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A Quick Guide to the Gonksi Review of Funding for Schooling

Commissioned by the Federal Minister for Education in 2010, the Review of Funding for Schooling – Final Report (commonly called the Gonski Review) examines the school funding system in Australia and makes a set of recommendations to the federal, state and territory governments. David Gonski A.C., the Report’s author, and a panel of experts were asked to make recommendations about the development and funding of a system which is transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellent educational outcomes for all 3.5 million Australian school students.  

If you don’t have time to read the 319 page Report, this snapshot will provide you with a summary of some of the significant changes recommended by the expert panel. To read the full Gonski Review, please visit the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations website.

Summary of Key Gonski Review Findings

The Report makes 26 official findings and 41 recommendations.  

Describing the current school funding arrangements as unnecessarily complex, the Report highlights duplication and inefficiency in funding by Australian state, territory and federal governments. The following main observations are addressed throughout the Report:

  • In addition to declining school academic performance compared to OECD countries in the last decade, Australia has a significant achievement gap between its highest and lowest performing students.
  • Some of Australia’s lowest performing students are not meeting minimum standards of achievement and the link between low levels of achievement and educational disadvantage is considered unacceptable.  Educational disadvantage is seen particularly among students from low socioeconomic and Indigenous backgrounds.
  • New funding arrangements would require the various levels of government to work in a more co-ordinated manner to meet the educational needs of Australian children, and to improve performance to an internationally competitive high standard.  It is unacceptable to see educational outcomes that are determined by socioeconomic status or the type of school an Australian child attends.
  • The panel estimated that the additional cost of their recommendations to governments would be $5 billion per year (based on 2009 figures).  This represents an approximate 15% increase in funding for school education. It is recommended that most of this increase go to government schools because the majority of Australian children attend government schools (approximately two thirds) and because a larger number of disadvantaged students attend government schools.

Summary of Key Recommendations

  • A new Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) should replace the current complex funding system.  The SRS would allocate an amount per student that is required each year to provide them a high quality education.  The amount per student will allow for loadings to adjust for students and schools facing performance barriers (e.g. students with a disability entitlement will get more). The SRS amount will initially be based on the cost of educating children in high performing schools, with the aim of 80 per cent of all students achieving above the national minimum standard in reading and numeracy.
  • All government schools would be fully publicly funded for the amount of the SRS plus any applicable loadings.  Non-government schools would be publicly funded for at least 20 to 25 per cent of the SRS per student. The assessment of a non-government school's need for public funding should be based on the  financial capacity of parents enrolling their children in the school to pay for the school’s resource requirements.
  • Funding for capital works (e.g. a hall or other school buildings) should be available to both government and non-government schools from a separate funding system. There should be more public accountability for public funding of school capital projects.
  • The current system in which the Federal government providing most of its school funding to the private system and state governments mainly funding public schools should change; both levels of government should be investing in more even proportions in the two education systems.  The aim of the change is to remove any possible political or other bias in different levels of government funding.  Also, given the larger proportion of disadvantaged students in government schools, it is recommended that the Federal government play a greater role in funding government schools.
  • School Planning Authorities should be established with representatives from government and non-government schools to develop a coordinated approach to planning for new schools and school growth. The Australian Government should establish a School Growth Fund for building new schools and for major school expansions, and the School Planning Authorities would be responsible for the approval of funding for these projects.
  • Federal and state governments should establish a National Schools Resourcing Body responsible for a range of tasks including: maintenance, development and review of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) ; research, analysis and data collection and improvement; and for the development of school building standards.
  • The Federal Government and state and territory governments should legislate for the new funding framework to ensure certainty and transparency of public funding for schools over a 12-year cycle.
  • The Federal Government should do more to help schools raise money from philanthropic sources. For example, the Report proposes a fund that operates to attract support (cash and in-kind) from businesses and other trusts and foundations, private individuals and communities.
  • Public accountability is highly regarded, with the recommendation that there be greater collection and publication of more sophisticated data measuring the relationshiop between educational outcomes and funding.
  • Funding for the teaching of disadvantaged students should target flexible, evidence-based strategies, expertise in the leadership of the school, early intervention for students at risk of underperformance, and programs that encourage parent and community engagement.
  • Governments should give priority to the collection of nationally consistent data on students with disadvantage so that funding is directed to where it is needed most, and improvements in educational outcomes can be measured and improved over time.

Since the Release of the Gonski Review

The Australian Government has announced a  consultation phase that will analyse and test  the model proposed in the theoretical framework presented in the Gonski Review. All members of the Australian public can comment on the Australian Government School Funding website.  Dates of public information sessions up to April 2012 are also listed on that site.

Prime Minister Gillard has also announced the formation of a new reference group to consider public comments and discuss implementation of recommendations in the Gonski Review.