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Funding for Tasmanian public schools

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) to ask the Honourable Leader of Government - On August 9, 2015, an article in The Mercury newspaper revealed the amount of funding Tasmanian public schools receive per student from the Tasmanian Education Department.

While, we appreciate that some communities will have a need for significant funding in their public schools, I note one Launceston school with 280 students receives almost $3,800 per student while another of comparable size in the same city receives around $1700 per student.

Can the Honourable Leader of Government please explain:

1. What specific criteria does a school have to meet to receive funding of $3,800 per student, compared to $1700 per student?

2. Every school has socio-economic and resourcing issues and children with additional needs so how does the Government decide allocations that meet every school’s needs?

3. After funding has been allocated to schools, how and when does the government assess whether student needs have been met?

4. How does the government respond if a school requires extra funding to accommodate a large and sudden increase in its population or students with additional needs?

Answer from Dr Vanessa Goodwin, Leader of Government in the Legislative Council:

1. School Resource Packages, which is the cash component of school funding, includes three allocations

- Fairer Funding Model allocation; - Discrete funding such as special education; and - Facilities funding.

The Fairer Funding Model component has three distinct allocations – a core allocation, a needs allocation and a locational allocation. Although two schools with similar enrolments may be in close proximity the individual characteristics of each school may be considerably different. The variation in School Resource Package funding will be influenced by the various allocation components which factor in need, educational outcomes, special education and the composition of school facilities.

- the socio economic status of the school is lower

- funding is provided for targeted programs to address lower educational performance, such as literacy and numeracy funding under the Raising the Bar program

- the school has a higher number of students on the Severe Disability Register as funding is tagged to those students and

- where the age and design of the schools buildings result in higher maintenance and energy costs.

Per student allocations can therefore, have significant variances if determined by including facility costs and targeted program costs such as Raising the Bar and Special Education.

It is important to note that the per capital allocations referred to in The Mercury only factor in the School Resource Package cash allocation and do not include approved establishment staffing.

2. The government is committed to the Gonski principles to target funding where it is most needed. The Fairer Funding Model which was implemented in 2014 reflects those principles.

As noted in response to the first question, the Fairer Funding Model component has three distinct allocations – a core allocation, a needs allocation and a locational allocation. Consequently, schools with lower socio-economic status’ or in more remote locations will receive a higher per capita allocation for these components and therefore, place the funding where it is most needed.

In respect of measuring socio-economic need, research has shown that parental occupation has a direct correlation with educational outcomes. In response the Fairer Funding Model factors in an Occupation Educational Needs index (OENI) which is based on the parental occupation.

The School Resource Package also includes discrete funding or targeted programs for children with additional needs. These targeted allocation include funding for students with disabilities as well as where additional literacy and numeracy support is needed.

In addition, schools are supported to address needs through aspects such as:

- the Learning Services student support units provide specialised staff such as school psychologists and speech pathologists; and - Literacy and Numeracy specialists working across schools.

3. Students have individual learning plans which are subject to on-going review in respect of their needs and growth. At the system level, the School Improvement Planning Framework requires schools to aim for continuous improvement in student outcomes. The plan sets out key strategies, performance indicators and targets cross the priority areas. As part of their planning processes, schools are required to conduct an annual self-review and report to their communities in a School Annual Report. External reviews of a school’s plan is undertaken every four years.

A whole range of other monitoring is undertaken on educational outcomes and financial performance of a school. This includes reporting against the standards of the Tasmanian and the Australian Curriculum as well as monitoring and measurement of student outcomes against the national benchmarks established under the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). This information feeds back into each schools Improvement Plan to ensure improvements continue.

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