Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) has called for fairness, rigorous testing and sufficient lead time in the implementation of any new Australian Government funding model for non-state schools.
ISQ issued the call after a national review recommended major changes to the way funding support for independent and Catholic schools is calculated.
ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said the National School Resourcing Board’s recommendation to use family income in place of socio-economic status (SES) scores to assess parental capacity to contribute to the costs of non-state schooling was a major shift.
Mr Robertson said as a matter of urgency ISQ was seeking further information on the potential impact of the proposed changes on individual Queensland independent schools.
“Schools and families have budgets and both need certainty to plan for the future,” he said.
Mr Robertson said any funding changes “must be applied consistently to all non-government schools”.
“The importance of each non-state school being treated in the same way for funding purposes cannot be over-emphasised. Unlike past funding arrangements, any new model must be applied on an equal basis to each individual school,” he said.
“This is critical because the amount of government funding non-state schools receive is a key determinant of the level at which schools set their tuition fees.”
“Independent schools will take some time to examine the board’s recommendations. However, the sector expects the Australian Government to undertake a rigorous process of trialling and validating any changes to the funding model.”
“Independent schools and their parents need to be assured that the proposed direct measure using family income will provide a significantly more accurate means of allocating funding and that it will be applied consistently and fairly across all non-government schools.”
“The independent sector will also be looking to ensure that any changes do not threaten the availability of choice to families, do not impose additional burdens on schools or parents in terms of administration or intrusion on privacy and do not result in any unintended consequences for particular groups of students.”
Mr Robertson said independent schools were doubtful such a major change could be implemented from 2020 and that more time would be needed to verify a new model and for schools to adequately plan and prepare.
“The current SES model took three years to trial and verify before its introduction. In addition, while the board has provided a high-level overview of an alternative funding methodology based on income data, significantly more detail is needed. This includes clarification of issues such as the availability and reliability of parental income data, particularly from regional schools and those serving disadvantaged communities.”
“ISQ will continue to work to ensure fair and equitable funding arrangements are applied to independent schools and will advocate strongly on behalf of member schools during consultations with the Australian Government on the proposed changes.”