This year’s allocation of Gonski funding to NSW public schools is a direct result of the successful campaigning efforts of teachers and parents across the state. The NSW Gonski agreement has meant that schools have already started benefiting from increased funding with all public schools set to receive increasing levels of funding for the next five years beyond 2014.
The NSW Gonski agreement is the new funding model to lift the resource levels of every school to a minimum standard by 2019.
While the Federal Government refuses to fully fund the fifth and sixth years of the deal, the NSW Government has so far promised to fund its share.
The challenge for all school communities is to maintain the pressure on the NSW Government and Labor politicians, and expose the Federal Government for its lack of commitment to fully fund their obligation to meet the learning needs of all students.
Throughout the submissions phase of the Gonski review, public school communities argued for additional funding to overcome educational disadvantage. The Gonski panel agreed and recommended loadings for schools that have significant concentrations of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, Aboriginal students, students needing additional support to achieve proficiency in the English language, students with disabilities and special needs, schools in geographically-isolated settings and small schools.
As schools will continue to receive increasing levels of Gonski funding over the next few years, principals and teachers will need to plan teaching and learning programs targeting the needs of these students.
But unlike the limited tenure and temporary funding arrangements of the National Partnerships programs, the NSW Gonski agreement is a recurrent funding model. That is, the NSW Gonski agreement is the new minimum standard of funding for all schools.
Therefore, schools will have the confidence to think long-term and plan sustainable programs with the guarantee of additional funding. Schools can invest in professional learning, reduce class sizes, build and develop new programs and establish new permanent classroom teacher, executive and specialist positions.
Such plans will also be vital to make the case to politicians. Whilst the Gonski campaign has been an important call for additional funding, schools are now in a very strong position to impress upon politicians, particularly federal Coalition members, that their lack of support for the full Gonski deal will diminish the positive impact of teaching and learning programs and hence students’ learning will suffer.
Politicians must be held responsible for every decision they make. In this case, they need to declare whether they are committed to supporting programs designed to meet the learning and social needs of the most disadvantaged students in their electorate or not.
Schools can expect more information and support to make this case to their respective politicians.
In the meantime, all members should engage in their school’s planning processes, understand the impact the new Gonski funding will have on their teaching and learning programs, and advocate for these at every opportunity they have with local politicians and parents.