Ensuring Quality Public Education

Background

Every young Tasmanian is brimming with possibilities and deserves a high-quality public education that nourishes their potential, and gives clear training and career pathways. Potential should not be determined by a child’s address or the wealth of their parents and carers.  All young Tasmanians have the right to a quality education.

A strong investment in public education is a cornerstone of lutruwita/Tasmania’s future social and economic wellbeing. It’s an investment in a prosperous, fair, and sustainable future.

Education plays a critical role in our development. It is a key social determinant of health outcomes and health equity.[1] The level of education a person has, has even found to be a stronger predictor of life expectancy than income and standard of living.[2]

Higher levels of education are a significant predictor of life-satisfaction and general wellbeing.[3] Education also contributes to society more broadly by reducing criminality and increasing volunteering,[4] and forms the pillar of economic prosperity in advanced industrial societies.[5]

Education forms the bedrock of prosperity, wellbeing and health for individuals, society, and our economy.

Guaranteeing Quality and Equity in Public Schools

Current funding allocations to Tasmanian schools are through ‘Approved Establishment Staffing’ and a ‘School Resource Package’ (SRP). The SRP includes Fairer Funding Model (FFM) allocation (a methodology established under Gonski reforms), facility funding and discrete funding.[6]

The Gonski allocation takes into account the Occupational Education Needs Index (OENI) score of students as well as the school’s Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA+) rating.[7] Figure 2.7.1 demonstrates the influence of OENI scores in practice for comparable schools.

Figure 2.7.1: Fairer Funding Model allocations for comparable schools[8]

 

Students

FFM $

$ / Student

OENI

ARIA+

Glenorchy Primary

317

588,715

1,857

0.7188

1.83

Invermay Primary

316.4

563,052

1,780

0.5398

1.83

Youngtown Primary School

312.8

423,587

1,354

0.4730

1.83

Kingston Primary School

334.6

439,304

1,313

0.3833

1.83

Lindisfarne North Primary School

325.8

417,441

1,281

0.3571

1.83

Taroona Primary School

327.6

356,414

1,088

0.1414

1.83

OENI is a simple index that solely measures parental occupation. There are five occupational groupings that are given a weight between 0 and 1 (inclusive) at 0.25 intervals.[9] The Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) is a more commonly used index that accounts for the parents’ education, geographic location and proportion of aboriginal students, as well as parental occupation.[10]

As of 2014 the OENI score made up 20.2% of the FFM, ARIA+ made up 4.7% and 75.1% was ‘core funding’ that is a base allocation with a per-capita component attached.[11] This formula is reviewed every four years and is developed between state and commonwealth governments.[12] However the agreement allows Tasmania to adjust the FFM component so long as the Commonwealth is notified of substantive changes.[13]

While the number of students in a school is accounted for in the formula – this part of the formula is not disadvantage-adjusted.

As a result, while disadvantaged and very disadvantaged ICSEA scoring schools receive more per-student funding at lower enrolment levels, the additional funding (per student) diminishes at higher enrolment levels and is virtually eliminated when enrolment levels reach 400 (figure 2.7.2).

Figure 2.7.2: Per-student primary school operational funding by enrolment levels and ICSEA rating[14]

The disadvantage-adjusted part of the FFM funding is around 20%, which, depending on the school, accounts for around 30%-70% of funding.[15] This means that disadvantage is only factored in to about 6%-14% of a school’s overall funding allocation.

Addressing Disadvantage in the School Funding Model

 

We will review the Fairer Funding Model to identify opportunities to improve disadvantage-weighting in resource allocation, with a particular focus on ensuring funding for students with educational disadvantages does not effectively diminish in schools with higher enrolments.

Formula-driven funding allocations are an important part of resolving disparities in educational outcomes, particularly from a macro-economic standpoint. There are, however, limitations on what a formula can achieve.

Unlike operational funding, infrastructure funding is not disadvantage adjusted. Figure 2.7.2 compares infrastructure funding for primary schools in very advantaged, advantaged, disadvantaged, and very disadvantaged ICSEA scoring schools.

Only 24% of very disadvantaged schools received infrastructure funding between 2016-19, compared with 44% state-wide and 64% of advantaged schools. Very disadvantaged schools received the lowest funding per school, the lowest proportion of students in funded schools, and the second lowest funding per student (Figure 2.7.2).

