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If you can read this …

Thank your teachers. In your individual case your teachers probably included your parents, family, siblings and almost definitely the teachers when you went to school. In your school, the teacher was the one that convinced you to put the effort in to learn how to read the squiggly lines on a page or a screen that make up words and numbers, it wasn’t the operators of the school, the quality of the infrastructure or the school’s history.

Private schools were set up in Australia for a number of reasons. Some religious groups determined the state school system didn’t teach the morality of the group, others addressed a perceived need in the community. Until the Menzies Government started funding private schools (effectively to buy their compliance), parents who sent their children to private schools generally paid the cost of their children’s education. Since Menzies, it’s become a bit more complicated. Generally private schools receive greater federal funding than state government operated schools. There have been a number of efforts by various governments to equalise the situation, the latest being the Gonski Review which was implemented by the Gillard Government.

One of the core recommendations of the Gonski review when it was released in 2011 was implementing the SRS, a needs-based model to provide a baseline education to students, set at $13,060 for primary students and $16,413 for secondary students.

The federal education minister at the time of the Gonski review, Peter Garrett, said the aim was to ensure any student, irrespective of their background, could reach their potential.

Sadly, this core recommendation was ignored by Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison. The Guardian’s article (linked above) details the failures of the implementation by all five governments.

Gillard started the rot by pledging that no school would end up with less money – a problem considering that most private schools were receiving more per student than the needs-based funding recommended. Let’s just say the situation has not improved over the subsequent decade. As Van Badham suggests in The Guardian Public Schools are struggling as St Poshies builds wellness centres with taxpayer money’.

It is completely wrong to suggest that state government operated schools do not educate to the same standard. For those that know the leafy (and now politically Green) inner western suburbs of Brisbane, there is a state high school on one side of Lambert Road at Indooroopilly and a high-profile private school on the other. The Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty attended the state high school. While he has gone on to great things, as have a number of students from both sides of Lambert Road (and every other high school in Australia for that matter), it is the quality of the teaching – not the surroundings -that counts. While private schools may attempt to attract the teachers perceived to be ‘better’ and be able to boast of the numbers of their students that achieved the highest level of University Entry ranking, they also have a unique advantage that they can choose their students, state government schools have to take all comers in (usually) a geographic area.

Of course, there is the ‘status’ of your children attending (or you are working at) a well-known and usually quite expensive private school. This is where the real issue is. It would be an interesting study to determine how many of those that attend private schools actually live their lives in accordance with the claimed philosophies of the private schools they or their children attend. Or maybe the forking out of thousands a year for something that can be received at significantly less cost is a (illogical if you think about it) part of the parent’s inevitable climb up the social ladder. It works nicely with the McMansion in the ‘nice’ area and the large SUV or ute in the driveway – in between clogging up the roads around the time of the school pick up because the beloved Tarquin or Millicent shouldn’t be seen on a public transport operator’s school bus.

It really wasn’t surprising to recently read that vehicle importers spend double on marketing their SUVs and utes than traditional sedans, wagons and hatchbacks. There are real problems with large (usually American) SUVs and utes and their resources consumption, along with the lack of safety for other road users and pedestrians around these vehicles. They still get stuck with the bus or small hatchback in the traffic jam – regardless of the owners highly visible ‘look at me’ statement.

It is similar to the reliance on ‘external consultancies’ with expensive marketing and communications strategies rather than using the in-house talents of the public service, so beloved by the Abbott, Turnbull or Morrison Governments. In the majority of circumstances, the advice of the external consultancies is probably quite valid when considered from the viewpoint of the consultants, who generally have left school, gone to university, gained additional qualifications in their selected profession and then climbed the greasy pole in one of the external consultancies with very little experience in how the rest of us live. So the same people in similar roles at similar service providers are contracted by a public service who have not been resourced well enough by a series of governments to ensure the government can perform their role in society, That is somewhat ironic given the hollowing out of the public service that occurred under the recent decade of Coalition governments – and the claims of the ‘Canberra bubble’ made by the leaders of the same governments. Where’s the real ‘bubble’ or echo chamber here?

