Put the brakes on school funding, report warns

by Robert Ballantyne06 Sep 2016

A new report has warned against committing more funding to schools, saying additional funding has failed to improve student performance.

The Productivity Commission draft report – titled: Education Evidence Base – urged leaders to explore further research to determine how to improve outcomes before committing more money to schools.

The report pointed out that despite a 14% increase in spending per student over the past decade, student performance in national and international assessments had barely improved.

“Notwithstanding substantial increases in expenditure on education over the past decade, national and international assessments of student achievement in Australia show little improvement and in some areas standards of achievement have dropped,” the report stated.

“Without improving and applying evidence to policy-making and teaching in schools and classrooms, there is a substantial risk that increased resourcing of schools will continue to deliver disappointing outcomes.”

In a statement, Commissioner, Jonathan Coppel, said teachers have the greatest impact on student performance, after accounting for the characteristics of students themselves.

“Looking within the classroom, particularly teaching practices, is thus paramount to improving education outcomes across all schools and all students,” he said.

“We also know there are some schools whose students perform better than expected compared with similar schools.”

Coppel added that leaders should be “lifting the bonnet” on these schools to find out what they are doing, and carefully evaluating if we can apply their methods across schools.

The draft report makes 13 recommendations, including establishing a shared national education evidence base and creating a new education agreement among all governments to define what research should be done.

It suggested that the Australian, state and territory governments take “a shared and cooperative approach” to developing a high-quality and relevant Australian education evidence base.

However, the Australian Education Union (AEU) said there was an abundance of research that showed what programs and teaching methods are having positive effects on students.

“What is missing too often in Australia's schools is not knowledge of what works, but the resources to provide it to students,” AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said.


  • by John Dewey 6/09/2016 12:20:43 PM

    Research should be done to understand how much of the increases in funding put into education have been absorbed in the ever increasing compliance and bureaucracy surrounding teaching and how much of it has gone into increasing actual classroom time where teachers are teaching pupils. Yes, it is clear that teachers need to be monitored and supervised to ensure that they are doing the work (and not incidentally providing protection for the teacher from unreasonable parents and supervisors), but measuring and documenting has become an end in itself and is now in danger of strangling teaching.

    If you want to improve outcomes through increased spending, ensure that additional funds go through to the classroom front line. Smaller class sizes, better teacher to pupil ratios, improved professional development and training for teachers, higher salaries for teachers and learning support staff, more permanent positions and less reliance on contract work (and yes, perhaps some roll back on certain overly generous conditions on those permanent positions which is part of the reason why so many teachers are on contracts). These are, at least to me, obvious areas where the incremental improvement for an extra dollar spent will have a higher return than any alternatives.

    If you enable teachers, improve their skills, lower the teacher to pupil ratio and make teaching a financially secure profession, you will improve the quality of teachers and their teaching and have better outcomes in education. It's not rocket science or even hard to do. It's just not something the broader community and as a result our politicians, wants to do.