ABC Photo: Cracked concrete at Springwood High School, Faulconbridge NSW
Exposed wiring at Sandringham College, Victoria
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FROM orchestra pits, World-class boarding and dining, rooftop amphitheatre and subterranean sports facility to ripped carpets and leaking roofs
-with a sample public school in Parramatta 50% enrolment growth since 2013
(A consequence of the population growth through high immigration and real estate investment from overseas buyers)
-10 toilets for more than 500 students
-4 X as many demountables as permanent classrooms; no upgrades planned
Explosion of enrolments since 2013; half of $22B spent on capital projects between 2013 – 17 spent on 10% of schools; that teach fewer than 30% of students in richest schools
-the Australian Education Union calls on Federal Government to establish a capital fund for public schools; 2012 Gonski Review
-increased public funding has allowed many private schools to amass funds for capital expenditure from private sources as they receive recurrent funding from the govt
-recurrent public funding to private schools topped $14B in 2017
.the amount allocated to capital programs is often equivalent to recurrent Govt funding
-the gap exacerbated by govt policies that increased public funding to public schools by less than 3% between 2009 and 2017
.compared to 56% for the most advantaged private schools
“And we wonder why Australia is slipping behind… That money would be far better spent at the struggling end of the [socio-economic] scale because that’s where we will lift results.”
-2017 38% of total spending on school infrastructure in public schools; far below the sector’s 66% share of enrolments
THE online ABC News survey revealed the most common needs for public schools:
-toilets the most urgent maintenance problem, plumbing, painting and roofs
-technology and computer equipment most common urgent upgrade followed by heating or air conditioning and sporting facilities
ABS figures biggest enrolment burden fallen to public schools; with 76% of growth to 2018
-$100s of Millions spent on new schools that otherwise would have been available for school maintenance
(A consequence of the population growth through high immigration and real estate investment from overseas buyers)
Debris from a collapsed section of the ceiling cordoned off at Wales Street Primary School in Thornbury, Victoria
Rich school, poor school: Australia’s great education divide
Updated 13 Aug 2019
From orchestra pits and on-site baristas to ripped carpets and leaking roofs, this is the “infrastructure arms race” between Australia’s schools.
These 8,500 schools are ranked from highest to lowest on the income ladder, according to their average yearly income between 2013 and 2017.
Circles are sized by total spend on new facilities and renovations in that period. Bigger circle=Bigger capital expenditure Catholic Independent Government $50m $0.5m $100m $8m
THE RICHEST 1%INCOME$105,000,000$100,000,000$95,000,000$90,000,000$85,000,000$80,000,000$75,000,000$70,000,000$65,000,000$60,000,000$55,000,000$50,000,000$45,000,000$40,000,000$35,000,000$30,000,000$25,000,000$20,000,000$15,000,000$10,000,000$5,000,000$0
Wesley College, VIC
Cap. exp. $96.7m
Cap. exp. govt. $30,747
Extensive redevelopment includes a $21m music school, $16m boarding facility and $2.3m visual arts and design precinct. Currently fundraising for $2.5m refurbishment of Wesley Boathouse.
Haileybury College, VIC
Cap. exp. $103.5m
Cap. exp. govt. $455,466
New campus Haileybury City features an indoor sports facility, a dedicated floor for music, art and drama and two terrace gardens. Classrooms with floor to ceiling windows offer 180-degree views of the city.
Caulfield Grammar, VIC
Cap. exp. $101.8m
Cap. exp. govt. $577,709
Fundraising for a new aquatic centre, featuring an Olympic-sized pool with moveable floors and walls, and wellbeing spaces for dance, pilates, meditation and yoga.
Knox Grammar, NSW
Cap. exp. $100.1m
Cap. exp. govt. $458,151
$47m performing arts centre includes 750-seat auditorium with adjustable orchestra pit and 160-seat intimate performance space. Senior academy features a cafe with on-site barista.
Enrolments grew 30% between 2013 and 2018.
