Fighting for Equity in Education

The struggle is long but hope is longer

School Funding and Equity in the ACT

Monday September 26, 2016

This is a summary of an Education PolicyBrief on School Funding and Equity in the ACT. The full Brief can be downloaded below.

1. Many disadvantaged students in the ACT are not achieving national minimum standards in literacy and numeracy:
• In 2015, over 25% of Year 9 students from low educated parents did not achieve the writing standard, about 20% did not achieve the spelling and grammar and punctuation standards and 14-15% did not achieve the reading and numeracy standards.
• Over 40% of Year 9 Indigenous students did not achieve the writing standard, about 20% did not achieve the spelling and grammar and punctuation standards, 15% did not achieve the numeracy standard, and 13% did not achieve the reading standard.

2. There are very large achievement gaps between disadvantaged and advantaged students:
• Year 9 students from low educated parents are about two to three years behind students from high educated parents in all subjects.
• Indigenous students are about three and a half to four years behind students from high educated parents in all subjects.

3. The large proportion of disadvantaged students are in public schools:
• In 2014, 78% of students from low socio-economic status (SES) families, 77% of Indigenous students and 73% of disability students (2013 figure) were enrolled in public schools.

4. The burden of education disadvantage in ACT public schools is double that of Catholic schools and over double that of Independent schools:
• Low SES, Indigenous and disability students together comprise 19% of public school enrolments compared to 9% of Catholic school enrolments and 7% of Independent school enrolments.

5. Funding increases have been largely misdirected. The largest increase in total Australian & ACT funding between 2009 and 2013 (latest available figures) went to the most advantaged school sector with the smallest number of disadvantaged students – Independent schools:
• The increase in total government funding per student, adjusted for inflation, in Independent schools was over double that for public schools – 9.4% compared to only 4.2% in public schools while the increase for Catholic schools was 6.6%, nearly 60% more than for public schools.
• Independent schools have a very large resource advantage over public and Catholic schools. This is aided by substantial government funding. Canberra Grammar, Canberra Girls’ Grammar and Radford College received $3,714, $4,068 and $6,226 respectively per student in government (Australian & ACT) funding in 2014.

6. Comparisons of government funding between school sectors have little real meaning without regard to relative levels of student need. Catholic and Independent schools have a large resource advantage over public schools when the relative burden of disadvantage is taken into account:
• The ratio of government funding for Catholic and public schools (57%) is over double the ratio of disadvantaged students in Catholic and public schools (24%).
• The ratio of government funding for Independent and public schools (51%) is five times the ratio of disadvantaged students in Independent and public schools (10%).
• These large disparities in the government funding and disadvantaged student ratios mean that Catholic and Independent schools are sufficiently well-resourced to support their small proportion of disadvantaged students. They effectively have more resources to devote to their disadvantaged students.

7. The fundamental priority for the next ACT Government must be to reduce education disadvantage: to increase the percentage of disadvantaged students achieving national minimum literacy and numeracy standards and to reduce the very large achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

8. A comprehensive education strategy should focus primarily on public schools because they enrol about three-quarters of all disadvantaged students in the ACT and Catholic and Independent schools are already sufficiently well-resourced to support their disadvantaged students.

9. A new funding framework for public schools is necessary to provide much larger funding loadings for disadvantaged students than at present.

School Funding and Equity in the ACT.pdf

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