Roll call

November 2011


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ICT is likely to suffer under the new quarterly funding model for secondary students.


The new quarterly funding model is seen by some as a tool for incentivising schools to retain their students. Others argue that quarterly funding is disadvantaging those students who do remain at school, as those who leave take their chunk of the school’s operational budget with them.

The controversial funding model began this year. Operational funding for all year 9–13 students in state and state-integrated schools is now based on quarterly roll counts, whereas previously funding for these students was calculated on an annual entitlement, based on a peak roll.

In simple terms, this means that schools will no longer keep receiving funding for students who leave during the year and schools that pick up students during the year will get additional operational funding accordingly. So far, so fair. But the PPTA’s junior vice president Doug Clark casts a different light on the new funding model.

Clark says quarterly funding means schools are faced with funding cuts every 10 weeks if students leave, making it difficult to do any long-term planning. It stands to reason that subjects demanding a higher proportion of schools’ operational spend, such as ICT and media studies, are likely to suffer due to pressure put on schools’ operational budgets as a result of the quarterly funding model. “It impacts unfairly on students who stay at school, because schools are forced to cut programmes and activities in order to balance the budget,” says Clark.

And therein lies the rub. Statistics show that students in lower decile schools are more likely to leave school earlier, which puts these schools at a bigger disadvantage when coping with reductions in funding as the year progresses. “Decile 1 schools face average losses of about $120,000, while decile 10 schools may lose, on average, around $20,000,” says Clark.

If Clark’s projections prove to be accurate, this could indeed spell doom and gloom for subjects like ICT, which inevitably suck up a large amount of operational budget at lower decile schools. The repercussions of such cost-cutting measures will ironically lead to more students leaving, contrary to the aims of quarterly funding as a means for retaining students.

However, the Ministry of Education says that as school operational funding is being increased by four per cent in 2011, this will counterbalance the effect of quarterly roll counts on schools’ total funding. The ministry goes as far as to estimate that in 2011 almost all schools will receive more funding than they did in 2010.

As with so many policy decisions, we shall have to wait and see. The PPTA is surveying secondary school principals to collect more data on how quarterly funding is affecting them. The results will make interesting reading.