Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1171


Senator GIETZELT —Minister for Veterans' Affairs)-I seek leave to have the text of the statement by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) relating to the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission and the Commonwealth Schools Commission reports incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

COMMONWEALTH SCHOOLS COMMISSION REPORT FOR 1985

This Report is the Schools Commission's response to the Government's Guidelines on Commonwealth funding policies for schools for 1985-88 which I announced on 14 August 1984. The Report makes recommendations on the distribution of funds between States and programs, as well as detailed arrangements for implementation of the Government's decisions on long term general recurrent funding for all schools.

The Government has accepted all of the major recommendations of the Commission. The Report contains the approved recommendations on the distribution of the total funds for 1985, amounting to $1,389m, in estimated December 1983 prices, between States and programs, and also summarizes the approved recommendations for implementation of the new long term general recurrent per capita funding arrangements for both government and non-government schools.

Included in the approved program re-allocations is enhanced provision for Aboriginal education, arising out of the Government's request to the Commission to consider some interim action pending the Government's consideration of the CSC/NAEC Working Party Report in the context of the Commission's review of all special purpose programs. The Government will be providing $0.5m in 1985 from within existing programs to support the development of the work of the various State and Territory Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups. In addition, an amount of $1.114m will be provided in 1985 within the Participation and Equity Program as a national fund to stimulate projects specially related to Aboriginal education. The Commission will be seeking advice from its Working Party on Aboriginal Education on how this fund should be administered, including how best to involve State and Territory Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups in the planning and implementation of initiatives. This will not be a substitute for the substantial support available for Aboriginal students from the regular government and non-government allocations for each State and Territory.

The Government has accepted the Commission's proposals for the establishment of the new $3.7m Early Special Education Program for children below school age, through re-allocations of $2m from within existing appropriate elements of the Special Education Program, in combination with a national joint fund of $1.7m through the transfer of funds from the Office of Child Care. The Government has also approved provision for the forward commitment for a full two years of 70 per cent p.a. of these funds.

The Commission records in its Report that it welcomes the Government's initiatives in establishing the new general recurrent funding scheme for all schools, which has the following features:

Stability and security in provision of Commonwealth general recurrent funds;

A funding standard based on educational criteria;

Development of a clearer rationale for Commonwealth funding for government schools, including for the first time the provision of progressive real increases in Commonwealth general recurrent grants for these schools;

Introduction of a program of resource improvements, through a phasing-in of increases in Commonwealth grants and the negotiation of resource agreements with government and non-government school authorities;

Refinement of the needs principle in Commonwealth general resources funding;

Development of improved public accountability procedures;

Recognition of the primary obligation to public schools (through the 10% loading ); and

Acceptance of the dual system of schooling in Australia and of the need for co- operative planning for the use of resources between the government and non- government sectors.

It will be recalled that the Commonwealth has undertaken to progressively raise its contribution to government schools to 8% of the cost of the Community Standard by 1992 and that, in recognition of the obligation of government schools to provide high cost services to students in a variety of circumstances and locations, the Commonwealth has added a special supplement of 10% of the standard for government schools: a doubling of the supplement recommended earlier by the Commission.

The Government has accepted the Commission recommendations that:

Per student grants for government schools be paid on the basis of the actual enrolments in the relevant year, as it does for non-government schools; and

For the purpose of determining whether Year 7 enrolments are counted as primary or secondary enrolments, the definitions of primary and secondary education be those applied by the States themselves.

The Commission reports that it intends to consult closely with State and non- government authorities on the implementation of its recommendations for enhanced accountability which have been approved in principle by the Government.

Following the Government's decision that non-government schools' funding categories be determined in future on the basis of a new formula based on their total private income, the Commission has recommended, in principle, that schools be assessed initially on the basis of an Education Resources Index, as outlined in its Report, which incorporates progressive adjustments to private cash income (tuition and boarding, recurrent and capital) for capital-related expenditure. In determining the funding categories for schools whose capital-related expenditure patterns are substantially in excess of the adjustment applied by the formula, the Commission proposes to examine these schools' circumstances further in the light of the objectives of the scheme, before placing them in categories.

Final details of the formula, including the range of allowances for capital related expenditure and the categorisation of schools will be released by the Commission following the completion of processing of the latest available data ( i.e. 1983) from the schools.

The Government has agreed that schools will continue to have an opportunity to apply for a review of their initial formula-based assessment in order that special circumstances may be taken into account.

