Catholic schools in New South Wales and Victoria to fight Gonski 2.0

The Federal Government’s Gonski 2.0 needs-based school funding plan has been criticised by many in the media.

One such critic is Jenny Allum,Head of school at SCEGGS Darlinghurst, who wrote about Gonski 2.0 in the Sydney Morning Herald, saying it is “an abject failure”. Another critic is Robert Bolton, the Education and Review Editor for the Financial Review who says its solutions are “unrealistic”.

Fairfax media also recently released ‘secret’ modelling showing how Gonski 2.1 would “rip” money from Catholic schools to give to public schools. According to Fairfax media, if the new model is passed, over the next four years Catholic schools would lose $705 million while public schools would gain $693 million.

Little surprise then that NSW Catholic schools have joined with Catholic schools from Victoria in campaigning against the funding package.

Administrators of Catholic Schools Offices from across New South Wales - which is home to 550 Catholic schools - have also warned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that the Gonski 2.0 funding package will put low-fee Catholic schools at risk.

“It is imperative that the Catholic education sector be engaged with the national government and Mr Birmingham, the Federal Education Minister, in the decision-making process around the Gonski 2.0 funding package,” says Michael Slattery, Director of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

“Mr Turnbull and Mr Birmingham need to listen to the voices of Catholic parents and educators in Australia to determine an affordable alternative to government schools, particularly those in low-fee paying regions of the nation.

“Catholic schools exist to provide a stimulating and affordable learning choice that links faith and culture for Australian families. Mr Turnbull and his ministers must determine a funding model that ensures access to low-fee paying schooling in all of its communities. The current socio-economic status (SES) model is completely unreliable in determining capacity to pay school fees,” Mr Slattery said.

Ray Collins, NCEC’s acting Executive Director, told CathNews that the key issue for the Catholic sector is the inequity in the current funding model for non-government schools and the negative impact it is particularly having on Catholic schools.

A meeting of the National Catholic Education Commission was held earlier this month which resulted in schools from all Australian states coming together to campaign against Gonski 2.0 in the next federal election.

According to CathNews, Catholic Schools across New South Wales sent a letter to Mr Turnbull and Mr Birmingham which was signed by the directors of all 12 dioceses in the state. The letter warned of the detrimental effect Gonski 2.0 will have on all schools throughout New South Wales in general, and low-fee primary schools in particular.

“Our school system distributes funds across schools to meet the special, individual needs of each school community - including funding for VET students, additional support for new or small schools, refugee and new arrivals and other disadvantaged students, and professional development for teachers and school leaders. The Maitland-Newcastle system of Catholic Schools smooths out the costs across the system, thus minimising fees,” says Michael Slattery.

“The Turnbull Government proposes to focus on individual schools. Funding will be based on school socio-economic status scores which paint broad-brush pictures about the ability of parents to afford fees and do not reflect the true circumstances of local communities.

“This is despite the Gonski Review’s call for these scores to be replaced as soon as possible. The Turnbull Government basically threw up its hands in the last funding round and found the Schooling Resource Standard and Socio-economic Methodology too hard to fix.

“This time Mr Turnbull and Mr Birmingham have the opportunity to listen to the advice of Catholic educators and Catholic parents to ensure the funding distribution is fair and equitable to all Australians, including low-fee Catholic families,” said Mr Slattery.

While Catholic schools represent 220,000 students throughout New South Wales, the notion that the Gonski Review will short-change Catholic schools throughout the state has been refuted by Senator Birmingham.

In addition, as the New Daily reports: “The Turnbull government has guaranteed a showdown with the Catholic schools sector after Education Minister Simon Birmingham signalled he would not bend to pressure over plans for a new education funding model.”

Senator Birmingham has accused the Catholic Education Commission of “spreading misrepresentations” with regard to the Gonski funding model. The senator went so far as to accuse the Catholic Education Commission of attempting to “blackmail or bully federal governments into doing something that suits them".

What is Gonski 2.0?

Gonski 2.0 is a funding package which seeks to overhaul and reform Australian schools. According to, The Gonski Review seeks to:

  • change the curriculum to set out learning progressions in each subject
  • make sure each student gets a year's worth of learning for every year they’re at school
  • review Years 11 and 12 curricula to ensure students have the skills they need for the future
  • have teachers prioritise basic literacy and numeracy in the early years
  • give students a special student number to track their growth
  • allow students to have a voice and to provide feedback about their own education.

To learn more about the Gonski Review and how it affects students within the Catholic School system, read the Parents Guide to Understanding the Gonski 2.0.

David Gonski recommended a regime of continuous feedback for teachers at a school level. Already this was being talked about as a replacement for NAPLAN.