Budget Review 2020–21 Index
Dr Shannon Clark
In the 2020–21 Budget, funding for school education
continues to be a major area of Australian Government expenditure, with
national support for non-government schools and government schools both
included in the Government’s top
20 programs by expenses in 2020–21 (12th and 15th respectively, p. 6-10).
The Budget includes some support for students in relation to
the impact of COVID-19. However, despite concerns about the effect of the
pandemic on school education and student wellbeing, the Budget contains
relatively few new measures in these areas.
State and territory governments have primary responsibility
for school education in their jurisdictions and are the majority funders of
government schools. The Australian Government is the majority funder of
non-government schools. Australian Government school education funding is
provided to states and territories to support education services. As set out in
Financial Relations: Budget Paper No. 3: 2020–21 (p. 31), this
- $21.9 billion in 2020–21 for Quality Schools
- a number of National Partnership payments:
According to Budget
Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1: 2020–21, the Australian
Government’s recurrent annual funding for government and non-government schools
in 2020 is $21.8 billion, having grown by 58 per cent from $13.8
billion since 2014 (pp. 1-28). By 2030, it is projected to grow to $34 billion
Parliamentary Library analysis in Figure 1 shows Australian
Government expenditure on government and non-government schools is projected to
continue to grow in real terms over the forward estimates. Funding fluctuations
between 2019–20 and 2020–21 reflect the COVID-19 response measures announced in
and Fiscal Update July 2020, discussed below.
Funding growth is largely due to Quality Schools
funding arrangements and funding to support the implementation of changes to the
methodology for calculating parents’/carers’ capacity to contribute to the
cost of schooling in non-government schools in response to the Review of the Socio-Economic Status Score Methodology. Funding for the capacity to contribute changes comprises $3.2
billion over 11 years from 2019–20, announced in the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018–19 (p.
170), and $41.2 million over five years from 2019–20 for non-government
schools, announced in the Economic and
Fiscal Update July 2020 (p. 127).
Figure 1: Australian Government
expenditure on school education sub-function—government and non-government
schools (June 2020 dollars, $m)
Sources: Australian Government, Budget
strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2020-21, p. 6-50; Australian
Government, Final budget outcome, various years.
1. Real funding has been calculated by
the Parliamentary Library by deflating the nominal expenditure figure by the
June quarter CPI, this methodology may be different to that presented in the
Budget papers. Figures are in 2019–20 dollars, the last available year of
2. Real funding growth from 2019–20 onwards incorporates enrolment projection
as at 2020–21 Budget. If the enrolment projection changes, funding growth will
COVID-19 measures and Student Support Package
The new school education measures outlined in Budget
Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2020–21 (pp. 81–2) are primarily contained
in a Student Support Package, which provides $146.3 million over five years to
improve education outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged students and
students impacted by COVID-19, and to contribute to social cohesion.
Background—COVID-19 and school
The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread disruption to school
education in Australia and across the world. In March 2020, arrangements were
implemented across Australia to enable students to learn from home, despite the
Health Protection Principals Committee’s (AHPPC) advice that schools were a
relatively low risk environment for the transmission of coronavirus and should
Alongside the vastly different pandemic trajectories
experienced by states and territories, the length of time students spent
learning from home also varied widely. Students in Melbourne have experienced
the longest period of learning remotely.
School closures and remote learning differentially affected
students, with disadvantaged
students likely to experience greater learning losses. There are concerns
that these learning losses may have long-term impacts, with the
OECD stating that ‘students in grades 1–12 affected by the closures might
expect some 3 per cent lower income over their entire lifetimes’ and nations
could expect ‘an average of 1.5 per cent lower annual GDP for the remainder of
the century’ (p. 3). The OECD argued losses would be permanent unless schools
return to better performance levels than in 2019.
The Grattan Institute’s report, COVID
Catch up: Helping Disadvantaged Students Close the Equity Gap,
advocated for governments to invest $1.25 billion in small-group tutoring
over six months to help around one million disadvantaged students recover lost
learning. They argued the investment would outweigh the costs, stimulating the
economy in the short-term by hiring tutors, as well as producing longer-term
economic benefits from future income.
July Update and school education
measures in response to COVID-19
The July Update
included measures for non-government schools in relation to COVID-19 (p. 118).
The COVID-19 Response Package—support for non-government schools brought
forward $1.0 billion in non-government schools’ recurrent payments from July
2020 to May or June 2020. This change was to encourage non-government schools
to return to classroom-based learning and was subject to conditions: schools
needed to be open for on-campus learning for Term 2, with a plan to fully
re-open and have half of students attending face-to-face learning by
1 June 2020. Non-government schools that did not meet these conditions or
did not choose to bring forward their funding received their payment in July
2020 as scheduled.
The Government also provided $10.0 million for hygiene
measures for non-government schools, also on the condition that schools planned
to have half their students back in the classroom by 1 June (July Update, p.
