National school reform in tatters

VICTORIA has torpedoed the Gillard government’s school reforms, announcing plans to introduce its own plan for education funding amid fears the Commonwealth proposal would leave many Victorian schools significantly worse off.
Nanjing Night Net

The federal government has said states would receive no extra funding if they refused to sign up to the federal plan, warning Victoria would miss out on $1.2 billion over five years.

But the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, says there was a better way to improve his state’s schools in line with the principles of the Gonski review.

Despite Ms Gillard’s repeated pledge that no school would lose a dollar under the Commonwealth’s proposals, Mr Baillieu said some schools would lose their anticipated funding over the next decade and many schools would receive less generous indexation.

”More concerning, the Commonwealth government has linked increases to funding with greater intervention in the decision making of schools and school systems, stifling schools’ ability to respond to parents, communities and local school system leaders.

”This one-size-fits-all approach to funding and standards poses a significant risk to the achievements of, and ongoing improvements to, the Victorian school system.”

So far the NSW government has maintained in-principle support for the reforms, but has repeatedly expressed frustration that a funding model has not yet been finalised. ”NSW remains committed to the Gonski principles but we are still waiting on details and an offer from the Commonwealth,” a spokesman said.

The Association for Independent Schools of NSW this week said 40 per cent of independent schools in NSW would be worse off under the most recently discussed model, while others would gain significantly. It threatened to start briefing schools on confidential discussions if a model was not made public soon.

The consequences of opting out of the federal model were formally presented to state ministers at a meeting on February 1. They were warned they would receive no additional funding, that National Partnerships’ money was not guaranteed and that they should expect a lower rate of Average Government School Recurrent Costs.

Victoria plans to phase in its own new model from next year, which it says is consistent with the Gonski recommendations that funding should be needs-based.

The model includes extra funding for disadvantaged students – similar to a voucher system – where the money follows the student to whatever school they choose to attend, regardless of whether public or private.

The Victorian government has suggested the other states and territories could adopt a similar approach, with specific funding reforms to target their areas of greatest need.

The Victorian government intends to put its alternative model, which would cost an extra $400 million a year to implement, to Ms Gillard before the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April.

The announcement comes as Ms Gillard told the Australian Education Union’s national conference on Friday that ”the big test” for the biggest reform to schools’ policy in 40 years would come at April’s COAG meeting.

”I hope the premiers will rise to the challenge,” she said. ”I can say we are much closer to the end than the beginning. In fact, we’re at the pointy end.”

Under the Commonwealth ‘s proposed reforms every student would be allocated a base level of funding – known as the Schooling Resource Standard – with additional loadings for indigenous students, students with a disability and those from poor backgrounds or with limited English skills.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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