19 November 2014

A new Productivity Commission report showing there has been very little progress in improving Indigenous literacy and numeracy shows we must move to needs-based resourcing of the schools Indigenous students attend, the AEU said today.

AEU Deputy Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the Abbott Government’s abandoning of Gonski funding agreements after 2017 meant it was turning its back on Indigenous students.

“We will not close the achievement gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students unless we close the gaps in resources between the schools they attend,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Too many Indigenous students are attending schools that don’t meet minimum resource standards, and this is affecting their education.”

“Needs-based Gonski funding delivers a permanent boost in resources to the schools which educate the majority of Indigenous students, especially those in remote areas. It would allow schools to run more literacy and numeracy programs and provide more support for students.”

“It simply recognises the greater need in Indigenous communities, and that better resourcing can deliver results.”

“As well as abandoning Gonski post-2017, the agreements the Abbott Government has signed with the NT and WA, which have high numbers of Indigenous students, have not made those States accountable for ensuring funding is increased for disadvantaged schools.”

The Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report found there was virtually no change in the proportions of Indigenous students achieving national minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy from 2008 to 2013, and that results were worst in remote areas.

“Literacy and numeracy are key building blocks in any child’s education so it is a huge concern that we have been unable to close the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in this area,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Instead of properly resourcing schools, we have Education Minister Christopher Pyne trumpeting his plan to expand Direct Instruction in Indigenous communities - despite an Australian Council of Education Research report into the Cape York trial in 2013, which found there was no solid evidence that it had improved results.”

“There is no easy solution to closing this gap. We must work with Indigenous communities to lift the schools which educate Indigenous students to the same level as other schools, and that will take time and resources.”

“For example, the report found that only 70 per cent of Indigenous children attend pre-school compared to the national average of 89 per cent.”

“The PC report also confirmed that Indigenous students are more likely to have a disability which requires support at school.”

“The Abbott Government’s broken promise to substantially increase funding for students with disability from 2015 will disproportionately affect Indigenous students.”

“The report showed that school attendance rates remain an issue for Indigenous students, who are failing to attend school at the same rate as non-Indigenous students.”

“We have seen no progress from the Abbott Government on this issue, with the Prime Minister admitting last month that efforts to lift attendance rates “had stalled”.

“The Abbott Government has failed to show leadership on this, and failed to work with Indigenous communities to lift school attendance.”

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291