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The Forum > Article Comments > Gonski Review looks good but fails on four counts > Comments

Gonski Review looks good but fails on four counts : Comments

By Scott Prasser, published 13/10/2011

The Gonski Review started out transparent, but on the way became opaque, giving no clues to the conclusions it will release.

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I posted several comments on this article when it appeared in The Australian yesterday, but none of them appeared. I repeat almost all of them here:

The current system is absurd. It pays schools on the basis of the wealth of the other people who live in the streets where the students come from. It underfunds low-fee Catholic schools, which is why the majority of them have to receive top-up funding to achieve the same resources as applied under the Hawke government. Its formula includes base funding that any school must have (which it is inefficient to duplicate by having two schools in the same locality when one will do) and the extra costs of students with special needs (e.g., ESL, disability, low family income) whether or not they actually attend the school being funded.

The whole system is politically damaging because it leaves the federal government open to the propaganda attack that it provides more support to private schools than to public schools, an attack that ignores the fact the states do the reverse.

The AEU has completely missed the point and has not even argued for a specific staffing and funding formula for the schools its members teach in, leaving open the possibility that the Gonski Review will recommend the conceptually reasonable but underfunded Victorian government schools model for all schools.

The key task of the Gonski review is to establish the funding necessary to provide each student with a first-class education. This must be based on an explicit pupil teacher ratio. Once that amount is established, a rational system with federal-state cost sharing for all schools can be devised that does not require top-up funding.
Posted by Chris C, Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:08:34 AM
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The marginal recurrent cost per mainstream student of a properly staffed, high quality education system is $6,993 for years 3 to 6 and $8,320 for all other levels. That would provide staffing ratios of 18:1 and 15:1 respectively, sufficient to reduce both primary and secondary teaching loads and maintain small classes. This is in addition to a base amount of around $1,000,000 per secondary school (eight teachers plus other costs) and around $250,000 per primary school (two teachers plus other costs).

All schools, whether privately or publicly owned, ought to get these per student amounts (and additional funding for special needs students) provided they meet the same public purposes, including a cap on fees of, say, $1,000 pa, so that we do not underwrite an education system that is segregated by wealth.

I have made three submissions to the Gonski Review, but I’m not a high-powered pressure group so you won’t get to read about them in the press. Unlike the Allen Consulting Group, which did not even get around to producing a figure for its proposed resourcing standard in its 112 page report and which proposed a methodology for someone else to do the job that was not even not based on an explicit staffing formula for schools, I actually managed to work out an appropriate staffing level and funding formula without leaving my study, and it took me only 20 pages to explain it. My first two submissions are on the Review website at:
My third submission is here:
Posted by Chris C, Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:09:04 AM
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Prasser's article reflects the concern of the publicly subsidised selective enrolment school lobby that some form of funding justice may be delivered to public schools via the Gonski review.

Prasser argues that Gonski lacks credibility, presumably so we can reject in advance the findings that it may produce.

Prasser than moves on to attack the credibility of the research papers commissioned by Gonski.

He says that the Nous Report "starts with the contestable, if not flawed premise that Australian schools exercise a high degree of academic selectivity..."

Actually, the Nous Report starts with a wider premise. Before quoting it, let us challenge Prasser to show how this premise is flawed. In what way? On what basis? Here is the full paragraph from which Prasser lifts only the final comment:

"Before going further, it is worth emphasising just how different Australia’s school system is compared to other countries. First, it is divided into three distinct sectors, all of which have a significant market share (approximately 63% government, 21% Catholic and 16% independent). It is particularly unusual to have such a large private (‘independent’) sector. Second, Australia’s subsidisation of the fee-charging, autonomously-run independent school sector with public funds is unique across OECD countries. Third, Australia has a robust and competitive market for school education – the most competitive in the world by one measure – whereby parents with a reasonably high level of disposable income can exercise wide choice. In most other jurisdictions there are much more strict zoning rules. Fourth, although we do not ‘stream’ students as some other systems do, there is a high degree of academic selectivity in Australia’s systems. Those schools that can attract high-performing students do so."

Is all of this "contestable"? If it is, let Prasser "contest" it and not merely proclaim its "contestability".

The fact is that we have a grossly unfair funding system for education in this country, and the private school pigs are squealing, hopefully on the way to the slaughterhouse!
Posted by mike-servethepeople, Thursday, 13 October 2011 11:19:49 AM
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