Australian primary and secondary schooling requires major change to empower parents and teachers, and to meet the diverse needs of students. The old ‘public versus private’ debate has served students, parents and teachers badly. It has focused attention on institutional arrangements on the supply-side rather than individualized arrangements on the demand side. A revolution in our schools is needed as a national priority.

The ownership structure of schools is less important for parents than their ability to access individualized, person-centred education for their children within values frameworks of their own choosing.

Ideology is less important for conscientious teachers than opportunities afforded for them to be the best teachers they can be with appropriate peer and public acknowledgement.

Trade union agendas in schools are less important for students than individualized learning agendas and continuity in personal and social support from trusted adults.

Students have been the big losers in the false war between equity and choice, especially those students with disabilities, learning, behavioural and social difficulties.

People Power stands for

ü Student-centred arrangements Education should be tailored to meet the personalized needs of students and their families - the 'one size fits all' model belongs in the dustbin of history.
ü Empowerment of parents Individualized funding entitlements for students, adjusted for educational and social disadvantage, should be introduced to transfer resources and power to parents so they may exercise real choice in schooling.
ü Subsidiarity Authority in education should be devolved to school-based levels of decision-making as much as is practically possible.
ü Dispersal of ownership Ownership of schools should be distributed as widely as possible amongst communities, parents, teachers, not-for-profit foundations and religious institutions, and removed from direct government ownership and control.
ü Inclusion of people across racial, cultural, religious and ability boundaries Adequate resourcing is needed to enable real and effective inclusion in schools, especially those with learning and developmental deficits.
ü Openness and transparency in school performance and culture

People Power will

  • Consolidate all existing commonwealth and state school funding programs in a student-based funding entitlement allocated to parents. Parents will be enabled to take their child’s entitlement to a school of their choice. This Student-Based Funding Entitlement (SBFE) would be a fixed dollar entitlement for every primary school student, with a slightly higher dollar entitlement for every secondary student, allocated directly to parents. The base SBFE would be supplemented by an additional entitlement for educational and social disadvantage.

  • Require all schools (public and private) to meet benchmarks on inclusion of students with social and educational disadvantages in order to be eligible to receive SBFE funds. Amongst the benchmarks will be a requirement that a fixed percentage of enrolled students in every school are students who have a learning, developmental or behavioural difficulty. Schools which meet these benchmarks may adopt their own fee schedules to supplement SBFE entitlements up to a maximum fee of $12,000. Schools which do not meet these benchmarks will not be eligible to receive public funds through SBFE entitlements.

  • Structure the Supplementary SBFE entitlements for educational and social disadvantage in such a way that schools will compete to attract students with learning and developmental deficits and behavioural difficulties, with additional financial incentives for achievement of performance-based outcomes with these students.

  • Allow all schools greater flexibility in determining curriculum (beyond core components), their preferred educational and organizational philosophy, and their preferred reporting mechanisms to parents.

  • Allow schools in the public system to hire and fire staff as they see fit.

  • Allow schools in the public system to adopt a Charter defining their educational philosophy, social and cultural values, curriculum and structure as they see fit. Charter schools would be given additional flexibilities in educational, governance, management and financial operations.

  • Enable schools which are state owned to voluntarily transfer their educational leadership and management to non-government entities (foundations, community organizations, teacher co-operatives, parent entities). Following a ten year probationary period under such arrangements, schools may transfer their ownership to these not-for-profit bodies.

  • Make it easier for parent entities to establish new schools with their preferred educational philosophies and leadership.

  • Support the establishment of a Parent School Information Service to provide comparative online data on schools, school performance, school values and cultures. School co-operation with this Service will be made a requirement for receipt of SBFE funds.

  • Introduce a Lifelong Learning Account for all students at the age of 18 with an initial public allocation of $8,000 to be used for ongoing learning through university, TAFE, ACFE, workplace or arts-based programs, administered by a network of Account Holders as high-yield investment instruments. Students, families, employers and philanthropists may make supplementary deposits in this Account, but withdrawals may be made only for authorized educational expenditures.

People Power Schools Policy Contact : Vern Hughes  

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