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Education Ministers have banded together with unions and teachers association's to demand full public school funding be announced in Tuesday night's budget. Pictured is the SA Education Minister Blair Boyer. Picture: RoyVphotography

Ministers, unions demand full funding in federal budget

Principals and state education ministers and unions have banded together to step up pressure on the Albanese government to lift public school funding ahead of Tuesday night's budget release.

In a joint statement, the ministers and unions urged treasurer Jim Chalmers to bring the School Resourcing Standard (SRS) – an estimate as to how much funding an individual school needs – to 100 percent.

"Tuesday’s budget is the opportunity for the federal government to deliver its election commitment to get every school to 100 per cent of its fair funding level," the statement read.

"Anything less than full funding would be unacceptable to the millions of families who attend public schools."

All state education ministers, except the WA minister who struck a deal with the federal government earlier this year, signed the statement along with the Australian Education Union, the Australian Primary Principals Association, the Australian Government Primary Principals Association and the Australian Government Secondary Principals Association.

The Northern Territory education minister also agreed on a funding deal with the Commonwealth earlier this year, and ACT public schools are already funded to 100 per cent.

Public schools in NSW, SA, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania are currently funded below the standard, which is the minimum level governments agreed to more than 10 years ago following the David Gonski review that identified 100 per cent was the minimum amount required to meet the needs of students.

The commonwealth provides 20 per cent of funding for public schools, with states and territories paying 75 per cent. Non-government schools receive above 100 per cent of the SRS.

State ministers say they have no room for movement in their budgets to fund the final five per cent.

“In South Australia, the five per cent is worth as much as $190m of extra funding for public schools every single year. That would go directly into school supports so that teachers have the time, resources and support to help students achieve the best academic outcomes.

“We are seeing levels of disadvantage rise in the public system – and that has been the case for many years now," SA Education Minister Blair Boyer said.

"We need this money now more than ever before so in the future we can actually look students and staff in the eye and say we are contributing the amount of money they need to make sure they get the same opportunities that students in private schools do as well.”

Unions and teachers' associations have been advocating for 100 per cent funding since before federal Labor committed to it during the 2022 election.

“This is not a routine budget line item, it’s a rare opportunity for a hinge-point investment in the future of our nation," Australian Government Secondary Principals Association president Andy Mison said.

“Fully funded schools mean manageable class sizes, more targeted support for students, and access to much needed technology and resources.

"This translates to improved learning outcomes, enhanced student wellbeing, and ultimately, a brighter future for millions of young Australians.

"We urge the government to act now and fulfil the promise to our children and our country.”

Paid ITE placement already promised

One area initial teachers have been calling for assistance for is unpaid placements, which will be addressed on Tuesday night.

Nursing, teaching, social work and midwifery students required to complete unpaid practical placements will also be ­eligible for the new $319-a-week payment under a move to reduce financial barriers to graduating.

The means-tested support payment will be funded in the Albanese government’s upcoming federal budget, and is due to kick in from July 2025.

It will support about 68,000 university and 5000 VET students a year.

Benchmarked to the single Austudy weekly rate, the payment is aimed at helping more students start and finish their studies in critical areas of need across the healthcare and education sectors.

Education Minister Jason Clare said it would give students a “bit of extra help to get the qualifications they need”.

“Placement poverty is a real thing,” Mr Clare said.

“Some students say ‘prac’ means they have to give up their part-time job and that they don’t have the money to pay the bills.”

Some students have to complete up to 1000 hours in unpaid mandatory work placement, causing them to have to choose between study and work commitments.

Management consultancy, training and recruitment firm ASPL Group said paid placement is a good start, but more could be done to address other key issues causing workers to leave.

"We commend the government's recognition of the challenges faced by students in nursing, teaching, and social work due to placement poverty, but it's essential to recognise that this issue extends beyond financial assistance during placements," ASPL Group chef executive Kris Grant said.

"We need funding that ensures students in these vital professions can complete their education with the support they need, not just funding that is means-tested.

"We must create pathways that make these professions accessible and attractive to aspiring individuals."

The firm is calling for government to collaborate with educational institutions, industry stakeholders and advocacy groups to develop long-term sustainable solutions to critical workforce shortages.

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