Gap needs Gonski

Kerri Carr

Mulheron: For the Prime Minister to deny Gonski funds is to turn his back on Aboriginal students

Federation President Maurie Mulheron questioned how Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could cut schools funding when a major report showed the target to halve the gap in reading and numeracy for Indigenous students by 2018 was not on track.

The Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s Report 2017, published on February 14 states: “The latest data show of the eight areas measured (reading and numeracy for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9), only one (Year 9 numeracy) is on track.”

The report continues: “That being said, half of the eight areas showed statistically significant improvements in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at or above the national minimum standard between 2008 and 2016. The four areas with significant improvement were Years 3 and 5 reading, and Years 5 and 9 numeracy.”

Mr Mulheron credited resourcing provided by the Gonski schools funding program for improvements in student outcomes in the past three years.

“School principals have been reporting significant lifts in student achievement with 36 per cent of funds delivered to schools — imagine what could be achieved if the full Gonski funding agreement was implemented,” he said.

The Gonski funding model was deliberately designed to significantly raise resource levels to improve learning outcomes for lndigenous students. Many Indigenous students attract funding loadings for low SES, small school size and remote school location in addition to the base loading and the loading for being Indigenous.

"You can't talk about 'closing the gap' without maintaining the Gonski funding agreement," Mr Mulheron said.

Currently the Coalition Government proposes to drop funding for the last two years of the Gonski funding program (worth $3.8 billion in extra resources in 2018 and 2019).

"For the Prime Minister to deny these funds is to turn his back on Aboriginal students," Mr Mulheron said.

He said Malcolm Turnbull should support the full implementation of the six-year program contained in the Gonski agreements with the states and territories when schools funding for 2018 and beyond is determined at April COAG meeting.

The only Closing the Gap target (which cover education, health and employment) that is on track is to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020. The report states: "Nationally the proportion of Indigenous 20-24 year-olds who had achieved Year 12 or equivalent increased from 45.4 per cent in 2008 to 61.5 per cent in 2014-15."

Regarding other educational targets, the document states:

*"There has been no meaningful change in the national Indigenous school attendance rate from 2014 (83.5 per cent) to 2016 (83.4 per cent). Progress will need to accelerate across most jurisdictions for [the target to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance by 2018] to be met."

*"In 2015, 87 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia were enrolled in early childhood education in the year before full-time school." The target is that 95 per cent of all Indigenous four year-olds enrolled in early childhood education (by 2025).