The Government has also accepted the Commission's proposal that non-government schools be able to lodge a more formal appeal against a review decision; such appeals to be heard by a Ministerially-appointed panel of Commissioners and that schools will have a right, if they wish, to send representatives to present their case direct to the panel. This proposal follows the request in the Guidelines for the Commission to consider the form of a suitable appeals mechanism. The Commission was advised almost universally by non-government school authorities and groups that any such appeals process should be kept within the Commission's administrative structure.

As already announced in the Guidelines, any schools which are reclassified to a lower grant category for 1985-88 will have their grants maintained each year at the 1984 level in money terms until they reach their appropriate real level of grant.

The following recommendations of the Commission, in relation to the non- government schools scheme, have also been adopted by the Government:

Grounds for reviews of the initial assessment of school grant categories;

Data on schools relevant to accountability arrangements and their needs assessment be collected on an annual basis;

Schools to be re-assessed in 1988, for the period 1989-92, on the basis of three or four years' data; and

Support under the Short Term Emergency Assistance Program to be extended to include all non-government schools experiencing severe short-term financial hardship.

Over the next 8 years, the Commonwealth's per capita grants for government schools will increase, in real terms, by 37% per primary student and over 100% per secondary student. Over the first 4 years, for which grants are to be legislated, these grants will rise by 16% and 59%, respectively. Per capita grants over the next 8 years for the poorer non-government schools in categories 10, 11 and 12 will increase by 24%, 30% and 36% for primary schools while those for secondary schools will grow by 15%, 21% and 26%, respectively. Over the first 4 years, these grants will rise, respectively, by 13%, 16% and 19% per primary student, and 8%, 11% and 14% per secondary student. These funding arrangements should lead to considerable resource improvements in schools. Through the provision of a minimum grant, the new scheme will also support the maintenance of the high standards already achieved by the higher income schools, while requiring that these schools do not widen the resource gap between themselves and other schools.

At the same time, the Government is concerned that public debate about education focuses on the real issues-the quality of education, equality of opportunity and improved outcomes of education. The Quality of Education Review Committee, under the Chairmanship of Professor Peter Karmel, will look closely at the outcomes of schooling. We want to be sure that satisfactory standards are being achieved by the great majority of students. We want to ensure that we have the best possible match between what is taught in schools and what is required for success in the workforce, or in tertiary education, and for participating in a democratic society. Parents have a right to expect that schools will equip their children adequately for further study, for jobs and for life. That includes, of course, ensuring that students attain satisfactory standards of literacy and numeracy, the ability to communicate effectively and a sound knowledge of the society of which they are a part.

This fresh look at the issue of quality is, of course, quite consistent with the Participation and Equity Program that has been introduced this year. We want students to complete their education, so that they have reasonable prospects in a very competitive job market, and reasonable prospects of gaining entry to tertiary education. We want them to leave school competent, confident young Australians. But more participation by itself is not enough. I have repeatedly emphasized that the funds available under the PEP Program should be used to improve education in ways that will make staying on worthwhile for all students.

The Government also recognises that many of the unsatisfactory outcomes at the end of schooling have their origins in the experiences of students at the primary level. We are particularly concerned that a minority of students leave government and non-government primary schools without having achieved a minimum acceptable standard in the basic areas.

To help remedy this problem, the Government has announced a further initiative- a program for primary schools to provide extra assistance for children in their basic learning. It will emphasise the acquisition of language skills and numeracy in primary schools for those groups in the community who have most difficulty in acquiring learning skills in the early years. $6.7 million a year has been provided for this program for three years from 1985. I have asked the Schools Commission to institute arrangements which will encourage collaborative activity between government and non-government schools in this area. The Commissison will be reporting to me with detailed recommendations for the implementation of the program from the beginning of next year. The new program will reinforce and complement existing special purpose programs, especially the PEP initiative at the secondary and TAFE levels.

In addition to these new initiatives, there are other continuing elements in our education package. Programs such as funding for capital works, multicultural programs, education and the arts, will all be continuing. In all, we believe that the package as a whole is directed towards innovative change and quality improvements. In this, we are fulfilling the Commonwealth's role to offer leadership and direction, and to ensure that educational developments are in harmony with the broader needs of our pluralistic, multicultural society, and of our economy.

Returning to the work of the Schools Commission, I draw attention to the fact that the Commission will be submitting a number of other reports over the coming months. In particular, the Commission will be submitting reports on proposals for implementation of the new programs for Basic Learning in Primary Schools and Early Special Education, the report of the panel on new non-government schools, and the reviews of special purpose programs and the capital program review. In addition, the Commission will publish the second report of the Working Party on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, the report of the Review of Teacher Education. The report of the Quality in Education Review Committee is due in April 1985.

The fact that the Government has adopted funding arrangements which are widely accepted as fair to government and non-government schools, certainly much fairer than in the past, now gives me confidence to look forward to a constructive dialogue about education policies for the future.

