July 2020 Funding Instalment Brought Forward – with a catch

EDIT: Updated information 1 May

Given the shortness of the initial timeframe, with responses due by 5:00pm today, the Department has advised that they are able to accept declarations through to midday Saturday, 2 May 2020 for any approved authority that would like to opt-in and bring their payment forward to both the 21 May and 9 June payment schedule.

We also understand that the Minister is considering other financial support that may be available to help offset some of the incidental hygiene expenses that may be incurred by schools who have a plan for 50 per cent of students to return to classroom learning by 1 June 2020.  While this support is unlikely to be significant as it is only intended to “help offset some of the incidental hygiene expenses” it does mean that the offer might be more than simply a cash flow timing boost to schools.

As reflected in the sample plan we have prepared for schools, we believe that it will be acceptable for a school plan to be conditional on local State/Territory government health advice and their plans in relation to government schools in the jurisdiction.

Finally, the Department has indicated that a declaration must be received from all independent approved authorities confirming compliance with a physical learning environment (Question 1) per the condition on approval imposed by the Minister for Education on 9 April 2020.

It was certainly not clear previously that schools not wishing to seek the advance of funding would need to return the declaration, but this is certainly the case.

All schools have received a form and a factsheet from the Commonwealth offering to bring payment of the July instalment, 25% of estimated 2020 funding, but it comes with some conditions.

As indicated in the factsheet, yesterday the Australian Government Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, approved the option to allow non-government schools to bring forward their July 2020 recurrent school funding payments if they have a plan to “fully re-open” their schools by 1 June 2020.

The offer from the Commonwealth is to bring this instalment forward and make two payments, each equivalent to 12.5% of estimated 2020 funding, paid to State/Territory treasuries on 21 May and 9 June provided a school:

  1. confirms they are providing a physical classroom learning environment from Term 2, 2020.
  2. has a plan to “fully re-open your school(s) and resume classroom based learning” by 1 June 2020, which is confirmed to the department by 1 May, this Friday, and
  3. your plan allows for 50 per cent of students to return to classroom based learning by 1 June 2020.

The factsheet indicates that –

“For a school to be ‘fully re-opened’ it means that the physical classroom environment must be open and able to support education delivery for its students in a standard classroom setting. To ‘fully re-open’ a school does not mean full attendance by your student population.”

The Department also notes that “special consideration and exemptions may be provided for boarding schools, Indigenous schools, special schools or special assistance schools.”

The plan should be developed for your school and your particular situation and it does not need to be provided to the department. The department may request to see a copy of the plan as part of routine assurance activities.

Schools unable to provide these confirmations will have the July instalment paid in July as normal.  Schools able to provide the first two assurance but who do not plan to have 50% of students onsite by 1 June can receive the 12.5% proposed to be paid in May at that time and the remaining 12.5% will be paid as normal in July.

Schools should also note that this proposal does not increase funding – merely brings forward the receipt of already budgeted funding.

For schools in the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania where State/Territory governments are still planning on providing education through remote learning this term this will be an obvious challenge. 

As discussed in our CSA Schools Leaders Video-conference yesterday though, the decisions of State/Territory governments in relation to the operation of their schools are, generally, not binding on the decisions of non-government schools. Our advice to schools remains as we indicated yesterday –

  • Schools should aim to “re-open” by 1 June to meet community expectations (although not necessarily for 50% of students – this should be based on local circumstances)
  • A phased approach should be developed for “re-opening” reflecting local school community needs
  • Once on-site, face to face teaching is the dominant approach it will not be practicable to support large numbers of students off-site
  • Schools need to be ready in the event of a confirmed case associated with the school

Further discussion and details are in our Educational Delivery in Term Two document.

Need a plan to return to to classroom based learning?  Check out our example