All sectors News in brief: Term 2, 2024

Full commitment for NT schools

The Northern Territory and the federal government have committed to full funding of public schools in a new agreement, saying the investment was urgently needed. Currently, NT public schools receive the lowest proportion of schooling resource standard (SRS) funding, despite having the highest levels of student need. Reaching 100% of the SRS will mean extra support for students with complex needs and those at risk of falling behind, more teachers, counsellors, support staff, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education workers. Long overdue, this funding will change lives, and needs to be delivered well before 2029 – and for every state and territory!

Staggering divide in schools infrastructure

A new report into school capital works and infrastructure funding has revealed the staggering equity divide in the Australian school system. The report, Ending the Capital Funding Divide in Australia’s Schools, shows that, in Victoria, average annual capital investment (state and federal combined) between 2012 and 2021 was $1,004 per public school student compared to $2,631 per student in private schools. Public schools received 38.2% of the capital investment obtained by private schools during that period. 

The report found that two private schools in Victoria (Caulfield Grammar and Haileybury College) spent more on capital works ($391.8 million combined) over the decade 2012–2021 than was invested in public schools across the entire state of Tasmania over the same period ($291.1 million).

The report calls for a $1.25 billion Commonwealth funding injection into public schools to make up for the fact there has been no ongoing capital works funding from the federal government since 2017, when it was cut off by the former Coalition government.

No place for racism in education

The AEU has partnered with the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research to examine experiences of racism amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and educators.

The Institute has provided recommendations for the AEU to help fight racism and deliver best-practice bargaining clauses. More than 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander AEU members have left a job because of discrimination. One of the most concerning trends revealed was that other educators were often responsible for racist behaviour, more so than students, parents, and the community. Almost half of respondents who had experienced racism reported an effect on their mental health.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and support staff reported feeling overwhelmed by expectations that they would represent their culture and identity. The Jumbunna Institute was asked to provide recommendations for the AEU to help fight racism and deliver best-practice bargaining clauses. There is no place for racism in Australian schools.

Coalition demonstrates bias against public schools

The schedule released for public hearings as part of the Victorian parliament’s Inquiry into State Education is politically biased towards National party electorates, excluding the majority of public schools across Victoria. More than 400 public schools will have no opportunity to attend a local hearing, including metropolitan growth corridors in Melbourne, as well as regional areas such as Geelong, Western Victoria, Mildura, Swan Hill, and North East Victoria. Metropolitan Melbourne – which encompasses 734 public schools – will only share two days of hearings. The current scheduling demonstrates that the state Liberal and National parties are using the inquiry for their own political agenda and highlights their disinterest in delivering the resources and support public schools need.

Placement barrier too great

As workforce shortages continue, the Albanese government is facing increasing pressure to fund mandatory placements for pre-service teachers. The cost-of-living crisis is adding to the pressures, making it critical for government to fully fund paid placements for all education students.

The federal government’s own education review, Universities Accord Final Report, found that students are struggling with the burden of unpaid internships, with industry advisors calling on government to fund placements for degrees in such essential work as teaching, nursing, counselling and physiotherapy.

Those training to be teachers currently undertake several weeks of unpaid work experience to complete their practicums and qualify as teachers. This burden has become a barrier for many university students, who no longer see teaching as a viable course of study.

Victorian TAFE still the lowest funded in Australia

Victoria’s TAFE students are being short-changed by almost 20% compared to other states and territories, according to the latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services (ROGS).

The new data reveals that Victoria is again the lowest-funded state for vocational education and training (VET), paying just $17.19 per annual hour of VET delivery, $3.67 less than the national average. This has now been the case for more than a decade, with Victorian TAFE students and teachers bearing the brunt.

For more than 10 years, AEU members have been warning the Victorian Labor government that our TAFEs are chronically underfunded, but the government has failed to listen. Despite a shortage of skilled workers across the economy, Victorian TAFEs are not funded for the actual cost of course delivery, leaving all Victorians at a severe disadvantage. This has led TAFEs to increase class sizes, cut course hours, and reduce teacher preparation time.

The AEU is calling on Premier Allan to step up, lift VET funding, and fulfill her government’s repeated promise to “save TAFE”.

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