TIMSS reveals deep inequality for disadvantaged students

The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) report has revealed the impact of the federal Morrison government’s deeply inequitable school funding policy and its failure to provide targeted resources and support to address the lower achievement levels for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said that the Gonski Report had set out a way to fix these structural issues nearly ten years ago, but TIMSS 2019 had exposed the government’s lack of interest in building a truly needs-based school funding system to address the entrenched inequity in Australian schools.

“Despite over a decade of national dialogue about the importance of needs-based funding and the important link between equitable funding distribution and student outcomes, TIMSS 2019 has highlighted the unmet funding need in public schools and its impact on students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The federal government’s failure to ensure that schools have the resources necessary to work with students who have lower achievement levels is a clear indictment of its inequitable school funding methodology, and a complete abrogation of needs-based policies.”

TIMSS showed benchmark improvements in Year 4 science and Year 8 maths and science, with 90% of Australian Year 8 students achieving the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for universal quality education, compared to the international median of 87%.

However, these improvements were concentrated among students displaying high achievement levels in TIMSS, and a further analysis of the data showed deeper inequities: 
•    Students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds were more than three times more likely to display lower achievement levels than non-Indigenous students
•    Students at remote schools were up to five times more likely to display lower achievement levels compared to those from metropolitan schools. 
•    There has been no improvement in the proportion of students at lower achievement levels since 2015. 

“Federal government school funding deals have created a $19 billion public school funding shortfall through to 2023. This means that public schools, which educate the vast majority of students from remote, lower-socioeconomic, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, will be denied the resources needed to close student achievement gaps,” Ms Haythorpe said.

"Above all, addressing this public school funding shortfall would mean more teachers, support staff and more one-on-one attention for the students with the greatest need,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that it was a joint responsibility between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to ensure that public schools have the resources needed to cater for the educational needs of every child.

“Public schools teach the vast majority of students, including 80% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have the highest level of need. This report must be an urgent call to action for all governments to address the growing funding gaps for public schools. For every child to achieve their full potential, Australia’s school funding inequality must be rectified.”

Wednesday, 9 December 2020