Putting Our Kids First is a community campaign established by peak education bodies representing parents, teachers, principals, education assistants and support staff in Western Australian public schools.
We believe that every child has the right to access a well-funded, high quality public education, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Over the past two years, Colin Barnett’s education cuts have made it increasingly difficult for public schools to deliver every child the high quality education they deserve.
Putting Our Kids First advocates for well resourced, well staffed and well funded public school communities which can give every student the opportunity to succeed.
Better schools mean better futures. A strong, well-funded public education should be the first priority of the State Government. We call on the Premier to put our kids first, not last.
In August 2013 the Western Australian State Government announced an overhaul of WA public school funding, citing the move as part of a broader plan to improve the efficiency of the system in preparation for the introduction of a new funding model. In hindsight the notion of ‘improving the efficiency’ of the system was a front to distract from the reality of severe budget reductions which have placed considerable financial pressure on the entire public school sector and left many schools under-resourced. As part of the funding overhaul, $200 million in cuts have been made to school budgets, staffing and central office resourcing. This includes cuts to education assistants, Aboriginal and Islander education officers, central office support staff, school support program funding, allocations of teaching hours, professional development, a levy imposed on schools to reduce long service leave liabilities and more.
“I think the government has underestimated the depth of community sentiment on this issue, but maybe 42,000 signatures will make it take notice.” – Pat Byrne on the tabling in Parliament of a petition calling for the reversal of education cuts
The impact has been widely felt throughout the WA public school sector, with every major education representative body voicing its opposition to what has become commonly referred to as the ‘education cuts.’ These bodies include The State School Teachers’ Union of WA, United Voice, the Community and Public Sector Union, the WA Council of State School Organisations, the WA Secondary School Executives Association and the WA Primary Principals’ Association, which collectively represent the entire demographic profile of the WA public education sector. They speak on behalf of over 800 individual public school communities who are best placed to explain the effect of these cuts, but often unable to speak publically about their own situation due to strict Department of Education policy controlling public comment. Nevertheless, the seriousness of the issue has been such that many schools, principals, teachers, education assistants and support staff have provided overwhelming feedback that the ‘education cuts’ have made it more difficult to provide every student with the educational support, flexibility, attention and resources required.
In correspondence sent from school communities to State Members of Parliament in May 2014, the following commentary provides a snapshot of the impact of funding reductions:
“These cuts have resulted in increased class sizes, reductions in staff, significantly less money for student resources and a reduction for staff professional development.” – Perth metropolitan high school.
“These changes have been very stressful on teaching staff. There is insufficient support for students at educational risk, inadequate resourcing, under staffing, loss of education assistants and a huge impact on overall student opportunities” – Perth metropolitan primary school.
“Reductions to our school budget and the loss of specialist staff members has made it increasingly challenging to ensure our students receive the individual attention they deserve. If only the Minister’s comment that we are ‘hoarding cash’ was true!” – Rural primary school.
Since September 2013, the Liberal State Government’s funding and staffing reductions include:
- Over $220 million cut directly from public school budgets at the end of 2013
- 150 central and regional office positions cut in 2014
- 110 Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers cut in 2014
- Over 1000 education assistants cut in 2014/15
- Over 800 teaching positions cut in 2014/15
- $45 million cut from secondary school budgets in 2015
- 200 redundancies across the sector in 2015
- $257 million cut over 4 years under the ‘workforce renewal’ policy listed in the 2015/16 State Budget.
Professor Richard Teese, who authored the 2013 report into WA public school funding, notes that,
“Public schools in Western Australia that perform well above benchmark standards, above what would be predicted given their students, display a strategic approach to their use of resources. Approaches include school-wide literacy and numeracy strategies, student engagement programs, targeted literacy support, mentoring of teachers, smaller class sizes in junior year-levels and targeted use of professional learning.”
Yet the cuts are denying our schools the funding required to run these types of programs which make our high performing public education system so great.
For a full report on public school funding see our State Budget submission.