Supporting parents, supporting public schools

Student-centred funding model

At the beginning of 2015, WACSSO welcomed the Minister for Education’s announcement that an additional $46.5 million would be injected into the Student-centred funding model (SCFM) to boost the per-student amount, plus allocations for enrolment number, locality, aboriginality, social disadvantage, disability and English as an additional language. Initially, WACSSO received no negative feedback from parents about the SCFM or one-line budget. Despite this positive step, socioeconomic disadvantage remains a key influence on educational opportunity at every stage of learning and development. Funding is just one element in addressing the negative impact of socioeconomic disadvantage on student outcomes.  For the SCFM to be effective, the State Government needs to fund education to a level that mitigates the need for parental fees, charges and contributions and teacher contributions.

Following the inaugural School Community Contributions and Funding Survey collated by WACSSO, we found that in 2014 P&C Associations donated in excess of an estimated $15 million to schools in funds and resources. On average P&C volunteers donate 70.5 hours per week, the equivalent of almost two full time jobs. These figures were projected to increase yearly.

The results of WACSSO’s survey clearly showed a significant increase in the level of financial support provided to schools by P&Cs for items historically supplied through government funding. Items such as basic literacy and numeracy resources, ICT, outdoor shade provision and even furniture and general maintenance. The State Government claims that WA schools are the best funded in the country. It is our firm position that schools should be funded to the point that parents are not relied upon to supplement core learning materials. However, we know that schools that receive low rates of voluntary contributions have limited capacity to provide additional programs, equipment and resources to enrich student’s educational experiences. As the SCFM has no reliance on receiving contributions and charges we should not be seeing the further types of inequities between our government schools.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not only parents who are supplementing our WA schools. There is a widespread understanding that teachers are contributing their own personal funds for classroom resources. Information gained through a Freedom of Information request lodged in November 2015 revealed the dollar amount claims for ‘other work related expenses,’ including classroom resources; stationery; and items used for teaching (this did not include travel; accommodation; uniform; laundry etc.). WA Primary School teachers in the 2014 financial year claimed an average of $1,397 each. WA High School teachers claimed $1,291. The cumulative total of claims by teachers in the education industry in Western Australia in the year ending 30 June 2014 was $64,793,658.00. The general feeling is that this is a gross underestimation due to not all teachers making claims or having knowledge of what items are eligible to claim, and not keeping receipts.

On top of these funding inefficiencies, an analysis of information from 2009-2014 (published on the ACARA My School website) revealed that while government schools have seen their budgets reduced and their student/staff ratios increase, non-government schools continue to receive increased funding. The analysis also pointed out a significant drop of 10.6 percent in State Government funding for government schools ($1388 per student) between 2009 and 2014. In this period, Catholic School funding was up 8.3 percent and Independent schools by 12 percent.

Federal funding for WA schools is under scrutiny. A recent article published in The Australian highlighted “wild inequalities” across Australia’s states and territories under the Gonski model. The article revealed WA schools (across sectors) have been receiving an ¬average of $694,135 per annum, which equates to approximately $134,000 less than the national average. Currently, WA schools receive the lowest amount of federal funding in the nation. WACSSO has always been of the position that the Federal Government honours its initial funding commitment for schools, based on the recommendations of the Gonski Review. No further agreements should be made between state and federal governments until a more transparent, equitable solution is reached.

WACSSO supports a Student-centred funding model; a one-line budget that links school funding with student need. However, the State Government needs to inject more funds for it to reach its full potential.

Position

WACSSO calls for:

  • State Government to fund education to a level that mitigates the need for parental fees, charges and contributions;
  • additional funds to be invested in order to cover core learning activities and outstanding maintenance, so that P&C funding can be utilised effectively in other areas;
  • a governance strategy to be implemented around how principals allocate funding provided on a needs-basis, i.e. for particular students, such as those with a disability or English as an Additional Language or Dialect;
  • transparent and detailed information to be provided to parents so they can be informed how targeted funding for students is being directed to their needs;
  • a review into how the Student-centred funding model is accounting for economies of scale, as small and mid-sized schools must be able to offer their students an equitable level of education; and
  • an increase in the level of funding provided to schools for the purchase of stationery and material to address the shortfall currently picked up by teachers, especially in addressing the needs of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

For referencing and the full report, click here.