The Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) has pushed for private schools to open Indigenous-only campuses.
In its submission, AHISA said the reform would “speed up the process”, reduce administrative costs and encourage the proliferation of satellite campuses.
“Our proposal is merely to create some flexibility in the federal funding model to allow for the innovative provision for Indigenous students. Schools funding is complex,” AHISA chief executive, Beth Blackwood, told The Educator.
“Put simply, if an established independent school in Sydney creates a campus in conjunction with an Indigenous land council in regional NSW, the students attending that campus will only be eligible for the same amount as students attending the metropolitan parent school.”
Blackwood said that for students to receive full funding, the campus would have to be a registered school in its own right.
“That’s fine, but it can take five years. That’s five years lost. So the mechanism we suggest is to simply fast-track provision until full registration occurs,” she said.
“These ventures are partnerships with Indigenous communities. This is not about imposing a city vision on regional communities.”
Blackwood added that even in the case of Gawura Indigenous Public School at St Andrew’s Cathedral School – a school established in Sydney’s CBD – the provision is culturally appropriate with Indigenous language support.
‘Not a blanket proposal’
Blackwood said that many AHISA members’ schools are engaged in supporting Indigenous education in different ways.
“Most common is the provision of scholarships for secondary students, either under school programs or in partnership with organisations such as Yalari or the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation,” she explained.
“Other schools conduct teacher exchanges or are sending teachers into remote Indigenous community schools to provide teacher professional development.”
Blackwood said the best programs arise from “solid, long-term relationships” between communities.
“We would like to see a pool of funding created to support the development of programs that are the best fit for communities, rather than one single proposal put forward,” she said.
“Our pre-Budget proposal is a narrow proposal related to a tweaking of the federal funding model. It is not a blanket proposal, so we do not expect it to suit every school or every Indigenous community.”
Blackwood said the proposal would allow private schools to establish satellite campuses without registering them as separate schools, which requires a separate board and principal.
“Where a school establishes a campus, the parent school’s board would have governance responsibility for the campus and the principal would most likely be the CEO of the campus,” she said.
“However, there might also be a Head of campus, just as independent schools have Heads of junior schools, middle schools and senior schools. The campus might also choose to institute a board of management, which would include parents and community elders.”