Children in the Northern Territory deserve better

Northern Territory public schools are at the top of the nation when it comes to the complexity and diversity of student needs. But they are at the bottom when it comes to the funding they require. This must change.

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Delivering a high quality education to every child in the Northern Territory is a unique challenge.

Public schools are spread across a vast and sparsely populated territory. Over 70% are located in remote and very remote areas and 27% had less than 50 students enrolled in 2021.

Student needs in NT public schools are higher and more complex than in any other state or territory.

Half of all students are from a language background other than English and just under half are from the lowest quartile of socio-educational advantage. Thirty per cent of all students in the NT have a disability.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students make up 44% of public school enrolments, compared to 6.3% of all enrolments in Australian schools.

Despite these challenges, NT public schools receive a smaller proportion of the funding they require than public or private schools in any other state or territory.

This year, public schools are funded at only 80.6% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) – the minimum amount governments say they need to meet the needs of every child.

Effectively that means there is no funding for 1 in 5 students.

Unless there is a change, NT public schools won’t even reach 95% of the SRS until “sometime in the middle of the century”, Education Minister Jason Clare recently pointed out.

On top of this, NT public schools are the only ones funded according to the number of students attending schools, rather than the number enrolled.

 

Inadequate and inequitable funding

The difficulties faced by teachers and principals in NT schools are compounded by the inequitable distribution of funding over the last decade.

An analysis of My School financial data shows that between 2012 and 2021, total government funding for NT public schools increased in real terms by only 7.7%.

By contrast, government funding for NT private schools, where student needs are lower, increased by 43.3% over the same period.

On average, NT private schools spent double per student what NT public schools did on capital works each year between 2012 and 2021.

 

The change we need

The NT launch of the For Every Child campaign was held in Darwin last week with the aim of securing a new funding agreement between the Albanese Government and the NT Government within the next 12 months.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the underfunding of NT public schools was forcing principals and teachers to take on unsustainable workloads to ensure all students receive a high quality education.

“Teachers and principals are being asked to do too much with too little,” she said.

“We need a new agreement between the Federal and NT governments that ensures all public schools are funded to 100% of the SRS by 2028.

“As part of that the Albanese Government needs to lift its SRS share for the NT from 21.6% now to 40% of the SRS in 2028.” 

AEU NT President Michelle Ayres said fully funding public schools would expand the opportunities and support local children received and help in the attraction and retention of teachers.

“The Territory has the most amazing teachers and principals and if we fully fund their schools they can do so much more,” she said.

“We need every NT school fully funded based on enrolment not attendance.”

Fully funding NT public schools would allow schools to employ additional support staff to work with teachers in the classroom, run small group tutoring programs for children at risk of falling behind and give teachers more time to plan lessons and collaborate with their colleagues.

It would also mean more funding for innovative and engaging programs such as this one that is creating pathways for students to become Aboriginal language teachers.

Read the For Every Child plan which shows why full funding is so important and the benefits it will have for children across Australia.

Sign up and show your support for the full funding of all public schools.

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