I cannot believe we are already in October, with our College Musical underway and mere weeks until some of most significant end of year events in Speech Night and Valedictory. Where does the time go?
While on such events, may I use this opportunity to seek your support in being a part of these special moments. These are wonderful community events and ones in which we can celebrate the talents and achievements of many people. Interestingly, when people join our community they often speak of the importance of community, but when the busyness of life hits, it seems to be forgotten. These are important events, important celebrations and important in the sustenance and growth of the spirit and unity of our community. So with this, I ask you to please place these events on your calendar and help us celebrate and recognise all young people, not just our own children. This is the essence of community and the reason why so many parents choose an independent school.
September has come and gone, but the fallout around school funding (that dominated the media) has continued and this looks set to continue. It seems we simply cannot learn from mistakes of the past nor, as a country, work together to support all children. In the latest series of communications, it appears that Victoria has interpreted a reminder to state and territory governments by Federal Education Minister, the Hon Dan Tehan that funding agreements must be signed by 7 December 2018 if non-government schools are to receive their first payments for 2019, as an ‘unprecedented threat’.
This does mean, however, that politics may indeed affect funding and cash flow of schools, with schools made to wait until the end of the year, after we have finished for the year, to learn about when we might receive our funding and, just as importantly, how much will we receive. There is no way that schools can prepare for the year ahead when they have no idea what their budgets will look like.
A number of weeks ago, I read a speech by the Irish Minister for Education, Richard Bruton and from the Chief Inspector of his Department, Harold Hislop, was a reminder of the importance of culture and context in sustaining and developing national school education systems. When you consider the politics around funding, the ongoing tribalisation of the various sectors and the anti-sectorial movement by many in the media, you have to wonder whether this is about politics, self-interest or selling papers! What do these things say about our changing Australian culture?
In 2008, Ireland was hit by a significant economic recession that lasted seven years. Funding to schools was cut immediately, teacher salaries dropped on average 14%, middle management roles were made redundant and resources reduced. Older teachers and school leaders were strongly encouraged to go into retirement to make way for younger and cheaper staff, thereby losing significant experience. We need to safeguard our systems from such economic downturns and ensure that the cost of running a business, whether it be a school or other, is viable.
One of the costs that are placed upon schools are government initiatives, leading to additional costs in administration and salaries – both of which add to the cost of education. It seems like each political party and each new minister, want to put their own ‘stamp’ on the portfolio. Given the rapid succession of political leaders our country has now accepted as the ‘norm’, I do not believe we can leave these important decisions only in the hands of our politicians. We need a far more secure and stabilising approach to one of the nation’s most important industries – education.
A lot for a welcome back newsletter, but we need to start discussing these matters and seeking change.