(Posted on behalf) Thoughts from a reader of the Ministry's Education Funding System Review
The issues of global funding and equity funding have been well canvassed publicly, but there are other background papers which contain some disturbing commentary from the Ministry. Everyone with an interest in secondary schools should read the background papers to see how the Ministry views them.
Below are some snippets (and comments on those) from four of those papers.
Property Background paper
In explaining why the Ministry does not promote centralising funding for property they argue that it:
“Changes incentives at school-level (e.g. won’t accept substandard conditions that they may have under the status quo)” Page 9
“Requires total property maintenance funding Ministry receives to be adequate to cover maintenance outcomes sought – significant risk of cost escalation for Crown” P9
The implications are of major underfunding of property and the substandard conditions that students and teachers are required to put up with every day because of a deliberate choice to underfund state schools by the government.
Isolation funding Background paper
The Ministry refers to supplementary isolation funding – but they are also saying that fewer, only the most isolated, schools would get isolation funding. This would supplement the school’s general per student funding if the school is isolated, but their intention is that most schools currently receiving isolation funding would no longer have it.
Funding to support small schools Background paper
The Ministry is referring to small schools as those which are 200 or fewer students.
Base staffing and base funding
“Overall, it would appear that secondary and composite schools are relatively generously treated as compared to primary schools across all roll sizes” (p5)
“… the base level of staffing provided … appears relatively generous compared to primary schools.” (p8)
And an issue for the ministry with respect to composite schools is “the appropriateness of the level of support provided through Base Curriculum Staffing and Additional Guidance Staffing where the secondary roll is very small.” (p8)
Their analysis is that there are “opportunities to reduce the level of funding that is provided through base funding arrangements.” (p8)
The suggestion is that primary and secondary schools should be treated similarly in terms of base staffing (and that means at the lowest denominator).
The clear implication of the Ministry’s thinking is the reduction of staffing and base funding in small secondary and composite (area) schools.
The problem here is that the Ministry does not appear to understand that base staffing in secondary schools supports a minimum option width for secondary students whereas base staffing in primary schools supports a manageable average class size, and that the costs of specialist education classes are higher, especially at senior level than are the costs of generalist classes.
The base resourcing differences are not arbitrary – they represent real differences in costs of small specialist and generalist institutions.
Per student funding Background paper
The intention is to flatten out year level funding. The Ministry indicates that Victoria (Aus) is the model they would like to align with. The Victorian model transferred $65M from secondary schools. The equivalent model here would result in the loss of resourcing from secondary schools equivalent to an average of six FTTE teachers worth of resourcing per secondary school.
Again, the Ministry demonstrates no understanding of why the education costs of senior students are higher than those of junior students.
Implementing the Ministry’s proposals would collectively strip resourcing from secondary schools, but most particularly from small and remote schools.