Grand ideas, but where is the money?

WHO’D be a state school principal? Long hours, angry parents, bolshie teachers, loads of responsibility. No wonder many school leadership positions are proving hard to fill.

And now things could be getting even more interesting as the state government seeks to raise the performance of Victoria’s students and place them nearer the top of world rankings.

Education Minister Martin Dixon yesterday went a step further in outlining his vision for schools by releasing a position paper on his ”third wave” of reform. This proposes new approaches to curriculum, teaching, resource sharing and assessment.

At the core of everything is the promise of greater autonomy for schools. What principal wouldn’t jump at the idea of more freedom over how their school operates and what is taught?

In reality, many shoulders will sag at the thought of having to take on so much more, especially when the inevitable questions arise as to how some of the reforms will be funded.

These days – after cuts to VCAL and TAFE, and with an eye to the wider budgetary constraints facing Spring Street – almost every government initiative in education is viewed through the funding prism.

One answer, implied in the government’s position paper, is that principals will have to add entrepreneur to their job descriptions and find the money themselves.

Mr Dixon said he wanted schools to reach out to non-government organisations, other levels of government, community organisations, individuals and businesses ”to see what they’ve got to offer schools in terms of resources”.

That sounds ominous.

Autonomy is an interesting term. It can mean freedom to operate the way you want. It can also mean you’re on your own.

At the very least, though, principals will be able to console themselves that they are getting more power to put those unruly parents in their place.

Ken Merrigan is Education Age editor.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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