Australia’s four richest schools spent more on new facilities and renovations than the poorest 1,800 schools combined.
Wesley College, Haileybury College and Caulfield Grammar in Melbourne, together with Knox Grammar in Sydney, spent $402 million. They teach fewer than 13,000 students.
The poorest 1,800 schools spent less than $370 million. They teach 107,000 students.
Melbourne Grammar School, VIC
Cap. exp. $61m
Cap. exp. govt. $14,101
$30m science and technology hub features a rooftop terrace with a weather monitoring station.
Pymble Ladies’ College, NSW
Cap. exp. $67.7m
Cap. exp. govt. $420,633
$34m Centenary Sports Precinct features 50m eight-lane pool with multiple diving platforms, fitness centre, learn-to-swim pool and remedial treatment rooms.
Scotch College, VIC
Cap. exp. $70.1m
Cap. exp. govt. $14,569
$32m Sir Zelman Cowen Centre for Science includes a rooftop learning area, 200-seat presentation space and “experiential laboratory”.
SHORE – Sydney Church of England Grammar School, NSW
Cap. exp. $50.5m
Cap. exp. govt. $340,895
$52m Shore Physical Education Centre — the largest building project in the school’s history — due in 2020. Includes 11 learning spaces and seminar rooms, a 50m indoor pool and a multi-purpose sports complex.
St Kevin’s College, VIC
Cap. exp. $40.9m
Cap. exp. govt. $347,173
The 5.5 hectare Tooronga Fields — “the largest privately-owned sporting facility in Australasia” — includes three FIFA-regulation soccer pitches, an AFL field, 12 cricket nets, 12 tennis courts and an athletics track.
Hale School, WA
Cap. exp. $34.9m
Cap. exp. govt. $467,740
Completed $16m Junior School redevelopment in 2018 and aquatic centre in 2014. Existing facilities include 2 pools, 2 gymnasiums, indoor climbing wall, 18 tennis courts and 5 cricket grounds with turf wickets.
Camberwell Grammar School, VIC
Cap. exp. $73m
Cap. exp. govt. $293,499
$45m sports and aquatic facility, 200-seat chapel and function centre completed 2016.
All Hallows’ School, QLD
Cap. exp. $55.9m
Cap. exp. govt. $2.3m
Opened $7.7m, five-storey ‘Mary Place’ in 2015. Includes 15 classrooms, enclosed courtyard and new tennis/netball court.Somerville House, QLD
Cap. exp. $52.8m
Cap. exp. govt. $2m
Master Plan includes “The Annex” building, offering world-class boarding and dining, an extension of the artistic gymnastics facility, a School Art Gallery and Museum, and expansion of the auditorium from 980 to 1,500 seats.
The richest 1% of schools spent $3 billion. The poorest 50% spent $2.6 billion combined.
The poorest 50% of schools teach nearly five times as many students.
St Aloysius’ College, NSW
Cap. exp. $21.1m
Cap. exp. govt. $160,300
Seeking approval for an $80m “revitalisation” of its three campuses, including a new learning precinct with rooftop amphitheatre and subterranean sports facility.
Brisbane State High School, QLD
Cap. exp. $47m
Cap. exp. govt. $46.8m
Enrolments grew 35% between 2013 and 2018. Added 40 new classrooms in 2016 as part of a $35m redevelopment to address overcrowding. By 2017, overcrowding was again an issue.
Willetton Senior High School, WA
Cap. exp. $52.3m
Cap. exp. govt. $52.3m
Six public schools in Australia spent more than $50m on capital works. All were part of the WA government’s plan to help public schools meet forecast enrolment growth.
Willetton’s $52m redevelopment included new buildings for art, media, textiles, science and technology. The original buildings were constructed in the 1970s.
Lourdes Hill College, QLD
Cap. exp. $32.9m
Cap. exp. govt. $2.9m
$20m “Bernadette Centre” houses a sports centre, 200-seat chapel, 600-seat theatre, science labs, drama workshops, music rooms, classrooms and rooftop play area overlooking Brisbane River and CBD.
