Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Another Gonski Deadline …

by Dean Ashenden, Online Opinion:

Dean Ashenden was co-founder of the Good Universities Guides and Good School Guides, and had been an adviser or consultant on education policy to state and federal governments and agencies.

NOTE: This article was first published in Crikey on July 1, 2013.

Another Gonski deadline has come and gone, and yet another has been set. What is it with this Gonski business?

Here is everything you wanted to know about Gonski but were too fed up to ask.

How long has this soap been running?

Since April 2010, when then-education minister Julia Gillard announced a Review of Funding for Schooling, to be chaired by the ubiquitous businessman and philanthropist David Gonski.

Terms of reference were not finalised until July 2010. In December 2010 the review panel published an issues paper, and then got down to serious work.

Five thousand seven hundred submissions, 39 school visits, 71 formal consultations and four commissioned papers later the final report went to the federal government in December 2011.

In February 2012, now-prime minister Gillard released the report, provided a lukewarm endorsement, and announced yet-more consultations.

Six months on the government's worries about its electoral prospects had deepened. Gonski would be its salvation. An 'education crusade' was declared, and in December Gonski was encased in 'the most important legislation of 2012'.

In the absence of any agreement with any of the eight state and territory governments or the Catholic and independent sectors, the legislation was entirely contentless.

The detail would be finalised and agreed at COAG's April 2013 meeting. In fact the meeting produced only acrimony. The deadline was extended again, to June 30.

Come June 26 only NSW, South Australia and the ACT had signed, although the Catholic and independent sectors were said to be on side. The Australian Education Act, now with content, albiet incomplete, passed through the Senate within hours of Julia Gillard losing her job.

Two days later her successor announced to a startled press gallery that he was a reasonable man, and so another fortnight would be ok.

What is 'Gonski', now?

Not what it was. Gonski wanted: a 'national schools resourcing body' to disburse all public funds, state and federal, to all schools, irrespective of sector. 
Schools would get a base amount plus loadings according to size, location, and how many poor, Aboriginal, and non-English-speaking students they enrolled.

The loadings would be tightly concentrated on just one in four schools, most but not all of them in the government sector.

It would cost around $5 billion (later raised to $6.5 billion) on top of the current annual government spend of around $40 billion and the often-forgotten $7 billion or so from non-government sector parents.

Some of the new money would come from the federal government, some from the states.

What we now have is: no national body; separate deals on offer to each government and sector; a promise that each system in each state will decide how to use its money; agreement that the money will be spread much more thinly (over half of all schools rather than one quarter), and loadings, by one calculation, to comprise just 17 per cent of the total; a promise that every independent school will be better off; very little money for the first two years, and two more years before full flow; and a new requirement that every school (all 9500 of them) would have to prepare 'development plans'.

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