Gonski gains at risk from RAM

Serious threat to schools funding after 2019.

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

The implementation of a Gonski needs-based funding model is an important development in the history of schools funding in NSW. Federation members are congratulated for their commitment and hard work over many years of campaigning to achieve this outcome.

The additional investment in NSW public schools of nearly $1.5 billion in 2014–2017 and a further $2.75 billion in 2018–2019 if the Abbott Government commits to deliver this funding, will be a most significant and much needed boost. It is unfortunate, however, that the NSW model will include the devolutionary mechanism known as the Resource Allocation Model (RAM).

As Federation has consistently stated over many years, devolving responsibility for staffing, resources and budgets to the school level enables governments to cut investment in public education, whilst shifting the blame for shortfalls and problems to local principals and staff.

The embedding of the RAM in the new model represents a serious threat to public school funding beyond the six years of the NSW National Education Reform Agreement (NERA). Governments have used such a mechanism for years to cut NSW TAFE to shreds.

While the increased Gonski funding may negate this damaging impact in the short term, the introduction of the RAM means government will have established a mechanism for longer term expenditure cuts beyond the duration of the NSW agreement. OECD reports confirm that such changes do not improve student outcomes.

Federation will continue to expose the motives behind the RAM and oppose it accordingly.

Low SES and Aboriginal students

Initially, the Gonski model will allocate $100 million of additional funding in 2014 to address the learning needs of students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds and Aboriginal students. This is important, much needed assistance that will support students to achieve improved learning outcomes.

Further increases to be subsequently phased-in from 2015 will address school location and size, students with limited English language proficiency and students with low levels of disability and learning support needs.

Current arrangements will continue for these students in 2014, as well as for students receiving targeted (individual support) funding who require high or moderate level adjustment for disability, need specific support or are new arrivals or refugees.

Reduced funding for some schools

While it appears that most schools will receive additional funding, it is unacceptable that 187 schools next year will receive up to $50,000 less than their current funding levels.

Many of these schools serve low socio-economic status (SES) communities. They have been receiving state equity programs funding on the basis that schools with a higher proportion of low-SES students can best achieve improved learning outcomes if funding is similarly concentrated to achieve whole school change. Spreading this funding more thinly via the RAM means these needy schools will receive reduced funding at a time when increases are being delivered by state and federal governments to address the higher level of student need in public schooling.

Federation has written to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli requesting that he instruct the Department of Education and Communities to recalculate the funding allocations for 2014 to ensure no school suffers a cut in funding. In the totality of increased Gonski funding over the next six years, this adjustment to funding allocations constitutes a modest extra investment.