Mon, 15 May 2017 - 13:43
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What the Quality Schools Package means for Bradfield

Recently the Turnbull Government announced our Quality Schools reform package.  This will deliver real needs-based funding for Australian schools for the first time – and substantially increase funding from the Commonwealth Government for Australian schools.

There are many fine schools in Bradfield. We have 29 government schools, 10 Catholic systemic schools and 18 independent schools.  

I have had a close look at the numbers, and it is clear that the Quality Schools package will deliver a strong increase in funding for schools in Bradfield. 

The fair and principled design of this package stands out very clearly, with the spending commitments well targeted to reflect the relative needs of the three types of schools:

  • Total funding to schools in Bradfield is rising strongly – by 2027 it will be 37.3 per cent higher than in 2017
  • Funding is rising across all three types of schools – government, Catholic systemic and independent
  • The funding increase is highest for government schools, at 59.7 per cent
  • The next highest funding increase is for Catholic schools, at 43.1 per cent
  • The increase for independent schools is 19.1 per cent.

Total Commonwealth funding for the 57 schools in Bradfield stands at $107.9 million.  Next year this will rise by 3.4 per cent to $111.5 million, and by 2021 it will reach $123 million a year.

These changes reflect the principles underlying the Quality Schools package.  Over the next ten years the Commonwealth Government will spend an additional $18.6 billion for Australia’s schools - distributed according to a model of fair, needs-based and transparent funding.

We inherited a mess from the previous Labor Government.  When the Gonski Review,  held under that Government, recommended a new model which would clearly and transparently allocate funding to individual schools according to specified criteria, Labor failed to implement the model.

Instead, Labor did 27 special deals with states and territories, unions and non-government school leaders. Labor traded away the principles of the ‘Gonski’ report for political expediency.

Under our new approach, dubbed Gonski 2.0, the Commonwealth will meet a share of the Gonski recommended Schooling Resource Standard of 20 per cent for government schools – up from 17 per cent this year – and 80 per cent for non-government schools – up from 77 per cent this year.  (Remember that government schools get the majority of their funding from state government – but under this package the amount coming from the Commonwealth is increasing significantly.)

We will ensure that all schools and states transition to an equal Commonwealth share of the resource standard in a decade.

Because of the mess we  inherited from Labor there are some real anomalies in funding for schools in Bradfield – as there are around the country.

As Education Minister Simon Birmingham has stated, we expect 24 schools in the nation’s highest socio-economic areas will receive a small reduction in per student funding in 2018.  This is part of gradually removing the existing anomalies, in which some schools receive more per student funding than others with similar circumstances and needs.

The adjustment process will occur over ten years – so that the schools which happen to receive unusually high Commonwealth funding today (and their students and parents) are not unfairly impacted.

Three of these schools are in Bradfield – which is certainly one of the nation’s  highest socio-economic areas. All are independent high schools (in some cases with an attached primary school.) One of these schools will see its per student funding amount from the Commonwealth reduce next year by $135; the next will see it drop by $46; and the third by $1 (in other words, its funding remains essentially flat.)

The per student funding amount that the first two of these schools receive today stands out as being much higher than other, similar schools in Bradfield.  In fact, it is 82 per cent and 74 per cent respectively higher than the average per student funding across the twelve Catholic systemic and independent high schools in Bradfield.  Of course that is no fault of these two schools – it is the consequence of a flawed system with some inexplicable anomalies. 

It is understandable that a reduction in funding is never welcome news.  But the annual reductions are modest – and are part of a process of bringing all schools towards the funding level, over ten years, which aligns with the Gonski recommended amount. 

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has done an excellent job in designing the Quality Schools package.  It allocates funding fairly and according to clearly stated principles. A small number of schools – which today receive anomalously high levels of per student Commonwealth funding – will see a reduction, but this is done gradually and the annual reductions are modest.  The majority of schools see significant funding increases – including 54 of the 57 schools in Bradfield. 

Every government school and every Catholic systemic school in Bradfield sees a significant increase in per student funding from the Commonwealth Government under this package.  

Quality Schools delivers more funding, better educational standards and a fairer and more principled outcome for schools than we have today.  It is a big step forward for schools around Australia – including the schools in my electorate of Bradfield.