Biloela teachers back Gonski funding fight

10th March 2017 11:59 AM
DRIVING UP SUPPORT: QTU regional organiser Dan Coxen (left) with Biloela QTU representatives Jenny McLeod, Kate Cross and Cathie Dendle. DRIVING UP SUPPORT: QTU regional organiser Dan Coxen (left) with Biloela QTU representatives Jenny McLeod, Kate Cross and Cathie Dendle. Andrew Thorpe

A BRIGHT green bus rolled into Biloela on Tuesday - and plenty of teachers were eager to get on board.

The 'I Give a Gonski' bus tour is part of a national campaign by education unions calling on the Federal Government to commit to the next two years of schools funding recommended in the 2011 Gonski review.

The funding, provided directly to schools on a needs basis after a minimum amount is reached, was due to ramp up in 2018 and 2019 under the report's initial recommendations.

But the Coalition has refused to commit to the original funding model for the next two years, with Education Minister Simon Birmingham saying it had been "corrupted” by individual deals with state governments.

Central Queensland organiser for the Queensland Teachers Union Dan Coxen, a former deputy principal at Biloela State High School, said Gonski funding was already making a difference in Biloela schools and called on the government to keep its previous commitments to the Gonski model.

"For the last three years, every beginning teacher in Queensland has had two hours of relief time and support from an experienced teacher, and that's making a huge difference in Biloela,” Mr Coxen said.

"Last year at Biloela State High School, every Year 12 student left with a Queensland Certificate of Education, and that was running at about 67% four years ago.

"If you look at what the school has done in the last five or six years, it's been on a trajectory of excellent student outcomes, and that's come about with Gonski funds.”

FULL SUPPORT: Biloela high school teachers are supporting the campaign.
FULL SUPPORT: Biloela high school teachers are supporting the campaign. Andrew Thorpe

Mr Coxen said cuts to needs-based funding could put at risk the state's provision of 15 hours of kindergarten attendance.

"Four years ago in Queensland, 65% of students of eligible age were doing at least 15 hours of kindy a week, and the funding has brought that number up to 98.5%,” he said.

Mr Coxen said Queensland was delivering Gonski funding to schools in its purest form, with additional money based on need going directly to schools as discretionary payments with no strings attached.

"Local communities are making decisions about what's best for their school in their own context,” he said.

Under the Gonski model, schools are funded to a minimum standard after which loadings are allocated based on five forms of identified disadvantage - low socio-economic backgrounds, indigenous backgrounds, rural or small schools, students with limited English and students with disabilities.

Many schools in Banana Shire satisfy all five criteria.

Union representative Cathie Dendle said Biloela State School had been able to hire extra staff to help meet the needs of children in those five high-risk areas, as well as employ a teacher to work with local kindergartens on students' transition to Prep.

"(If the funding were cut) it would be quite devastating because the information is there to show this will make a real difference, and it has been making a difference in our school,” she said.

"This is our chance to see schools funded with a model that will work and continues to work.”

Mrs Dendle and fellow Biloela QTU member Matt Sahlqvist will travel to Canberra on March 22 to continue to drive home the message.

"I'll be talking to politicians, explaining some of these real-life stories about how Gonski funding makes a huge difference every day in our schools,” she said.

SEEING RESULTS: Biloela QTU representatives Cathie Dendle (left) and Jenny McLeod (right) chat with QTU deputy general secretary Brendan Crotty.
SEEING RESULTS: Biloela QTU representatives Cathie Dendle (left) and Jenny McLeod (right) with deputy general secretary Brendan Crotty. Andrew Thorpe

Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd told News Regional Media the campaign was dishonest as Commonwealth funding for education was growing at a faster rate than state funding.

"The truth is that we have had needs-based funding for our schools since the 1970s and current funding continues to increase at record levels,” he said.

"Education is the foundation of our economy and is too important to allow it to be railroaded by the unions.”

But Mr Coxen said it was the schools that needed the most help that were most concerned.

"We know we'll get an operational budget for schools, schools are still going to have to run,” he said.

"What we're concerned about is the additional money that's making the real difference.”

GIVE A GONSKI: Biloela primary school teachers support the campaign.
GIVE A GONSKI: Biloela primary school teachers support the campaign. Andrew Thorpe