Gonski Week engages community in campaign

Maurie Mulheron

Public school communities across Australia celebrated National Gonski Week from July 28 to August 1.

National Gonski Week was launched in NSW at a media conference held at Rooty Hill High School on July 28 which generated widespread television and radio coverage. Joining the Federation at the launch were Lila Mularczyk (NSW Secondary Principals’ Council), Geoff Scott (NSW Primary Principals’ Association) and Angelo Gavrielatos (Australian Education Union). The MC at the launch was Rooty Hill High School principal Christine Cawsey who spoke of the successful programs now being funded at the school with Gonski money. Joining the staff afterwards for a morning tea were the school captains, parents, grandparents, community members and the local State Member of Parliament, Richard Amery.

But National Gonski Week was more than just a celebration of the programs now being funded with Gonski money as the other important purpose of the week was to inform parents, caregivers and community members across Australia of the critical need for this funding to continue for the full six years.

Many parents and caregivers have been asking for more information about the Gonski funding model and its benefits. Federation provided a range of material to schools, including 350,000 brochures and two short video clips, which assisted teachers when explaining the importance of the funding model. All these resources are still available for download.

Perhaps the most important message that was delivered to the community concerns the fact that the Federal Government is planning to stop funding schools according to the Gonski model after 2017 and Commonwealth funding will only be indexed at 2.5 per cent (currently 4.7 per cent) — an effective cut in real terms.

Many parents and caregivers of students with disability also received important messages regarding threats to funding that will adversely affect their children. The Federal Government has so far failed to allocate the necessary funds for the Gonski disability loading from the beginning of 2015. Instead of keeping a promise made prior to the federal election to increase funding that recognises the true cost of educating students with disabilities, thousands of students with disability will miss out on a high quality education.

An unsuccessful attempt by the NSW Department of Communities to quash the activities with a memo erroneously citing the Code of Conduct was all but ignored, although immediately following the issuing of the memo, Federation’s website was visited by tens of thousands who then went on to download the resources. Federation was grateful for the additional publicity.

One strategy being planned will involve the building of an alliance with other unions and community groups and placing the threats to Gonski within a broader context of attacks on public education including the cuts to pre-school funding, the privatisation of TAFE and the dramatic increase in university fees. More information on these planned events will be publicised in the journal and on the Federation website.

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