TWO Margaret River independent schools will each receive $48,000 in start-up funding to join a Federal Government Empowering Local Schools initiative, aimed at improving school governance, management and planning.
However, according to WA Senator Chris Evans, who announced the successful funding applicants on Friday, local government schools were denied the opportunity by the State Government to join the initiative, despite more than $5 million in Federal funding being offered. WA was the only state not to take up the offer for its government schools, Senator Evans said.
Margaret River Independent School and Margaret River Montessori School were among 32 WA independent and Catholic schools to share $2.1 million aimed at providing them with greater autonomy.
Phase one of the initiative, to run over the 2012-13 school years, will provide funding to help schools improve decision-making and management structures in areas such as managing school finances and budgets, infrastructure planning, school leadership and parental and community engagement. Targeted training and professional development for principals and school communities will also be funded.
Acting School Education Minister, Senator Evans, took a swipe at Premier Colin Barnett on Friday for not taking up Federal funding available for government schools.
“These non-government schools (Margaret River Independent and Montessori) are now benefiting from more decision-making power, including greater control over school budgets, staffing and governance,” Senator Evans said. “Premier Colin Barnett decided not to take advantage of more than $5 million in available funding for government schools and he will need to explain this decision to parents and teachers of government school students.
“Every other state and territory has agreed to take part in our Empowering Local Schools initiative because they know it will improve student results and support local schools to make more effective decisions and reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools.”
Margaret River Independent School treasurer, Jessica Worrall, said the school was very pleased to be selected to participate in phase one of the ELS.
“In recent years, and as the school has grown, we have moved from decision-making by a full school council to a governance model with a governing body, predominantly made up of parents, providing governance and direction, while staff led by our principal manage the school,” Ms Worrall said.
“The ELS funding will help provide governance and finance training for governing body members, together with professional development for key staff. It will assist us to ensure sustainable school growth is planned for and well managed, while maintaining our small-school philosophy.
“We will be working on better ways to communicate with existing and potential students and families, as well as the wider community.”
Margaret River Montessori School principal, Gail Cresswell, said the ELS grant came at a time when the school council “continues to engage in strategic planning and visioning.”
The school, which celebrates its 20th year next year, has begun a quality assurance process with Montessori Australia and aims to have all its policies and procedures available to the public online, she said.
“The grant will ensure that all aspects of the school’s education provision ... will be showcased and it will enable the school to access professional development for staff and school council members.”
The school was also investigating the possibility of a high school class in the future, she said.
Claims laughable: Minister
EDUCATION Minister Peter Collier claimed Senator Evans’ comments about WA not joining the ELS initiative and missing out on funding for state-run schools were “laughable”.
“The State Government did not take up this offer because the Commonwealth’s plan is inferior to the education revolution we are already driving and the funding came with conditions, which would be onerous to state schools, require more work, require schools to take part in another evaluation, and create a third tier in our school system," Mr Collier said.
“The Liberal-National Government’s Independent Public Schools program is the single most important reform of education that Australia has ever seen, which is why other states and territories are racing to adopt a similar system, and why more than half of our public schools have expressed an interest in becoming Independent Public Schools.”
“Furthermore, the Liberal-National Government provides hundreds of millions of dollars to non-government schools in WA through the Department of Education Services and will continue to support schools that already operate independently.”