Gonski and the private schools

• Scotch College headmaster Alec O’Connell

WA’S private schools have cautiously welcomed the Turnbull government’s Gonski 2.0 education funding model, with the sector’s peak organisation saying they won’t lose funding.

Scotch College headmaster Alec O’Connell says the latest version of Gonski is a “well-overdue attempt to eliminate the backroom systemic deals that have existed in past Commonwealth funding arrangements.”

U-turn

The Turnbull government did an educational u-turn last week and announced it was implementing David Gonski’s needs-based funding model — dubbed Gonski 2.0 — pouring an extra $1.7 billion into WA classrooms over the next decade.

Public schools will be big winners in the new model, while the Catholic education system is up in arms.

The WA Association of Independent Schools, says no WA independents will lose money, but some may have their rate of indexation reduced so that by 2027 they are at 80 per cent of the schooling resource standard.

“We simply want assurance that school funding is open and equitable for all sectors, government, catholic and independent,” says Dr O’Connell.

“We have no doubt that Scotch will face some decrease in funding in relative terms as the new regime is implemented.

“However, on balance, Scotch College welcomes the level of support it receives from both federal and state governments, and it is our job to work within the funding parameters, as long as we know that they are transparent and fair across all sectors.

“…The next Gonski review will hopefully deliver a strategic roadmap to ensure that any increase in funding for disadvantaged students, will in fact deliver real improvements for the children most in need; no matter which system or school they attend.”

Dr O’Connell’s calls for an equitable system were echoed by Methodist Ladies’ College principal Rebecca Cody.

“We welcome the implementation of a predictable, transparent and equitable long-term funding model for all schools so that educators can continue to plan strategically for improving learning outcomes and student welfare,” she says.

“At first glance Gonski 2.0 looks like it will ensure that all students, whether in the private or government sectors, will benefit from increased Commonwealth funding over the next decade.

“At the end of the day, what is important is ensuring that all students, where ever they are in Australia, have access to quality education.”

Under the new model, 24 of the country’s wealthiest schools would have less funding next year; none are in WA.

Over the next decade, non-government school funding in Australia will increase by 62 per cent, or $6.7b, under Gonski 2.0.

Perth Modern School declined to comment, but Sacred Heart College principal Peter Both says needs-based funding was vital if Australia wanted an equitable education system.

“Various governments come and go and funding levels change in line largely with political ideology,” he says.

“We have been anticipating a slightly reduced level of funding for a number of years and have contingencies in place so that we will be able to preserve our current configuration of services.”

Christ Church grammar school communications director Joanna Wheeler says, “we are waiting to see exactly what Gonski 2.0 delivers to the education sector of WA.”

• A pupil distracted by his mobile phone during class.

Clampdown on mobiles

LAST WEEK Scotch College banned pupils from using mobile phones during the school day, with headmaster Alec O’Connell complaining that too many senior boys spent lunchtimes sitting around staring at their devices.

In his email to parents, Dr O’Connell said school staff had been concerned about the increasing level of distraction, as well as a reduction in face-to-face interation.

Many schools have had mobile phone bans in place for years, but Scotch is one of a growing number of private colleges to outlaw mobiles completely during the day, after previously allowing pupils to use phones during recess.

Disturbed sleep 

A 2015 Norwegian study found teenagers using computers and mobiles, especially in the evening, had disturbed sleep patterns.

Those having more than four hours of computer or mobile phone use a day were more likely to be sleep deprived.

Notre Dame professor Dawn Darlaston-Jones says society has been conditioned to see television and computers as recreational devices: “Telling people they don’t need to go outside of the home.”

“It shapes the way we engage with the outside community,” she says.

“People should be aware of screen time, it’s a problem for society as a whole.”

The Voice asked a few other private schools in Perth what their stance was on pupils using mobile phones during school time:

Christ Church Grammar School

“At Christ Church we have a clear rule to eliminate the distractions caused by mobile phones during the boys’ academic day — phones stay in their lockers,” says CCGS communication director Joanne Wheeler.

“This removes the dependency boys may have to continually check the phone and in doing so disrupt their learning.

“Parents are asked to call the school’s main reception if they need to urgently make contact with their sons.”

Sacred Heart College

“Mobile phones have been banned from student use during the day for the past eight years at Sacred Heart,” says principal Peter Bothe.

“Students are required to keep their phones locked in their lockers during the school day.

“This policy was developed as the internet capacity of phones became more accessible to all students.”

Methodist Ladies’ College

“MLC has a clear and explicit policy, and guidelines on the use of technology that impact all learners at MLC,” says their global strategy director, Ben Beaton.

“We mentor and model personal responsibility as we believe that students need to practice making informed choices in a safe environment.

“To ensure that students and their parents are fully aware of their responsibilities regarding the use of mobile phones and other personal devices, such as iPads and laptop computers, we ask them to sign our acceptable use of technology agreement each year and regularly present at student and parent forums on the obligation in the agreement.”

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