“A hierarchy of advantage and disadvantage has developed amongst schools and it is hardening,” warns the Centre for Policy Development
Jun 03, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Private schools will next year receive more Government funding per student than public schools catering for students of similar background, a new paper warns.
The Centre for Policy Development, a left-wing think tank, has called for Australia to unite in a “Gonski consensus” to support the funding levels outlined in the Gonski review and arrest the growth in inequality in schools.
In the paper, titled Uneven Playing Field: the state of Australian schools, authors Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd identifying trends in MySchool website data from 2009-2015 which, they say, show the education system “is unsustainable and beset with structural problems.”
One is the growth of funding levels for Catholic and other independent schools to a point where, the paper argues, it will soon exceed funding for public schools catering for children of similar background.
“Based on current trends, by 2016-17 the recurrent government funding that non-government schools receive converge with, then outstrip, that received by the public schools in a similar socio-economic range,” states the report.
It argues for the creation of a national resourcing body, as recommended in the original Gonski review, to decide funding allocation.
And it calls for a levelling of the playing field, arguing that even if extra Gonski funding is not forthcoming, state and federal governments “should rebalance the funding mix towards additional investment in schools with greatest need, regardless of sector”.
“A hierarchy of advantage and disadvantage has developed amongst schools and it is hardening,” say Bonner and Shepherd.
“This is not as simple as a ‘drift to private schools’; the reality is that parents are seeking out schools with higher achieving students in both the government and non-government system ... as a result, disadvantage is increasingly concentrated.”
The authors advocate a renewed regard for the value of “the local school”, with education policy focussed on maximising opportunities for all children to succeed in their most accessible local school.
And they argue that the “clear relationship between social disadvantage and poor educational outcomes - driven in part by separation of students with socio-educational advantage - must be addressed as an urgent priority”.
“Incentives available to certain schools to aggregate advantage should be progressively reduced, and the capacity of less advantaged schools to offer excellent education to all students and families in a community must be increased,” they say.
While Labor has pledged to fund the $4.5 billion Gonski reforms in full and the Coalition has replaced them with an emasculated $1.2 billion scheme, neither party has plans for a wholesale review of Government funding allocations to private schools.
The paper argues: “We are in fact over-investing in many advantaged students.
“They receive, depending on sector and level of advantage, between $1,300 and $14,000 extra per student each year in funding from both parents and governments, but have similar achievement levels to lower-funded equivalents.”
Bonner and Shepherd are both former NSW principals turned education policy advisors.