COVID-19 exposes deep inequality in school funding

The Federal Government’s concern for the education of vulnerable children during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for equitable funding for all schools, now and into the future.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the best way to ensure that the educational needs of all students are supported during COVID-19 is to ensure that schools are a safe place for them, their teachers and support staff, and to close the resourcing gap by properly funding all schools.

“The significant challenge facing vulnerable students is not learning remotely at home, it is the resource gap created by the Federal Government’s inequitable school funding,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“What is lost in this debate is the fact that for years the Federal Government has consistently ignored the funding needs of public schools and in particular, of vulnerable students.”

Ms Haythorpe said that the school funding policies of the Morrison Government in recent years have entrenched the gap in funding growth between public and private schools.

Under the Federal Coalition 99 per cent of public schools will be funded at less than the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023, while 100 per cent of private schools would be funded at or above this benchmark.

“Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan wants to stop vulnerable children falling behind at school – Mr Tehan, the first step is to ensure equitable funding for all schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The best way to ensure that children from vulnerable circumstances would receive the support they need, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but into the future as well, is to fund all schools at 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard.”

“Children who are more vulnerable need more educational support at school, not only during COVID-19 but also when circumstances return to normal,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that state and territory governments had been very clear during this pandemic that while remote learning is being delivered to students, schools are physically open for students who come from vulnerable backgrounds.

“Principals, teachers and support staff are working incredibly hard to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the education of our students. They must be supported to do so safely and with appropriate resources. Ms Haythorpe said.

“Schooling is happening right now for all students. For many students it is being delivered via remote learning, while for other students it is through face to face provision. This is in order to ensure the safety of students and staff,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Once social distancing restrictions start to be eased, we need an orderly transition back to full face to face teaching which puts education and safety during COVID-19 at its centre.”

“The last thing that schools need right now is confusing messages from politicians about COVID-19,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We cannot dismiss the importance of the work being done across Australia to educate our children during these difficult times, and the urgent need of the education workforce for safety in the context of social distancing requirements.”

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