2022 Federal Budget: What it means for Education

Rural childcare, preschools, job training and tertiary support featured in the 2022 Federal Budget – plus extra help for flood-affected education businesses.

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What did the Education sector want? 

Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA), Community Early Learning Australia (CELA), and Community Child Care Association (CCCA) provided a joint submission, with the objective to “ensure every child in Australia has the same opportunities, regardless of what their family earns or where they live”. They also noted the sector was facing “a major workforce crisis, with low pay, high staff turnover and uneven access to quality training meaning services were struggling to find the quality staff needed”. The joint submission proposed a 6 Point Plan for Australia’s education and care sector which included:

  1. two days a week of funded early education and care for all children from birth to school;
  2. a commitment to the inclusion of all children;
  3. mandatory National Quality Standard assessments and ratings at least every three years;
  4. the creation of a national industrial instrument for the education and care sector to provide educators with fairer levels of pay;
  5. a National Children’s Education & Care Workforce Strategy; and
  6. properly funded infrastructure and sector support.

National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) represents 1,755 catholic schools, and educates one in five, or over 777,000 school students. The NCEC has recommended that the Non-Government Reform Support Fund be extended for another 5 years beyond 2022. In addition, there are submissions which focus on early childhood education funding, with priority to disadvantaged communities. The NCEC also has recommendations for increased capital funding and remote area programs, with one focus aligning to ‘closing the gap’ initiatives.

Independent Schools Australia (ISA) represent 1,169 schools, and over 647,000 or one in six students. ISA noted the need to protect and support all students and staff had never been more important. ISA referenced increased incidence of mental health concerns at a younger age, with half of mental illness onsetting prior to 14 years. ISA noted that Safework Australia also reports that teachers are over-represented in the number of paid claims and early career teachers are leaving the profession at high rates. With the number of ISA students expected to increase (projected 11% or an additional 62,000 by 2028), the submission highlighted three current key areas of concern for the Independent school sector:

  1. Support for Learners – ensuring that the wellbeing and mental health needs of staff and students.
  2. Support for Choice – ensuring schools affected by funding methodologies remain accessible; ensuring schools’ funding is stable and predictable; strengthening education in regional and remote areas and for Indigenous students; and contributing to the capital costs of new Independent schools or significant extensions to existing schools.
  3. Support for Reform – protecting the quality of Independent schools by maintaining funding to assist the sector continue to deliver on existing and new national priorities.

Universities Australia (UA) noted the university sector had been hit hard. Student enrolments (and more critically, commencements) had fallen, student accommodation buildings were empty, and small businesses dependent upon international students suffered – and in some cases closed down. At the same time, however, “the unprecedented crisis of the last two years highlighted the indispensable contribution that universities make to the nation. University researchers studied and sequenced the virus, followed its medical, economic and social impacts, and developed effective, expert responses”. Similarly, universities continue to educate the health professionals who work on the front line. UA set out 12 policy recommendations including:

  1. ensuring the funding framework for Government-subsidised university places is adequate to meet future student demand due to changes in population and the labour market.
  2. extending demand-driven places to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, not just those from regional and remote areas.
  3. funding a time-limited health service placement adjustment package to support health workforce supply and skills growth.
  4. extending eligibility to access the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to Australians undertaking non-award micro-credentials.
  5. providing a time-limited targeted grant program to support additional clinical education technology in the university sector.
  6. increasing long-term investment in university research.
  7. shifting Research and Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) funds away from indirect funding of industry R&D towards targeted, direct-funding programs that aim to increase innovation, additionality, and absorptive capacity in industry.
  8. funding the development of information for culturally and linguistically diverse populations to provide guidance on self-isolation requirements on arrival into Australia, access to COVID-19 testing and to assist them in proving their vaccination status.
  9. re-establishing the Endeavour Program to help students and early to midcareer researchers build international networks.
  10. funding service providers to ensure international students are able to access physical and mental health support services.
  11. reviewing the New Colombo Plan with a view to expanding the program to include a broader range of destination countries and to provide targeted opportunities for specific cohorts of students who are currently under-represented.
  12. working in partnership to identify and deal with regulatory overlap and to coordinate regulatory and reporting requirements more effectively in different portfolios.

The Australian Academy of Science also noted that the Budget provides an opportunity for the Australian Government to secure the scientific base. Science and technology continue to offer the “only exit strategy from the pandemic for Australia and the world”. The Academy called on the Government to sustain excellence in fundamental research; foster a scientific workforce more diverse in race, gender, and geography; and support high-quality science and mathematics education. Additionally, it believes there is a need to foster closer ties between academia and industry, keep borders open to promote international partnerships, and promote ethical research practices.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the peak body of the community services and welfare sector, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires had “exposed the weaknesses of our most basic social, economic and environmental supports”. Specific to education, ACOSS noted a flexible Jobs and Training Guarantee for people unemployed long-term.

What did the Budget deliver? 

Childcare and Preschools

An extension of the four year preschool reform agreement from 2021. $6.9 million for business continuity payments of $10,000 to early childhood education and care services in flood affected areas. $19.4 million over 5 years from 2021 for Community Child care for services in rural areas.

School Education

$228.5 million over 5 years from 2021-22, of which $62.4 million over 2 years from 2022-23 extend the National School Reform Funds, $29.4 million over 4 years allocated to extend the Indigenous Boarding schools grants program for one additional year, $10.4 million (from 2021) for emerging priorities, and $7.2 million (from 2021) for teachers, school leaders, and improve student engagement, $6.3 million for a boarding facility in Tennant Creek.

Job Training

The Boosting Participation and Building Australia’s Workforce program, allocates $52.8 million over 5 years for the ReBoot initiative for up to 5,000 training places aimed at disadvantaged young people, $49.5 million for 15,000 low and fee-free aged care training places over 2 years.

Of the $1.3 billion over 5 years under the “Investing in skills development and growing Australia’s workforce” initiative, $954 million is allocated to the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System, and $365.3 million to extend an existing apprenticeship program.

Tertiary Support

$988.2 million over 5 years from 2021-22 to deliver the research reform package aimed at university-industry collaboration. Of which, $505.2m has been allocated to the “Australia’s Economic Accelerator (AEA)” program, $295.2m for research training pathways including Industry PhDs, and $150m to expand the CSIRO innovation fund. Much of this funding was previously announced.

How did business react? 

Universities Australia Chief executive Catriona Jackson said:

“Tonight’s budget recognises the pressures faced by ordinary Australians and strives toward a stronger, more productive economy in turbulent times… We welcome the extra $11.3 million for the 80 new Commonwealth Supported Places, commencing from 2023-24, to deliver full medical school programs at new or existing rural training locations.”

Swinburne University Professor Pascale Questor raised concerns about the lack of change in research funding noting:

“We continue to have a system where research is not fully funded and has to be subsidised by teaching.”

National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) Jacinta Collins welcomed the increase to early childhood services in regional and remote areas, and continued support for boarding facilities. In addition, the extension of the reform funds is also welcome.

The Parenthood, an independent not-for-profit, issued a mixed response. They welcomed improvements to the paid parental leave scheme, but were disappointed with no further changes to childcare subsidies.

Science and Technology Australia Professor Mark Hutchinson welcomed the investment in research commercialisation. establishment of Australia’s Economic Accelerator, and industry PhDs and Fellowships program, along with the CSIRO research translation program. STA also noted the $2 million over 4 years to build the STEM profile of women.

For more information read the full Federal Budget 2022-23 – What does it mean for Education report