Principals say struggling kids will lose if Gonski goes

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24 March 2017

Students who struggle with literacy and numeracy, or who have a disability or learning difficulty, will suffer the most if Malcolm Turnbull scraps Gonski funding after 2017, an AEU survey of principals has found.

Almost half of all principals say their school is under-resourced and growing numbers are reporting staff shortages and increasing difficulty filling positions – particularly in maths and science.

The AEU’s “State of Our Schools” survey, of 1428 public school principals across Australia, found that 90 per cent of principals whose schools received Gonski funding reported it was making a ‘significant difference’ to their schools.

However only 19 per cent said the Gonski funding they had received so far was enough to meet the needs of all students in their school.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the findings were proof Gonski needs-based funding was making a difference, but that schools needed the full six years of Gonski funding to support their students.

“Gonski funding is turning lives around and lifting results for students across Australia. We need the full six years of funding through to 2019 so every child who needs help at school can get it,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Principals didn’t hold back when asked which of their students would miss out if Gonski funding wasn’t delivered in full. It is clear that losing these resources will hit vulnerable students the hardest.

  • 84% of principals said losing Gonski meant students who have fallen behind in literacy and/or numeracy would miss out on support.
  • 62% said students with a disability or learning difficulties would miss out.
  • 43% said students who are disengaged or at risk of dropping out of school would miss out.

Despite Gonski funding beginning to make its way to public schools, a lack of resources, and shortages of staff remain major issues affecting education.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 67% of schools are receiving Gonski funding directly and 90% of those principals say it is making a significant difference. This figure rises to 94% of principals whose schools receive more than $200,000 in additional funding.
  • Only 19% of principals whose schools have received Gonski funding say it is enough to meet their needs.
  • No principals in WA or the NT reported receiving Gonski funding, due to the refusal of previous state governments to pass these vital resources on to schools.
  • The three main things schools are spending their Gonski funding on are: extra student support staff, 54%, professional development for teachers, 51%, and extra specialist literacy and numeracy teachers/coaches, 47%.
  • 46% of principals say their schools are under-resourced or significantly under-resourced, while only 12 per cent say they are adequately-resourced.
  • 33% of classes are of 26 or more students, a slight increase on 32% in 2016.
  • A growing number of principals say their schools are suffering from staff shortages, a total of 51%, up from 37% in the 2016 survey.
  • 58% of principals say it is becoming harder to fill vacancies, while only 1 per cent say it is becoming easier. This is up from 48% in the 2016 survey.
  • Principals report the top three areas that are hardest to staff are: maths 59%, science 41%, technology 35%

“The Turnbull Government has refused to listen to the concerns of public school principals, ignoring their strong belief that schools are underfunded and that Gonski is working,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We are seeing schools doing fantastic things with the Gonski funding they have received so far, but about two thirds of the extra funding schools need is to be delivered in 2018 and 2019.

“Schools still don’t know how they will be funded after this year, because Malcolm Turnbull will not release any details of his proposed funding model.

“No state or territory government supports cuts to Gonski, and Malcolm Turnbull needs to listen to them and give our schools the resources they need.

“Anything less is failing our schools and their students.”