COMMONWEALTH TERTIARY EDUCATION COMMISSION REPORT FOR 1985-87

This Volume 2 Report responds to the Guidelines issued to the Commission by the Government on 5 July 1984 and recommends the detailed allocation of tertiary education funds to States and institutions for the triennium.

I remind honourable Senators of the essential features of the Government's guidelines for the triennium.

The Commonwealth will provde an extra $65.15 million for tertiary education for 1985 in real terms, the largest single increase in funding in this area since the Commission was established in 1977.

In addition, the Government has honoured its undertaking to return to fixed triennial funding arrangements. These arrangements will cover all elements of higher education funding programs for 1985-87 including capital and equipment and will also apply to TAFE, if State Governments are willing to indicate their own resource commitments in that sector for the three years.

The guidelines set the scene for a return of steady, planned growth in tertiary education over the 1985-87 triennium and build on the initiatives commenced in 1984 to increase participation in tertiary education.

Pending a further report from the Commission on a number of issues referred to it in the guidelines, the Government has set a guaranteed minimum level of funding for 1986 and 1987. Final decisions on total funding levels for 1986 and 1987 will be taken after consideration of the further report.

The guidelines also initiated fundamental reviews aimed at increasing opportunities and improving the quality and effectiveness of education in Australia.

Funds for universities and colleges of advanced education will be increased by $54.3 million to $1,991.8 million in 1985 (in estimated December 1983 prices). In addition, the Commonwealth will increase its funding for technical and further education, which is largely the responsibility of State Governments, by $10.9 million, or 3.8 per cent, to $299 million for 1985.

Under the fixed triennial funding arrangements the minimum levels of funding to be provided for the higher education sector will be $2,015.2 million and $2,033. 1 million for 1986 and 1987 respectively. In the TAFE sector the real level of 1985 funding will be maintained as a minimum.

In its Volume 2 report, the Commission recognises that, although its funding recommendations were not accepted in full, the Government's decisions were taken at a time when maximum restraint on expenditure is required in the interests of national economic objectives. Furthermore, the Commission acknowledges that the provision for continued growth that has been made in such circumstances reflects the significant place of tertiary education in the Government's developmental strategy. The Commission agrees that it is preferable in the interests of balanced development to have guaranteed steady growth in coming years, as provided in the Guidelines, rather than occasional large injections of funds leading to a stop-start process of development.

The funding allocations recommended by the Commission and agreed by the Government-

Make significant increases in the provision of higher education in outer metropolitan areas as a step towards meeting the needs of the large numbers of young people which are not served adequately at present with higher education facilities;

Increase access to regional institutions;

Increase access for Aborigines;

Revert to a rational higher education capital program after nearly a decade of inadequate funding provided on an annual basis;

Continue the Commonwealth's major contribution to the development of TAFE through the provision of substantial capital funding;

Provide additional equipment allocations to assist higher education institutions where intakes are increasing and to enable the TAFE sector to respond to technological developments; and

Provide for increases in participation in all States with particular emphasis on those States where existing participation levels are low.

The Government has accepted the allocation of funds recommended by the Commission with the exception of the State by State allocations of funds for 1985 under the TAFE Participation and Equity Program (see Table 3.28 in the CTEC Report). The recommended allocations for PEP will be adjusted slightly on the basis of further advice from the CTEC to take account of transfers of funds between the schools sector and the TAFE sector requested by the New South Wales and South Australian Ministers for Education during 1984. The legislation to be introduced shortly will incorporate the revised allocations.

In relation to the higher education sector, there are several matters on which the Commission has not made detailed recommendations for the distribution of funds at this stage. These comprise funds for measures to promote equity, key centres of teaching and research, superannuation, special assistance for needy students, special research centres and programs to increase participation of Aborigines. These funds will be distributed in accordance with determinations made by me after further advice from the Commission.

The Commission has also made a number of recommendations for changes to the form of enabling legislation to be introduced shortly. These include flexibility over the triennium to vary grants between institutions, sectors and States, provision for the early commencement of approved capital projects and the removal of limitations on continuing education programs in the advanced education sector. The Government accepts the Commission's recommendations.

In conclusion, the measures now announced by the Government arrest the decline brought about through seven years of neglect by the former Government and provide the basis for a return to steady planned growth in the tertiary education system. The allocations to institutions will increase participation in tertiary education and enhance equality of access by disadvantaged groups. The Government will be considering further measures to increase participation and equity and to improve the overall output of institutions in terms of skills related to employment opportunities following the further report of the Commission for 1986 and 1987 requested by March 1985.