From next year, the Victorian Education Department will enforce strict new oversight into how private schools manage and spend their government funding grants.
The decision comes after an auditor-general’s report – released on Wednesday – found that most private schools in Victoria cannot prove they spend government funds appropriately.
In the audit – titled Grants to Non-Government Schools – the auditor-general revealed that in a sample audit of 22 schools, none could prove that their funding was not used on capital works.
Independent Schools Victoria’s (ISV) chief executive, Michelle Green, told The Educator that the findings were “significant”.
She said the ISV was working in cooperation with the advisory council and that the department has introduced interim measures to improve grant administration and governance, with new arrangements set to be introduced next year.
“Our starting point is that we believe the public has a right to know how taxpayers’ money is spent," she said.
“Independent schools complied with all reporting requirements under the previous funding agreement and we’re working closely with the department on measures to improve those requirements under new interim funding agreements.”
Green said the ISV’s aim was to ensure that reporting requirements were “clear, consistent and reasonable”.
“School leaders and administrators want clarity and transparency in these processes,” she said.
The Victorian Education Department has already set up a School Policy and Funding Advisory Council (SPFAC), with ISV and the Catholic Education Commission Victoria (CECV).
Green said any the last thing school leaders and administrators want is any “imposition of onerous and unreasonable red tape” or arrangements that duplicate schools’ other reporting requirements.
“Any unreasonable administrative burden would inevitably distract schools from their prime function – educating their students,” she said.
The audit also found that under a funding model that relates only to Catholic schools, some wealthier Catholic schools were allocated significantly more money than they would have under the department's funding arrangement, while poorer schools received less.
Government funding for the state’s 500 Catholic schools is distributed by the Catholic Education Commission Victoria (CECV).
The CEC’s chief executive, Stephen Elder, criticised the audit as being “limited in scope”.
“It is hard not to conclude that the scope was intentionally designed to serve this purpose, given that a broader scope would have challenged many of VAGO's findings,” Elder said.
Frost dismissed the claim, saying that the audit “may not have been the one the CECV [Catholic Education Commission of Victoria] wanted”.