Trinity Catholic College, NSW
Cap. exp. $2.9m
Cap. exp. govt. $352,153
Received $2.75m federal grant in 2019 for new facilities, including an art annex and staff office, and refurbishment of gymnasium and art studio. Enrolments fell by 3% between 2013 and 2018.
Arthur Phillip High School, Parramatta Public School NSW
$325m redevelopment of Parramatta Public and Arthur Phillip High School sites is the state’s largest public school infrastructure project. New high school for 2,000 students will be NSW’s first high-rise public school.
South Coast Baptist College, WA
Cap. exp. $7m
Cap. exp. govt. $873,707
Enrolments grew 65% between 2013 and 2018. Received $1.5m federal grant in 2018 for construction of 3 science laboratories, STEM studio, materials technology studios, planning studio and machine rooms.
Marist Catholic College Penshurst, NSW
Cap. exp. $36.4m
Cap. exp. govt. $5.5m
Opened La Valla Learning Centre in 2016, featuring 12 classrooms, a library and tuition rooms. Other projects include a new admin building, theatrette, and music and drama spaces. Received $3.5m federal government grant in 2018. Constructing a second campus to cope with enrolments.
St Martins Lutheran College, SA
Cap. exp. $4.1m
Cap. exp. govt. $890,649
Opened two new classrooms and a new Middle School building in 2018. Received $941k federal grant in 2019 for a new two-storey building with a food and hospitality centre, art rooms and exhibition space.
Wales Street Primary School, VIC
Cap. exp. $450,536
Cap. exp. govt. $428,268
Overcrowding and infrastructure issues included leaking roofs, a school hall that accommodates only half the students, and non-compliant toilets, wiring and plumbing. Received $4.1m in the 2019-20 State Budget for an upgrade.
Parramatta East Public School, NSW
Cap. exp. $272,298
Cap. exp. govt. $214,034
50% enrolment growth since 2013. Has 10 toilets for more than 500 students and 4 times as many demountables as permanent classrooms. No upgrades planned.
Sheidow Park Primary School, SA
Cap. exp. $25,005
Cap. exp. govt. $0
No new buildings or renovations since the Rudd government’s post-GFC school building program.
At the end of each school year, Sheidow Park Primary School principal Jennie-Marie Gorman takes a walk around the school with the finance officer and the groundsman.
They pass windows held together by safety screens. They inspect the playgrounds built 20 years ago. They note the walls that haven’t been painted in 15 years.
And they look again at the patch of exposed concrete in the front office, where the finance officer’s swivel chair has worn a hole in the carpet. That hole will be fixed in about five years, if all goes to schedule.
“We have a plan to carpet two to three classrooms a year, based on need, so the ones with the biggest holes in them or the biggest rips get replaced first,” Ms Gorman says.
“We also need new carpet in the office but we look at what the children need first and we put ourselves at the end of the line — which is just normal teacher stuff. That’s just how we operate.”
Sheidow Park Primary is one of more than 1,300 schools across Australia that spent less than $100,000 on new facilities and renovations while the nation’s four richest schools spent roughly $100 million — each.
An ABC News investigation has revealed for the first time the gaping divide that separates the capital expenditure of Australia’s richest and poorest schools.
It is based on school finance figures from the My School website — a dataset so tightly held that in the decade since its creation, it has only been released to a handful of researchers under strict conditions. Independently compiled by ABC News, it provides a more detailed picture of school income and expenditure than any publicly available data.
*The investigation, which encompasses more than 8,500 schools teaching 96 per cent of students, reveals:
- Half of the $22 billion spent on capital projects in Australian schools between 2013 and 2017 was spent in just 10 per cent of schools
- These schools teach fewer than 30 per cent of students and are the country’s richest, ranked by average annual income from all sources (federal and state government funding, fees and other private funding) over the five-year period.
