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Don't rush SES changes

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If there are changes to be made to the way SES is calculated following the National School Resourcing Board (NSRB) review, rigorous testing and observation should be carried out before anything is done says the The Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA).

The Council stresses that any new methodology to appraise SES must produce accurate, valid information at the school level and be evenly applied to all non-government schools.

ISCA Executive Director Colette Colman said that, “The Board recommendations would be a significant change from the present methodology. The current approach took three years to model, trial and validate prior to its introduction, and we’d expect the same rigour prior to any move away from the existing arrangements.

“…as part of moving away from the current indirect measure of capacity to contribute, the Independent sector must be assured that any direct measure will be significantly more accurate and will be consistently applied to all non-government schools,” Colman said.

The Independent sector supports the Board's decision not to use fees as a measure of capacity to contribute. The analysis outlined in the report clearly demonstrates that fees are not an accurate or consistent measure of a school community’s capacity to contribute.

Regarding the Board’s recommendation that capacity to contribute for a school is determined by the median income of parents and guardians of the students at the school, Colman said that, “As the majority of Independent schools are stand-alone entities, it is critical that any methodology is valid not only at the sector or system level but also at the individual school level.”

The NSRB’s Report suggests an alternative methodology using personal income tax data to enable the calculation of a direct measure of median parent and guardian income for a school.

Significant clarification is required regarding how this methodology could work including:

  • How to ensure sufficient data is available for an accurate assessment of parental income for all schools, particularly those which would be highly disadvantaged by missing data, such as small schools, rural schools, schools serving high numbers of disadvantaged students and boarding schools. It should be noted that currently the modelling in the Report is based on household income rather than the proposed methodology of a direct measure of parental income
  • Whether the recommended approach will provide a stable and predictable funding environment for Independent schools
  • Assurance regarding any privacy implications
  • The likelihood of additional administration burdens for schools
  • A suitable timeframe for development and validation prior to implementation
  • The development of appropriate transition arrangements to any new model
  • Assurance that the proposed new arrangements can be introduced in a rigorously consistent manner across all non-government schools.

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