21 October 2014

The Abbott Government’s attack on Gonski schools funding is continuing – with legislation passed by the House of Representatives last night aiming to reduce accountability for how Gonski funding is allocated and spent by State Governments and private school authorities.

AEU Deputy Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the Abbott Government’s Australian Education Act Amendment Bill was an attempt to undermine the architecture of the Gonski reforms by removing a requirement for appropriate planning and reporting by schools, systems and governments from January 1, 2015, outlining how they would spend extra funding to improve student learning outcomes.

This will include postponing the requirement to develop “school improvement plans”, as is consistent with the Gonski Review’s recommendations.

“The reporting requirements and school improvement plans were put into law to ensure that additional Gonski funding was spent as intended – to tackle disadvantage by investing in programs for students with the greatest need,” Ms Haythorpe said.

This would see extra funding going to schools which educate students from low-income households, students with disability, students from regional areas, Indigenous students and students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

“These are tax payer dollars and we support transparency and accountability of how they are spent.

“For Gonski reforms to deliver real improvements we need to ensure resources are being allocated and spent on the students for whom they were intended. Properly targeting resources is essential if we want to lift overall student outcomes and close the achievement gaps in student learning.

“But, our capacity to do so will be weakened by this bill which contains a provision that will extend the deadline to plan and report on the allocation and expenditure of these targeted resources to January 1, 2016 – or even further at Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s discretion.

“Why should State Governments and private school authorities not be accountable for the Gonski funding? Why should they not have to produce detailed plans showing how every cent of the money is being spent and how it will make a difference to the education of children in schools?

“Watering down transparency and accountability standards is part of a broader agenda to water down the Gonski reforms.

“Minister Pyne has already abandoned Gonski funding agreements after 2017 denying schools two thirds of the additional funding they need. He now wants to set Gonski reforms up to fail by not making schools, systems and State Governments accountable for how they spend their additional funding.

“There is already a huge lack of transparency in Victoria, WA, Queensland and the Northern Territory, as to how Gonski funding is being allocated. In WA and NT not a single dollar of

additional Gonski funding has been allocated to schools. We need more accountability, not less.

“Beyond slogans, Minister Pyne has no plan to improve schools, and no commitment to ensuring that Gonski funding is spent as it was designed to be spent.

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291