Prime Minister Morrison: the National School Resourcing Board must not fail the test

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26 August 2018

A lack of rigour and transparency in the very first report of the National School Resourcing Board, its review of school SES scoring methodology, shows the challenges Prime Minister Scott Morrison must overcome to find a fair and equitable solution on non-government school funding, Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV) Executive Director Stephen Elder has warned.

‘After the Gonski 2.0 debacle and Senator Birmingham’s refusal to hold adequate consultations with stakeholders, we need to be able to move forward with education policy,’ Mr Elder said.

‘We want to work with Mr Morrison and his education minister to replace school SES scores with a better and fairer measure of school needs – as recommended by the NSRB – as a matter of priority.

‘To do this, it will be absolutely critical that the NSRB is regarded by all stakeholders as independent of government.

‘It must produce work that is rigorous, consistent and transparent.

‘We have welcomed the findings of the NSRB’s first report and its confirmation of our work showing that school SES scores favour independent schools and disadvantage Catholic schools.

‘At the same time, however, no one should pretend that this report addresses all of our concerns about school funding.

‘Firstly, Gonski 2.0 overturned several decades of school funding policy by removing the ability of many families to choose a low-fee, faith-based education. The Chaney review did not consider this because the draft terms of reference were exactly the same as the final terms of reference as Senator Birmingham ignored stakeholder feedback.

‘Secondly, we also have some concerns about how the NSRB proposes to measure capacity to contribute, including the issue of household wealth.

‘The NSRB found that household wealth should form part of how capacity to contribute is measured, but determined that it was not possible to reliably measure it at this time.

‘While the NSRB accepted that the omission of household wealth would cause inaccuracy, it was not transparent about the consequences of this omission.’

Page 33 of its final report states:

Finding 9

Household wealth cannot currently be included in a measure of capacity to contribute, but could be considered for inclusion in future if suitable and reliable direct data become available.

The inability to assess household wealth does mean that a direct income-only measure of capacity to contribute for schools with students from wealthy families will potentially understate some school communities’ capacity to contribute. The size of this inaccuracy cannot be established reliably.

‘These comments are not consistent with research commissioned by the NSRB,’ Mr Elder said.

‘To inform its consideration of household wealth,’ Mr Elder continued, ‘the NSRB commissioned a research project from Andrew Wade, the Principal Research Fellow at Victoria University’s Centre for International Research on Education systems. This was recently made available on the NSRB website.’

Page ii of this report reads:

If reported wealth could be used to generate school CTC scores, the findings suggest Catholic school families would experience a very small reduction in their relative CTC position. Conversely, independent school families would experience a small increase.

Mr Elder said the discrepancy between the NSRB report and the research paper was of immediate cause for concern.

‘Given the charged political, policy and process environment surrounding this issue, it beggars belief that the NSRB did not mention its own research project in discussing the potential impact of omitting household wealth from its recommended approach.

‘Why did the NSRB not report that, based on its own research, the omission of household wealth from its recommended measure was likely to cause a bias against Catholic schools in favour of independent schools?

‘The NSRB also needs to tackle a key process issue. It failed did not provide a draft report of the SES review to stakeholders for review and feedback as part of the finalisation process.

‘This is a standard step in government reviews, and would have given the NSRB the opportunity to address some of the weaknesses identified by the CECV in the final report.

‘It should certainly form part of future NSRB reviews.

‘It is vital that stakeholders can feel confident in the work of the NSRB and whoever the Prime Minister choses to fill the crucial education portfolio. It is disappointing it stumbled at the start.

‘We hope Mr Morrison and a new education minister can restore confidence in the process and look forward to working with them to ensure the best and fairest outcomes for education.’

Further information: Christian Kerr, Media Adviser, 0402 977 352

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