Last week the government announced its new Commonwealth school funding model, which will be linked to student improvement and school performance. Fabulous news. The government also announced the appointment of David Gonski AC to lead an inquiry into improving students’ declining academic performance. More fabulous news.
Gonski’s report, Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, is due in December.
We finally have a funding model that rises above public/private warfare to ensure that all schools, whatever sector, are funded in a transparent, consistent manner. As with any change, however, some schools will be adversely affected. Under this new model, and in pursuit of funding fairness, 24 non-government schools will receive a small reduction in funding in 2018. Sadly, no sooner had the new model been announced, Mr Shorten moved the language of the debate back into class warfare, commenting that “If Mr Turnbull wants to cut the funding of 24 elite schools … we are up for that”.
It turns out, however, that Shorten’s ‘elite school’ description is a bit of a misnomer: the 24 schools involved include several with annual fees not even in the teens. Nor does the list bear much resemblance to Latham’s notorious 2004 ‘elite hit list’ that has fuelled years of vitriolic class warfare language against non-government schools.
Elitism is not really at the heart of the public/private debate, and aggressive ‘elite school’ language masks the real issue – the gulf between the quality of non-public and public education. Education is the most powerful tool there is to influence life chances, and most parents will make significant financial sacrifices to give their child the best possible education. Ultimately, if 34.6 per cent of the nation’s families choose non-government schools1 over government ones it is because of the quality of the education, not the funding model.
That is why I am so pleased David Gonski is taking on the job of improving school achievement and school performance. When public schools are able deliver the excellence in education that non-government schools do, parents will have a real choice. And I look forward to the day when every school in every sector has the leadership, structures and funding to pursue educational excellence. An equitable funding model and Gonski’s wisdom are a great start.
1. See ABS, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4221.0
Dr Julie Townsend Headmistress BA (Hons) Cert Ed Ph D MBA (Ed Leadership) MACE MACEL
A private Anglican day and boarding school for girls, Kindergarten to Year 12. Founded in 1856,
in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
26 Albion Street Waverley
NSW 2024 Australia
Telephone +61 2 8305 6200