Look who’s on board with the full Gonski

The Gonski buses reach Canberra at the end of a month-long tour; (left inset) Labor leader Bill Shorten and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek give encouraging speeches to Gonski supporters; (right inset) NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes, left, and Liberal NSW MP Gareth Ward, both strong Gonski supporters

The recent Gonski bus tour has brought out a wave of community and political support for the needs-based funding approach that lies at the heart of the Gonski model.

On March 22, two Gonski campaign buses met at the front of Parliament House in Canberra where a delegation of principals, teachers and parents from all over the country met with politicians to discuss the importance of needs-based funding and the difference it has so far made to their children, students and school communities.

Community comes out for Gonski

Parents and teachers are seeing first-hand the significant benefits being achieved so far with only 36 per cent of the transition funding having been delivered to NSW schools, and their message to the federal government is clear: our students need the full Gonski model implemented so that schools can better educate students and address educational disadvantage.

This message was repeated at school events all over Australia throughout the campaign, with a particularly strong turnout from parents and community members.

In Canberra, a number of representatives from community organisations attended to show their support.

Dr John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Dianne Giblin AM, CEO of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, and Professor Tom Calma AO, Chancellor of the University of Canberra, all spoke of the critical importance of needs-based funding to the growth and development of Australian society.

“If we want a fair Australia, if we want a strong economy built on a just society then we needs to invest in needs-based education funding — no arguments,” said Dr Falzon. “If we do not, if we entrench inequality and disadvantage, we will all be the poorer for it as a nation. A government that fails to reduce inequality is a government that fails to serve its people.”

This message was echoed at the Gosford Gonski event on March 15 where Fr Rod Bower, well known for his campaigning for human rights and particularly the rights of refugees, spoke of the importance of equity in education to maintaining a just and equitable society in the future.

Strong political support

On the lawns of Parliament House, more than 20 federal MPs and senators from the ALP and Australian Greens, including Sarah Hanson-Young, came to meet with the delegation and voice their opinions on the importance of needs-based funding.

At a media conference in front of the Gonski marquee, federal Labor leader Bill Shorten addressed the crucial role of needs-based funding to help overcome disadvantage. “We do not believe that a child’s postcode should determine their future in life,” he said. “We think that a well-resourced education, with our teachers who are given all of the support they need to deliver the quality that they can — that’s what parents in Australia want.”

Tanya Plibersek, Deputy ALP Leader and Shadow Minister for Education, spoke of the important role Gonski funding played in providing individualised learning and support for students.

“It’s meant extra support for kids who are struggling at school, help to catch up, improvements in literacy and numeracy, extra investment in science and coding, extension programs for kids who are gifted and talented,” Ms Plibersek said. “Every child, given the individual attention that they need to make the most of their school experience.”

Later that day, Ms Plibersek initiated a debate in federal parliament about schools funding during which she acknowledged many of the delegates in the gallery and their hard work to improve not only individual students' outcomes but whole communities through the use of Gonski funding.

Sights set on disability loading

One key message throughout the bus tour was the need for the government to fund the Students with Disability loading that was withheld after the Coalition won the 2013 election. At present, no additional federal funding is provided for students with disabilities.

Peter Skinner, principal of George Bass School and President of the Special Education Principals’ and Leaders’ Association of NSW, joined the delegation in Canberra to highlight the need of students with disability in our education system.

NSW above party politics

Since the Western Australian election, all state and territory governments, regardless of which party holds government, now support the full implementation of the Gonski model as it exists in federal legislation. While Coalition oppositions in a number of states still oppose the model, in NSW both major political parties support it.

On March 29, Liberal MP for Kiama and newly-appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Gareth Ward, moved a motion of support for Gonski that “calls on the Commonwealth government to honour its agreement with the NSW government with respect to the Gonski needs-based funding model”.

In a media release, Mr Ward said: “As somebody with a disability I understand the positive and significant impact these Gonski education reforms and needs based funding are bringing for students with disabilities right across NSW.” This motion, now set for future debate, comes after strong statements of support for Gonski by both the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and Education Minister, Rob Stokes.

Premier Berejiklian has spoken publicly about her public education experience and has described herself as the “strongest supporter” of needs-based funding in NSW schools.

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On the road to Gonski, eyes pinned to COAG

Tales from the green bus

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Disability funding