School education

Budget Review 2011-12 Index

Budget 2011–12: School education

Marilyn Harrington

The 2011–12 budget measures for school education have received a mixed response. The portfolio area is not immune from the Budget’s fiscal constraints and ‘redirection’ of funding to new areas of priority, which will significantly affect two of the Labor Government’s most prominent school education programs.

The provision of new funding for students with disabilities (SWD), after a lengthy campaign for additional support from both the government and non-government school sectors, has been widely welcomed. Indeed, this budget measure could be considered the missing budget measure of recent budgets. Of the $200 million over three years to 2013, it is estimated that $153.3 million (76.7 per cent) will be provided to government schools and $42.4 million (21.2 per cent) to non-government schools.[1] This apportionment is to be expected with government schools educating the majority of SWD—79.1 per cent of the 169 517 SWD in 2009.[2] The remaining $4.3 million is likely for departmental expenses. One issue in relation to this measure is the need to secure national agreement on definitions of disability. This has been an ongoing issue, particularly in relation to students with learning and behavioural difficulties. Presumably, national standards will be addressed through the proposed National Partnership with the states and territories and through funding agreements with non-government authorities, which will be the means by which the funding for this budget measure is delivered.

The other two major initiatives—National Rewards for Great Teachers ($425.0 million over four years) and Teach Next ($18.1 million over four years)—have had a mixed response.[3] Through the Council of Australian Governments’ National Partnership Agreement on Improving Teacher Quality, there is national agreement for rewarding teachers’ performance but, as critics have continued to note, the results of research into the effectiveness of performance rewards is ambivalent.[4] The Teach Next initiative, similar to the Teach for Australia program which recruits high-achieving graduates into teaching, has raised concerns about the fast-tracking of teacher qualifications.[5]

The extension of funding for the School Chaplaincy Program ($222.0 million over three years), has also been criticised. The Program is currently the subject of a High Court challenge and there is a view that the money would be better spent on the provision of counselling services provided by professionally qualified staff.[6] However, the measure, with its focus on schools in remote, regional and disadvantaged areas, has been welcomed by the Australian Primary Principals Association.[7]

Two prominent Labor Government programs have been affected by the reprioritisation and redirection of funding—the Digital Education Revolution (DER) and the Trade Training Centres (TTC) program. Significant DER funds ($132.5 million over four years) are being ‘redirected’ and the TTC program is being put on hold (amounting to $102.8 million over four years). Given the Budget’s emphasis on vocational education and training, it is unclear why the Government has chosen to defer funding of further TTC projects until 2015–16.[8]

The Schools Support Program is also having its funding reduced ($10 million over four years). Funding is being taken from two elements of this program—the Drugs component of the Values Education and Civics and Citizenship program, and the School Drug Education Strategy—to support the continuation of the Active After Hours Program.[9]

In the case of one minor school education program, the Framework for Open Learning Program, the funds are being ‘redirected’ towards the listing of the organisation, ‘One Laptop per Child’, as an income tax deductible gift recipient.

Whether funding for two science education programs—the Primary Connections and the Science by Doing programs—would be extended was the subject of pre-Budget speculation.[10] These programs have been funded under the Boosting Innovation, Science, Technology and Mathematics Teaching program, the funding for which will finish at the end of the current financial year.[11]

With the finalisation of the Building the Education Revolution programs and the phasing out of some of the National Partnerships for schools that temporarily changed the traditional ratio of Commonwealth funding between the government and non-government school sectors, the 2011–12 Budget marks the return of the usual pattern of Australian Government expenditure. Ongoing funding for government and non-government schools, as provided through the National Schools Specific Purpose Payment will amount to an estimated $11.4 billion in 2011–12, of which two-thirds will be provided to non-government schools. While overall funding for school education is not a particular focus of the 2011–12 Budget, there is definitely a sense of anticipation with the Government’s school funding review due to report later this year.

[1].          The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Australia’s federal relations: budget paper no. 3: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 48, viewed 17 May 2011, Calculations of funding for students with disabilities are based on data in Table 2.4, p. 48.

[2].          Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, Report on government services 2011, Table 4A.26, Productivity Commission, Canberra, 2011, viewed 12 May 2011,

[3].          For example, Australian Education Union, Bonus scheme no solution, media release, 2 May 2011, viewed 13 May, 2011,; and Business Council of Australia, Teacher rewards support better education outcomes, media release, 2 May 2011, viewed 13 May 2011,

[4].          This was also the conclusion of an evaluation by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). See L Ingvarson, E Kleinhenz and J Wilkinson, Research on Performance Pay for Teachers, ACER, 2007, p. 17, viewed 13 May 2011,

[5].          T Chilcott, ‘Fast-track teachers soon to be in classes’, Courier Mail, 12 May 2011, p. 7, viewed 13 May 2011,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2F758681%22

[6].          For example, M Parker, ‘Chaplains over computers an insult of biblical proportions’, Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2011, p. 26, viewed 13 May 2011,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2F758910%22 See also Williams v. Commonwealth of Australia and Ors (High Court Case S307/2010), viewed 18 May 2011,

[7].          Australian Primary Principals Association, APPA welcomes boost to National Schools Chaplaincy Program, media release, 11 May 2011, viewed 13 May 2011,

[8].          Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 175, viewed 17 May 2011,

[9].          Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, email, 13 May 2011. There is a question, however, about why the Government has chosen only to continue funding for the Active After Schools program until December 2012. Active After Schools, first introduced in 2005 by the Howard Government, has been a successful program and assessed in 2009 with a 90 per cent satisfaction rate. See Australian Sport Commission (ASC), An interim report of the evaluation of the Australian Sports Commission’s Active After-school Communities Program: summary findings of the program monitoring research 2009, ASC, Canberra, 2011, viewed 13 May 2011,

[10].        See, for example, D O’Keeffe, ‘Anger over axing of science program’, Campus Review, vol. 21, no. 6, 5 April 2011, p. 6, viewed 17 May 2011,;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fjrnart%2F690610%22

[11].        The Boosting Innovation, Science and Mathematics and Technology Teaching program was funded in the 2004–05 Budget ($38 million over seven years to 2010–11) as part of the Howard Government’s Backing Australia’s Ability initiative. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2004–05, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, p. 137, viewed 17 May 2011,