Above: Loretta Wholley [CaSPA]; Andrew Perpont [ASPA]; Malcolm Elliot [APPA]; Mark Merry [AHISA]
Presidents from all Peak Principal Associations in Australia along with other key stakeholders were participants at a significant Education Forum in Canberra on March 22, 2019. In recent times the Associations have collected set out to "reclaim the narrative" regarding Education in Australia. This is the result of a growing concern that others in the political and public sphere have tended to use discussion around Education as a means of pursuing their agendas - often at the expense of accurate or helpful regard to the real educational issues at hand.
The highly volatile and public debate about funding and Gonski 2.0 in recent months would be a typical example of discussion about the Education Sector being hijacked. There is a growing view that not only is this a sad example of "fake news", but also an instrument for "trashing the brand" of education more generally.
Among the issues raised during the Forum by moderator, Kerry O'Brien, was the question of the "timid" nature of those in Education and Principals in particular when it comes to leading public discourse on matters educational. He asked if Principals are either too reluctant - or too restricted by System and School Authorities - to take the lead in the media and similar forums.
Significantly thought, there is strong resolve by leaders of all Principal Associations to seek to publicise what unites rather than what divides those in the various sectors and produced the following communique at the conclusion of the Forum:
CaSPA wishes to thank Andrew Pierpont and his colleagues at ASPA for the excellent initiative of organising the Forum and their generous invitation for us to attend.
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One of the issues mentioned with some consistency in the review of Governance Survey undertaken by CaSPA Principals in 2018 was concerns about lack of transparency in how funding was managed by some at the higher levels of Catholic Education. The following article makes interesting reading in the light of this feedback:
Catholic school systems are under pressure to reveal how their funding is distributed, following the release of Block Allocation Reports with key details redacted.
The schools use a 'systemic' or 'block' funding model, wherein public funding is delivered to the school system as a lump sum.
The systems are then required to distribute the funding according to a needs-basis model.
The Block Allocation Reports show the base SRS funding delivered to each school, but sections detailing additional loadings for Indigenous, low SES, low English-language proficiency and students with a disability have been redacted.
In explaining the decision to redact this information, the Education Department pointed to the possibility that information could be derived from the figures revealing the socio-economic status of students at specific schools.
The department claims that this information could "reasonably be expected to impact decisions by some parents and students with respect to whether to enrol at a particular school", adversely affecting the schools by causing a decline in enrolment.
However, such information is freely available via ACARA, as is information on the number of Indigenous and ESL students enrolled at any given school.
The only relevant enrolment-related information that is not released publicly by ACARA is the number of students with a disability at a specific school.
The AOIC's Freedom of Information (FOI) Guidelines state that information can be withheld if releasing it would cause an 'unreasonable adverse effect'.
However, those same guidelines state that disclosure would not amount to an unreasonable adverse effect in situations where the information is already in the public domain.
Trevor Cobbold, national convenor of the activist group Save Our Schools, made the original FOI request for the release of the Block Allocation Reports.
He contends that the department's explanation for redacting the reports is unsatisfactory and is seeking a review of the decision.
Cobbold said it would be difficult to determine student enrolment numbers from an overall monetary figure, given the variability of loadings within the specific categories.
"It just seems to me ludicrous that somehow parents can dissect block payments for each of these loadings, somehow indicating the socio-economic composition of schools, and then even make a decision based on that, when the enrolment information is available on My School," he told EducationHQ.
A spokesperson for the National Catholic Education Commission pointed out that the methodologies used for funding distribution are already public.
"The Department of Education determines the release of its information," the spokesperson said.
"The needs-based funding distribution methodologies used by Catholic education commissions are publicly available.
"All income and funding data is reported annually to government authorities and is subject to random audits."
Cobbold said that the redactions are indicative of a "longstanding" issue with transparency in Catholic education systems.
"The Catholic education authorities have a long history of refusing to be accountable for how they spend taxpayer funds, and their response to the department's consultation about my request indicates that they are continuing that practice," he said.
"There have been several official reports over the last decade that criticise the failure of private systems such as the Catholic education system to be accountable for how they spend taxpayer funding ... they are wedded to the practice of secrecy about how they use taxpayer funds, and it just hasn't changed."
Cobbold said that the department has enabled Catholic education systems to practice "secrecy for its own sake".
"I think the department has been giving a wink and a nod to accountability for over a decade or more.
"It's giving tacit approval to the fact that Catholic education authorities won't release the information.
"The official reports, such as the recent Parliamentary Joint Committee report and the Auditor-General's report, and the Gonski report, all criticise the failure of the department to effectively monitor what private school systems do with the money and the department constantly says it's making changes, but nothing seems to have happened."
By: By Geordie Little
Published March 8, 2019
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Above: Julie Terry, Loretta Wholley, Chris Browne, Tim Hilderbrandt, Stephen Kennaugh, Rob Laidler, Marc Reicher, Maria Pearson and Daniel Petrie
Thanks to the good work of our NSW Field Officer - Rob Laidler, there has been far greater opportunity for the CaSPA Executive to meet face to face with Principals around the various Dioceses of NSW.
The most recent meeting was with CaSPA Principals in the Broken Bay Diocese. It coincided with our President - Loretta Wholley - being in Sydney for the National Meeting of Catholic Education Directors with the NCEC.
These meetings are proving to be very helpful in giving the CaSPA Board the sense of current issues and challenges facing Principals. Among other matters discussed was support for new principals and the challenges with current and future EBA arrangements.
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A key reason for CaSPA electing to have its Board Meetings in a different Capital City each term is to allow CaSPA Directors to meet face to face with Principals from all jurisdictions.
In fact CaSPA now organises its meetings to coincide with scheduled meetings of the local jurisdictions, so that Principals do not need to give over more time in their busy lives to meet with the CaSPA Board.
For this reason, CaSPA was in Hobart from March 11-13, as this was the scheduled meeting time of the local Catholic Principals Group - CPAT. Besides providing an outline of CaSPA activities at the national level, there was also time to explore local issues.
In this case the Tasmanian group were very keen to hear of Enterprise Bargaining Arrangements around the country. CaSPA Directors were able to provide very helpful guidance on this matter and to suggest possibly resources that the Tasmanian group may wish to utilise.
The next schedule meeting with a State group will be in Sydney on the eve of the ACSP Confernce 5-6pm on May 21st at the Sharton on the Park.
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