The most effective way of improving school performance without increasing recurrent funding is to enable schools to respond to the needs of their students, using their own experience and expertise, and with the support and informed participation of their communities.
Certain reform characteristics can be attributed to a productive public education system. These include:
- A focus on the school as the key organisational unit
- Devolution of power over the budget and personnel to schools
- Development of a comprehensive school-level information system
This type of reform has been successfully implemented in Victoria. While there is very little difference in the purposes and values espoused by the public school systems of NSW and Victoria, NSW has not yet adopted this approach despite its positive effects on school education.
Where the Victorian system has embraced an approach that gives precedence to school-based management and accountability, in NSW there has been a decisive reversion to a less flexible, more centralised systemic structure. At least some of this is due to the conservative influence of the NSW Teachers Federation.
However, the increasing demands on schools and increasing pressure on public funds have created the need for the public school system to manage its resources in the most efficient way possible. New options need to be explored.