OPINION: State puts potholes in path of education

The state government’s education cuts are a threat to the future of our children, says Alan Green.

THE federal Labor government, through the Gonski Report, is looking at future funding of the educational sector, initially with an increased allocation of funds.

At the same time the state Coalition government has come to the contradictory decision to reduce funding to the education sector.

It appears to me that this state government is more interested in putting money into roads and other infrastructure than into education.

Further, the cuts the government wishes to make will end up costing the state more money.

In my time in education, I have never seen all sectors come together so strongly to challenge an issue.

All the significant players in the education of the youth of NSW are speaking with one voice – the Association of Independent Schools, the NSW Secondary Catholic Principals, the NSW Primary and Secondary Principals, the NSW Parents Council, the Parents and Citizens, the Independent Education Union and the NSW Teachers Federation.

Based on data which is 28 years old, the NSW government wants to freeze funding for the independent sector from July 2013.

Freezing the funding for independent schools will see a reduction over time of about 6per cent per year as the costs to the education sector run at about twice that of the consumer price index.

In addition, since the pool of funds to the independent sector will be frozen and the number of students attending independent schools will continue to grow, the funding to each student in 2014 will be reduced.

Across the state, of the 35per cent of students in the non-government sector, 16per cent are in independent schools and 19per cent are in Catholic schools.

Every student who leaves a non-government school to return to the public sector costs the state government more.

At Newcastle Grammar School, we receive $1721 from the state government for each student in the secondary school; less for primary students.

Is that a fair and equitable share of the tax dollar for our parents?

The state government has also frozen capital funding to schools so it is unlikely that new non-government schools will commence in the major growth areas across the state. If no new non-government schools are set up, then the state will have to educate 100per cent of the students in that area and they will have to pay for the capital costs of setting up those schools.

It will cost the state more.

The NSW government has stated that the cuts to the government education sector will occur in bureaucracy, which means that the cuts will occur outside the school gate.

This will lead to reduced services to students.

In the independent sector, the cuts will have to be absorbed by the individual school. This will lead to either increased fees or reduced programs.

I can put up with a pothole in the road but I am not prepared to see the future of our children jeopardised.

It is time our voice is heard, not only the voice of Newcastle Grammar School, but the voice of the parents of all the students of NSW. Whether our children go to school in Moree, Merriwa or Merewether, they deserve access to a first-class education.

Alan Green is the headmaster of Newcastle Grammar School. This is an edited version of his address to parents at the school’s speech day.