If Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Gonski funding become law, principals say the children most affected will be those who need the most help to succeed at school.
The Gonski campaign has heard hundreds of stories of how schools are lifting results with the extra funding they have received so far. But they often come with a warning: that only some students are benefiting, and others are still missing out.
Principals say they won’t be able to expand and build on the great things that Gonski funding has allowed them to do.
Here’s a few schools which have told us how the loss of the last years of Gonski would affect their students.
Canley Vale High School
In NSW Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts would cost schools a combined $836 million over the next two years, with disadvantaged schools hit the hardest.
Canley Vale High School, in south-west Sydney, would lose $3.6 million, a big blow to a school which has already used Gonski funding to lift literacy rates in a school where 88% of students have English as a second language.
Principal Peter Rouse says that the schools plan to permanently lift its literacy skills is in jeopardy:
“We’ve used the first years of Gonski funding to achieve great results in literacy, and the plan for the next two years has been to expand those programs and to transfer those literacy teaching skills from our literacy team to our broader staff.
“External data tells us our results are extraordinary, but internally we know we need to increase the momentum. Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t seem to understand how vital the last two years of funding are because that’s when we solidify what we are doing and make these improvements permanent, and create a legacy that will benefit all our future students.
At Chifley College, also in western Sydney, the school has used its Gonski funding to run Gifted and Talented programs, to offer more one-to-one support for students and to change student behaviour which has led to fewer suspensions.
Under the Turnbull funding model it will receive just $443,304, spread across its five campuses, compared to an extra $4.47 million under the Gonski agreement.
Chifley College principal Cathy Anderson said that the looming cost cuts were ‘almost too big to talk about’:
“Next year, when the big increase was going to come, we were going to get at least four teachers per campus, which would cater for welfare, numeracy, literacy and making sure our kids do well in the NAPLAN. Now, that cannot be achieved because we are not getting any increase.”
Colac Primary School
In Victoria, schools only got their first Gonski funding in 2016, yet the money is already making a difference. Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to end needs-based funding will see Victorian schools remain the worst funded in Australia.
Colac Primary School, will receive just $68,000 extra in 2018 and 2019 under Malcolm Turnbull’s model. This is over $100,000 less than under the full Gonski, a big loss for a small regional primary school, which has already seen improved results for its students.
Principal Shelby Papadopoulos says that Malcolm Turnbull’s funding model could see the school go backwards:
“We have been doing great things at our school particularly around early intervention in speech and literacy. We have a lot of students with complex needs and if we don’t get the full Gonski we can’t expand our programs to help them all.
Malcolm Turnbull says he’s offering needs-based funding, but he isn’t. He needs to come to a classroom and see what it is like when you know half the kids could benefit from support, but you only have funding for a handful of them. We need funds now, not over ten years because by then my Preps will be in Year 9!”
Berserker Street State School
We don’t have detailed figures for what Queensland schools will lose, but the state government has estimated the total loss at $300 million over ten years. Based on data in from other states, it will be disadvantaged schools, like Berserker Street State School, which will lose the most.
Berserker Street has a highly disadvantaged population, and has used National Partnerships Program and Gonski funding to provide extra one-to-one support to its students, an IT program, and professional development so all staff are equipped to teach high-needs children.
Principal Rebecca Hack says the funding received so far has made a difference but has not been enough to close the gaps which separate many of her students from the rest of the community:
“We are looking to use the last two years of Gonski funding to put a full speech pathology program in place for students who arrive at our school with huge language deficits. Getting their speech right is the key to their education and we may lose the funding we need to do it. I’m also concerned about the kids who have experienced trauma. We need the full Gonski to make sure they get the very labour-intensive support they need.
“The Federal Government should recognise that not all kids are born with the same privilege. Some of the children at our school simply won’t have a future if we don’t get the funding we need to bridge those gaps.”
Who does Malcolm Turnbull want to miss out?
There is a stark difference between Gonski and the flawed model which Malcolm Turnbull is offering.
Malcolm Turnbull’s model will see kids miss out – he need to explain why he thinks that is acceptable, and how Australia will deal with the long-term cost of failing to properly educate its students.
Principals know the difference that increased funding has already made, Malcolm Turnbull needs to listen to them when they tell him to fund Gonski in full.
If he doesn’t we’ll keep asking the question: which children does he think should miss out on the help they need at school?
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