Federation is doing everything within its power and control to ensure that the NSW Gonski funding agreement is secured, irrespective of whether there is a change of federal government at the September 14 election.
Having more than $4 billion spent on NSW public schools over the next six years is a remarkable prospect. Successfully defending the Gonski agreement will ensure this funding is available to address a number of key public schooling issues.
The pledge made by the Federal Government when commissioning the Gonski review was “no school will lose a dollar”. It is therefore incumbent on the federal and NSW governments to ensure that public schools in receipt of National Partnerships funding do not lose funding in the transition from the current arrangements to those of Gonski. Federation has already put this request to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and Director-General Michele Bruniges and will give the resolution of this issue the highest priority. For example, it is unacceptable for any of our neediest school communities, currently receiving funding through the Low Socio-Economic Status School Communities National Partnership, to lose funding in the transition to the Gonski model.
While there is further work to be done to develop a national system for identifying students with special needs and disabilities, an additional $100 million has been pledged by the Federal Government to support programs for such students. This is a precursor to an appropriate loading being determined for inclusion in the Gonski schools funding model in future years.
Federation is working with Professor Tony Vinson to develop a university research project to inform future policy development on how best to support students with special needs and disabilities. This project is expected to run through term 3. It will involve a comprehensive survey on the implementation of the Every Student, Every School policy and an extensive consultation process to gather the views of parents, teachers, principals, support teachers and staff. The aim is to conduct this process and present a comprehensive policy recommendation for debate at the 2014 Annual Conference.
Federation continues to pursue the campaign to maintain equity programs and the provision of English as a second language (ESL) support and community languages teachers in our schools. If the Department achieves its aim to abolish these programs and replace them with a direct payment to the school budget via the Resource Allocation Model, Federation will concentrate on ensuring that there is an “up-front” accountability policy framework that ensures funding designated for students with specifically identified needs is allocated accordingly.
This framework should also include a “back-end” accountability, whereby schools verify, for example, that they have used their ESL staffing allocation for that purpose, or that their low socio-economic status funding allocation was spent on staffing and programs for students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds.