Alarm bells should be ringing about the Albanese government’s sidelining most of the recommendations of its own expert advisory body, the National School Resourcing Board’s (NSRB) report on federal funding for regional and remote schools which found a lack of transparency, key data withheld by the states, and reliance on out of date information.
The NSRB, established as a recommendation by the Gonski Review, provides independent expert oversight of federal school funding.
While Michael Chaney, the NSRB’s chair, personally briefed the federal Education Minister on 31 January about the regional and remote school funding report, the government delayed releasing the report and its response to its recommendations for six months.
This delay is hard to justify as the review’s reference was given in 2020, then delayed by the pandemic and the importance of these loadings for funding regional and remote schools including many indigenous students.
After all, these two loadings, based on the Gonski Review, are responsible in 2023 for $988 million of the estimated that $6 billion of federal funding to regional and remote schools.
These loadings recognise it costs more to deliver services to regional and remote schools and that education outcomes decline with the level of remoteness and the other challenges like attracting and retaining staff in these areas.
The NSRB’s report highlighted the complexity of school funding and “the challenge of conducting meaningful analysis in the absence of full transparency” because the states failed to provide the requested information on how they allocated federal funding. The NSRB concluded that “additional transparency and data are required to enable effective assessment” of how federal funding was really allocated to schools.
Regardless of what the federal funding model allocates to each school, actual funding received by a school in the state and Catholic systems is decided by their respective governing authorities.
Only independent, non-systemic schools receive exactly what the funding model allocates.
In addition to the lack of transparency, the NSRB found there was no consistency in the criteria used across the states and Catholic systems to determine whether a school is remote or what meets a size threshold warranting extra support.
Alarmingly, the NSRB found that data measuring remoteness uses a formula based on the out-of-date 2011 Census and thus recommended the Albanese government “work with the states and territories to develop a specific and better tailored measure of remoteness” based on the “the most recently available data”.
While the NSRB assessed “there is no clear evidence that the current funding levels are not sufficient to meet the additional costs associated with location” its analysis of available data suggested “state allocations were considerably lower than those calculated by the Student Resource Standard formula”. In short, the states have not been pulling their weight in providing the funding needed by regional and remote schools and students.
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