In 2011 Australian Government funding to schools was allocated under the framework for federal financial relations agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2009.
States and Territories continued to fund specific school education initiatives and the bulk of government school costs for their jurisdictions.
Other separate components of funding are provided through National Partnerships and other school education programs funded by annual appropriations (Commonwealth Own-Purpose Expenses (COPEs)).
National Schools Specific Purpose Payment – government schools component
The National Schools SPP for government schools is provided through the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations.
Associated with this funding is a National Education Agreement which sets out the objectives and outcomes for government schooling, the roles and responsibilities of each level of government, performance indicators and benchmarks, reporting mechanisms and ‘policy and reform directions’.
State and Territory governments have discretion as to how to apply the National Schools SPP to achieve the agreed outcomes.
Under the National Schools SPP the previous recurrent, targeted and capital funding has been combined into an agreed base amount. This base amount is indexed each year according to a formula based on increases in Average Government School Recurrent Costs (AGSRC) and growth in full‐time equivalent primary and secondary school enrolments.
Additional funding for government primary school students was incorporated into the SPP in 2009. This funding was due to a per capita funding increase from 8.9 per cent to 10 per cent of AGSRC. Government primary and secondary school students are now funded at the same percentage of AGSRC.
Funding for Indigenous students in government schools, previously provided under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000, was also incorporated into the base amount.
The government school component of the National Schools SPP becomes part of the total State or Territory government funding pool (which includes Australian and State and Territory government funds). Each State and Territory government then allocates funds from this total pool (or distributes resources) to schools based on its particular allocative mechanism (which is different for each State and Territory).
Average Government School Recurrent Costs (AGSRC) are the benchmark for general recurrent funding levels and relate to the cost of educating a student in a government school. AGSRC are the basis of Australian Government recurrent funding for government and non-government school students. All school students are funded at a percentage of AGSRC.
The AGSRC amounts for primary and secondary school students are calculated based on State and Territory government expense data. These AGSRC amounts are changed annually after consideration of movements in the data reported to ACARA through the MCEECDYA National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC) (Finance). Capital related items, such as the user cost of capital and depreciation, are excluded from the calculation of AGSRC.
National Schools Specific Purpose Payment – non-government schools component
Australian Government funding for the non‐government schools component of the National Schools SPP (for the 2009 to 2012 quadrennium, with funding under that quadrennium being extended to 2013) is determined by the Schools Assistance Act 2008. Funding under the Act continues to provide for general recurrent and capital purposes as well as targeted programs. Funding for the Indigenous Supplementary Assistance (ISA) is also provided under the Act.
The distribution arrangements for the non‐government schools component of the National Schools SPP vary between systemic and non-systemic non-government schools. (See Part 10: Glossary for explanations of systemic and non-systemic non-government schools.)
State and Territory Treasuries distribute Australian Government general recurrent grants directly to non-systemic independent schools.
Systemic non‐government schools are paid through their system authorities. Like government education systems, non-government system authorities have the flexibility to distribute the general recurrent grants according to their own needs‐based allocative mechanisms.
Australian Government funding for targeted programs for non‐government schools is distributed through Catholic systemic school authorities and independent school associations in each State and Territory. Funding for capital grants is made through Block Grant Authorities (BGAs).
The Schools Assistance Act also provides additional recurrent funding for Indigenous students in non‐government schools called Indigenous Supplementary Assistance (ISA). Non‐government schools in remote areas receive a higher rate of ISA for Indigenous students. Non-government schools in non-remote areas with more than 50 Indigenous boarding students from remote Indigenous communities also receive a higher rate of ISA for these students.
Funding for Indigenous students in non‐government schools was previously provided through a number of different programs under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000. This funding was replaced by a single per student payment – Indigenous Supplementary Assistance. The Indigenous Funding Guarantee provides transitional funding to ensure that schools do not receive less funding in dollar terms than under the previous arrangements, taking into account enrolment changes.
A remoteness loading for non-government schools is provided in recognition of the higher cost of delivering education services in regional and remote areas of Australia. Non‐government schools that have campuses located in defined remote areas receive a per student remoteness loading at 5 per cent, 10 per cent or 20 per cent of a school’s socio-economic status (SES) funding rate for general recurrent grants, depending on the degree of remoteness of the school campus.
Non‐government schools also receive funding for distance education students, at the base rate of 13.7 per cent of AGSRC on a full‐time equivalent basis.
Additional funding for both government and non‐government schools is provided by a number of special purpose National Partnerships. Most of the National Partnerships have been formulated through COAG and have as their basis an agreed national goal. The structure and conditions of the National Partnerships vary, and include, in some cases, co‐payments with State and Territory government and non‐government education authorities, facilitation payments, performance rewards based on negotiated outcomes and targets, reform measures and the creation of pilot programs.
National Partnerships include:
Digital Education Revolution
Nation Building and Jobs Plan
Youth Attainment and Transitions
Closing the Gap (Northern Territory)
Trade Training Centres in Schools.²
Information on the content of National Partnerships is provided in Part 2: National initiatives and achievements.
There are other Australian Government payments, made to both the government and non-government sectors, which are termed Commonwealth Own‐Purpose Expenses (COPEs). These are mostly administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and are funded through annual appropriations. Major school education programs in this category include:
National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program
National School Chaplaincy Program
Quality Outcomes Program.
Payments to States and Territories
National Schools Specific Purpose Payments, for both government and non‐government school sectors, are paid by the Commonwealth Treasury to State and Territory Treasuries. State and Territory Treasuries then distribute these funds to State and Territory government education departments, non‐government school education authorities and independent schools.
National Partnership payments are paid by the Commonwealth Treasury primarily to State and Territory Treasuries according to the terms of the individual partnership agreements.
Review of funding for schooling
In 2010, the Australian Government initiated a review of funding arrangements for schooling to develop a funding system which was
‘… transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellent educational outcomes for all Australian students’. This review, led by a panel of community leaders with expertise in education and public policy, was conducted in 2010 and 2011. The panel received more than 7,000 submissions, visited 39 schools and consulted 71 education groups across Australia.
Its final report, Review of Funding for Schooling: Final Report (known as the Gonski Report) was presented to the Commonwealth Minister for School Education in December 2011.