Aug 29

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Truth the loser in Gonski fight

Ross Gittins did an extraordinary job of vilifying independent schools in his article ‘Productivity the loser in Gonski fight’ (SMH 27/8/12).  The eviscerating of these schools was complete when Gittins, usually a measured analyst, was moved to use phrases such as ‘money hungry elite schools … hiding their naked greed’.  He concluded his attack with a spiritual condemnation – ‘professed followers of Jesus using all the secular world’s lobbying tricks’.

Whoa there, Boy!  Let me interrupt the rant with some truth.  Independent schools hold many disparate views on the Gonski recommendations.  After all, we are independent.  That said, many, if not most, thoroughly applaud Gonski’s recommendations.  And quite rightly too.  Gonski has preserved the principle of entitlement.  Every Australian child gets some share of the education tax dollar.  He has also honoured the principle of needs-based funding, with the disadvantaged child getting more funding.  Brilliant!

I gave Gonski a B+ for his recommendations when they first came out and I see no reason to change this grade.  In short, I liked them.  I would have given an ‘A’ but for some intemperate use of NAPLAN data that was never designed to be used to fund schools, and for some errors in funding disadvantaged students that would have left some worse off.  I am not alone in my high regard of the recommendations.  Many independent school heads like them.  Why wouldn’t we?  Quite apart from the obvious fairness, several independent schools will get more money.

If you are going to rant against anything, rant at a Federal Government that is not making the full funding of Gonski a priority.  Rant against over-funded schools (according to their SES score) having their over-funded status protected.  Rant against the redefinition of ‘disadvantaged’ that is being considered by some politicians to save money.

Many of the ‘elite schools’ denigrated as ‘selfish and aggressive’ by Gittins get less than a quarter of the funding they would get if they were a State School.  Most are quite happy about this because it is recognised we have more capacity to raise monies than most State Schools.  That said, the 2009 MySchool data revealed that 61 of the 100 wealthiest schools, as measured by the Index of Community Socio-Economic Advantage, were State Schools!

In the end, the stagnation of the Gonski reforms relate very little to lobbying by independent schools and relates more to the fact the Government hasn’t any money.  To implement the Gonski reforms properly will now take over $10 billion.  The Federal Government hasn’t got this money and it hasn’t got the political strength to get this money.

By all means have a rant – it makes our newspapers rather more interesting – but try and have a well-informed rant – otherwise you just reveal prejudice.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.timhawkes.com/truth-the-loser-in-gonski-fight/

1 comment

  1. Dr Kevin Donnelly

    Dear Headmaster,

    Totally agree with your comments about Gittins and the SMH. Like you, I am a great believer in choice and diversity in education.

    Over the last 4 to 5 years I have fought hard for the rights of non-government schools.

    Best wishes,


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