New England secondary school principals have welcomed the NSW government’s commitment to provide an extra $6.4 billion to public schools over the next 10 years after the federal government refused to match its recent $1.2 billion national “choice” fund for private schools.
Following months of negotiations, the NSW government has signed the federal government’s funding deal – which provides $4.6 billion to Catholic and indepent schools over 10 years, as well as a $1.2 billion fund that could only be accessed by private schools – announcing it would make up $712 million “equity fund” for NSW public schools to make up for the Commonwealth shortfall.
“The Commonwealth threatened if we didn’t sign, they would withdraw the Commonwealth funding for all schools in NSW,” Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said.
“So NSW signed an agreement with the Commonwealth, which only lasts as long as they stay in office, that they’ll take the $1.2 billion for Catholic and independent schools and provide an extra $712 million for public schools which is the equivalent of what public schools should have.
“We will be paying our share and the Commonwealth share. It isn’t ideal but it makes the Commonwealth’s inequitable deal an equitable one.
“What that means is schools in our region will next year get increased funding again, regardless of whether they’re public or Catholic.
“It’s fair, it keeps the sector funding blind.”
Executive member of the NSW secondary principals council Lindsay Paul said it was great that public schools will receive that money, but disappointing that the state government had to do “yet another deal” to make that happen.
“The whole concept of Gonski was that it was sector-blind and no special deals could be done,” he said.
“But there’s been special deal after special deal. It shouldn’t be like that.
“As an interim measure, NSW have signed a deal to get what they can get and we applaud them for it, for making up that difference which was owed to public schools, which do educate the majority of students and students with a disability and students in need.”
Mr Paul said schools need funding to be able to improve the educational outcomes for students.
“People say money doesn’t matter, but the only time money doesn’t matter is when you’ve already got it,” he said.
“Yes, it’s important to use wisely but of course it makes a difference.
“In my school [Macintyre High School], we would not have been able to do some of the things we’ve been able to do to improve the writing of my students without funding. It costs money.
“But the improvements in writing have been significant.”
In order to improve writing skills, Macintyre High has used additional funding to upskill staff and provide a whole school focus on literacy and, as a result, have halved the number of students in the national minimum standard in NAPLAN.
“We’ve seen the outcomes,” Mr Paul said.
“And that’s just one program. That’s the sort of thing schools are doing that they can’t do when you don’t have the money.”
Mr Paul commended NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes on committing to the principles of needs-based funding.
“We need to have the model returned to being sector-blind,” Mr Paul said.
“We also don’t want this to be a wedge between Catholic and independent and public.”