A LOCAL union leader has branded the federal government’s announcement it will spend $70 million to assist a quarter of all public schools to become independent by 2017 as a “distraction from the main game”.
NSW Teachers Federation Tamworth country organiser Susan Armstead said it was “extraordinary” to hear Education Minister Christopher Pyne raise independent schools as the answer to better student performance, when the Gonski review provided a detailed framework and needs-based funding model to tackle educational disadvantage.
“Mr Pyne is ignoring the real issues, including that he is committing to less than a third of the Gonski funding,” Ms Armstead said.
“Making school funding more equitable is essential, not creating a two-tiered public school system.”
The independent public school model – already popular in Victoria, Western Australia and increasingly Queensland – gives principals and local boards greater power to choose staff and determine funding priorities.
Mr Pyne, who made the announcement on Monday, contends research around the world showed autonomous schools produce better results.
However, an independent review of Western Australian independent schools revealed no changes in student achievement, Ms Armstead said.
“The productivity commission has also warned unless all schools are adequately resourced, going down the road of independent public schools would just risk exaggerating or continuing the inequalities,” she said.
Meanwhile, Nationals MP Adam Marshall said the Pyne proposal had been rejected in NSW and he supported opposition to it.
“In short, no, I’m not supporting this largely because this is an unnecessary proposal as far as NSW public education is concerned,” the member for Northern Tablelands said.
“With the full implementation of the Gonski funding reforms (which we were the first state to sign up to), based on student need, and our Local Schools, Local Decisions initiative – we’ve already devolved decision-making to the school level with principals, and their school communities, and boosted funding for rural schools,” Mr Marshall said.