Figure 2.7.2: Primary School Infrastructure 3-year funding by ICSEA rating[16]

 

V. Advantaged

Advantaged

Disadvantaged

V. Disadvantaged

Whole State

Total funding

 $ 3,116,644

 $ 12,542,460

 $ 23,108,944

 $ 4,244,819

$ 43,012,867.00

Number of schools

8

25

68

17

118

Funded schools

3

16

29

4

52

% of schools funded

38%

64%

43%

24%

44%

Funding per school

 $ 389,580.50

 $ 501,698.40

 $ 339,837.41

 $ 249,695.24

 $ 364,515.82

students in funded schools

1,220.00

6,625.80

7,410.70

1,264.40

     16,520.90

Total Students

2,817.80

9,186.60

15,818.50

3,543.00

          31,462.50

% of Students funded

43%

72%

47%

36%

53%

Funding Per Student

 $ 1,106.06

 $ 1,365.30

 $ 1,460.88

 $ 1,198.09

 $ 1,367.12

Advantaged schools received the most funding per school, and 72% of students in advantaged schools were in a school that received infrastructure funding. This is not to say that the funded infrastructure projects have not been worthy projects, but disadvantaged students have been missing out.

Formula-driven resource allocation is also unable to take into account context specific factors. Issues such as difficulties attracting and retaining staff, access to external community and business resources, infrastructure constraints are all very real problems schools face that cannot necessarily be resolved by formula-driven funding.

Schools with similar enrolments, and socio-economic and regional profiles, may not be able to deliver identical services of an identical quality even if they receive comparable annual operational funding.

A Quality Guarantee

 

We will develop a Quality Guarantee for Tasmanian public schools.

We will develop annual minimum standards for all schools in consultation with school communities. These standards will improve every year, and the Government will be required to report on whether or not these standards have been met each year.

Tasmania’s current investment in education is not nearly enough. In 2019 Tasmania was behind the national average for the proportion of students meeting or exceeding the national standard for every NAPLAN tested year group, in every domain. [17]

Tasmania currently has one speech pathologist for every four public schools and 1,205 students; one psychologist for every two and a half schools and 855 students; and one social worker for every two and a half schools and 750 students.[18]

This is despite over 70% of the State’s primary schools, in which 60% of our students attend, having an average ICSEA score of disadvantaged or very disadvantaged (figure 2.7.2).

Investing in Education Professionals

 

We will employ 50 school psychologists, 40 social workers, and 70 speech pathologists.

This will increase the support workforce by 80%, provide for 1 of each of these workers per 1.6 schools and 500 students. We will also employ 30 education support specialists.

We will remove principals from the school staffing allocation and employ 195 teachers.

Helping Struggling Students

Tasmania’s NAPLAN results in 2019 compared to 2014 is a mixed bag. The proportion of students who achieved or exceeded the national standard, of the 20 total groupings of four year-groups and five domains, 12 improved since 2014, and eight deteriorated. In 2019 no year group performed better (in terms of the proportion achieving the national standard) than the Australian average, down from 2 groups in 2014 (Figure 2.7.3).

Figure 2.7.3: Proportion of Students Achieving National Standards by year group and domain[19]

One of the most recognised means to improve school performance is one-on-one tutoring. A 2016 international assessment of educational interventions determined that high-dosage tutoring has the largest impact of all interventions, more so, even, than early childhood intervention.[20]

Studies have consistently found tutoring to be a highly effective form of instruction,[21],[22] including specifically for mathematics[23] and literacy.[24]

Free Tutoring for Struggling Students

 

We will fund 30 hours of tutoring for each student who falls below the national standard, for each domain they fall below. This program will be optional, and will not be subject to means testing or any other requirements.

