The Australian Education Union (AEU) has this week been ramping up calls for federal and state governments to come to an agreement over school funding reforms with its national ‘Gonski Week of Action’.
With federal and state governments set to meet to discuss the reforms at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting in April, the AEU’s Week of Action was intended to reinforce the need for the recommendations of the 2011 Gonski Report to be properly implemented before next year’s budget.
In particular, the AEU has been pushing for more federal funding for public schools, as the report advised.
The Deputy Federal President of the AEU, Correna Haythorpe, was happy with the support that has been shown for the campaign thus far.
“We’ve had an overwhelming support from all of the people that’s signed up to the website,” she said.
“Many of our community members have been out in our premiers’ electorates doorknocking and sending postcards to the premiers to get them to sign up to Gonski.”
The campaign has largely been focused online, with people registering support on the website, signing petitions and sending tweets to MPs in an organised “tweetathon” on Wednesday, March 13.
“We have around 60,000 registered supporters on our Gonski website and we know that hundreds and hundreds of those have been out in the electorates,” Haythorpe said.
“We’ve been very happy with the take-up in terms of our social media campaign. We are using forums such as Facebook and Twitter to directly target our message towards the premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories.
“We know that there’s been quite a lot of conversation and it’s trending quite well on [#Gonski] and [#IGiveAGonski] on Twitter.”
The tweetathon organised by the Union happened to coincide with the Government’s official release of the latest update of its “MySchool” website on Wednesday morning.
Angelo Gavrielatos, the Union’s Federal President, said the rather convenient release of the latest school data further highlighted the need for educational funding reform.
“It demonstrates that those schools that have had the benefit of additional investment through the national partnerships are achieving better student outcomes than those schools that are without [it],” he said.
“It also highlights the causal relationship between resources, investment in our schools and educational outcomes.”
Not everyone agrees with the Union’s message behind its Week of Action, though.
As the campaign has centered on public schools – which are the schools deemed most in need of better resources and funding in the Gonski Report – it has not been participated in by independent and Catholic schools, who are wary of the proposed funding reforms.
Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, has said in the past that any funding cuts to Catholic schools may be disastrous for their own students from low income families.
“While I acknowledge that a full response is still to come, the modelling that has been released so far suggests that many systemic Catholic schools in metropolitan areas [with a higher Socio Economic Status (SES) rating] in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth would lose substantial funding,” Dr White said in a media release last August.
“If this was the outcome of a new funding model, it could be disastrous for families and for the whole Catholic sector.”
“The funding of the system should be based on the average SES of all families in the system, and should be calculated the same way for the state schools as it would be Catholic schools.
“I strongly endorse the allocation of new loadings for disability, location and disadvantage – regardless of the school or system. That is long-overdue.”
In any case, there is general agreement over the Week of Action’s main point that something needs to be done to improve the country’s schools.
“The time for talk is over, it’s time for action. The Australian public wants the commonwealth and the states to strike a deal and invest more in our schools,” Angelo Gavrielatos said.
“Mums and dads know that with better resourcing in our schools, their children can achieve better educational outcomes and be given greater opportunities to achieve their full potential.”