Government announces more school funding

The Federal Government has announced new school infrastructure funding, but should more be done to alleviate teacher shortages and workloads.

Education Minister Jason Clare has been touring the country this past week, announcing extra infrastructure funding for schools in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and South Australia.

The funds are part of the Schools Upgrade Fund, and will see WA receive $25 million, the NT $8 million, and South Australia $17 million. The government says the $275.2 million Fund will deliver funding over two years to improve school facilities across the country.

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This latest round of funding will support projects including new classrooms, upgrading and resurfacing sporting facilities, new playground equipment and upgrading food tech and home economics classrooms. Public schools with the greatest need have been prioritised, including schools with high numbers of students from a low-socio economic background, First Nations Students, and students with disability.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said he wanted all students to get access to a quality education, including access to quality facilities to learn in and play on.

“From upgrading art rooms and tech rooms to new outdoor equipment and replacing demountables, this funding will deliver upgrades to public schools that need it the most. 

“This is another important step in building a better and fairer education system.”

The past week has also seen increased action from the Australian Education Union (AEU) in its campaign to have all public schools fully funded.

An AEU survey found that 70 percent of public schools had been affected by teacher shortages in Western Australian schools in the past year, and 83 percent of principals said it had become harder to fill vacant positions. More than 70 percent of teachers reported a decline or significant decline in student wellbeing and engagement over the past 18 months. Nine out of 10 teachers reported a decline or significant decline in teacher wellbeing and morale over the same period.

In South Australia, 98 percent of principals reported having to combine classes at some point in the past year due to teacher shortages, and one third said they had run classes without a teacher. Only one in five SA principals surveyed believe that the level of counsellor support at their school is adequate.

AEU President Corenna Haythorpe has been vocal throughout the ‘full and fair funding’ campaign.

“The challenges in schools have never been greater – more diversity and complexity in student need, increasing wellbeing and mental health issues and acute shortages of teachers due to unsustainable workloads,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Our principals, teachers and support staff are doing an extraordinary job, but they are being asked to do too much with too little and there just aren’t enough of them.

Fully funding public schools is the only way to ensure every child gets the support they need to succeed, and we can recruit and retain sufficient numbers of teachers. There needs to be additional teachers and counsellors in schools, along with more support staff and specialist staff such as speech therapists.

The Government said the that $53.6 million in funding supporting projects in Australian schools has already been delivered through the School Upgrade Fund. This includes a Targeted Round of $21.6 million for capital projects and an Open Round of $32 million for improvements to learning facilities including the purchase of air purifiers, upgrading ventilation systems, building outdoor learning spaces, upgrading ICT equipment, and urgent repairs.

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