Anyway, the point of briefly discussing all of these issues is this. Governments, especially Coalition ones, have completely destroyed any pretence of an equal society. The outcome is Robodebt where (regardless of the lack of legality) decision makers in the government thought that reversing the proof of innocence and making baseless claims that people owed thousands to the government was a good idea. At the same time, the process made it incredibly difficult for those affected to demonstrate the government had it wrong.

It does matter that if you don’t send your child to “St Poshies”, the government doesn’t fund your child’s education to the same value. It isn’t fair or reasonable to you or your child that your child may experience facilities that are falling down around them and staffed by teachers that don’t have the time to prepare lessons and teach the syllabus in amongst the myriad of other things they have to do to ‘help out’. Your child certainly won’t be able to use school-based world class sporting fields or ‘wellness centres’ or gyms because the state systems usually don’t have the funding to pay for them. Your poor child might also have to catch public transport to and from school (quelle horreur!) rather than private transport options provided by the school.

And for those who pick their treasured Tarquin or Millicent up, the reality is that a lot of people in the queue outside the private school this afternoon driving the oversized SUV or ute are one or two pay cheques or cancelled contracts away from social security. Regardless of the Coalition’s’ labelling’ of some sectors of the community as ‘lifters and leaners’ or ‘quiet Australians’, implying importance on people’s income, spending and behaviours, things can change dramatically and quickly.

Greed is not good, whoever dies with the most toys doesn’t win and we all deserve to live in a compassionate society. Education of our children is too important to be a political football and using it as such disadvantages all of us. The sooner our political leaders realise that – the better off we all are.


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  1. Uncletimrob


    As a teacher with 4 decades of experience, I have worked in both state and private schools teaching high school Maths. I also have several friends who are primary school teachers.
    So, several things have happened in the last decade or so – amongst those being:
    – primary school teachers are not allowed to “hug” or otherwise physically comfort a child who has fallen over and is hurt – not even hold their hand while they walk to the school office/nurse.
    – students, young and old have mobile phones and use them to harass staff and other students
    – as a high school teacher I’m not allowed to say to a 17 year old girl who comes to school on Monday with a new hairstyle “your hair looks nice, when/where did you have that done?”
    – parents will pay $1200 (or more) for a new phone but not $20 for a calculator “because the phone does it for me”
    – vaping is a significant issue in some schools
    – teachers in that area – usually HPE – are not allowed to talk about consent
    I could go on, but I won’t bore you further…..

    To be honest, the lack of support for teachers makes me now question whether I’d recommend it to a young person, despite being able to look back and say that personally I’ve had a good and satisfying career. It’s really no wonder that people are not taking it up as a career, and that beginning teachers are leaving in droves.

    Yes, I’m old and grumpy!

  2. New England Cocky

    Time to keep government funding for only state scbool schools.

  3. leefe

    *Laughs in hyperlexic

    Otherwise, yes. Gonski was a step in the right direction.
    First, if schools receive public funding, they must adhere to certain standards, both academic and social. Second, private school fees have to be included in the calculation of funding per student.
    But we all know that private schools – especially St Posho’s – are about networking, not education.

  4. RomeoCharlie

    I have been a senior member of both state and National state school parent bodies whose members were forthright, articulate advocates for better funding for state schools against the insidious boosting of funding to non government schools. We used to believe in the principle that governments provided a free, secular universal education system and if parents didn’t want that, they should pay. We also believed, sadly and erroneously, that labor governments could be relied on to do better than conservatives. That myth flew out the window with Beazley and the Hawke/Keating governments and worsened through subsequent governments. We believed, and I still do, that governments should not fund non government schools, at all. The argument of private school parents that ‘we pay taxes too and are entitled to funding’ never washed with me and still doesn’t. I don’t use buses but my taxes fund a public transport system etc. One hesitates to point fingers, or introduce bigotry, but the number of Catholics in Parliaments state and federal means it is unlikely that there will be a reduction in funding to that school system despite it being run by one of the world’s wealthiest entities. With a Catholic PM who tends to rule out more proposals for improving equality than he supports I don’t hold out much hope for real change. However given the disgusting evidence of the favouritism shown to private schools, perhaps there is a growing groundswell of demand for a better deal for public education everywhere. I hope so.