- They also reaped 28 per cent (or $2.4 billion) of the $8.6 billion in capital spending funded by government.
The facilities at some of Australia’s public schools.
*“Certainly the public investment in private schools, and the public investment in the wealthiest schools, is a factor,” she said.
*“They have that security of their operating costs being heavily subsidised — or, for some schools, completely covered — so they can use other money for their building projects.”
Sheidow Park Primary School spent $25,005 over the five-year period. It received no capital funding from government.
“The school has never had lots of money and principals have had to be very careful with what they’ve done,” Ms Gorman says.
The $21m music school at Melbourne’s Wesley College. Cox Architecture
Pymble Ladies’ College on Sydney’s north shore is building a $34m Centenary Sports Precinct. Pymble Ladies’ College
New or proposed facilities at some of Australia’s high-fee private schools.
Sheidow Park Primary is a public school 20km south of Adelaide. Its sits among the poorest 20 per cent of schools on the income ladder.
Despite soaring enrolments — student numbers have nearly doubled since 2013 — the last major capital project at Sheidow Park was a gymnasium completed in 2011 as part of the Rudd government’s school building program, known as Building the Education Revolution.
*“At the end of the year, when we walk around the school, it’s not: ‘This needs fixing, so we’ll fix it’. It’s always… ‘What’s the worst of the worst?’” Ms Gorman says.
“It’s tricky because you don’t want to be the poor neighbour down the road. You want to put your best foot forward… But I guess it’s the inequity that annoys me the most.”
*You don’t have to look far to find that inequity. About half an hour’s drive north is Saint Ignatius’ College in Athelstone, a Catholic school among the richest 10 per cent in Australia.
*It spent just over $30 million on capital projects (including $124,000 from the federal government) in the same period Sheidow Park spent $25,005.
Enrolments at Saint Ignatius’ shrunk by roughly five per cent over that period.
Capital funding: A complex system
Capital funding is considered separate to recurrent funding, which covers the ongoing costs of running a school. Recurrent funding cannot be spent on capital projects.
*Part of the problem with the current system, according to critics, is that private schools have two public sources of capital funding — the Commonwealth and the states — whereas public schools only receive capital funding from state governments.
*So far in 2019, the Commonwealth Capital Grants Program has allocated more than $146 million to fewer than 140 non-government schools.
*According to the Federal Government, the CGP is “to improve the infrastructure in [non-government] schools that do not have enough capital resources.”
*It is calling on the Federal Government to establish a Commonwealth capital fund for public schools, in line with the recommendations of the 2012 Gonski review.
But while the debate over capital grants rages, numerous education researchers point to a far larger source of public money as the real problem.
Are taxpayers funds making the system more unequal?
*Some education experts believe increased public funding has allowed many private schools to amass funds for capital expenditure from private sources.
“I’m not at all surprised to see some well-off private schools at the top of the list for capital spend. Parents and others are of course welcome to fundraise for the schools they support,” said the Grattan Institute’s school education program director Peter Goss.
*“But every one of those schools also receives substantial recurrent funding from the Australian Government and it’s legitimate to ask whether taxpayer funding is contributing to making our education system even more unequal.”
*Over the past decade, public funding to private schools has risen nearly twice as fast as public funding to public schools, according to the latest figures from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which runs the My School website. Recurrent public funding to private schools topped $14 billion in 2017.
*University of Melbourne professor Barry McGaw, former chair of the ACARA board, said the data now available on the My School website “open up a whole set of questions we’ve not been able to ask before”.
“The Federal Government had much of this information but it had never been made public before,” he said.
“And now you can see how little gets spent on government schools compared to non-government schools.”
The My School website shows the annual income and capital expenditure for individual schools, including the amount of income the school has allocated to current and future capital projects, and debt servicing.
*In some large non-government schools, the amount allocated to capital programs is “often pretty much equivalent” to the amount of recurrent funding provided by government, Professor McGaw told the ABC.
He said the figures show how much schools are “liberated to transfer to capital works”, even though they may argue the money is sourced from parents.
