A new model for the funding of schools was introduced in 2014. It followed on from the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling undertaken during 2010 and 2011 and is provided for under the Australian Education Act 2013 which was rushed through Parliament by the Gillard Government in June 2013.
The "Gonski" model has dominated education debate over the past three years. Paul Kelly in his recent account of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government ("Triumph and Demise", Melbourne University Press) writes "the 2011 Gonski report, commissioned by Gillard as minister, was high on ambition but weak on implementation and practical detail".
What can we conclude about the "Gonski" model almost 12 months after its implementation?
The model is not "national" as often claimed, given only five States/Territories signed up and different transition arrangements apply in different States/Territories and school sectors.
Under the implementation arrangements, an additional $10 billion would have been invested in schools over a six year period (2014 to 2019). This would have meant significant additional funding flowing to those schools assessed as operating with Government funding levels below their entitlement. Much of the additional funding was scheduled to be delivered in the fifth and sixth years of implementation.
It would be impossible to argue that the new model is more transparent and less complex than the previous socioeconomic status (SES) model for non-government schools. It has been a frustrating year for schools as they have grappled with the technical details of the model and changes in provisional funding figures. It has been almost impossible for schools to project their funding into the future.
There is no doubt that some of the data used to calculate loadings is less than rigorous and the transition arrangements have thrown up a range of issues, with schools realising that the loading for students with disabilities does not deliver the funding required for these students.
The "Gonski" model was rushed and not properly tested. Many of the technical issues could have been addressed through such a trialling and testing process.
While it is far too early to make any assessment as to whether "Gonski" has impacted on the delivery of education in schools, there is a view that simply providing more funding will not be enough to address the perceived issues with flatlining student outcomes.
The Coalition Government elected in September 2013 doesn't believe the "Gonski" model is right for the future, and has committed to a new model from 2018.
As a result, the policy focus must be on the funding arrangements to be implemented from 2018.
These will be determined by the outcomes of the 2016 Federal election. The major political parties will need to reveal their funding intentions at the election.
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