Pressure builds on Labor to back Gonski 2.0

By Leith van Onselen

Earlier this month it was the Grattan Institute that urged Australia’s politicians to back the Coalition’s Gonski 2.0 needs-based school funding package, with Grattan contending that the lion’s share of the extra $22 billion that Labor promised to spend at the 2016 election would represent wasteful investment that would not deliver any notable improvement in student outcomes.

Now, the left-leaning Centre for Policy Development (CPD) has entered the fray, releasing a new report entitled Losing the game: State of our schools in 2017, which urges politicians to seize a once in a generation opportunity and support the Turnbull government’s Gonski 2.0 legislation so that past mistakes in school funding can be undone. Below is the overview of this report:

This new report is co-authored by Fellows Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd, who between them have over 80 years of experience in the public school system…

Chris and Bernie examine the key trends in schools funding, performance and student composition, based on an analysis of My School website data for 2010 to 2016…

The report’s key findings include:

  • equity in Australia’s schools is declining since the original Gonski Review was released.
  • school intakes are becoming more polarised and socially segregated. Advantaged students move to advantaged schools and strugglers are left behind, literally in classes of their own.
  • schools are becoming less representative of local communities and less connected to them.
  • the ‘private school’ is vanishing with increased public money but with minimal public obligations.

Figure 3 shows that government schools enrol the broadest cross-section of students, including the vast majority with higher levels of socio-educational disadvantage (see report p.19).

Figure 14 shows that combined government funding for Catholic and Independent schools (yellow and green bars respectively) tends to be similar to funding for government schools (red) that have a similar socio-educational profile (see report p. 28).

Losing the Game recommends that essential amendments to the package must be made to:

  • accelerate the proposed increases in funding to the most disadvantaged schools, and
  • create a National Schools Resourcing Body to ensure all sectors and levels of government are transparent and accountable.

Additionally, the Second Gonski Review should conduct an investigation into barriers in our current schools framework that risk preventing the implementation of its recommendations. A task force should also be established that monitors progress being made against the recommendations of the Second Gonski Review and the commitments of federal and state governments, and reports publically on them at regular intervals.

Interviewed in The AFR, co-author Chris Bonnor urged Labor to negotiate with the government about amendments to the Gonski 2.0 bill through Parliament, as well as urged the powerful public sector teacher’s union, the Australian Education Union, to rethink its opposition:

“They [the AEU] need to get their mind around what the new structure will offer in the long term,” Mr Bonnor said…

He praised the Turnbull government’s determination to end special funding deals for Catholic schools and some independent schools.
“If you want to fund schools equitably you’ve got to claw back some of those crazy exceptions and deals,” he said…

“Our research has shown that the small schools which enrol the strugglers are shrinking in size and have an increased concentration of the strugglers. Large schools that are more advantaged are growing,” he said.

“That’s a real no-no for a country which wants to lift student achievement. Student achievement in those disadvantaged schools is just drifting lower.”

Appearing on ABC’s 7.30 Report last night, the former head of the Australian Education Union also urged all sides to back the legislation, saying it’s better than the existing system:

DIANNE FOGGO, FMR PRESIDENT, AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION UNION: I’ve had decades of activism and passion about supporting public education, and I am absolutely terrified if this chance goes past, it will be many decades again before there’s an opportunity to get needs-based funding for public schools in Australia.

ANDREW PROBYN: Dianne Foggo was federal president of the Australian Education Union for five years. She has written to her old union, political leaders and the crossbench, urging them to support the reforms.

DIANNE FOGGO: It’s not perfect. The first Gonski report was the one that should’ve been implemented and it wasn’t and this is not as good but it provides an amazing opportunity for the future of public education in this country, and I just couldn’t let this go by without saying something, and hoping that people would with my background listen to my views.

ANDREW PROBYN: Labor could back the model she says, and still offer greater funding.

DIANNE FOGGO: If Labor as good as its word, when it gets into government, it has the opportunity then on a needs based funding model to put the funds that they so desperately want to go into education. And so, perfect never works. No-one can achieve perfection but this is a very, very decent step forward.

As I have noted repeatedly, the original botched Gonski program implemented by Labor would have seen non-government school students  – and those in Catholic schools in particular – receiving greater taxpayer funding than average public school students by 2020:

ScreenHunter_13296 Jun. 02 10.21

By comparison, the Gonski 2.0 package proposed by the Turnbull Government would redirect some funding from these privileged Catholic schools to public schools, improving equity and saving the Budget billions in the process.

How Labor can oppose Gonski 2.0, in favour of the inequitable and wasteful status quo, beggars belief.

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  1. I must admit I’m confused by this whole Gonski business, In my world view Australia needs to lift its education game for the top 50% of students far more than it needs to drag the top down to achieve the same level as the bottom 50%.

    It’s certainly an interesting thought exercise to imagine two societies:
    1) where there are huge disparities in the educational outcome of the top and the bottom…lets call this a Fat-tails model.
    2) a model where the tails get compressed and the middle bulges, we could call this our TQM 6 sigma model of education.
    Now which model is actually likely to deliver the greatest social good, as I said it’s an interesting thought exercise especially in a world where differentiated labour is SO much more highly valued then …um average labour.

    • “Australia needs to lift its education game for the top 50% of students ”

      I doubt that the top 50% of students get much by way of educational benefit from additional funding. What the private schools get is shiny new facilities- tennis courts, swimming pools, gyms, digital media labs, ridiculous that this is subsidized by taxpayers.

      • Yeah, but who knows what Einstein might have achieved if he’d spent more time doing sport rather than holed up inside with dusty old maths and physics books.

