Student support prioritised as states eye more cash

By Dominic Giannini and Kat Wong
Updated December 11 2023 - 4:55pm, first published 4:49pm
An education union is calling on governments to ensure all public schools are fully funded by 2028. (Erik Anderson/AAP PHOTOS)
An education union is calling on governments to ensure all public schools are fully funded by 2028. (Erik Anderson/AAP PHOTOS)

Schools should receive targeted support to better help students, an expert panel says as states wrangle with the Commonwealth for more funding for education.

Education ministers were presented with an expert panel's report on funding and reform when they met on Monday.

Equal access and opportunity, student wellbeing and a strong workforce were identified as three priority areas by the panel doing the review.

It recommended every school provide targeted and tailored support to respond to students' needs and close learning gaps and help them transition to further education, training or employment after school.

Teachers should have access to highly effective professional development programs on top of comprehensive curriculum materials, the report found.

Schools should work to improve diversity and boost disadvantaged cohorts by incentivising the best teachers to work in poorer areas, the panel recommended.

Governments were also told to ensure children could connect with community and health services, including occupational and speech therapists, and there was enough support for students with a disability.

While Australia had a good education system, it could be a lot better and fairer, Education Minister Jason Clare said, after hosting his state and territory counterparts in Sydney.

"Most public schools aren't fully funded and children from poor families and regional Australia are three times more likely to fall behind at school," he said.

"We've got to fix this funding gap and fix this education gap - that's what the next agreement will be all about."

The Commonwealth and states and territories are discussing the breakdown of public school funding with the next national school reform agreement set to be finalised in 2024 and start in 2025.

Ministers agreed the next deal needed to deliver on the goals outlined in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration from 2019.

The declaration - named after the Arrernte name for Alice Springs - set out a vision of educational equality for students no matter where they lived or what learning challenges they faced.

The reaffirmed commitment comes after warnings from the Australian Education Union children who attend public schools could fall further behind if the government fails to adequately fund education.

A reported offer by the Commonwealth to increase funding from 20 to 22.5 per cent - about $2.3 billion extra over three years - wasn't enough to address a stretched school system, federal president Correna Haythorpe said.

Only 1.3 per cent of all public schools are funded to the Schooling Resource Standard, which is the amount of investment needed to meet students' educational needs.

Governments needed to work together to ensure every school was fully funded to the standard, the ministers agreed on Monday.

The ministers were also briefed on the upcoming Universities Accord, which is set to land on Mr Clare's desk by the end of the year, and a report into the safety of childcare centres.

Australian Associated Press