Inclusiveness in Schools

In 2020, a new funding formula was developed to allocate for students with disability in Tasmanian Government schools.[25] The previous model had two components that made it unfair and inequitable. One was driven by IQ scores,[26] and students with IQs above 70 did not qualify for funding.[27] The other involved funding set amounts for students on the Register of Students with Severe Disabilities.[28]  This meant that students with a diverse range of educational needs were not receiving central funding for supports.[29]

The 2020 reforms have been broadly acknowledged as an improvement by disability advocates,[30] however there have been many reports of students losing funding under the new model,[31],[32] prompting calls for the model to be reviewed.[33]

Details of the model, in particular the resource allocation formula, are not public. This has likely contributed to confusion around what entitlements are and why certain decisions have been made.[34]

The model has been described as one which is individualised to the needs of students.[35],[36] While this is true in some respects, the reality is more complex. For example, while support teacher allocations under the previous model were a straight FTE entitlement, per student, the new model has a reduced allocation for schools with a higher proportion of students with disability.[37]

The model has also moved away from concrete entitlements. Instead, a formula-driven allocation will disperse funds from an overall budget envelope.[38] This means, unlike in the old system where specific funding levels were committed, a student’s funding could change on an ad hoc basis depending on changes to annual budget allocations or variations in the number, or profile, of eligible students.

The new model also categorises some students as needing support within Quality Differentiated Teaching Practice, which does not involve any funding allocation.[39]

It is also worth noting that the former funding package was $82.06 million[40] to cater to a cohort of 2,559 students.[41] Additional funding for the new model plateaus at $14 million in 2021-22[42] for 4,552 students. [43] The funding has increased by 17% while the number of students catered to has increased by 78%.

While some of these students will only be eligible for Quality Differentiated Teaching Practice supports (i.e. no funding). The number would have to be 1,557, or 35% of all eligible students, in order for the level of funding per funded student to be the same as under the previous model.

While the new system has higher overall funding, the dispersion is less clear. Under the previous system, parents and students had a clearer commitment of specific entitlements. The current system is described in broad terms, which makes the confusion around changing entitlements understandable.

School Disability Funding

 

We will institute an ongoing and transparent program of review of the Educational Adjustment funding model. We will also ensure that methodologies and formulas are made public and accompanied by easy to understand explanatory material.

We will invest an additional $20 million per year in disability supports in schools.

Vocational Training

Enrolments in vocational training is declining Australia-wide, and TasTAFE has not been immune. Enrolments in TasTAFE have declined from 33,368 in 2015 to 26,448 in 2019 (figure 2.7.4).

Figure 2.7.4: Vocational enrolments by year and institution, Tasmania[44]

The decline in vocational enrolments can largely been attributed to poor, or ideological, decisions in government funding policies. Attempts to increase the share of for-profit providers in the VET sector have led to wide-spread scams and fraud, and reduced resourcing to TAFEs.[45]

Investing in the public VET provider

 

We will invest in 100 more TasTAFE teachers to ensure it can offer the quality and breadth of courses Tasmanians need from their public VET provider. We will also ensure TasTAFE receives all government VET contracts, except in exceptional circumstances.

We will not make TasTAFE a Government Business Enterprise.

The decline in enrollments is happening at a time where VET is becoming increasingly relevant. Between 2017 and 2019, the proportion of VET graduates experiencing improvement in their employment outcomes increased by 9% for both men and women, and incomes post-graduation increased by $5,000 for men and $1,000 for women.[46]

In a 2018 survey of VET students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the most commonly agreed action that would reduce barriers to participation was removing course fees.[47]

Free courses also have significant benefits to the VET sector. Commonwealth funding changes are expected to slow VET industry growth, whereas Victorian policy for free priority courses is expected to support VET industry growth.[48]

Free TasTAFE

 

We will make TasTAFE courses free for Tasmanian students.

 



[1] Hahn, RA and Truman, BI, Education Improves Public Health and Promotes Health Equity, International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 45, no. 4, 2015.

[2] Lutz, Wy and Kebede, E, Education and Health: Redrawing the Preston Curve, Population and Development Review, Vol. 44, no. 2, 2018.

[3] Ilies, R, Yao, J, Curseu, PL and Lianx, AX, Educated and Happy: A Four‐Year Study Explaining the Links Between Education, Job Fit, and Life Satisfaction, Applied Psychology, Vol. 68, no. 1, 2018.

[4] Wolfe, BL and Haveman, RH, Social And Nonmarket Benefits From Education In An Advanced Economy, Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 47, 2002.

[5] Brown, P and Lauder, H, Education, Economy and Social Change, International Studies in Sociology of Education, Vol. 1, no. 1-2, 1991.

