As Western Australian families prepared for the start of the 2021 school year in February, we received a sudden reminder of the uncertain times we have all been living through in the past 12 months, as the State went into lock down and the school year was delayed by a week.
With most children, and parents, experiencing some level of anxiety at the start of any new school year, I am sure these sudden and unpredictable events led to heightened
levels of stress in the households of many families in the Perth, Peel and South West regions impacted.
We remain very conscious of this as we settle into 2021 at our 163 Catholic schools around WA and we remain committed to ensuring the 78,000 students we currently educate have their mental health and wellbeing supported alongside their educational needs.
Catholic Education WA (CEWA) has seen an increase in the number of families choosing Catholic schools for their children’s education in 2020/21 and we believe this is in no small part due to our parallel focus on pastoral care and academic outcomes.
About one-in-five children attend Catholic schools in WA, not just in Perth but in every region of the State where there is a need, and their parents already make a substantial financial contribution to support that education.
In fact, if Catholic schools were not an option for those parents and our students needed to transition to State-operated alternatives, the Government would need to find an additional $611 million in its education budget every year.
We believe every child counts, and every child should receive fair funding across critical areas of Government spending on education. Our students deserve the same access to mental health and support services, and ongoing investment in contemporary learning facilities.
The current funding model fails to provide equitable support, particularly in these two critical areas, and CEWA is focused on securing a commitment from our political leaders in the lead up to next month’s State election.
As a priority, we are asking for recurrent funding support of $10 million per annum for the mental health and wellbeing of our students to meet the increased demand for these services in the wake of COVID-19.
We are also asking for an $8 million recovery support fund which represents an equal ratio of COVID-19 recovery funding offered to State schools. All schools have been impacted in a similar way and have similar additional pressure on them.
Beyond a fairer and more equitable approach to funding during the COVID-19 recovery phase, we are also campaigning for equivalent recurrent capital funding, based on CEWA’s proportion of WA school students and public education capital expenditure.
This is not to seek advantage, but simply to alleviate the growing capital investment burden that falls disproportionately on Catholic school families, who already make a larger direct financial contribution to capital funding compared to State school families.
We think it’s time for fairer funding because every child counts.