Government seeks to delay disability loading

Only a third of students with disability are funded.

Maurie Mulheron

Level of under-funding reinforces Federation's stand.

The Federal Government continues to attack the Gonski funding model as revealed in a recent meeting of the Education Council on October 31.

This Council, comprising the state, territory and federal education ministers, dealt with the national collection of consistent data (NCCD) process that was to be the basis for determining the students with disability (SWD) Gonski loading from 2015 onwards.

The ministers received a report developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the Federal Government about the current state of play.

The PwC report was based on a survey of 77 schools across Australia conducted to determine existing levels of support and costs. As was reported in The Australian (November 3), the level of students with disability is much higher than revealed in the original trials conducted by the Federal Department back in 2011–12 when the data was first collected.

  • The PwC report exposed that almost 25 per cent of the schools surveyed were not properly identifying students.
  • The PwC report also revealed that, based on data from the schools it sampled, 18.6 per cent was the more accurate rate of SWD. This is much more than the 10.6 per cent identified in the previous trials. More importantly, it is three times more than the 5.1 per cent funded rate.

This confirms Federation’s call that there must be no more delays in establishing the SWD loading. Teachers are concerned that the loading may not even be implemented by 2016 as the Federal Department states that the consistent national data will still be collected throughout next year. Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne is now using the PwC report to claim that the data is incomplete and implementation must be delayed.

Clearly, a delay has the political advantage for the Federal Government as it could push any decision on the SWD loading until after the next Federal election.

However, data collected from the earlier trial indicated that more than 100,000 students with disability are not receiving support funding currently. The May Budget cut $100 million funding from existing National Partnership SWD programs but did not provide any additional funding for SWD. Therefore, not implementing the SWD loading will be a significant setback to students with disabilities.

As public schools educate almost 80 per cent of students with disability, and an even greater proportion of students with very high needs, the Federation will inform schools of this latest development as the campaign continues for the full six-year Gonski model.