Schools and youth

Budget Review 2021–22 Index

Dr Shannon Clark

Funding for school education

Australian Government funding for schooling will continue to increase over the forward estimates. In 2021–22, the Australian Government will provide $24.4 billion in Quality Schools funding (see Federal Financial Relations: Budget Paper No. 3: 2021–22, p. 38). This includes $14.7 billion for non-government schools and $9.7 billion for government schools, reflecting the Australian Government’s role as the majority public funder of non-government schools and the minority funder of government schools. State and territory governments are the majority public funders of government schools and the minority funders of non-government schools.

Under the Quality Schools package, the Australian Government provides ‘recurrent funding, capital funding, funding for non-government school reform support, Choice and Affordability Fund funding and other prescribed purpose funding’ (Budget Paper No. 3, p. 38). According to Budget Strategy and Outlook: Budget Paper No. 1: 2021–22, the Australian Government has committed $289 billion in total recurrent funding over the next ten years (p. 24).

Figure 1 shows Australian Government funding for government and non-government schools since 2014–15 in real dollars. The additional expenditure on non-government schools in 2019–20 and the dip in the following year is due to a COVID-19 response measure which brought forward $1.0 billion of non-government schools’ payments from July 2020 to May or June 2020 to encourage non-government schools to return students to classroom-based learning (see 2020–21 Budget Review article).

Figure 1: Australian Government funding for schools, 2014–15 to 2024–25 (real, 2021–22 dollars)

(e) figures are budget estimates.

Note: real funding has been calculated by the Parliamentary Library by deflating the nominal expenditure figure by the June quarter CPI and CPI forecasts from the 2021–22 Budget; this methodology may differ to that presented in the Budget papers.

Sources: Australian Government, Final budget outcome, multiple years; Australian Government, Federal Financial Relations: Budget Paper No. 3: 2021–22, p. 38.

Budget Paper No. 1 states: ‘Aggregate schools funding expenses are expected to increase by 8.7 per cent in real terms between 2020–21 and 2021–22, and increase by 7.6 per cent in real terms from 2021–22 to 2024–25’ (p. 170). From 2021–22 to 2024–25, funding is expected to increase in real terms by 9.7% for government schools and increase by 6.1% for non-government schools (p. 170).

National partnerships—education

In addition to Quality Schools funding, the Australian Government will provide $409.1 million in 2021–22 to the states and territories to support education services through the following National Partnership payments (Budget Paper No. 3, p. 37):

Apart from the National School Chaplaincy Program, funding for the above agreements does not extend beyond 2021–22. The National School Chaplaincy Program agreement states that it ‘will expire on 30 June 2023, or on completion of the project’, and that it ‘may be terminated earlier or extended as agreed in writing by the Parties’ (p. 2). Budget Paper No. 3 allocates $61.4 million per year over the forward estimates to the program, including the years after the current agreement expires (p. 39).

Details about the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education are discussed in the Universal Access to Preschool Budget Review article. The Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment—Children and Schooling funding agreement is briefly discussed in the Indigenous Affairs article.

Schools and Youth package

The 2021–22 Budget also includes a cross-portfolio package, ‘Schools and Youth—supporting students, teachers and young Australians’ (Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2021–22, pp. 78–80). This budget measure builds on the 2020–21 measure, Students Support Package, discussed in the 2020–21 Budget Review, and, like that package, includes a diverse range of initiatives.

Under the Schools and Youth measure, the Government will provide $77.5 million over four years from 2021–22, and $5.5 million per year ongoing. Budget Paper No. 2 states that the cost of the measure will be partially met from within existing resources of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE)(p. 80).

Initiatives discussed below include funding to: improve data collection; expand the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE); support organisations to develop educational programs to improve intercultural understanding; support and recognise young people’s community and civic engagement; and, provide scholarships for young people to undertake vocational education and training (VET) qualifications. Also included in the package are:

  • $11.9 million over four years, and $3.0 million per year ongoing, for the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and
  • $16.6 million in 2021–22 to assist boarding providers with a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to remain financially sustainable during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improving data collection

Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on school students with disability

Under the Schools and Youth package, $20.0 million is allocated over four years from 2021–22 to continue and improve the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) on school students with disability. This initiative aims to ensure the quality and integrity of data underpinning continuing funding for students with disability.

The NCCD has been used to calculate schools’ Australian Government funding allocation since 2018. In 2019, the National School Resourcing Board published the Review of the Loading for Students with Disability: Final Report, which made eight recommendations, including recommendations relating to the NCCD. In its response to the review, the Government agreed with, or agreed with in principle, all of the recommendations and said:

Responses to all recommendations will be funded through the Government’s allocation of $20 million from 2017–2021 under the NCCD Continuous Improvement measure for national projects to address the learning needs of students with disability, build school capacity and inform continuous improvement and assurance initiatives (p. 4).

The National School Resourcing Board is also currently undertaking a review into the regional schooling resource standards loading, and will provide its final report to the Minister for Education by 28 May 2021.

