Schools For every child – and every schools member

As we ramp up our national For Every Child schools funding campaign, the AEU is highlighting the clear link between the workload crisis and a lack of funding and resources for public schools across Australia. Right now, not one public school in Victoria is funded to the standard set by the federal government, and that is having a devastating impact on AEU members and their students.

The latest international PISA data reveals that Australia has defied a global trend of declining student outcomes overall, but also shows entrenched achievement gaps between students from different backgrounds and locations. The gaps between high and low SES students, and between those in remote and metropolitan schools, are equivalent to three to five years of learning. In science, 78% of high SES students attained the National Proficient Standard compared to just 40% of low SES students. 

This inequity in student outcomes is set to continue unless state and federal governments significantly lift their investment in public schools in funding agreements due this year. In its report released on 11 December, an independent expert education panel made it clear that full funding for public schools is “urgent and critical” – and a precondition for improving results, equity and student wellbeing.

Under the current funding model, public schools will remain underfunded by up to $6.5 billion a year in the next five years. Meanwhile, private schools will be overfunded by almost $3 billion, receiving more than their public funding entitlement in every state and territory except the Northern Territory. 

The latest PISA data shows achievement gaps between high and low SES students equivalent to three to five years of learning

Public school teachers are doing all they can do to deliver an excellent education for their students in challenging circumstances, but they are being asked to do too much with too little. Workloads are unsustainable and more and more teachers are leaving the profession early. A recent AEU survey found that 39% of early career educators and 18% of new teachers are planning to leave the profession within a decade.

The AEU is calling on the Albanese government to follow through on its promise to fully fund our public schools as a matter of urgency. In Victoria, full funding would amount to $1,800 extra per student, on average, each year. That additional money would go a long way to improving working conditions for our members – and learning conditions for students – through smaller class sizes, more specialist support staff, and more preparation time.

In October, a government report ignored the impact that workforce shortages and entrenched underfunding have on public schools. The interim report of the Senate Inquiry into increasing disruption in Australian school classrooms failed to address the complex issues affecting teaching and learning in schools, instead recommending simplistic, one-size-fits-all approaches to student discipline without once acknowledging the billions missing from public school budgets.

The AEU is also highlighting the urgent need to invest in the current and future teaching workforce to tackle the crippling shortages, which are “seeing children missing out and teachers burning out,” said AEU federal president Corenna Haythorpe.

“That includes slashing red tape and administration workloads so teachers can spend more time preparing high-quality lessons and collaborating with their colleagues to improve their practice.”

In November, For Every Child campaigners travelled across Australia, visiting MPs, talking to parents and attending community events, to raise awareness about the inequity in schools funding. Along the way, they collected 70,000 campaign postcards, signed by members, parents and other supporters, which they delivered en masse to the Prime Minister at Parliament House in Canberra.

The AEU will continue to take the message to government that it is unacceptable that only 1.3% of public schools are funded to the government’s own funding benchmark, and that it cannot continue to expect our members to keep doing their jobs with too few resources, too little time, and not enough professional support.

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