  5. Lyndal

    A lot of people seem to think there are better teachers and better quality education at private schools. They are, in general, deceiving themselves. Teachers are accredited by the Education Department and the school has to teach the same curriculum, whether public or private.
    The students are winnowed and difficult children are often asked to go elsewhere – usually ending up at your local comprehensive high, where their poorly managed behaviour issues mix with resentment about a move that has not been planned or welcomed.

  6. Phil Pryor

    Education, a poor area of Australian thinking and actual records, needs good, honest funding (hah) and only Gonski’s scheme, to my thinking, has tried well in the face of dispute, greed, ambition, superstition driven selfishness and political expediencies. Surely a formula could be found to base funding on parents and their position, income, needs and any relevant social factor, plus some area allowance now for catchup. Other capital funding is always to be argued and debated. I once took a group of public school lads, a potential regional water polo comp squad, to a very rich private school for a meeting.., that school had an indoor heated olympic swimming pool, separate dive pool with towers, all top quality change rooms, etc. My lads said nothing at all, stupefied, ashamed of “our poverty” and inability to contribute. Glaring unfairness cripples this nation in too many ways.

  7. Harry Lime

    Nothing will change until the duopoly that have dominated politics in this country are voted into oblivion.There are signs that the shift is under way…Greens, Teals,etc.The so called ‘Labor’ party under Albanese continues to be bitterly disappointing in nearly every area.I think I’d like to see Albanese call a double dissolution election,but he won’t because there’s every chance they’d end up in the minority.

  8. 2353NM

    @Harry Lime – arguably the Greens are no better than the Coalition, the ALP or the likes of One Nation. Their refusal to back federal legislation on affordable housing because the states can’t/won’t/don’t want to introduce rent caps and similar measures is pure politics. They know that the states control the legislation around rentals and how they are managed – not the federal government and yet they carry on with the ‘crusade’.

    It harks back to the days of the Greens siding with the Coalition to kill Rudd’s Emission Trading Scheme – again done for pure politics. For a group that claims to be considering environmental costs, I’ve never heard them justify why another decade of nothing but increased emissions and propaganda on why climate change is crap (to borrow a former Coalition Prime Minister’s words) was better than voting for legislation that would at least start the wind back of emissions in this country – even if it wasn’t perfect. Perhaps playing politics is the justification..

  9. GL

    All I can say is that the Greens, as usual, have become their own worst enemies.

  10. Clakka

    Private primary and secondary schools should be completely banned. They can do their religious or aristocratic jiggery pokery elsewhere, not at a place purporting to be a school. If they complain that they would otherwise struggle financially, hard cheese. Their facilities could be turned over to the state, as special education and wellness centres for the less fortunate. After all the state, in equity, probably owns the facilities, after all the years of doling out freebies to them.

    Finland outlawed them 45 years ago, and soared to the top of world education rankings. The teachers, students and now parents like it, as it encourages cross-society interaction and friendships benefiting all, and puts paid to elitism.

  11. wam

    The NT has over 50 private schools. All skim federal cash with scholarships to the disadvantaged and Aboriginal students.
    Many have fees less than public school fees and have school bus routes.
    Finland has climate and tertiary advantages but to be a teacher requires educational levels far above our prerequisites which, in the NT, is raw or adjusted scores whichever is higher down to come in and we will claim HECS with the result that most teachers, certainly in middle schools. have no univerity maths, science or literature in their qualifications and, on a casual observation from 10 years ago, would not excel or even pass NAPLAN year 9 math.
    private religious schools should not be funded.

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