We at the NSWTF will remember 2017… as the year in which the Turnbull Government abandoned a nationally consistent approach to schools funding and, instead, reverted to special deals that entrench privilege and reward advantage. The amendments to the Australian Education Act, forced through the Parliament in late June, has enshrined in law that 80 per cent of federal funding towards the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) is to go to the private sector, while only 20 per cent is allocated to public schools. After factoring in the state level of funding towards the SRS, the number of private schools in excess of 100 per cent of combined government funding towards the SRS will dramatically increase. Indeed, by 2023, 65 per cent of private schools will be above the SRS yet, by way of contrast, 87 per cent of public schools will be below the SRS. These arbitrary funding levels were unilaterally determined by Education Minister Birmingham and were never mentioned or recommended in the original Gonski review. For the first time in Australia’s history, we have enshrined in legislation that the national government has a primary responsibility to fund students in private schools in far greater amounts than students in public schools.
The biggest issues of concern for our members this year have been… the schools funding crisis that will leave public schools well below the SRS. As well, teachers are concerned with the continuation of the contestable VET funding model which rips money out of TAFE and channels it to low quality, for-profit providers. This has resulted in a loss of confidence in the sector. Students have been left with crippling debts, and often without a qualification. Another concern is the push from vested interests to introduce robot marking of the extended writing component of NAPLAN. This is occurring at the same time that ACARA is manoeuvring for NAPLAN to be completed online. The trial of NAPLAN Online this year has been a failure. The Federation established a hotline to hear first-hand reports from teachers regarding the trial. Hundreds of calls were made to the hotline with teachers reporting significant system failures including a lack of computers, problems with servers, delays and interruptions to the school routine that lasted for the duration of the trial. The implementation of the policy of Local Schools Local Decisions has had a devastating effect on educational delivery. The NSW Department of Education has lost any capacity to initiate systemic reform while at the same time schools have had an exponential intensification of work at the school level that is intolerable.
Looking ahead, our energy will be focused on... securing a fairer funding deal for public education. The Turnbull/Birmingham schools funding model will be opposed and teachers will campaign to ensure that a fully funded needs-based and sector-blind model will be restored. Teachers will oppose robot marking of NAPLAN and this will be the subject of an intensive and sustained campaign. Federation will continue to oppose the savage cuts to TAFE and the use of public money to fund for-profit VET providers. Instead, we will be campaigning for a guarantee of 70 per cent funding to TAFE. Federation has engaged a team of researchers to study the effects of devolution on workload which will feed into a campaign to rebuild support for schools.