118). Schools could use the additional funding to purchase soap, hand
sanitiser, or extra-cleaning, with the measure’s cost to be offset from
existing resources. In a media
release on 28 May 2020, Minister for Education Dan Tehan called the measure
a success, saying that 96 per cent of non-government schools had signed up and
2,738 schools would share in $9.3 million.
Non-government schools may have been eligible for other Australian
Government COVID-19 support measures—including cash flow assistance for
small and medium sized businesses and not-for-profit organisations and
In April 2020, the Australian
Government announced $50.0 million via NBN Co to assist low-income families
with school-aged children to access the internet for educational purposes.
School closures and school funding were contentious
in relations between state and territory governments and the Australian
Government. Peak bodies representing independent
schools and Catholic
schools welcomed the measures bringing forward recurrent funding and
hygiene measures announced in the July Update. However, the Australian Government’s
efforts to reopen schools were criticised by some. For example, an
article in The Age reported Victorian non-government school
principals’ frustration at differences between state and Australian Government
advice on ending remote learning, with one expressing that they were ‘being
pulled in both directions’ which was ‘absolutely not helpful’.
State and territory governments have also implemented relief
measures for government schools, including hygiene
and technology connectivity measures, and more recently, a
$250 million tutoring package in Victoria to support students in 2021
and a $3.6
million maths tutoring pilot program in South Australian government schools.
Student Support Package measures
The Student Support Package comprises a number of diverse
initiatives from 2020–21, including ‘$25.0 million over five years from
2020–21 to establish a fund to enable the Government to respond flexibly and
quickly to emerging priorities and educational challenges presented by
Paper No. 2, p. 82). In the context of the quantum of school funding, and
in comparison to the investment advocated by the Grattan Institute, this
measure will have limited scope.
The Student Support Package also includes:
- $39.8 million over four years for the Clontarf Foundation to
expand its existing program supporting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait
- $38.2 million over four years for The Smith Family to support
disadvantaged young people to complete Year 12 and continue onto work, training
or further study
- $5.8 million over four years for Good to Great Schools Australia
to expand their Direct Instruction program—Indigenous affairs measures are
discussed elsewhere in this Budget Review and
- $27.3 million over five years from 2020-21 to enhance science,
technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills of young people through a
range of initiatives—other STEM measures are discussed elsewhere in this Budget
Other school education measures
Other school-related measures included in the Budget are:
- $2.4 million over two years from 2020–21 for the continued
delivery of the School Pathways Program in South Australia and Western
Australia, with the cost to be met from the Department of Defence’s existing
Paper No. 2, p. 72). The program aims to help reduce skills shortages in
the defence industry and build STEM capabilities. This extension follows a
three year continuation announced
on 13 February 2018.
- $39.6 million over two years from 2020–21 for the Australian
Sports Commission to provide Building an Active Australia—implementing Sport
2030—continuing the Sporting Schools program (Budget
Paper No. 2, p. 92). This measure builds on Implementing Sport 2030 in
the 2019–20 Budget and provides an additional calendar year of funding for the Sporting
Schools program—other sport-related measures are discussed elsewhere in this Budget
The school education Budget announcements have not attracted
a great deal of response from stakeholders.
Education Union criticised the
Budget for ignoring government schools, stating that ‘[t]here should have
been an immediate injection of funding for extra support’ for students who had
fallen behind during remote learning: ‘Public schools would have been able to
employ more teachers for smaller class sizes and more one-on-one support for
Council of State School Organisations described the budget as ‘big spending
but little investment or vision for our future workforce’ and criticised the
continued expenditure on school chaplains, calling instead for greater access
to mental health professionals: ‘What is needed in every public school is
access to quality psychological support’.
Early Childhood Education
The Australian Government also provides funding to the
states and territories to increase participation in preschool (also known as
kindergarten) through the National
Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education (NP-UAECE).
2020 the Government announced an extension of funding for the NP-UAECE for
the 2021 calendar year. This measure was included in July Update. With the
extension, the Government provided $458.3 million over two years from 2020–21
to support 15 hours of preschool each week (600 hours per year) for children in
the year before school.
The extension continued the Government’s practice since 2015
of yearly extensions of the NP-UAECE. As has been noted in previous
Budget Reviews and by stakeholders, this creates considerable uncertainty
in the sector. Early
Childhood Australia noted its concern that the Budget failed to provide
funding certainty for the NP-UAECE beyond December 2021 and highlighted
findings of reviews calling for a secure, long-term funding commitment.
of the NP-UAECE (March 2020) by the Nous Group for the COAG Education
Council noted that ‘The uncertainty associated with short-term agreements and
performance-based payments has compromised the ability to plan and invest for
the long term’ (p. 1). The report recommended that governments enter into a new
five-year NP-UAECE from 2021 to 2025 and then transition to a National
Agreement from 2026.
Council will consider advice to assist with future planning for early
childhood education at its second meeting of 2021.
All online articles accessed October 2020
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