Briefing paper

School funding and achievement: following the money trail

Non-Government schools Schools Education Australia

Recurrent expenditure on school education in Australia is over $44 billion each year, around $36 billion of this provided by governments. These are considerable sums, more often than not expressed as a cost rather than an investment – especially when it doesn’t always seem to deliver noticeable improvements in student results.

But a closer look at where the money goes and what it delivers reveals many surprises. Schools are expensive places, some far more than others. But in recent years the biggest funding increases have gone to the most advantaged schools - and there is scant evidence of any difference in student results.

Some schools are better than others – but regardless of sector, schools which enrol similar students turn out much the same results. This prompts us to take a close look at how much schools are spending to get these same results.

We find that if all schools spent the same as the most efficient providers up to $3.3 billion each year could potentially be released and diverted to our most needy students. Gonski would be back in play, Australia’s worrying achievement gaps would diminish.

This study shows the figures, the possibilities and some the inevitable arguments.

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