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Budget 2020-21: the sector reacts

Public schools have been dubbed one of the losers in the government’s 2020-21 Budget.

Private schools will have their funding grow by 25.6 per cent over the next three years, to $16.1 billion by 2023/24. But public schools will only see funding lift by 21.6 per cent to $11 billion over the same period.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) said public schools were ignored.

“The budget fails to fund the $19 billion shortfall, the minimum funding required to meet the educational needs of Australia’s students,” federal president Correna Haythorpe said.

The union wanted an immediate injection of funding for extra support with reading and writing for students who may have fallen behind during the period of remote learning.

Haythorpe said: “Public schools would have been able to employ more teachers for smaller class sizes and more one-on-one support for every student.”

The union said the Budget also fails to provide any capital funding for public schools that would generate construction and manufacturing jobs whilst also providing new and much-needed classrooms, bathrooms, libraries, heating and cooling, and sport facilities.

The Budget included $38.2 million to support an additional 76,000 disadvantaged young Australians to complete secondary school and move into work, training or further study and $25.0 million to respond to education priorities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government also committed $27.3 million to improve STEM skills in early learners and school students through a range of STEM programs and $39.8 million to improve the education and employment prospects for up to 12,500 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, by funding additional places with the Clontarf Foundation.

Other measures

Good to Great Schools Australia will get $5.8 million to pilot a program in 10 remote schools and expand their literacy model to include numeracy and science, while $3.0 million over four years from 2020-21 will go to the Islamic Museum of Australia to develop educational resources and online learning platforms to support social cohesion, multiculturalism and community harmony.

The Budget also included $3.0 million over four years from 2020-21 to the Anti-Defamation Commission to create a Holocaust education platform to support inclusiveness, civility and respect.

Higher education

Australia’s universities got an injection of an additional $1 billion for university research.

Announcing the education measures in the 2020-21 Budget, Minister for Education Dan Tehan said education would be critical to Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

“Our budget is providing funding for research that will drive new technologies and support jobs, improving support for school students and teachers impacted by COVID-19, and supporting working parents with child care needs,” Tehan said.

Universities Australia welcomed the $550.3 million set out for additional university places and short courses.

“This includes 50,000 new short courses, which will be especially important for mature-aged workers looking for new skills.

“This adds to the 12,000 new university places to meet increased demand due to COVID-19.”

The Budget also included $40 million for universities to start projects in their local communities that drive the national interest and forge deeper collaborations with industry.

ITECA welcomed other initiatives around apprentices and trainees, some new and some announced in the past month, including $2.8 billion to support the wages of apprentices and trainees already in work and $1.2 billion to support the wages new (and recommencing) apprentices and trainees

Chief executive Troy Williams said: “These measures are great for school leavers and jobseekers looking to get the skills that will put them in a position to obtain a job.”

But the AEU said the Budget failed TAFEs.

It said the Government had a historic opportunity to rebuild the recovery on TAFE’s foundations. “Instead they have opted for a quick fix on training and apprenticeships, but no long-term solutions.”

Haythorpe said: “In the past seven years we have seen a third of TAFE campuses around the Australia close down due to lack of funding. We are starting our economic recovery well behind the eight ball. You can’t have a skills based recovery without TAFE at its heart."

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