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Issue #1615      October 23, 2013

Schools forced to do more with less

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has accused the Napthine government in Victoria of yet again making schools do more with less, following a new survey that shows principals are struggling to maintain a high standard of programs and support for their students.

The AEU Victorian branch last week launched the results of its annual State of Our Schools survey, revealing that three quarters of principals don’t have sufficient resources to ensure quality program delivery. This has increased by 6% over the last 12 months from 69% to 75%.

The survey of nearly 500 Victorian school principals also shows Victorian schools are faced with significant increases in fees to provide Vocational Education and Training (VET) subjects, dramatic deterioration in support from the regional education offices and increases in teacher and principal stress.

AEU Victoria president Meredith Peace says that schools are under mounting pressure to find additional resources to compensate for lack of state government funding, and this is directly impacting on their ability to provide programs and support to their students.

“The State of Our Schools survey paints a very clear picture. Premier Napthine is continuing to expect our public schools to do more with less.

“Cuts to education by this state government over the last three years have had a devastating impact on students and schools across the state. The flow-on effects of a stretched principal upon the school community, staff and students cannot be underestimated.

“We continue to urge the state government to commit to a well-resourced, high-quality school sector,” Peace says.

A major factor in the additional pressures on schools is the government’s decision to restructure and downsize the regional education offices from nine regions to four, with 94% of principals saying that regional support has deteriorated as a result.

“Regional offices are critical for principals. At the very least, restoring staffing levels is vital to ensuring that principals get the support they need,” Peace says. “Schools play an integral role in providing students with a variety of educational pathways. Under the Napthine government, this is becoming increasingly difficult.”

The cost of delivering alternative student pathways is on the rise, with schools estimating a 17.3% increase in the cost of providing VET subjects.

A fifth of Victorian public schools are having to reduce subject offerings to senior students because of government cuts to Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) funding – an increase of 7% in the past 12 months.

“Given there are fewer resources, increased responsibility through autonomy and lack of support, it is no wonder that principal stress has increased across the state, and particularly in our regional areas,” Peace says. “Principals feel like they have been totally abandoned.”

Key findings of the State of Our Schools survey include:

  • 75% of principals don’t have sufficient resources to ensure quality program delivery for students – an increase of 6% over the past 12 months.
  • 94% of schools said that over the past year support from the regional offices had deteriorated, with almost half saying it had deteriorated “a lot”.
  • Principal comments suggest that the regional office restructure means schools are effectively alone, with significantly diminished support.
  • Principal concerns regarding the lack of department consultation had increased by 11% in the past 12 months.
  • 75% of schools said that there had been a significant increase in external RTO fees for VET subjects, up an estimated 17.3%.
  • 20% of Victorian public schools said they had to reduce subject offerings to senior students because of the state government’s cut to VCAL funding
  • Principal stress overall has increased to 48% from 44% a year ago, and higher in regional areas.

Next article – The way forward

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