With the release of the latest Report on Government Services by the Productivity Commission, the trend of chronic underfunding for government school students has been confirmed. Combined Commonwealth and state funding now leaves Victoria $893 below the national average (second last) per student, and $1,876 behind NSW.
So, if the trend is the same, is there any point talking about it? Particularly when there are numerous figures relentlessly trying to gaslight our profession by saying that the actual dollar amount doesn’t matter.
Although the trend amongst all jurisdictions in Australia – including Victoria – remains relatively the same, the overall funding amount provided to schools has been increasing. While there are some notable public figures who champion additional public funding, and we applaud their activism, it is the AEU who has been the most consistent and enduring voice advocating for fair funding for our students – and this advocacy has been delivered.
Since the beginning of the current National School Reform Agreement (NSRA) in 2017, we have seen an additional $2.06 billion flow to government schools in Victoria. Despite the fact that governments have failed to deliver the minimum Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) to public schools, there is significantly more money now than would otherwise have been the case. Public schools are currently at 90.34% of the SRS, up from 84.48% in 2017.
Our campaigns secured this additional funding, and AEU principals played a significant and pivotal role in those campaigns. Yet, there is clearly more work to be done. Disappointingly, the current NSRA has been extended for 12 months to the end of 2024 – but both state and federal governments have made a commitment to ensuring public schools get to 100% of the SRS. Principals will again be crucial in holding the Albanese and Andrews Labor governments to account on this.
In the coming months, this will mean talking to school communities and the media about what this additional money would mean for your students: additional small group tutoring for those who need extra assistance; additional electives or specialist subjects; more staff to support students with additional needs, and so on. Principals are the trusted educational leaders well placed to provide this evidence.
Ensuring AEU role in inductions
Union principals have a unique role to play within their schools and the wider public education system. Teachers, support staff and other principal class employees look to your example – and, at this time of year, the most obvious example relates to new staff inductions.
Members won the right to be present at inductions for new staff in the 2017 agreement, and we have had many positive reports about inductions involving union representatives who could report on the historic workload reduction measures achieved in the VGSA 2022.
Overt and explicit support of an AEU presence in inductions is a clear sign to all employees that unionism is encouraged and valued at your school. Principals can also play a direct role in recruitment by encouraging new and existing staff to sign up to the union.
We also urge you to recommend AEU membership to fellow school leaders. Principal network meetings are a valuable opportunity to increase the power of the principal class.
The improved clauses for consultation, direct measures to reduce principal workload, and future commitments from DET to increase the leadership profiles of schools to help you delegate work are all demands won through the VGSA 2022 on the back of AEU principal class activism.