[6] Department of Education, Key Data, March 2020.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Tasmanian Government, Update and Supplementary Issues for the 2015 Review, 2015.

[10] Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, What Does the ICSEA Value Mean?, 2015.

[11] Tasmanian Government, Update and Supplementary Issues for the 2015 Review, 2015.

[12] ABC News, What's in the Gonski report?, August 2013.

[13] Commonwealth of Australia, Heads of Agreement Between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Tasmania, 2013.

[14] Data compiled from: https://www.myschool.edu.au.

[15] Department of Education, Key Data, March 2020.

[16] Data compiled from: https://www.myschool.edu.au.

[17] Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, NAPLAN Results, National Assessment Program, 2020.

[18] Department of Education, Annual Report 2019-20, 2020.

[19] Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, NAPLAN Results, National Assessment Program, 2020.

[20] Fryer, RG Jr, The Production of Human Capital in Developed Countries: Evidence from 196 Randomized Field Experiments, Working Paper 22130, NBER Working Paper Series, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2016, pp. 37-41.

[21] Chi, MTH, Roy, M and Hausmann, RGM, Observing Tutorial Dialogues Collaboratively: Insights About Human Tutoring Effectiveness From Vicarious Learning, Cognitive Science, Vol. 32, no. 2, 2008.

[22] Chi MTH, Siler, SA, Jeong, H, Yamauchi, T and Hausmann, RG, Learning from human tutoring, Cognitive Science, Vol. 25, no. 4, 2001.

[23] Mischo, C and Haag, L, Expansion and effectiveness of private tutoring, European Journal of Psychology of Education, Vol. 17, no. 263, 2002.

[24] Ritter, GW, Barnett, JH, Denny, GS and Albin, GR, The Effectiveness of Volunteer Tutoring Programs for Elementary and Middle School Students: A Meta-Analysis, Review of Educational Research, Vol. 79, no. 1, 2009.

[25] Department of Education, Educational Adjustments Disability Funding, n.d.

[26] Autism Tasmania, Needs-based funding for students with disability in Tasmania, n.d.

[27] Whitson, R, Tasmanian schools 'cutting sports, arts' to fund disability education shortfalls, principals say, ABC News, 2017

[28] Department of Education Tasmania, Development of a Needs-Based Funding Model for Students with Disability, 2019.

[29] Whitson, R, Tasmanian schools 'cutting sports, arts' to fund disability education shortfalls, principals say, ABC News, 2017

[30] Bailey, S, Kristen Desmond is closing her lobby group but will continue to speak out on disability matters, The Advocate, 2020.

[31] Uibu, K, One-third of Tasmanian state schools face cuts amid new needs-based disability funding model, ABC News, February, 2020.

[32] Uibu, K, Family of teen with autism says his disability funding has been slashed right before his final school year, ABC News, December 2019.

[33] Maloney, M, Tasmanian disability lobby group queries 2020 state budget, The Advocate, November 2020.

[34] Wirsu, P, Concern not all children with a disability are better off under the Tasmanian government's needs based funding model, ABC Drive, February 2021.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Rockliff, J, Tailored support for students with disability, October 2019.

[37] Department of Education Tasmania, Development of a Needs-Based Funding Model for Students with Disability, 2019, p. 18.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid, p. 14.

[40] Department of Education, Annual Report 2017/18, 2018, p. 62.

[41] Department of Education Tasmania, Development of a Needs-Based Funding Model for Students with Disability, 2019, p. 20.

[42] Tasmanian Government, Budget Paper Number 2 Volume 1, Tasmanian Budget 2020-21, 2020, p. 68.

[43] Department of Education Tasmania, Development of a Needs-Based Funding Model for Students with Disability, 2019, p. 20.

[44] Data compiled from: TasTAFE annual reports, and NCVER DataBuilder.

[45] Quiggin, J, The failure of vocational education and training policy in Australia, Submission to the Senate Education and Employment References Committee Inquiry into vocational education and training in South Australia, 2018.

[46] Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Vocational education and training graduate outcomes data, n.d.

[47] Mission Australia, Disadvantaged young people face barriers to Vocational Education and Training (VET), 2018.

[48] IBISWorld, Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Australia - Market Research Report, 2021.