Catholic schools hope to maintain funding

THE director of education for the Catholic Diocese of Sale said she was optimistic funding for the Catholic school sector would be maintained into the future, after initial fears that a "concerning" new funding model would lead to cuts.

Maria Kirkwood said a controversial change in the federal government's funding mechanism had caused uncertainty for the Catholic school sector, but consultation with government ministers since the budget release had been "reassuring".

Funding reforms would result in $30.6 billion rolled out on a school-by-school needs basis over 10 years.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham unveiled the plan on May 2, but without consulting Catholic school authorities or providing details of the plan.

But Ms Kirkwood said the government's new funding model, which aimed to bring all schools to the same needs-based per-student level once state government funding was added no matter which state they lived in, or the school system they are being educated in did not necessarily take into account the varying demographics of individual school communities.

The system assigned students the average socio-economic profile of the catchment area in which they lived, despite Catholic school students being on average less well off than independent school students from the same catchment.

An online calculator released by the government shows that while about half of the country's 9400 schools will have funding increases in the budget, Catholic College Sale will receive about 3.7 per cent per cent well below the 4.7 per cent increase to government and private schools each year during the next decade.

The My School website shows the school has one of the lowest scores of all Sale secondary schools in the index of community socio-educational advantage.

Ms Kirkwood said she had to question why Catholic sector schools were receiving much less than some independent schools, despite both being in a non-government sector.

Catholic Education Commission of Victoria executive director Stephen Elder said "flaws" in the funding model could mean that parents at Catholic schools affected would be expected to pay similar fees to those charged by elite independent institutions.

But Ms Kirkwood said recent clarification of the funding changes reassured her that schools may not have to abandon a mechanism that ensured resources were distributed fairly and according to need among schools that belonged to a single Catholic schools authority.

Known as the System Weighted Average, the mechanism allowed Catholic schools authorities to spread resources across diverse school communities.

"The ground has been shifting, and there's been lots of communication with the government since those announcements were made," Ms Kirkwood said.

"We've now been assured that we won't lose that ability to spread resources where they are needed, so we feel more confident."

Gippsland Senior
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