Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Deakin Electorate: Recurrent School Funding
Last Thursday, 22 November, I had the pleasure of hosting a local school principals forum on Labor's national plan for school improvement with the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, the Hon. Peter Garrett. The forum was held at Ringwood Secondary College, a highly regarded school in the local area that has a great name not only in the local community but in many suburbs surrounding the area. In particular the forum discussed the need for increases in recurrent funding for schools and the issues that principals have with the current funding system. Importantly, principals from all school sectors attended not only to listen to the minister but to ask questions and put forward their points of view. We also had six middle-school students from Ringwood secondary who were invited to sit in on the forum.
Earlier this year, on 24 May, I was visited here in Canberra by a delegation of concerned teachers and parents from my electorate who wanted to talk about recurrent funding and the opportunities that arose from the recommendations of the Gonski report, which was handed down earlier this year. At that meeting, I met with the delegation which consisted of the principal of Ringwood Secondary College, Michael Phillips, a teacher from Rangeview Primary School Faye Natoli and others to hear directly about the problems our local schools have with recurrent funding systems. From the primary teachers I heard about art and PE budgets that are so small that they run out almost as soon as the year has started and about a severe limitation on funding for programs such as literacy recovery. From the parents I heard about the lack of funding for maintenance and for school programs. In many ways they were on the same page as the teachers. From Michael Phillips, the secondary principal, I heard that there was not enough funding for learning support programs and that English-as-a-second-language programs for refugee students did not have enough funding to deliver the results that were really needed. Of course, schools always make do with less, but that does not mean that the best is always done with less. Last week's Ringwood forum discussed needs based funding—topics such as loadings for Indigeneity, disability and students with low SES levels and support for students with English as a second language, amongst many other subjects.
The federal Labor government has invested over $16 billion in building new school buildings to make our schools better places to learn through the Building the Education Revolution program. But it is now time to change how the federal government funds schools, and I eagerly await the introduction later this week of the legislation that will achieve this change inside our schools, because I think what has been done in the last few years for the outside of so many schools is a great thing. Time and again, throughout my electorate of Deakin, schools are wonderfully impressed with what has been done with the BER money. But, as they quite rightly say, 'We've now got a great building and we want to be able to achieve inside what has been achieved outside.' I certainly support them in that and I know so many people in the community do. It is a great change. It will be tough dealing with the states, but I am sure we will get there and it will be a great effort for everyone involved. Our kids will be better off for many years to come.