Education International
Education International

Australia: Independent Public Schools drive is a failed policy, says education union

published 26 August 2014 updated 28 August 2014

The Australian Education Union (AEU), one of EI’s national affiliates, has reacted to the State of Tasmania’s indication that it did not support the Abbott Government’s plan to create a two-tier public school system.

It is clear that State Governments see Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s Independent Public Schools (IPS) plan for the flawed policy it is, said AEU Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos on 21 August.

“Tasmanian Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has admitted that the Abbott Government’s decision to scrap the Gonski agreement with Tasmania will cut A$264 million from schools over 10 years. That is equivalent to 2,640 teachers being lost from the system.”

As a result of the rejection of the flawed IPS policy by some State and Territory Governments, the Federal Government was now providing funds from its A$70 million IPS fund for parental engagement programmes, such as the one announced for Tasmania, said Gavrielatos.

IPS policy: ‘no educational benefit’

It is obvious that the Tasmanian Government and Education Department believe its schools already have enough autonomy, he noted, adding that, “consistent with international evidence, the AEU has consistently opposed the IPS policy as having no educational benefit and being a distraction from the resourcing issues facing public schools. There is no evidence that the kind of school ‘autonomy’ Minister Pyne is trying to promote improves educational outcomes.”

The 2009 OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report found that there was no relationship between local autonomy over staffing and budget allocation and student or school performance, he also highlighted. The report said that “countries that create a more competitive environment in which many schools compete for students do not systematically produce better results”.

Tasmania has rejected IPS, and both the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia have said they are accepting the funding from the Federal Government without committing to creating Independent Public Schools, Gavrielatos said.

Gonski cut impacts

Gavrielatos said Pyne has no vision for improving public schools, intending only to cut their funding from 2018 by abandoning Gonski agreements. Resourcing is the key issue for schools, he said, adding that all schools must be funded to a minimum resource standard so that all students get the support they need and deserve.

Minister Pyne needs to recognise the damage that the Abbott Government’s decision to abandon Gonski agreements will do to students from low-income families, with disabilities, from regional Australia, from non-English speaking backgrounds, and to Indigenous students, Gavrielatos said.

“Without needs-based Gonski funding, we will not be able to close the achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students,” he said. “Attempts to implement thought bubbles like the IPS plan are no substitute for properly resourcing public schools to ensure all students can get a quality education.”

EI: Cuts and privatisation hinder quality education

EI fully supports its Australian colleagues’ struggle to ensure sufficient spending for teachers, schools and the education system in general, said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “We remind Australia’s public authorities of their responsibility to provide access to quality education for all in this country,” he added. “Cuts in public funding and privatisation in the education sector are not and will never be the solution to achieve quality education.”