Further evidence backs Gonski findings

Kerri Carr

The most advantaged sector has received the greatest funding increase.

What the Gonski schools funding review panel found to be bad two former principals have found to be worse.

Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd have been researching the growing divide in academic outcomes between schools catering to the wealthiest and most disadvantaged students, using evidence from the My School website.

Mr Bonnor reported to the Need to Succeed: What next for fairer school funding? symposium on October 23 that the situation in relation to some key Gonski findings had deteriorated since the 2012 report and would get worse.

“Don’t get me wrong. Next year’s My School might reveal that the trickle of equity funding from what’s left of Gonski’s recommendations might make a difference. Don’t hold your breath.”

He said the Gonski review had been “variously ignored, cherry-picked, partially implemented, then in relative terms largely abandoned” and urged government heads and education ministers to “just get on with it”.

“The review found that Australia needs to lift the achievement of students, particularly the lowest performers. Information available on My School shows that we have not achieved this and that the gap between our higher and lower performers, especially in the secondary years, is widening,” Mr Bonnor said.

“The review found that we should direct resources to where they are needed most. Yes, My School does show that government funding, whether sufficient or not, has been generally directed in this way. But the combination of public and private funding increasingly goes to students who already achieve at quite high levels. And they are not doing much better.”

Mr Bonnor reported there are around 500 public and private secondary schools that receive less government recurrent funding than at least one nearby more advantaged private school in the same federal electorate.

“The review referred to imbalance in funding. My School shows big variations in state and territory funding alone. If you want to go to a public school, well-funded by a state, you’d best go to one in Queensland. If you want to go to a private school that is handsomely funded by a state government, head for Victoria. As for capital expenditure, in recent years Queensland has provided almost as much capital funding per head to private school students as South Australia provided to public school students,” he said.

“Gonski suggested...an independent National Schools Resourcing Body to sort this out. It still sounds like a good idea to me.”

Mr Bonnor recalled the Gonski review found that public funding arrangements need to reflect the nature of the educational challenges faced by schools.

“Increases by sector in recent years certainly are actually the inverse of need. The most advantaged sector gets the greatest increase,” he said.

Messrs Bonnor and Shepherd constructed socio-economic gradients from My School data. Mr Bonnor told the symposium Australia’s equity gradient was “worsening in most locations and for different levels of schooling — year by year, over just five years”.

Mr Bonnor noted the Gonski review found that the increased concentration of disadvantaged students in certain schools was affecting educational outcomes.

“The evidence suggests that this concentration has increased in recent years. I think it might help to explain the increasing gap between high and low ICSEA schools,” he said.