*“That’s one of the reasons you’re seeing such massive building programs going on.”
At scores of private schools around the country — the vast majority in the independent sector — the amount allocated to capital projects was worth a substantial share of (or even exceeded) their recurrent government funding.
Among the schools are:
- Caulfield Grammar, Vic: recurrent funding: $74.7m; capital allocation: $83.8m
- Hale School, WA: recurrent funding: $42.3m; capital allocation: $45.6m
- Canberra Grammar, ACT: recurrent funding: $30.5m; capital allocation: $33.9m
- Loreto Normanhurst, NSW: recurrent funding $34.3m, capital allocation: $33.3m
*“You can’t stop [schools raising funds privately]… but you can see that they are certainly receiving much more money than they need to spend on their recurrent operations — as evidenced by the fact they can pass [so much money] out to capital works,” McGaw said.
*“And they never lower their fees. The more government gives, the fees never go down.”
In 2017, the most advantaged public schools (top 20 per cent, ranked by socio-educational advantage) operated on roughly half the total income of their private school peers, down from two-thirds in 2009, analysis of My School data shows.
**The gap has been exacerbated by government policies that increased public funding to these public schools by less than 3 per cent between 2009 and 2017, compared to 56 per cent for the most advantaged private schools.
*And yet that extra money has not produced higher-achieving students, according to Chris Bonnor, a fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.
“The results [from highly-funded private schools] are no better than those coming out of government schools where there are similar students. So a lot of money is going in for a very, very poor return to government,” he said.
*“And we wonder why Australia is slipping behind… That money would be far better spent at the struggling end of the [socio-economic] scale because that’s where we will lift results.”
‘Astounding’ lack of transparency
*Adrian Piccoli, director of UNSW’s Gonski Institute for Education and NSW education minister from 2011 until 2017, said the way government funding was distributed to private schools meant “there is the ability to shift money from recurrent to capital”.
*“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that happens… It’s very hard — and I say this as a former minister — to see what non-government schools spend their money on,” he said.
*“I was always astounded that we [the NSW government] gave the Catholic system $800 million a year and, basically, they filled out a one-page form to verify that they’d spent the money appropriately.”
With recurrent funding, the authorities (known as Block Grant Authorities) that administer public funding on behalf of Catholic and independent schools can choose to redistribute these funds to individual schools according to their own needs-based formulas.
*“The public do have a right to know where public money is going and why” but in the Catholic system, for example, there’s very little transparency about how the funds are split between dioceses and schools, and then how individual schools are spending their share, Professor Piccoli said.
“And until we know that in any kind of detail, you can’t be confident they’re not using it for capital.”
Four separate reports in the past four years — the Victorian auditor-general in 2016, the National Audit Office in 2017, the NSW auditor-general in 2018, and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit in 2019— have each raised concerns about this lack of transparency.
However, both the National Catholic Education Commission and Independent Schools Council of Australia said there were tight accountability requirements in place to ensure non-government schools complied with the directive that recurrent funding must be spent on the day-to-day costs of education.
“The Minister approves and is well aware of exactly which schools are receiving capital funding,” an NCEC spokesperson said.
“Each school that receives capital funding must spend it on the project as defined in their applications… BGAs are subject to strong internal governance and are highly accountable as governments must ratify every project.”
The spokesperson said each BGA is permitted by capital funding guidelines to deduct three per cent of grants for administration costs.
An Independent Schools Council of Australia spokesman said BGAs ensure applications meet the criteria for Commonwealth capital grants and each year approved projects are published on the Department of Education website.
“The program is, in fact, quite transparent,” he said. “It is not clear how this process could lead to schools having the ability to shift money from recurrent to capital funding.”
Winners and losers in an ‘infrastructure arms race’
The chart below shows the distribution of schools on the expenditure ladder, from largest spend (at the top) to smallest spend. It reveals dramatic differences between the sectors at all levels of spending.
