Dear PLC Sydney Community

issue1916-paulSchools funding is a hot issue for our politicians. You are no doubt aware that the Sydney Morning Herald view of the world in that Independent Schools should receive next to no funding. Yet you are all taxpayers and should, in my view, rightly expect that some of your tax dollars should go towards your own daughter’s education. 

Currently, the existence of Independent Schools saves the Government about $4.3 billion per annum. Another way of understanding this is: If all students in Independent Schools were in Government Schools the amount that the government would need to raise to fund education would rise by $4.3 billion each year. We receive about a quarter of the funding per student of our local State School. For a fuller understanding of how Independent Schools are funded go to the ISCA website.

This week the Turnbull Government announced new funding through to 2028. The details are currently sketchy. The following summary might help you understand the headline points:

  • The ‘Quality Schools’ reform package provides a record investment of $242.3 billion in schools recurrent funding over the next 10 years. Commonwealth funding will grow from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $30.6 billion in 2027.
  • Commonwealth funding will be tied to reforms to support better outcomes for students. These are not specified but will be linked to the Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes document released in May 2016. We can, therefore, expect conditions of funding to involve at least a Year 1 phonics test.
  • The Government’s reform agenda will also be informed by a Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, to be chaired by Mr David Gonski AC. The Review will provide advice on how the extra Commonwealth funding provided in the 2017 Budget should be used to improve student achievement.
  • There is a commitment to bring all schools to their ‘proper funding’ entitlement with a decade. PLC Sydney already receives funding that is so close to this figure that the difference is not worth noting.
  •  Schools that are furthest behind their entitlement will receive the fastest increase in funding.
  • There will be a 10-year transition period for ‘over-funded’ non-government schools, estimated to be fewer than 25 non-government schools. These schools can expect a reduction in funding of around 2% or less per year until they reach their Commonwealth entitlement.
  • The Department’s website notes that ‘Once the transition is complete, all schools will be treated equally’. However, this is likely to refer only to entitlements as defined by the Australian Education Act 2013.
  • Under new national partnership agreements to be negotiated in 2018, state and territory governments will be required to maintain real per student funding levels and a condition of funding will be the implementation of reforms adopted following the new ‘Gonski Review’. 

The Turnbull Government has sent through a ‘Schools Calculator’ so that we can work out our funding in the future. You can access the calculator via the Government website.

It indicates that our funding will increase at a rate of about 3.4% per annum for the next 10 years. Education allocations from government increased by about 6% per annum in 20052013, which was reflective of the actual increase in the cost of education. More recently they have been at or about 3%. I am very pleased that PLC Sydney is a school on the positive side of the ledger regarding funding.

With 70% of our costs being in wages, fees in Independent Schools regularly increase at a rate greater than inflation. Increases in Government funding assist us to offset this. We believe that it is right that the Government should contribute finances to every Australian child’s education. I have worked in education in Zimbabwe and continue to support education in both Zimbabwe and Tanzania. I am a strong believer in raising the standard of education for people with little means and spent nine years completing a PhD on a related subject. Yet I will continue to support the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) and the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) as they make their case for continued funding to Independent Schools into the future. If Independent Schools were to cease to exist tomorrow, the amount of money spent per student in Government Schools would decrease markedly. The extra investment of money by parents in Independent Schools actually helps all children in Australia. 


Dr Paul Burgis