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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20756

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Education, Science and Training, upon notice, on 14 August 2003:

(1) Is the SES index an indirect and misleading measure of parental socioeconomic status and education funding need when it is applied to private schools with a large boarding or scattered commuting population; if not, why not.

(2) Does the SES index-based supplementary funding have the perverse effect of providing extra funding to private schools attended by children from high socio-economic status families when the school is located in an area with a lower socioeconomic status; if so, what will he do to ensure children from low income families from the same area attend well-resourced neighbourhood schools; if not, will he explain how the funding system avoids these perverse outcomes.

(3) Does the Government intend to discontinue the SES index method of supplementary funding to wealthy private schools and (a) cooperate with State governments to redirect these resources to poorer public, catholic and other non-government schools and (b) limit the application of the SES index-based funding to non-boarding students only; if so, when; if not, why not.

Dr Nelson (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The SES model does not set out to measure the wealth of any individual household or school, but rather to rank school communities relative to each other. As the SES index measures the education, occupation and income levels of all the residents within a Census Collection District (CD), both high and low-income families have an impact on the SES scores of the CDs in which they reside. Expert advice to the Department of Education, Science and Training is that the collective CD SES profile for a school's student population (including boarding students) is sufficiently representative to assess the school's need relative to other schools.

(2) A school's SES score is based on the areas from which it draws its students not from its physical location. Schools that draw students from areas of predominantly high SES receive lower levels of funding than schools which draw from areas of average or low SES.

(3) (a) The Government's primary objective in school funding is to achieve a quality education for all Australian students and it works cooperatively with State and Territory governments to secure better educational outcomes from schooling in both the government and non-government sectors. The Government proposes to continue the SES funding arrangements for the 2005-08 quadrennium.

(b) The SES methodology is not designed to produce an SES score representative of any particular family within a school community, but rather to calculate an average score based on all the CDs from which a school draws its students. As the SES index measures both social disadvantage as well as social advantage, all of a school's students, including boarders, must contribute to the SES calculation if the validity of the measure is to be preserved.

It should be noted that the Tasmanian Government applies the Australian Government's SES methodology to distribute State funds to non-government schools in Tasmania.