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Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

feature We give a GONSKI

feature We give a GONSKI What difference could the Gonski recommendations make to Victorian schools? AEU members headed to Canberra to let their MPs know. Sian Watkins joined them. PRINCIPALS, teachers and parents are urged to lobby the Federal Government to enact the recommendations of the Gonski Review of federal school funding by year’s end to prevent momentum for change being derailed by the Coalition and private-school interests. About 65% of the Federal Government’s direct spending on education goes to private schools. Victorian state school parents, principals and teachers visited Canberra last month as part of an AEU delegation to remind MPs of the urgent need to enact the Gonski Review’s proposed overhaul of school funding. The review recommends that an extra $5 billion a year be spent on schools, with most of this extra money going to state schools, which teach the majority of disadvantaged students. This extra money equates, roughly, to about $1500 for every state school student. Michael Phillips, principal of Ringwood Secondary College, reckons his school would get an extra $700,000 every year. Legislation before the end of the year is vital to ensure that the foundations of change are well underway before next year’s federal election. AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the Tony Abbott-led Coalition would keep the existing, indefensible funding system should it win government. Sydney University’s Dr Jim McMorrow told delegates that, under existing funding arrangements introduced by the former Howard government, federal funding to state schools will decrease by 12% in real terms over the next two years (a cut of more than $670 million a year). But funding to private schools will increase by 15% in real terms (a $1.3bn increase on this year’s non-government spending). Dr Morrow said state schools were doing all the “heavy lifting” and their share of federal funding would decline further with the approaching end of National Partnerships funding. It was “time for a sustained federal commitment to public schools,” he said. DELEGATE Michael Phillips, principal of Ringwood Secondary College, reckons his school would get about $700,000 extra a year if Gonski’s recommendations were implemented. What would he spend the extra money on? “Where do I start? “More learning support programs and I’d do the ESL program differently. I’d halve their class sizes. I’d run more stuff for kids that need extending which is important when you’re competing with the private schools in the eastern suburbs. “I’d spend more money on the co-curricular programs like music and sport — we’ve got nothing when you see what the private schools have got in these areas — and deliver more PD for staff.” Phillips said that some refugee students arrived at his school with two years of education in total. “They only get three years of funded support in high school but they need it for much longer. Gonski would allow me to support ESL kids right through to Year 12.” ◆ Christine Milne, Greens leader “We are in the middle of a mining boom with one of the strongest economies in the Western world. Now is the time to fix structural deficiencies in education funding.” 18 aeu news | june 2012

Learning to fly in paper planes feature One teacher tells her MP the stark reality of teaching without a budget. Mr Gavrielatos urged members of the AEU delegations from all states and territories to “maintain the momentum for achieving a fairer outcome for our kids”. He said that $5bn amounted to less than 1% of GDP and was only a 15% increase on 2009 federal education spending. “Why do we provide billions of dollars to schools that don’t need it when so many kids are deprived of resources?” said an impassioned Gavrielatos. Greens leader Christine Milne told delegates that the $5bn could easily be raised by abolishing fossil fuel incentives and subsidies, which this financial year amount to $12.2bn, according to the Australian Conservation Foundation. “Spending more money on education is a no brainer,” she said. “Five billion sounds a lot but we’d have to spend $7bn to average OECD spending on education as a percentage of GDP. And Nordic countries spend a lot more.” The Gillard Government is yet to commit to the reforms, instead allocating $5.6 million in this year’s budget, over two years, for further policy and technical work. The funding review, led by Sydney businessman and lawyer David Gonski, recommended a single funding model for all schools — public, independent and Catholic — with additional funding for disadvantaged children and schools. It was set up following increasing concerns about inequity in federal funding and the huge, increasing gap between the top 20% continued on page 20 ➠ LESS than halfway through the school year, Faye Natoli’s school has $900 left in its art budget for the rest of 2012. Its annual art budget is $3000. The school’s annual PE budget has fallen from $10,000 to $1500 in the past 10 years and PE reduced from one hour to 45 minutes a week. Such a tight sports budget has made even the purchase of new netball bibs traumatic, she says. “Kids at our school are now getting less than 30 hours a year of PE. We don’t have the money to run a motor skills program — and this in an age of obesity.” Natoli, a teacher at Rangeview Primary School in Mitcham, was one of four delegates who met Deakin MP Mike Symons at Parliament House. Most state schools would get an extra $1500 per student every year under the Gonski funding formula. This would mean an extra $840,000 every year for Rangeview Primary School. Natoli told Symons that teaching literacy and numeracy was critical but “kids get very excited about art and sport and music. They will keep that clay dragon they made with green glitter on it when they move out of home.” The school runs an effective literacy recovery program three hours a week. Thirty students need it “but we can only deliver it to eight. We don’t have the money to train any more staff and aides to do it.” Nine students have been formally diagnosed with learning difficulties at the school but only three are in the literacy recovery program. “We need ongoing funding to make commitments to these sorts of programs,” Natoli told Symons. She recently taught her grade six students about flight. A friend of hers who teaches at an eastern suburbs private school taught a similar unit; her students took a trip in a light plane and “had a go at the controls”. “My class made paper planes and mention was later made of me wasting paper,” Natoli said. She asked Symons to specify what he planned to do to help get enabling legislation passed by Parliament before year’s end. Symons said he would visit Rangeview soon and that better reporting mechanisms were required “to monitor how states spend federal money. It disappears into the black hole of state bureaucracy.” ◆ Carmen Lawrence Gonski panel member and former WA premier, on the Government’s inaction. “I was disappointed the Government didn’t say on day 1: ‘This is what we are going to do’ and step it out over five to 10 years. I was disappointed when … they said they would have another round of consultation. We had done that — we had gone out and talked to everybody. The brief (we were given) was that no school could lose a dollar, so the only way we could start to overcome disadvantage was to recommend additional funding. The longer we wait, the more the forces of reaction will muster and position themselves in their usual arrangements.” www.aeuvic.asn.au 19

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