Action gave way to action

Action gave way to action

The findings of the Vinson Inquiry handed down in 2002 had far-reaching effects for NSW teachers. It was the last time a comprehensive independent inquiry into the value of teachers’ work was conducted and informed Federation’s case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission in 2003. The Commission’s final judgment acknowledged “revolutionary” changes to teachers’ work and delivered salary increases of between 12 and 20 per cent over two years, depending on a teacher’s classification.

Vinson exposes government neglect

By Angelo Gavrielatos

Having exposed what can only be described as neglect and negligence on the part of successive Federal and State governments, the Vinson Report sets out a path for an optimistic future for public education. The Vinson Inquiry, funded by the NSW Teachers Federation and the Federation of Parents and Citizens Association of NSW, is unprecedented. Informed by thorough research and analysis and hundreds of submissions and public hearings, it is the most thorough report ever written on the state of education in NSW. The report does not only describe the serious issues confronting us, it sets out a series of recommendations which are costed.

The final chapter provides the answers to where the money can be found.

Negligence on the part of successive federal and state governments to properly fund public education and the growing outrage expressed by parents and teachers across the state is best described in the words of the Inquiry:

“Over and again parents and teachers have reminded the Inquiry that government and non-government schools do not compete on a level playing field. At every stage of the present Inquiry there have been reminders of the degree of imbalance in the resources currently available in private and public schools, which makes comparisons of their respective outcomes fraught.”

The Inquiry reveals that when compared to other OECD countries, Australia is ranked 22nd out of 29 countries when it comes to public expenditure on education as percentage of GDP. What makes this ranking even more appalling is that this includes expenditure on public and private education.

The Inquiry exposes yet again the deliberate policies of successive federal governments that deliver additional funds to private education, at the expense of public education.

The Inquiry reveals “that in 1995/1996 direct Commonwealth expenditure on schools as a proportion of GDP was 0.65 per cent, public schools receiving 0.27 per cent and private schools 0.38 per cent. By 2000/2001, the total outlay had reached 0.75 per cent of GDP, with public school expenditure declining to 0.26 per cent and private school expenditure rising to 0.48 per cent.”

“Over the period 1995/1996 and 2005/2006 … [there will be] an increase in funding for non-government schools by the Commonwealth of 128 per cent in real terms compared to an increase in Commonwealth funding to [government] schools of 50 per cent,” the report also states.

In terms of total Commonwealth and State government funding: “The percentage increase in per capita funding for students in non-government schools from 1996/1997 up to 2000/2001 has been 45.1 per cent, whereas the equivalent increase for students in government schools is 27.4 per cent.”

The Inquiry exposes that the NSW Government funds students at a rate far below the national average. If NSW primary aged students were funded at the national average it would require the immediate investment of an additional $2l8 million. If secondary students were funded at the national average it would require an injection of an additional $100 million.

It should also be noted that staff/student ratios in the primary sector in NSW are worse than in other states. Further, the staff/student ratios in other states are set to improve with the reduction of class sizes in the early years of schooling, which has commenced in all other states except NSW.

The Inquiry also shows that “expenditure on the education policy area as a percentage of all NSW Government expenditure declined from 28.4 per cent in 1989/1990 to 22.0 per cent in 2001/2002”.

Over a period of 12 years, education went from receiving almost one third of NSW government expenditure down to receiving approximately only one fifth.

The Inquiry has drawn to the attention of the Government where additional funding could be found. This could be achieved by re-directing $116 million of current expenditure with a view to prioritising and allocating the money to address pressing educational demands.

This article appeared in the September 2002 edition of Education