“We can’t keep paddling along with this. We’ve lost our way. We’re trying to run our schools on a business model and you can’t say they’re like businesses or hospitals," Stroud argued. 

"Schools are really unique places. If [teachers are] left to be professional, extraordinary things will happen. We have too many people layering these things on us and it’s debilitating for teachers."

“Teachers are just going hand to mouth. They’re just in survival mode. All this paperwork and administrivia is driving them out of the profession.

"Those poor new graduates coming in all shiny-eyed, ready to attend to their vocation, and in five years they’re out the door.”

The issue came up after mention of the Federal Government’s plan to throw an extra $4.6b towards Catholic and independent schools, a move that's expected to hit public schools hard.

The Q&A panel also featured award-winning maths teacher Eddie Woo, educational researcher Dr Jennifer Buckingham, Finnish educator and author Pasi Sahlberg, and Aboriginal education consultant Cindy Berwick.  

Needs-based funding debate

In response to Stroud, Buckingham, who heads the CIS FIVE from FIVE Literacy Project, weighed in on the debate, saying needs-based funding in the most basic sense is grounded in the premise that children with greater educational needs will require a greater level of resources to meet those needs. 

“It’s an essential concept and principle for any funding. The disadvantage isn’t confined to the public sector. It’s absolutely true that funding is not being targeted sufficiently heavily to the children who need it the most.

"That’s where the conversation needs to go," she said. 

Newly-minted Australian citizen and former Finnish teacher, Sahlberg, said he’d recently toured some of Australia’s most disadvantaged schools.

“I don’t understand why these very same people who say money doesn’t make a difference ... [then] sign a cheque for $4.6 billion. Most of the funding has gone to non-government schools which only cater to 15 per cent of disadvantaged children,” he said.
 
“I’ve seen schools with obvious [need] for help and those resources are often human resources. But in many other OECD countries, I see the opposite. There are resources and investments going to those schools where there are more needs.”

Meanwhile, Woo posed the question 'why do bureaucrats find they’re unable to trust the teaching profession?'

“That we have to attack,” he said.

Time to re-moralise teachers

Stroud said she realised she was “demoralised not burnt out” (as written in her recent book, Teacher, read our review here) from teaching, which prompted her to leave.

“We have to start re-moralising our teachers … fixing up their morale. That needs to come for how we speak about our teachers, I’d like to see parents not looking at schools as if they are consumers … I don’t like feeling I’m threatened by a decision I made in the classroom. A lot of talking needs to happen around how we talk about and address teachers,” she concluded.

To watch a replay of the Q&A show, visit ABC iView.