Judged by events over the last 2 weeks, including Prime Minister Gillard's recent performance at Forrest Primary School, it's clear even though Gillard sees education as a signature issue and vital for re-election – not all is going to plan.
To date, only NSW has signed up to the government's new Gonski inspired funding model, independent and Catholic school authorities are increasingly fearful about losing funding and confusion surrounds the government's budget projections related to education.
While some critics argue the current socioeconomic status model lacks transparency and consistency the Prime Minister's Gonski inspired model is even more confusing.
Not only is Gillard offering what appear to be different funding models to the 8 different states and territories but, independent and Catholic school authorities are finding it impossible to quantify the exact impact of the new funding model on schools.
Confusion also surrounds the public's perception of what Gonski actually refers to and what the connection is between school funding and the National Plan for School Improvement. Not helped by the fact that ALP politicians interchange both when talking about government policy
Even worse, there is a growing realisation that the ALP's record in education since being elected in 2007 is far from positive. Last Monday the PM was asked, whether "funding actually lifts school standards" and her answer was unequivocal.
Gillard answered, "It lifts school standards, and I can say that to you with absolute confidence". Not according to the government's own record since being elected based on NAPLAN results.
On analysing the literacy and numeracy results for years 3, 5, 7 and 9 over the years 2008-2012 it's clear that out of the 8 sets of results that there was significant improvement in only 3. The rest have either flat lined or declined.
Research both here and overseas consistently proves that increased funding, by itself, does little to raise standards. As noted in a 2010 analysis of education across OECD countries by Ludger Woessmann and Eric Hanushek:
"Simply providing more resources gives, according to the available evidence, little assurance that student performance will improve significantly".
For all the hype surrounding debates about school funding, it's also clear that the ALP government's much touted funding model represents 'Gonski light'. The review asked for an additional $39 billion over 6 years while the commonwealth government's offer is only $9.4 billion.
Not only is most of that figure made up of cuts to higher education and cancelling national partnership agreements, it's also the case that major part of the government's investment wont eventuate for 4 to 5 years when many of today's secondary students have left school.
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