrence, Bill Scales, Peter Tannock, for Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, December 2011
... the Australian Government will take the following steps:
- We will take to the Council of Australian Governments a set of principles to guide national school funding reform and seek the commitment of State and Territory Governments to work through the reform proposals and options for their implementation. This will include detailed development and modelling of the elements of a new funding system proposed by the Review Panel and how they could work in practice, including arrangements for transition to a new system.
We will ask Australia’s education ministers and stakeholders to work together to share data, evidence and experience to confirm whether the elements of the Schooling Resource Standard architecture are designed to deliver the highest standards and improved performance from our children. This will be done through a Ministerial Schools Funding Reference Group, to examine the key recommendations and proposals and provide feedback and advice.
- We will work with education ministers to examine how funding reform could be implemented in a way that works for each system and school and how it would work with other reforms to improve the quality of schooling and student achievement.
- We will invite education stakeholders—including principals, parents and unions—to participate in the process of developing and testing these elements of a new system.
- This work will also inform the Commonwealth’s position in the pending National Education Agreement review, the future of our National Partnership agreements and schools funding beyond 2013. ...
From: "Initial Government Response to the Review of Funding for Australian Schooling Report", 20 February 2012