One in three public schools spent less than $250,000, compared with one in eight private schools.
At the opposite end of the scale, 11 per cent of independent schools (or one in 10) spent more than $20 million over the five-year period, compared with just over half a per cent of public schools and less than 3 per cent of Catholic schools.
Both the Catholic and independent school authorities emphasised that the vast majority of capital spending in non-government schools — 92 per cent in independent schools and 85 per cent in Catholic schools — is funded privately, mostly by fees and school loans.
This figure is higher for the richest schools. Among the four highest-income schools, for example (Melbourne’s Wesley College, Haileybury College, Caulfield Grammar and Knox Grammar) “more than 99 per cent of capital expenditure was raised privately, and a significant portion of that is from loans,” a spokesman for the Independent Schools Council said.
“Government capital funding is almost non-existent.”
I’m not sure people out there understand how little money schools get and how clever and creative people in schools have to be to make their funds… It is almost impossible to get capital grants money.Principal, public schoolSouth west Melbourne1 / 19NEXT QUOTE
However, education researchers point out that, overall, public funds still make up a significant portion of capital funding to private schools — on average, 15 per cent for Catholic schools and 8 per cent for independent schools.
And more importantly, the proportion is small because the total capital outlay is enormous.
At Melbourne’s Caulfield Grammar, for example — the nation’s second-biggest spender — capital expenditure topped $101 million between 2013 and 2017. The government contributed $577,709 or just over 0.5 per cent.
*“If that came to us, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves,” Sheidow Park Primary’s Ms Gorman says.
“We could have everything spick and span and shiny in one hit, rather than having to do it bit by bit. We could replace the carpets in the office as well as the classrooms … We’d be able to get all our painting done, the playground, the carpets.
“It would be amazing.”
Grattan’s Peter Goss said competition for enrolments meant many elite private schools were locked in an “infrastructure arms race”.
“Parents spend a lot of money to send their kids to elite non-government schools. They want to choose the best one but it’s very hard to judge which school will deliver the best educational outcomes,” he said.
“Shiny buildings and great facilities — and the extra-curricular opportunities that those facilities can bring — probably then become a proxy for a quality education.
“It’s a game government schools can’t play in the same way. But we shouldn’t want them to because, in purely educational terms, it’s not an effective way to spend taxpayers’ money.”
**In 2017, only 38 per cent of total spending on school infrastructure was in public schools — far below the sector’s 66 per cent share of enrolments.
*Measuring expenditure another way — by capital spend per student — shows independent schools spent four times as much on capital works as public schools and nearly twice as much as Catholic schools in 2017.
“It’s easy to focus on the fancy theatres, the Olympic-sized swimming pools or richly-carpeted libraries in certain high-fee, non-government schools,” Goss said.
*“What’s far more important in the grand scheme of things is that some schools in Australia don’t have all the basic facilities they need, especially in areas where population is booming.
“And the vast majority of those are government schools.”
How does your school compare?
Enter your school to see its income and expenditure.
Use the slider below to see the change over time. (Tip: It’s changed a lot since 2011)Enter your schoolCapital expenditureIncome per studentTotalGovt.
- Total income includes federal and state/territory recurrent funding, fees, charges and parent contributions, and income from private sources
- Government funding includes only federal and state/territory recurrent funding
- Total capital expenditure includes federal and state/territory capital expenditure, new school loans, income allocated to current capital projects and “other” capital expenditure (primarily income retained from previous years)
- Government capital expenditure only includes capital expenditure funded by federal and state/territory governments
‘Trying to buy the bare essentials’
*An online ABC News survey about capital funding needs in Australian schools received dozens of responses from government schools needing new buildings or major upgrades, or facing urgent maintenance issues.
The survey was open to all members of the public between November 2018 and May 2019.
*The most commonly-needed buildings were general classrooms. Toilets were the most urgent maintenance problem, followed by plumbing, painting and roofs.
*Technology and computer equipment was the most commonly-needed urgent upgrade, followed by heating or air conditioning and sporting facilities.
