Coalition rejects Gonski reforms

The Coalition Government has revealed that it will repeal any legislation passed to introduce the Gonski reforms detailed in the Better Schools: A National Plan for School Improvement scheme if elected next year.

It is understood that the party will instead retain the current funding model, extending it by two years. It will push for the public to decide which funding model it prefers at the next federal election.

The suggested reforms were published in the February-released Review of Funding for Schooling — put together by chairman of the government’s Future Fund, David Gonski — which found that necessary changes to the education system would cost the federal and state governments around $5 billion.

The review highlighted several issues within Australian education — problems it hopes will be solved under a new funding model. Issues highlighted include the following:

  • More Australian schools should perform above the national minimum standard
  • Australia should be known for its educational standards and should not fall behind other countries (with a decline noticed over the last decade)
  • The gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students is much larger than in other countries and should not continue to grow.

Overall, the review sought to make clear that location, socioeconomic status and the school attended should play no part in the quality of education accessed by Australians.

Currently, government schools are funded by the state, while non-government schools generally receive funding from the federal government. The reforms propose that both sectors would receive equal funding from the Commonwealth.

The Gonski model recommends a standard level of funding for every student, but, in addition, allocates added loadings when necessary (such as for students from low-socioeconomic or non-English-speaking families).

Why the Coalition doesn’t support the reforms

Following the release of the Review of Funding for Schooling in February, the Shadow Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, expressed concern that the Gonski reforms would place non-government schools on a ‘private school hit-list’, unfairly targeting non-government schools and in some cases decreasing the level of funding provided.  

The Coalition believes that families will suffer under the new funding model, particularly those who are ‘already struggling with higher-cost-of-living pressure’. It expects that if the new model is introduced, non-government school fees may increase by around $3600 over four years.

The Coalition plans to:

  • retain the current funding model, extending it by two years
  • reintroduce establishment grants for private schools, which would see schools receive around $500 per student for the first two years they are open
  • provide a ‘voucher system’ for students with disabilities (in both sectors), which would provide an education card worth up to $20,000 per year (The Age, 26 July).

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