What the Commonwealth should do (and not do) to drive improvement in school education

The Grattan Institute’s next event examines the big state government reforms in school education and what the Commonwealth’s role should be within the reform picture.








The Commonwealth’s role in schooling is topical given it recently commissioned a review on ways to achieve excellence in Australian schools (known as the Gonski 2.0 Review). There is a danger the review could be used as a platform for Commonwealth interventions into school education that sound good, but don’t actually help on the ground. The review is now complete and the federal government is considering its response.

Grattan Institute argues that the Commonwealth should not use the extra money it is spending on schools as an excuse to intervene more broadly in school education. Experience shows that well-meaning Commonwealth interventions into systems primarily run by the states and territories can end up just increasing red tape and destroying policy coherence.

The Gonski 2.0 funding deal struck in 2017 will deliver an extra $23 billion in Commonwealth funds to schools over the next ten years. But it needs to be kept in perspective: the extra money will be only 3 per cent of all government spending on schools over the decade. The states and territories still overwhelmingly fund and run schools.

The Commonwealth should focus on four smaller reforms where it can make a genuine contribution, such as in coordinating and promoting the evidence on what works, investigating ways to measure and report on school outcomes, and supporting large investments at scale where it makes sense to do so.

For more on this topic, come along to the first Grattan Institute State of Affairs talk for 2018 on Wednesday 2 May from 6pm. Book your free tickets now.

For further reading see the Grattan Institute report The Commonwealth’s role in improving schools.


This blog post has been contributed by Julie Sonnemann, Grattan Institute School Education Fellow. All opinions expressed here are Julie's own.

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