Gonski report

Apparently the following is a quote from the Gonski report into Australian government funding of school education across all sectors, released yesterday after 18 months and 7000 submissions.

Every child should have access to the best possible education, regardless of where they live, the income of their family or the school they attend.

Tell him he’s deamin’.  Like anything else, money can buy a better education.  Paying more doesn’t mean you necessarily get more, but it means you likely get more.

If he’s saying all schools should be equally good, then I don’t want a bar of it.  There’s no way they can all be excellent.  Most things in life fall into a bell curve and I doubt this will ever be any different.

It’s hard to disagree with the idea that disadvantaged schools should receive more money.  But it’s important to challenge it.  Why are they disadvantaged?  If it’s because they have a long-running shortage of funds, then sure, more money would be great.  But what if it’s because they just suck?  Money alone can’t fix that.

A great school needs great leadership, a critical mass of good teachers (it’s not possible in the general case to fill the staff with “excellent” teachers), efficient administration, and money to spend on worthwhile projects.  A school without good leadership, teachers or administration won’t show much in return for more money.

Of course, there are wonderful things money can do.  A very interesting episode of Four Corners recently, Revolution in the classroom, showed a couple of schools that were recently quite down and out, and gave an insight into the efforts to improve them.  In one (NSW) case it was a new principal with greater powers over staffing and budgets than are normally accorded public schools. In another (Vic) case, three nearby basket-case schools were razed and replaced with a fresh college. In both cases results — with the same or similar student body — are trending up. There is a focus on improving teaching within both schools. That’s not to say the teachers were bad; far from it. But in any enterprise, results will improve when you focus on improving your core processes.

So, great stories, and in one case a lot of money was required and made available. But where are the inspired and committed leaders going to come from to replicate these successes in a large number of other schools? And will the biur

So the Gonski report?  Mate, if you’re going to report on school funding, leave it at that and keep the pie-in-the-sky stuff to the politicians.

I was pleased to read that independent schools will receive minimum 25% government funding using public schools as a baseline. Needier ones will get more, etc. etc. I work at a far-from-needy independent school and do not want to see my superiors grovelling for more money, or having to grovel to maintain current funding. I believe the current general rate of funding to independent schools is about right, and hopefully the Gonski recommendations will lead to a simple, transparent model so that issues can be debated on merits and not on bullshit.  Key among the bullshit debating points: private schools get more federal funding than public schools. True, but irrelevant. There’s a lot of history here, but the only important thing is this: public schools get (much) more total government funding (state + federal) than independent schools, as they should. The relative amounts from different sources is completely irrelevant, and it thoroughly discredits people who push this line of argument.

The key difference is that private schools are professional organisations; public schools are industrial organisations. Both may be good or bad, but teaching is a profession and I’d rather work with professionals than industrialists.


About nosedog

Mathematics teacher and hobby computer programmer.
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