From the Principal's Desk
There is a saying that a week is a long time in politics and recent events support this claim. While there have been numerous very funny memes about the ongoing political challenges and our inability to see an Australian Prime Minister finish an elected term, the issues are quite serious indeed.
Only last week I sat in a room with several hundred Principals, Heads of Schools and Board Chairs, listening to the Minister for Education, the Hon. Simon Birmingham, MP speak on matters pertaining to school funding and days later we have a new Education Minister, the Hon. Dan Tehan, MP.
I have taken the opportunity to write to our new Minister for Education and have invited him to visit our College, or indeed sought the opportunity to meet with him. While I have significantly elaborated in my letter to him, I have raised the following points which I believe to be imperative with respect to funding:
Every child should be supported at a standard resourcing level regardless of the school they attend. In fact, funding should be applied in a sector blind, non-discriminatory manner. It would be a reasonable expectation of all members of the public that young people should be equally funded and supported, given that education is indeed compulsory for young people for many years of their childhood and adolescence.
A proportion of the available funding should be raised to support individual students with specific needs or learning difficulties, again, regardless of the school in which they attend.
The ‘quiet deals’ done with various sectors should cease in an effort to restore faith in a sector blind Government which does not discriminate against children based upon the decisions made for their education by parents, and to restore equity in funding principles and actions.
Schools require an adequate and appropriate time to adjust to new funding arrangements. To this end, I think it is imperative for the Government to provide some assurances, with respect to funding levels for schools, with adequate time to make medium to longer term planning meaningful and effective.
- With respect to the cost of education and a parent’s capacity to pay, I offer the following thoughts:
- We need to accept that the Government and schools have an obligation to educate all children, not only those in their respective schools. Our Nation does not develop on the backs of a few, but rather on the education, development and growth of all individuals within society. Alternatively, we can view education’s loss as social services’ gain; in this, we need to provide all young people with the best opportunity to succeed or face additional costs through required social services.
- With respect to a parent’s capacity to pay, I am certain parents would accept the idea of contributing to the cost of their child’s education, but only on the basis that is applied to all parents, regardless of which school or sector their child is educated in (including Government-based schools), and that this is indeed reflected in their taxable income.
Should the government now decide that parents should contribute to their child’s education according to their capacity to pay, then this should be applied nationally, in an equivalent and transparent manner, and be sector blind.
It seems incredibly unfair and potential discrimination that the Government would now only consider that parents whose children attend non-government schools are required to pay additional monies according to their capacity to pay, whereas others are not.
The facts are that non-government schools save the Australian economy significant funds each year as they are funded at a resourcing standard far below that of government schools, and yet the Government does not openly state this nor recognise the benefit gained as a result of hundreds of thousands of parents paying school fees each and every year to non-government schools.
The mere existence of non-government schools saves the Australian economy millions of dollars each year, and yet it seems that the Federal Government is so willing to make their existence even harder.
Further, I call on the Government to end the tribalism that seems to be perpetrated within the education sector. We need a country united behind all education sectors, one that is accepting of a parent’s right to choose and one that is solely focussed on the needs of children. Nelson Mandela once made the following comments:
- There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. (8 May 1995); and
- Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people. (3 June 1995)
The question is whether our Government will provide equally for all children and will they recognise that our future depends on the education, not of some, but all our children, and support them equally.
I have offered the Minister some thoughts on the changing nature of education, the growing violence in schools, the rapid departure of new graduates from the profession, and my concerns on the way education appears to be valued and perceived by society. I have provided an open invitation to visit our College or agreed to meet with him in due course.
It is important that we all speak up on these matters, and to make sure that as a College we have a presence at the national table.
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