Australia set to be an education "basket case"

ONE of the key architects of the Gonski school reforms has said inaction on changing funding formulas would relegate Australia to remain an "international basket case" on education, during a Senate hearing on Friday.

The former head of the New South Wales Education Department, Dr Ken Boston, hit out at both the current and former federal governments over the all-but-abandoned reforms in Canberra.

Dr Boston said he was frustrated at the "20 lost months" that the previous government failed to implement the model, between the Gonski expert panel handing in its report and the September election last year.

"The basic reason we don't have Gonski today is not because we elected the Abbott government, but because the previous government failed to deliver," he said.

"I'd really like to see the current government really understanding that there is a problem and there's a solution to the problem.

"Educational achievement should depend on your capacity, your ability, and your hard work - to lead to a meritocracy, rather than be determined by your socio-economic background."

But he was similarly frustrated, he told the inquiry, that the current government appeared not to have the "political will" to enact the key recommendations.

"Too much is being spent on schools that do not need it, and not enough is being spent where it is needed," he said of the current sector-based funding model.

Dr Boston said the current model, where money is given by sector, rather than by students' specific needs, would ensure "Australian education will remain an international basket case" and the nation would "continue to fail to realise the full potential of our human capital".

"Australia can turn around its performance, if there is the political will, we can," he said.

"But unless there is the will to do that, this (latest) budget unfortunately is only going to exacerbate that decline."

The Abbott government has allocated funds to a number of its election promises, including disability loading, for the 2014-15 budget, but the budget papers show those specific loading measures are not guaranteed past July 2015.

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the budget still put forward $4.8 billion for students with a disability over the next four years, but could not clarify what would happen to the Gonski loading measures promised before the election, after 2015.

"Claims that there is no disability loading are completely false," he said.

"Education authorities knew the support was time limited and were encouraged to think about how activities could be sustained in the longer term."Disability education loading, 2014:

Set at 186% per student, or $17,244 for primary students and $22,679 for secondary students

Set at 223% for students at special schools, or $20,674 for primary students and $27,190 for secondary students

No specific loading has been set yet for 2015 onwards for students with a disability.



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