Gonski recognises both the power of education to change lives and the fact that educational opportunities are not shared evenly.
Gonski funding is about equity because it aims to ensure all students have the chance to reach their potential, no matter what their background. But it is also about laying a platform for Australia’s future prosperity by ensuring that all students are equipped for work.
It is needs-based and sector-blind, not discriminating between public and private schools.
Bennett Road Public School in western Sydney received its first Gonski funding in 2014 and chose to invest it in intensive literacy programs and resources.
By 2015 its reading and writing scores had lifted dramatically to close to the state average, with further improvement likely as its programs get established.
Bennett Road’s students had the ability, its teachers had the dedication, but until extra resources and expertise were provided directly to the school that potential went untapped.
Gonski is making a difference – but the job is still only half done. We need every State to get on board and follow the example of NSW, SA, Qld and Victoria (from 2016) which are providing extra resources straight to schools.
Under Gonski, schools in regional areas; with high numbers of students from poor households; with disabilities or learning difficulties; with English as a second language, and Indigenous students get the biggest increases in funding.
In those States where it has been delivered, students are already benefiting from extra programs for literacy and numeracy, smaller class sizes and greater support.
But the most important issue is whether the Federal Government will deliver the full six years of Gonski agreements, rather than ending funding after four years at the end of 2017.
Under the six-year Gonski agreements, the Federal Government provides 65% of the extra funding over six years, beginning in 2014, with the States to provide 35%.
What’s more the agreements are structured so that the majority of funding comes to schools in the final two years.
In the years leading up to the Gonski reforms, up until 2013, government funding to private schools was growing significantly faster than to public schools, as proponents of “choice” won out over those concerned with equity.
At the same time, Australia’s performance in international education rankings fell, in comparison to countries whose
Gonski is a chance to restore school funding to a system based on need, which will see all schools get the resources they need to educate their students.
It’s not just teachers who recognise the importance of needs-based funding.
August’s National Reform Summit saw a collection of business and community groups join unions in unanimously supporting needs-based funding and the concept of all schools operating on a minimum resource standard.
This is a recognition that quality education for all students will be essential if Australia is to be competitive in the 21st century and that Gonski is not just about equity but about our economic future.
Making sure schools like Bennett Road get the resources they need to overcome the barriers that stop their students learning is in all our interests, and politicians from all parties need to understand that and deliver Gonski in full.
Gonski week runs from October 26 through to November 1.