Doubts cast on PM’s school funding plan

Public school advocates, Save Our Schools (SOS) have weighed into the war of words between the Federal Government and the Australian Education Union (AEU), calling the Federal Government’s school funding figures into question.

On Monday, SOS released a damning rebuke of the Productivity Commission’s ‘National Education Evidence Base’ report, saying it shows the Federal Government are the ones that have it wrong on school funding.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report, released last week, claimed that it was “lifting the bonnet on Australia’s schools” to show that more funding did not necessarily equate to better outcomes.

The report urged leaders to explore further research to determine how to improve outcomes before committing more money to schools, pointing out that despite a 14% increase in spending per student over the past decade, student performance in national and international assessments had barely improved.
“Looking within the classroom, particularly teaching practices, is thus paramount to improving education outcomes across all schools and all students,” said Commissioner, Jonathan Coppel.

“We also know there are some schools whose students perform better than expected compared with similar schools.”

However, in an analysis of the Productivity Commission’s report released on Monday, SOS said it was the Federal Government which had failed to lift the bonnet on its own funding figures, adding that its “funding engine is badly misfiring”.

“The Commission has greatly exaggerated the actual increase in funding and it has missed the key point that past funding increases have not been directed at reducing under-performance,” SOS national convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said in a statement.

“Past funding increases have favoured more advantaged schools over disadvantaged schools. As a result, school performance has largely stagnated over the past 10 years.”

Cobbold added that the Productivity Commission’s analysis, which said there had been no real improvement in PISA results despite a 14% increase in per-student funding, did not take into account the large number of low-SES students in the public sector, who were the ones struggling the most.

“A significant factor behind the stagnation in Australia’s school results is the failure to improve the results of low socio-economic status (SES), Indigenous and remote area students.”

“The large majority of these students attend public schools. In 2014, 82% of students from low-SES families, 84% of Indigenous students, 79% of remote area students and 87% of very remote area students were enrolled in public schools.”

Cobbold went on to warn of “a very real danger of a national retreat from improving equity in education”.

“It constitutes a threat, not only to the future lives of thousands of disadvantaged children, but to Australia’s national prosperity and social well-being,” he said.

“The forthcoming meetings of the national education ministers’ council must focus on a new national plan dedicated to reducing inequity in education, not exacerbating inequity.”