A war of words has broken out between private and public school lobby groups over the fairness of schools funding, following the publication of the new My School website data.


The Association of Independent Schools NSW has compared funding levels of disadvantaged schools to make the point that wealthier private schools are not receiving as much.


However, the public school lobby has highlighted the fact that some disadvantaged schools, including Rooty Hill High School, in Sydney’s western suburbs, are getting less government funding than some Catholic schools in wealthier suburbs.


The Independent Education Union Federal Secretary, Chris Watt, said Rooty Hill High School also received less government funding compared to public schools in more affluent areas. He called for a major overhaul of the way public school systems fund schools.


He said there were many more government schools with high educational advantage that received more per student government funding than public schools like Rooty Hill High, with a low ICSEA score of 965 and receiving only $8692 per student, serving the more educationally disadvantaged.


They included:


-       Chatswood High School ICSEA 1156 ; $11397 per student

-       Ryde Secondary College ICSEA 1093  ; $10504 per student

-       North Sydney Girls ICSEA 1192; $9510 per student

-       Rose Bay Secondary College ICSEA 1130; $10010 per student

-       Conservatorium High ICSEA 1176; $20235 per student

-       James Ruse High ICSEA 1186; $9765 per student


“Why is it that public schools like Rooty Hill High School with less advantage and lower NAPLAN scores receive less than students in educationally advantaged and wealthy suburbs?,” Mr Watt said.


“These differences are greater within the public school system than any comparison between systems.


‘‘Of course the public school sector lobby is unprepared to acknowledge the systemic anomalies in its own sector.


Mark Rix, from the Catholic Education Office Sydney, says the debate about government funding of schools has been compromised by the use of ‘‘simplistic comparisons of random schools’’.


He says the comparisons made by Save Our Schools were done without any explanation of why those schools receive the funding that they do.


‘‘There was no outline of the factors that might determine that funding figure,’’ Mr Rix said. ‘‘That could include, among other things, the size of the student population, whether the school has specialist facilities (eg, for students with special needs), the teacher student/teacher ratios etc. The same principle should apply to State schools when explaining why they receive a particular level of funding.’’


OECD data shows that Australia is on its own among developed nations in the funding it provides to private schools. A decade ago the Howard Government decided to increase funding for independent schools.


A federal department of education review of the funding arrangements has been critical that more than half of schools funded under the Commonwealth system are exceptions to the funding rule. Close to 60 per cent of Catholic schools receive more than their strict entitlements under the socio economic status funding formula because the Howard government agreed to "maintain" their funding at historic levels.


The federal department of education funding review said this was only designed to be a transitional arrangement. It said the ‘‘funding maintained’’ arrangement entrenched inequity and it could only be justified by ‘‘purely historical’’ reasons.


The My School website can be accessed at www.myschool.edu.au