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The Importance of Individualised Student Needs Based Funding

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Imagine a funding model that does not discriminate. A funding model that recognises diversity of context. A funding model that is based on student and school need. Imagine also a distribution mechanism that recognises the importance of student equity. In the NSW Public System this funding model exists, it’s simple, it’s fair, it’s transparent and it’s evolving to ensure that it gets individual student need right.

There is much debate surrounding this topic, unfortunately whilst the debate continues in political circles the students are the ones who may miss out if the current method of allocating resources to students based on student need is not funded accordingly. Any plan to have this funding model dismantled or at the very least watered down has the potential to compromise the quality of education provided to our most valuable assets. Given that the NSW Public system services the neediest students in the state the consequences of any reduction in funding will see an impact across the full diversity of our communities. Whilst funding does not make an education system it is certainly the vehicle that can enable a significant contextual impact to be made. It is funding of this kind that enables a school to  employ expert additional staff such a speech pathologist, an instructional leader to upskill staff and build capacity or a community liaison officer to broaden the impact on students a school may serve and develop valuable links with the community.

All key stakeholders in NSW Public Education have worked tirelessly developing a funding model that focuses on fairness and transparency in funding and getting individual student need right. We are very fortunate to have a State Education Minister who recognises the importance of an injection of Gonski funds. He understands the importance of individualised needs based funding. For the first time, certainly in my career all key stakeholders are heading in the right direction. What we all agree on, is the absolute moral imperative that the current method of individualised student needs based funding must continue and it must be supported by all levels of government.

The current method of Individual student needs based funding provides funding certainty for schools. Previous funding methods have not had the capacity to recognise the full breadth of diversity across our system and were tied to limited timeframes that did not provide school communities with the ability to meet student needs as communities changed. Former program funds provided funding to a limited pool of schools and came with significant administrative procedures that at times had schools questioning their value. The current model of individual needs based funding in NSW Government schools provides schools with the knowledge that the funding will adapt to meet each schools individual circumstances. It enables schools to develop both long term and short term professional learning goals for staff which translates into schools being able to firmly embed a sustainable culture of high quality teacher practice that meets the needs of their students.

In the NSW Public Education system we now have the ability to individually fund all 780 000 students. For the first time we are funding 398 000 students from low socio economic backgrounds, 52 00 Aboriginal students and 145 000 students with English language proficiency needs. Whilst some schools may argue that there are complexities that may not have been taken into consideration we all agree that this method of funding is a much fairer and transparent way of distribution.

The current method of funding has enabled my school to employ additional staff to run high quality specialised early intervention programs. It has provided opportunities for staff to receive additional professional learning in the use of effective evidence based teaching strategies. It has enabled additional time for data talks that have facilitated staff in identifying and preparing individual instructional pathways for students. We have been able to employ specialist staff to provide students access to speech pathology and occupational therapy. These highly skilled therapists are team teaching with staff to increase capacity and lay foundations for the longevity of a sustainable program. Students now have access to highly skilled professionals with skills in creative and performing arts, that enhance an already vibrant school culture. It has enabled us to provide students with access to a range of technology and embed this as part of their everyday learning. We now have the capacity to develop, participate and offer a wide range of professional learning opportunities for our staff and have the flexibility to offer these opportunities to other schools helping to build a strong state wide system. Indeed it has been some of these opportunities that have provided the rich collegial dialogue that has fostered the strengthening of networks that will make a significant impact for students across a very large geographical area. All of this has been made possible by the current needs based funding model.

In NSW Public Education we strongly believe that student success at school should not be determined by background or geographical location. Our system is based on providing world class education for all. The current method of funding must continue there can be no question. Reducing recurrent funding for education, regardless of your political persuasion in just unspeakable. The government system is undeniably the universal provider of high-quality education. Any move to jeopardise this and place our students at risk shows a lack of judgement, insight and little understanding of how vitally important the Public Education system is to Australian society.


2 Comments

  1. Killa says:

    Hi Scotty,
    I complete agree that the current funding model for most schools is far more equitable than any other previous models.
    However, as a parent of a special needs child in a public SSP, I have deep concerns from a parents perspective not a teaching perspective.
    When we are still having to attend Bunnings BBQ’s to raise money to replace a window on a bus or sell chocolates to raise money for a bus that needs wheelchair access, I feel a massive flaw in the system becomes evident.
    Our SSP’s should automatically be given a speech path, OT and bus on top of any other funding. Provision of these vital resources should not need to be funded by weekend fundraisers. The RAM money allocated to my son’s school is absolutely shocking and far from equitable.
    Equity is about accessing resources that students NEED……not accessing the same resources for all. Students with disabilities need and deserve resources significantly different to most mainstream students. The funding simply does not allow some of these schools to provide what the students need without sacrificing other programs and initiatives. The student numbers in my son’s school are approx 60….yet the resources they NEED are very expensive and intensive and require long term intervention.
    I don’t know the answer to it…but when a public primary school no more than 10 kilomtres away, with an enrollment of 500 students recieves $800 000 more PER YEAR, than my son’s school…you have to wonder.

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    • I agree Karen. SSPs, Hospital Schools and Environmental Education Centres don’t receive the benefits of the new method of funding. There is still much work to be done in this space. Equity does not mean everyone has the same. I hope that our system will ensure that every student has access to the resources they need.

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