      • @StatSailor

        Or better yet, held off on the smashed avo and that relativity bullshit and got onto the property ladder early like our Nathan Birch!

      • All the top 5 NSW HSC schools, and 8 out of top 10 are government schools. True they are mostly selective, but main point is you don’t need a polo field or a diving pool to provide a good educational outcome. Private schools are overfunded and competing with each other to dazzle with their state of the art facilities.

      • HadronCollision

        Media lab =

        iMac x n running Premiere Pro, After Effects, PSD, Audition or Final Cut ProX / Logic etc if that’s your thing.

        How is a digital lab even a thing

      • An example: Knox Grammar facilities page:

        “Knox Senior Secondary Academy

        The groundbreaking Knox Senior Secondary Academy, which opened in July 2015, includes a Seniors Hall, a 150-seat lecture theatre, a Senior Student Resource and Research Centre, new Science and English classrooms and a café for Senior Students

        Knox Great Hall
        The Knox Great Hall opened in August 2011. It has capacity for 2,200 people and is used for school assemblies and functions, music and theatre events and basketball matches.

        Knox Aquatic Centre
        Opened in 2011, our indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool is fully heated and has seating for spectators. The centre also has a Learn to Swim pool for younger children.

        Fitness Centre
        Located adjacent to the aquatic centre, the Knox Fitness Centre has the latest cardio and strength conditioning equipment.

        Knox Boarding Centre
        Opened in 2010, this world-class facility has modern accommodation for 140 boarders. Features include an ensuite for every two boys, individual desks and storage areas and large open plan spaces for recreation.

        Senior School Library
        Renovated in 2013, the Senior School Library has a wide range of electronic and hard copy resources for student use including digital cameras, computers, data projectors, magazines, newspapers, books and audiobooks.

        KG1 Building
        The Knox Grammar 1 (KG1) Building was completed in 2007. It is used for seminars, functions and special events. It also contains the school canteen.

        Playing fields
        The Prep and Senior School Campuses both have high quality playing fields. KG1 Oval, located on the Senior School campus, is pictured. Additional off-campus fields are located at Warrawee and Turramurra.

        Music Centre
        The Music Centre includes a small performance auditorium as well as specialised practice rooms for music students. Private lessons are available at Knox for nearly different 30 musical instruments.

        The Lawson Centre
        The Lawson Centre houses the gymnasium, which is used for basketball and volleyball games as well as smaller assemblies, examinations and social events. The centre also has four squash courts.


        Many of these have been completed in last few years, they are obviously rolling in cash and still receiving millions in taxpayer subsidies. ICSEA distribution for this school has 81% of students in top quartile, 0% in bottom. By contrast the public high school closest to me is horrendously overcrowded with classes run out of demountable buildings and no usable sports field but still manages to rate highly in HSC tables.

      • My point is, does Australia really need 1000 more middle income workers or 10 more Internet Entrepreneurs.
        Imagine an Australia where people like Scott Farquhar were common rather than being extremely rare. Scott probably had the best high school education that he could possibly get in NSW. He attended the most selective school in Australia (James Ruse) and than went on to attend a top 50 in the world engineering school (UNSW) .
        Now imagine an Australia in 2050 where there were 1000 Scott Farquhar equivalents living in Sydney alone…that’s be an Australia that could create for itself the sorts of opportunities that will be globally rewarded in 50 years.

  2. Feed the queen bees royal jelly and subsidise high wealth schools. Leave the rest to be worker bees servicing their needs on low wages. Maximises gdp but not per capita. Education is wasted on the masses. Too educated they will start to object..

  3. Yes the federal government should put more money into government schools. However it also needs to review school SES scores, which are the most important factor that determines funding for non-government schools. It should do this before applying the new model. School SES scores are biased in favour of wealthy families and wealthy schools., they are the main reason why some wealthy schools are getting big funding increases. The Catholics are right to fight on this issue.

  4. We need to con more kids into being smarties because everyone is making so much easy money in the FIRE sector and we’re importing smart immigrants like crazy and reducing wages so no one wants to do it! Oz logic is the best.

  5. happy for Macro business to be an authority on macro economy and finance but don’t start telling us you know about education too. We are not all experts in all areas so don’t try to be

    • I’ve worked as a policy officer/economist at the federal and state levels. I think I know a thing or two about public policy.

      Rather than complaining about me commenting on this issue, how about providing your counter-point as to why my views are wrong? I await your response.

  6. Tassie TomMEMBER

    Fair enough Labour should back “Gonski 2.0” because it is better than if they did not back it, but it really takes Gonski’s name in vain. It’s a bit like calling the Gillard MRRT the same as the Henry RSPT.

    It’s not Gonski, it’s nothing like Gonski, but it’s still better to back it than not to.

  7. you are wrong because it will push parents out of catholic schools to state schools. Sate schools cant handle the numbers now. The fees increase to a point that you are comparing catholic schools to private and then you review the facilitates its apples v oranges. Is your specialty macro or policy

    • Ahhh. So you are a vested interest that wants to protect Catholic Schools’ special deal. I get it now.

      I guess Grattan and the other education policy ‘experts’ also don’t know what they are talking about? Maybe they should stick to macro too, using your logic? Just sayin’

      Forgive me while I ignore your criticism. Why should I listen to you over the ‘experts’?

  8. Terror Australis

    I want to know why journalists aren’t putting more heat on supposedly “ALP Left” MP’s like Plibersek and Albanese to justify their positions.

  9. Fuck the Catholic organisation; fought tooth and nail to block investigation in their kiddie fiddling and now they’re doing the same to keep their snouts in the public education purse. Always wondered why my father wanted to excommunicate himself from the church, now I know why.