While chairing the panel for the Review into Funding for Schooling, I visited dozens of schools across Australia and spoke with many students, principals and teachers.
It was very clear to me that the fact a child was disadvantaged from an educational background, didn’t necessarily mean that she or he wasn’t capable of achieving great things. I saw many wonderful young people who I just felt, if they were given an extra chance, would mellow and mature into something absolutely phenomenal.
On these visits, I asked all the principals I met the same question: “What could you do with more funding?” I was totally convinced they could make a difference to the lives of students disadvantaged from an educational background if they had more money.
Addressing education disadvantage is critical.
It is simply unfair that where a child lives or their family’s background has such significant impact on their success at school. Ensuring equal access to education opportunities is beneficial for individuals, assisting them to break through barriers and have a wonderful and fulfilling life. It also improves our towns and cities, and through that our entire nation, its productivity and its standing in the world.
One of the outcomes of the Gonski Review into school funding about which I am most pleased is the creation of Schools Plus. This charity was established to break down the barriers that prevented schools, particularly in disadvantaged communities, from connecting with the people and organisations that want to support them.
With the backing of a group of not-for-profits and both Labor and the Coalition, Schools Plus was founded and has already raised privately more than $2.5 million for projects in more than 100 schools across Australia.
This month, Schools Plus launched its Pioneers in Philanthropy, a group of which I am very proud to be a part.
The Pioneers are a coming together of people with one motivation, and that is to give and do good things for the benefit of the children of today, the adults of tomorrow. We are united in our belief in the value of education, and see the advantage that some funding can create in getting initiatives going a little quicker for the schools that need them the most.
Over five years, the Pioneers will contribute a total of $5.25 million to Schools Plus.
Our plan is two-fold. One is to acknowledge and reward the strength of the teaching profession through the establishment of a new national Teaching Awards and fellowship program. The second is to direct our funding to programs in schools that can improve the opportunities and outcomes for those who are educationally disadvantaged within our society.
Government funding is very important and will always be the bulk of funding for our schools but I’m often asked why schools need funding in addition to that.
Governments have to look after the country, the state and the city. They are like the big aircraft carrier. It protects the whole nation but it often can’t, without taking from somewhere else, go into a particular bay and deal with a particular little town that has to be looked after.
A generous donor is like the frigate (the little boat) which can do just that. That frigate also can bring not just money, but a spirit of caring so needed in our society today. And that’s what I believe one can do through something like Schools Plus. You can use your money to actually focus on a situation in a particular town, in a particular suburb, in a particular school and I think that’s absolutely marvellous and that’s the wonderment of giving.
You can make such a difference by giving to organisations like Schools Plus, which will bring a rigour to putting it together with other monies and making sure that it has an effect.
Going out to those schools and seeing those wonderful kids, it’s just imbued within my heart that we owe it to them to try to elevate them so that they can, in turn, elevate all of us.
The Pioneers in Philanthropy initiative was launched this month by David Gonski, who chairs the group. The other Pioneers are his wife, Orli Wargon, John B. Fairfax and Nick Fairfax, John Grill and Rosie Williams, Angus and Sarah James, Roger Massy-Greene, Kerry Stokes and the Commonwealth Bank represented by CEO Ian Narev.
David Gonski AC is Chair of the Pioneers in Philanthropy, Australian Schools Plus
Images courtesy of Schools Plus