PETAA would agree that there is merit in parts of the Gonski approach. This editorial is from the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 January 2015.
Today we congratulate all those students who have gained a place at university after the release of the first round offers – and we encourage those who may not have gained exactly what they wanted not to be downhearted: the second round may see things improve.
With about 80 per cent of students now completing year 12, and government plans to increase that to 90 per cent, tertiary entrance has become a central purpose of secondary education. Whether that is entirely a good thing is open to debate, but it does mean that parents of children approaching high school age will think long and hard about which school to choose.
Many factors will influence that choice. Cost is one. As we reported on Tuesday, new figures show the cost of schooling will soon form a major part of the family budget: for a baby born this year, private schooling (primary and secondary ) in Sydney is projected to cost $540,000, systemic schooling about $234,000, and even the supposedly free government schools $71,000.
Some parents will baulk at the vast expense of private education, and seek out the best government school. The competition for places at NSW selective schools is well known. As we also reported , the trend has become a selling point for real estate, where a home is within the catchment area of an outperforming government school. That is a reasonable choice: for a family with three children, the prospective difference between the cost of private and public education is about equal to the price of a house.
The desire of parents to choose the best school for their child, shown in these trends, is perfectly reasonable.
Freedom of choice about something as important as education is necessary and desirable. No school or school system has a monopoly on good education; each is different, and those differences are valuable – as long as they do not involve significant , unfair disparities in the quality of education on offer.
Governments have a role here beyond setting standards and funding the public system: it is to ensure that secondary education when considered as a whole is fair for everyone.
Reintroducing fairness into education funding was the motive behind the reforms recommended by David Gonski. The basic difficulty with those reforms was that they assumed no school would see its funding cut. Labor, which set up the Gonski inquiry, has been even more reluctant than the Coalition to incur the anger of parents whose children attend the wealthiest, least needy schools.
The previous funding formula – if so chaotic an arrangement deserves that name – ensured no school would lose out by basing this year’s funding on last year’s costs. Unfairness – and there was plenty of it – became entrenched.
In order to make the system fair, help the neediest schools and students, and bring all schools onto a comparable footing while not cutting funding, Gonski recommended , in effect, big funding increases for the poorest schools and significant increases for many others.
These were increases which were, as the incoming Coalition government recognised , unaffordable.
The answer, however, is not to dump the Gonski principles, as the Federal Government will do after 2017.
It is to accept Gonski’s approach – ‘‘ a transparent method for determining funding .. . based on aspirational educational outcomes rather than last year’s costs’ ’ – and to achieve it within a realistic budget.
School funding should be reorganised from the top to the bottom, to remove the malign influence of different levels of government. All schools should be funded to achieve a set minimum standard within a manageable global education budget. Only then will educational choice be a genuine, fair, realistic benefit.
The Federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, appears to believe he has fixed (hahaha) the school funding with his contentious decision to abandon Gonski after 2017. He has moved on to universities , where his so-called ‘‘ reforms’ ’ involve cutting federal support and letting institutions charge whatever fees they choose.
Leaks from Cabinet and the Senate opposition show significant compromises will be needed to achieve that agenda. Bringing fairness to school funding may have to wait for his (or there) successor.