What will the 2023/2024 federal budget offer education?

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Ahead of the release of the 2023/2024 Federal Budget on Tuesday, May 9, the National Catholic Education Commission is watching and waiting to see how many of their own recommendations presented in a submission to the Australian Government in January 2023 will be realised.

As the peak body for Catholic education in Australia, the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) is responsible for the national coordination and representation of Catholic schools and school authorities and works collaboratively with state and territory Catholic education commissions.

One in five Australian students are in Catholic education

Australia’s 1,755 Catholic schools deliver education to one in five – more than 785,000 – Australian students, and employ more than 102,000 Australians. Outside of government, these figures showcase Catholic schools as the nation’s largest provider of education.

So if their priorities are heard and responded to positively in the Budget, what will it mean across the education sector as a whole?

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Priorities for improved educational support

A call to improve the quality of information on the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD), and to improve the efficiency and integrity of the data collection, could offer a positive flow-on impact for both government and independent schools across the country.

The NCEC submission shows there has been a significant increase in the number of students identified as having a disability, since the implementation of the new NCCD model in 2018. According to the submission delivered to the Australian Government, “this is a result of teachers across schools having increased knowledge and ability to assess and identify students with disabilities using the new model”.

To help create sustainable and successful results, the submission outlined the need for training to continue to support overall consistency in the quality of NCCD data – both within jurisdictions and at a national level. 

Capital Grants Funding

The recommendation that the Capital Grants Program funding for non-government schools be increased to facilitate the construction of new and expansions of existing, low-fee schools in areas of high population growth is listed as another key priority that would have an impact on all independent schools.

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The Capital Grants Program for non-government schools provides funding to assist non-government school communities to improve capital infrastructure. The Commonwealth Capital Grants Program is indexed annually, however, according to the submission made by the NCEC, the funding available under this program has not changed in any material way for several years. 

For existing schools, the pressure to renew ageing capital infrastructure and/or to expand capacity – and build new schools in response to student population growth in some thriving regions –  is vital.

Seven key priorities that matter

Of the seven priorities listed in the NCEC submission, number four focuses on the level of government funding to non-government schools, that is determined by the Capacity to Contribute (CTC) and means-tested, according to family income. A school’s CTC score affects the amount of base recurrent funding the school attracts from the Australian Government under the Australian Education Act 2013 –  from between 10 per cent (minimum base funding) to 80 per cent (maximum based funding). 

The NCEC strongly supports the continuation of existing needs-based recurrent funding arrangements. While the CTC model is more equitable than previous models, the NCEC supports advancing a review and refinement of CTC settings to 2024, to ensure the fairest funding formula is in place for all families and communities. 

Will the Budget recognise the value of the education sector?

On May 9, seeing how many of these outlined priorities are addressed in the Federal Budget will be of interest to many independent and government schools across Australia. With education adding more than $29 billion to the economy in 2022, it’s a sector that is a critical foundation – and one that cannot afford to be ignored.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live