Wimmera schools feel the pinch as education funding declines

WIMMERA education leaders support the Australian Education Union's assertion the State Government is failing Victoria's public schools.

A Productivity Commission report has revealed education funding continues to decline each year.

The report on government services shows Victoria spends less on each public school student than any other state or territory.

Victoria spent $11,911 on each public school student in 2011-12, which was $1881 less than the national average and $1777 less than NSW.

Victoria was also one of only two states to reduce its real-student funding from the previous financial year.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace criticised the government's lack of support for Victorian students in a letter published in the Mail-Times on February 5.

"To date, there has been no transparency around the Gonski school funding agreement," she said.

"Schools require certainty and stability going into the new year.

"It's time for the Premier Denis Napthine to clearly outline how this funding will be allocated to schools and exactly how much of this is the additional funding promised."

Murtoa Secondary College principal Joanna Day said the college had received a very small increase in funding as a result of the Gonski funding reforms.

"The figure was considerably less than had been previously indicated," she said.

"We were hoping to be able to employ someone full-time to work with primary students to improve their literacy skills, but we have not been able to do this."

Dr Day said the Productivity Commission report's figures also published in the Victorian Principals Association's January newsletter were shared with the college's school council on Tuesday night.

"A criticism of schools has been that we appear to have plenty of money in the bank so we should not complain about funding," she said.

"In some cases this is true, but Murtoa like many Wimmera schools has buildings that need maintenance.

"Plus, like most rural schools, our numbers are expected to decline in the future, so we try to retain some money to buffer us from this."

"We don't waste money. We spend it wisely, but we don't dream about anything big" - Horsham West Primary School assistant principal Dino McMillan

Dr Day said government schools had a much greater percentage of students with disabilities and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds than private schools.

"This means that we are dealing with students with greater need for support both in the classroom and beyond," she said.

"For many families, particularly in our rural towns, the school is a vital social resource that provides support for a variety of issues that families are facing health, financial, social, emotional, medical."

Horsham West Primary School assistant principal Dino McMillan is also disappointed by the report's findings.

"They're cutting back on funding all the time yet they're expecting us to be up with everything new," she said.

"We don't waste money. We spend it wisely, but we don't dream about anything big now because we know there is no money for it.

"If there is something we want to do we write submissions to other groups which might be handing out money for projects because we know we don't have it in the budget.

"It's a juggling act the whole time."

The Australian Education Union is pressuring the State Government to make education a priority during an election year.

"These Productivity Commission figures come on the back of more than $600 million in cuts to public schools," Ms Peace said.

Dr Day said she could not understand why Victoria spent so much less on educating children than other states.

"Victorian government schools should be congratulated however on the excellent job they do, because our results remain among the best in the nation," she said.

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