23 January 2024

Governments will make little or no progress towards ending the underfunding of public schools in 2024 despite being warned by their own Expert Panel that it is “urgent and critical” and the first step towards ensuring all students receive the support they need.

It has been revealed that extended bilateral agreements between the Albanese Government and each State and Territory government were signed without publicity in November and December.

The existing agreements were extended for the 2024 school year with new ones due to be negotiated this year that will determine the long term funding of every public school from 2025.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said it was deeply disappointing that there would be no change in 2024 to the unacceptable position that only 1.3% of public schools across Australia are funded to the Schooling Resource Standard – the minimum level governments agreed a decade ago was required.

“At the end of October, all governments were told by the Expert Panel they established that fully funding public schools was urgent and a critical prerequisite for improving student learning and wellbeing,” she said.

“Yet only weeks later, education ministers signed agreements for 2024 that deliver no increase in the Commonwealth share of the SRS and either no increase in the state and territory shares or very small increases.

“The challenges facing schools are too great and the cost of inaction too high for governments to continue to fail on funding.

“Only the 1.3% of public schools in the ACT are fully funded and NSW is the only state with a commitment to actually get public schools to 100% of the SRS (by 2029).

“By contrast, the extended agreements ensure that private schools in every state and the ACT will be funded at or above 100% of their SRS in 2024.

“The Prime Minister promised to work with State and Territory governments to deliver full funding of public schools. He must deliver on that commitment this year and ensure all public schools are funded at 100% of the SRS by 2028, at the latest.

“As the Expert Panel found, funding gaps are fuelling unacceptable achievement gaps between students from different backgrounds and locations. Secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds are six times more likely to be low performers than those from advantaged backgrounds.

“Declining student mental health and wellbeing is a major source of concern and there are acute teacher shortages across the country caused by unsustainable workloads.

“We don’t have a level playing field in education that ensures every child gets every opportunity to succeed. Fixing that starts with funding.

“Teachers in public schools are doing an amazing job but there aren’t enough of them and their workloads are unsustainable. The right funding will mean more one on one support for students with complex needs, small group tutoring for those at risk of falling behind, more trained counsellors and education support staff.

“In the agreements struck this year, the Albanese Government must lift its contribution from 20% to 25% of the SRS for all states and lift it to 40% for the NT where student disadvantage is greatest.”

Ms Haythorpe said that during the negotiations over new bilateral agreements this year the Albanese Government must also stop State and Territory governments artificially inflating the share of funding they are contributing to schools by including non-school spending.

“Accounting tricks in the current agreements artificially inflate funding for public schools in every state and the NT by 4%. That creates a $2 billion a year gap between what governments claim they are spending on public schools and what they are actually spending,” she said.

“New bilateral agreements this year must deliver full not fake funding for public schools.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Meriel Killeen 0466 393 485