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Gonski funding crucial: BTA

Wednesday, 30th December, 2015

By Andrew Robertson

Schools in Broken Hill will be among the biggest losers if the federal government reneges on Gonski funding agreements with states, the Barrier Teachers’ Association has warned.

Billions of dollars in extra funding is due to flow to schools from 2018 but federal education minister Simon Birmingham told Fairfax Media he wants to strike new funding deals with the states instead.

Senator Birmingham said the current funding model was complicated and lacked transparency and he didn’t see the benefit in dedicating two more years of funding “just to create more uncertainty”. 

But the Barrier Teachers’ Association said for the first time the complexity of schools in the far west was being recognised by a funding system that was designed to overcome disadvantage.

“How typical of this Coalition government to wait until the school holidays to make this weak-kneed announcement about cutting education funding to our neediest kids,” president Maureen Clark said. 

“That’s what this announcement is all about. Exactly what is this simpler funding model that is to be implemented in 2018, the year that the majority of Gonski money was supposed to flow to schools?

“The Education Minister gives no details at all. Instead, he claims that the last two years of funding would just ‘create more uncertainty’.

“Changing funding models in mid stream is what creates uncertainty as parents and teachers find they can’t trust the government to act in the best interests of students.”

Ms Clark said the Senator’s criticism seemed to be that the money might be used to employ more teachers - something she said most parents would think was desirable.

She also took aim at his rejection of the suggestion that smaller class sizes lead to better educational outcomes.

“Smaller classes deliver better educational outcomes when they are created for specific purposes.

“In public schools, classes that could assist children with learning difficulties, disabilities, behavioural problems and mental health issues result in improved learning outcomes for all students.

“Possibly the most confusing part of the Education Ministers’ statement was that he wants a system that is ‘genuinely needs-based’ and targets money where it is ‘most required’. 

“That is exactly what the Gonski funding model is doing now. For the first time, the complexity of our schools in the Far West of NSW has been recognised and we are seeing just what additional funding can do to overcome any disadvantages we may face.”

NSW Premier Mike Baird said the government has been too quick to scrap the funding stream but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the funding was still up for discussion with the states.

“We are certainly committed to ensuring that working together with the states, our common challenge has the outcome that all Australian kids get access to a high quality education.”

Opposition education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said Labor was committed to a needs-based school funding model “consistent with the Gonski reforms”. -BDT/AAP

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