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Reforms 'lift standards, not fees'

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said reforms to education funding, which are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, would “lift school standards, not school fees”.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said reforms to education funding, which are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, would “lift school standards, not school fees”. Rob Williams

EVERY independent school in Australia will receive increased government funding under plans being considered by the Federal Government.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said reforms to education funding, which are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, would "lift school standards, not school fees".

But she stopped short of providing further details about the government's response to the findings of the Gonski review into school funding.

In her speech to the Independent Schools National Forum in Canberra on Monday Ms Gillard said 2012 would bring the "biggest decisions on school education in the life of this government".

The Prime Minister was eager to quash speculation some wealthier schools would lose funding under the Gonski changes.

Ms Gillard was at pains to show her government was a friend of the independent school sector.

"There should be Australian government support to educate every Australian child - in the poorest and most remote school - at the best known and best resourced school," Ms Gillard said.

"That's why our funding model will recognise the diversity and uniqueness of Australian schools and will support the choices parents make about the best school for their child.

"That's why our plans will deliver funding security for your schools. All students, regardless of school, will be funded on a consistent basis for the first time.

"Every independent school in Australia will see their funding increase under our plan."

The education sector is growing increasingly impatient waiting for the Federal Government's policy response to the Gonski report, which was handed down in December.

But Ms Gillard was making no apologies for the delay.

"When you are talking about something as important as our children's future, our nation's future, you take the time to get it right - and we are," she said.

"The current system of schools funding is tremendously complex, and that means that even changes to simplify it have complex elements. So this does take time."

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said six months was more than enough time for the government to have formulated a policy response.

He said the delay was playing into the hands of those opposed to some of Gonski's key recommendations and, more importantly, was making it difficult to do proper modelling around the funding changes.

"We're looking for a decision sooner rather than later. Gonski made the point that resources delayed are resources denied," Mr Bates said.

"Every week that goes by is another week that we're delayed from getting this legislation into the House."

Mr Bates joined principals, parents and teachers from around the country on the lawns of Parliament House on Monday to call for immediate action on education funding.

To make their point cardboard hands carrying the names of Australia's 6700 public schools were placed on the lawn.

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson also urged the government to act quickly.

He welcomed Ms Gillard's assertion independent schools would receive increased funding, but was concerned at the lack of detail.

"There was not any detail as to how this would be achieved within the context of the Gonski recommendations which, for example, show that 20 independent schools in Queensland would be worse off based on 2010 data," Mr Robertson said.

"It would be good news for Queensland's independent schools if every school were to receive increased funding; this commitment goes further than the previous commitment given by the government that no school would be worse off as a result of the Gonski review."

Topics:  education gonski review julia gillard


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