NSW government to cut school funding by 1.25pc

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Public schools across NSW have been slapped with a “significant” funding cut, as the state tries to get teachers back into the classroom to help bolster flagging enrolment rates.

NSW Education Minister Prue Car informed principals on Tuesday of a decision to slash the School Budget Allocation Report (SBAR) by 1.25 per cent.

The SBAR provides government funding for public schools to pay for a range of things such as maintenance, electricity costs and teacher salaries – which make up the bulk of expenses.

Disaster and pandemic supplementation, which was introduced in 2019, is also slated to be phased out from the start of term 2 on April 29.

NSW Primary Principals Association president Robyn Evans said the decrease in SBAR funding would be “quite significant” on budgets, and hoped the government would stand by its commitment to support schools.

“It’s hard news to take but there’s a commitment from the department and the government to support the schools individually,” she said.

“While it’s a blanket plan, individual schools have unique needs.

“So we just have to weather the storm. No one is saying it’s going to be easy and but the change had to come.”

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NSW Education Minister Prue Car said the funding reform would bring teachers back into classroom, after the Coalition’s ‘local schools and local decisions’ policy increased the number of executive roles such as assistant and deputy principals under temporary contracts.

“Student outcomes are our absolute priority and we must ensure teachers are spending their time where it matters: in the classroom,” she said.

“We are asking principals to make decisions that will help schools address the staffing issues they face across the state.

“If we want to rebuild enrolment numbers, we have to put high quality teachers in every classroom.

“It’s the only way we turn around student outcomes and instil confidence in our great public education system.”

Earlier on Tuesday, new figures released by the NSW Department of Education revealed public school enrolment rates across NSW had fallen for a fourth year in row, as households move to private, religious and independent schools.

Since Covid, total enrolment across government schools dropped by more than 24,000, from a peak 810,705 students in 2020, to 786,434 in 2023, despite the total number of student enrolments across the state increasing.

The state’s public schools reporting 1782 teacher vacancies as of the first week of 2024.

NSW Principals Council president Craig Petersen said schools would be affected differently depending on the size of their student body, and whether they receive addition flexible funding if they have students with disabilities, refugees or Aboriginal students.

Schools which have employed more than their established quota of staff, may not be able to afford to continue employing that teacher.

“The worst case means schools may not be able to employ some of the teachers in the programs they were running,” he said.

“In other cases it may well be that some minor improvements around the school will not be able to go ahead.

“What that 1.25 per cent means in context is going to depend on each school.”

NSW Teachers Federation president Henry Rajendra said NSW’s public school system had to evolve after previous policies “deliberately left schools to fend themselves”.

“We have long argued against the previous Coalition government’s failed Local School, Local Decisions policy that devolved education funding to school bank accounts, pushing workload, accountability and blame onto schools,” he said.

“It is now up to the current state government to rebuild the system by providing the additional permanent staffing and centralised support all public schools need and students deserve.

“To do so, we allow principals and teachers to focus on what matters most; teaching and learning and realising the potential of all students.”

The funding cut will affect all schools, with the exception of small schools, Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs) which support students with intellectual disabilities, and other moderate to high learning and support needs, as well as Intensive English Centres.

The government has confirmed the funding reform will not affect P & C funds, community funds, spending from schools’ allocated budgets or money already transferred.