Decision day looming for Gillard on Gonski reforms

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will break months of uncertainty about the Gonski reforms on Monday - but the wait for more cash for the sector is far from over.

Ms Gillard is expected to announce that Labor supports the principles underpinning the Gonski review; namely, that the present funding model is failing students and that every school should receive a base-funding amount, with extra funding to tackle key areas of disadvantage.

The landmark Gonski review of schools funding - the most comprehensive review of Australia's school funding arrangements in almost 40 years - recommends the government pours an additional $5 billion a year into the education sector.

But the sector is not expecting Ms Gillard to commit to a dollar figure, because this could place the federal government at a disadvantage in negotiations with the states and territories about the share they will be expected to pick up.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the expected announcement would be momentous.

''We are hoping and, indeed, expecting that the government will embrace the Gonski funding principle of base funding and additional loadings to address issues of disadvantage, which can only deliver additional resourcing for public schools.''

The Gonski panel, led by businessman and academic David Gonski, was instructed to report in line with the government's commitment that no school would lose a dollar of funding under the new rules.

But the panel found that the present system was failing the needs of students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

''There is also an unacceptable link between low levels of achievement and educational disadvantage, particularly among students from low socio-economic and indigenous backgrounds,'' it found.

Government schools educate a higher proportion of Australia's disadvantaged, disabled and Aboriginal children than private and Catholic schools.

In 2010, 36 per cent of all government school students were from the lowest quarter of socio-economic advantage compared with 21 per cent of Catholic school students and 13 per cent of independent school students.

In the same year, 78 per cent of children with a disability were in government schools.

The government should, the panel recommended, ''make reducing educational disadvantage a high priority in a new funding model''.

To deliver that, it recommended a $5 billion investment in government and non-government schools.

But that figure was based on 2009 estimates, meaning the real cost would be higher today.

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