The survey also revealed dozens of schools fundraising for basic educational needs such as program resources or classroom equipment.
*Simon Bailey, chair of the Lauderdale Primary School Association, said fundraising at the school — one of Tasmania’s “priority one” schools for capital works — was only “scratching the surface” of what the school needed.
*“We’re just trying to buy the bare essentials. We’re putting money into buying smartboards, we’ve put money into play equipment … We lost half the library last year because it was turned into a classroom,” he told the ABC.
*“We have put in submissions for capital infrastructure grants three years in a row and received nothing — only minor upgrades.”
*Sheidow Park Primary and Lauderdale Primary — where enrolments have grown more than 20 per cent since 2013 — are among thousands of schools feeling the pressure of booming enrolments.
This is critical context when it comes to capital spending, Goss said.
“Schools with growing enrolments need to invest in infrastructure. That’s fine and appropriate. For example, if a school is spending money on opening new campuses, that’s arguably necessary capital investment rather than ‘gold-plating’,” he said.
*However, the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the biggest enrolment burden has fallen to public schools, which shouldered 76 per cent of Australia’s enrolment growth in the five years to 2018.
In an effort to tackle the dual challenges of old and outdated infrastructure, and overcrowding, the Queensland, NSW and Victorian state governments have all announced “record” investment in school infrastructure in their 2019-20 state budgets.
**But the problem for public schools, according to UNSW’s Professor Piccoli, is that governments must prioritise building new schools and classrooms “ahead of fixing roofs or replacing demountables”.
**“They’ve just got to have seats for kids… They’re trying to do both at the same time but that’s huge amounts of money, hundreds of millions, being spent on new schools that otherwise would have been available to spend on maintenance,” he said.
*Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the federal government was providing “record recurrent funding of $310.3 billion [over 10 years] to all schools”.
“Each state and territory government is the operator of its state school education system and as its majority funders they are responsible for capital spending on their schools,” he said.
“State and territory governments have discretion to use Australian Government funding provided under the [Australian Education] Act for capital purposes.”
The Independent Schools Council spokesman said non-government schools receive recurrent funding “due to the shared view of successive Australian Governments that each child is entitled to a government contribution to the cost of their education”.
He said the base funding entitlement was moderated by the use of socio-economic status scores, which meant that students in high SES schools received the minimum entitlement while those in low SES schools received a higher entitlement.
*Emma Rowe, a senior lecturer in education at Deakin University, described the spending gap between schools as “quite disturbing”.
*“We’re really going back to the industrial era in terms of how much what your parents earn will determine your life pathway,” she said.
*“And I think parents must know this, which is why they’re willing to put so much money towards certain schools.”
- School finance data was compiled from the My School website by ABC News. It was not supplied by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
- The analysis excludes schools in very remote locations, special schools and schools with no “advantage” score, since these schools tend to teach students with the highest learning needs and have different capital requirements. (A school’s “advantage” is measured by its score on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, which allows comparison of the level of educational advantage or disadvantage students bring to their academic studies. It doesn’t consider income or wealth.)
- A school’s capital expenditure can vary dramatically year to year, since schools may save for a number of years before a major building project. The Building the Education Revolution program, which was funded from 2008-09 until 2011-12, also distorted spending patterns, making it difficult to analyse capital expenditure. For these reasons, this analysis examines total capital expenditure from 2013 to 2017, the latest available data.
- This analysis focuses on capital expenditure for individual schools and sectors, which aligns with ACARA’s reports and the My School website. It means larger schools are more likely to appear at the top of the ladder for both income and spending. The Independent Schools Council of Australia prefers to compare sectors on the basis of enrolments. As demonstrated in the story, the overall trends remain the same whether comparing by school or per student.
- The My School finance data provides comparable income and expenditure data across individual schools. Detailed information about the methodology and limitations can be found on the My School website, under “Technical and statistical information”.
ABC Photo: $52M ‘Shore’ physical education centre