Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 August 2017) . . Page.. 2831 ..
But there is one point that I would like to focus on today: the importance of funding schools on a needs basis and supporting equity among schools and students. Terms like “needs based” and “Gonski” have been used a lot recently. I suspect that sometimes this phrasing obscures rather than reveals the policy intention of various proposals.
Mr Wall: You find your voice now after the fight has been done. It is great.
MR PETTERSSON: Thank you for the contribution, Mr Wall. Given that, it is worthwhile putting this terminology in the appropriate context with a walk down memory lane. The Gonski report commissioned by Julia Gillard in 2010 was truly a historic document. The motivation for the report was simple: to review the funding arrangements for schooling to develop a system which is transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellence.
The report, however, revealed several concerning national trends that are of importance in discussing how Canberra’s schools will be funded. It found that in recent decades the performance of Australian students had declined at all levels of achievement. In addition, many of Australia’s lowest performing students were not meeting minimum standards of achievement. What was most concerning, though, was the revelation that Australia has a significant gap between its highest and lowest performing students. This gap is far greater than that of many of our international counterparts.
The then Labor government responded to these findings and recommendations with the national plan for school improvement, a series of reforms targeted at five key areas: quality teaching, quality learning, empowered school leadership, meeting student need, and greater transparency and accountability. This national plan would be the mechanism to enact a new funding model for the states and territories, one based on need rather than the previous obscure and needlessly complex model. By the time it would be fully implemented, in 2020, the plan would see an additional $6.5 billion per annum spent on schools by the commonwealth as well as state and territory governments, and this plan was met with widespread approval.
Consensus on school funding has not been a particularly common thing in Australia’s history, but this plan drew widespread praise across the public, Catholic and independent schooling sectors. And it was not just the education sector that got on board; importantly, state and territory governments all across Australia jumped at this opportunity. It is important to note that the ACT Labor government was an early adopter of the plan, being only the second jurisdiction to agree to the reforms. The ACT Labor government signed on to this plan because it was in the best interests of the country but, most importantly, because it was in the best interest of the children of the ACT.
The funding agreement would have seen an extra $190 million in funding for ACT schools. This would have ensured that every ACT school would be funded at least to the level of the school resourcing standard by 2019. The benefits of Labor’s