Australian Teacher Workforce Data

The budget measure also allocates $5.8 million over four years from 2021–­22 (and $1.5 million per year ongoing) for continued investment in the Australian Teacher Workforce Data (ATWD) collection. This initiative aims to help improve teacher workforce planning and outcomes.

The ATWD is a joint initiative between the Australian and state and territory governments and is being implemented by the Australian Institute on Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). It draws together data from state and territory regulatory authorities, initial teacher education (ITE) data from DESE, and the ATWD teacher survey. The National Initial Teacher Education Pipeline: Australian Teacher Workforce Data Report 1, published in November 2020, was the first of several ATWD reports to be published annually.

Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education

The Schools and Youth package also includes $4.0 million over four years from 2021–22 (and $1.0 million per year ongoing) to continue and expand LANTITE ‘to assist aspiring students to make informed decisions about their suitability to become teachers’ (p. 79).

LANTITE is an online assessment for ITE students to assess their personal literacy and numeracy skills. ITE students are required to demonstrate personal literacy and numeracy skills in the top 30% of the adult population. LANTITE aims to ensure teachers are well-equipped for the classroom and to increase public confidence in the skills of graduating teachers. The test was introduced as a condition of ITE course accreditation in September 2015 (Education Council, Communique, 18 September 2015, p. 2). In 2019, 91.7% of candidates met the standard for the literacy component and 90.7% of candidates met the standard for the numeracy component.

One of the criticisms of LANTITE has been the timing of the test in the course of students’ ITE degrees. Most states and territories require ITE students to meet the test standard by graduation. However, this can mean that students who fail the test can be left unable to graduate, despite having passed all other requirements of their teaching degree. Some students have complained that this has left them with ‘tens of thousands of dollars in HECS debt, but no degree’.

The Education Council considered the LANTITE Scoping Study (not published) at its meeting in December 2020 and education ministers agreed to provide further flexibility to ITE students:

From 2023, people who are planning to enrol in an initial teacher education course will have the opportunity to sit the LANTITE test before they commence their studies.

In a media release at the time, then Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, said that giving students the option to sit the test before starting their degrees would save time and money and that:

We don’t want to see students getting to the end of their degree and not being able to graduate or work as a teacher because they haven’t passed the LANTITE test.

Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge launched a review of initial teacher education in April 2021, to be completed in six months. A discussion paper is to be released by June 2021, followed by public consultation.

Scholarships for young people

Under the Schools and Youth package (p. 79), $2.9 million is allocated in 2021–22 for the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians to support up to 240 scholarships for young people (aged 15 to 24 years) not in full-time work or school. Funding is to be redirected from unused places in the Commonwealth Scholarship Programs for South Australia.

The Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians provides scholarships for young people to undertake an eligible VET qualification in ten nominated regions. The regions are:

  • New South Wales—Grafton (including Coffs Harbour) and Gosford
  • Northern Territory—Alice Springs
  • Queensland—Maryborough and Townsville
  • South Australia—Port Pirie
  • Tasmania—Burnie
  • Victoria—Shepparton
  • Western Australia—Wanneroo and Armadale.

The Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians was an initiative under the Government’s response to the Joyce review of VET, included in the 2019–20 Budget (see also the 2019–20 Budget Review). Further information is provided in the Skills Training Budget Review article.

Supporting intercultural understanding

The Schools and Youth package includes funding for organisations to deliver programs to increase cultural understanding and foster social cohesion (p. 79). These are:

  • $8.1 million over four years from 2021–22 for Together for Humanity, an inclusive educational organisation, to deliver a program to students, teachers and parents, and
  • $3.0 million over two years from 2021–22 for High Resolves to deliver a learning experience to young Australians.

Community and civic engagement

The package also includes initiatives to support and recognise young people’s community and civic engagement (pp. 79–80):

Stakeholder responses

Stakeholder responses to the Budget have predominantly focussed on changes to early childhood education. In relation to schools, the Australian Education Union (AEU) criticised the Budget for failing public school students. The AEU called for government schools to be funded to a minimum of 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard and for a capital fund for government schools to be established to help meet rising enrolment growth and infrastructure need.

Independent Schools Australia (ISA) welcomed the additional funding under the Schools and Youth package. Margery Evans, CEO of ISA, highlighted funding for initiatives such as Together for Humanity, and funding for boarding school providers:

A number of boarding schools across Australia were significantly impacted by COVID. The additional funding under the Schools and Youth program will also assist boarding school providers enrolling Indigenous students to remain financially sustainable during the COVID-19 recovery period.

Youth portfolio

It is likely that there will be more initiatives to come in the cross-portfolio youth space. In July 2019, the Australian Government established the Youth Taskforce, which was given the role of developing a National Youth Policy Framework. The National Youth Policy Framework would aim to outline how policies and programs help to improve the lives of young people, and to give young people a voice in policies affecting them.

The framework was due to be completed by December 2020; however, it has not yet been released. As outlined in response to a question on notice from Senate Additional Estimates in March 2021, responsibility for the Youth Portfolio transferred from the Department of Health to DESE on 18 March 2021 and DESE is working to finalise the framework.