Schools face burdens irrespective of Gonski deal

Schools would face rigorous reporting burdens about their plans to improve performance even if Victoria refuses to join the Commonwealth’s education reforms.
Nanjing Night Net

The paperwork regime was revealed on Tuesday when the federal government published legal changes to deliver its landmark Gonski reforms.

The federal government wants to pass its education legislation before Parliament rises this month, but has so far only struck deals with NSW and the ACT.

The bill passed the lower house on Wednesday morning, with the opposition’s education spokesman Christopher Pyne accusing the government of trying to “ram” the changes through and “gag” debate.

An incensed Mr Pyne also argued that Parliament was being asked to pass a bill where there was no national agreement – as only 2 out of 8 jurisdictions had signed up to the funding reforms.

“The minister is claiming there is a national agreement to introduce a new funding model. There is a not,” he said.

Under the changes, schools would have to meet goals even if the Victorian and federal governments fail to reach an agreement.

These goals include better teaching and learning, greater power for school principals and for Australia to reach the top five performing countries in reading, maths and science by 2025.

State Education Minister Martin Dixon said he was concerned about federal interference.

”Victoria is concerned about the level of prescription and intervention proposed by the federal government with regards to all Victorian schools,” he said.

Brighton Secondary College principal Julie Podbury said state schools already wrote plans for improvement.

”Every Victorian government school has a plan or are reviewing their current plan and are preparing to write the next one,” she said.

But state schools urgently needed more funding, Ms Podbury said. ”Every government school is struggling financially. We do need more funding.”

The Prime Minister has placed education at the centre of her election-year agenda, saying the Gonski reforms would deliver an extra $14.5 billion in combined federal and state funding across the nation over six years.

States that refuse to sign on to the reforms would have an extension of the existing funding system, but lose targeted national partnership funding when those programs expired. To gain any federal funding these states would have to sign a modified education agreement, including a requirement for schools to publish annual improvement plans.

Ms Gillard has set a June 30 deadline to finalise agreements with other states, but the legislation does not lock in this date. Instead, the bill would allow further deals to be struck before the 2014 school year or even later.

The education reforms could also trigger an influx of appeals as schools take advantage of new powers to challenge their entitlements.

Planned legal changes revealed by the federal government on Tuesday create a more extensive process for education authorities to appeal decisions, including funding.

The government has received only 19 applications over the past four years to adjust schools’ socio-economic status rating, but officials expect an increase in appeals under the new system.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said more schools were likely to use the Administrative Appeals Tribunal process to challenge their funding.

”The data is so rubbery. We’re going to do a quality assurance on the data with the government to try and fix where it’s obviously incorrect,” he said.

With Judith Ireland, Amy McNeilage

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