Education cuts in NSW, the politics

Talking to a friend the other day, she’s a bit left wing. She was telling me about the cuts in NSW education. I expressed the view that they’ll be the normal cuts that a right wing government introduces – they’ll be cutting “administrative staff” rather than “frontline staff”, and they’ll be reducing the numbers of staff somewhat towards the increase in population after years of left wing growth of government.

After talking to her I went to do some research to see whether that was actually true. What I find is the following:

Firstly, I visited the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to find the headcount employed in education in NSW government. The two reports that looked reasonably useful were that for 2005 and that for 2012.  What these reports tell me is that the education component of the NSW public sector has grown substantially:

2005 2012 Increase
Public Sector FTE 294,376 332,554 13%
Education FTE 91,201 101,601 11%

So between 2005 and 2012 the headcount in the public sector has grown by 13%, that in Education by 11%.  Now, I think teachers in NSW have received during that time pay rises, probably at least at the CPI, probably higher.  In theory we’d probably expect if the headcount stayed the same and the staff all got pay increases about the same as the increase in GDP, then the size of the education sector as a share of the economy would stay about the same.  So 11% growth is quite a bit.  But we’d expect some sort of growth, the population has grown in this time.  So I went to find what the increase in population was.  At the Australian Bureau of Statistics I found “TABLE 51. Estimated Resident Population By Single Year Of Age, New South Wales.”  After a bit of derivation based on the annual data:

2005 2012 Increase
NSW Population 6,693,206 7,301,134 9%
Public Sector FTE 294,376 332,554 13%
Education FTE 91,201 101,601 11%

That doesn’t sound too bad, we’ve got population growth of 9%, and an increase in staff of 11%.  Perhaps that’s a slight increase in teacher/student ratio, and we’re broadly in line.  But then I remembered that Australia has an ageing population, and we don’t really do much teaching of older people.  So I wondered about the population under 20. Again from the same source:

2005 2012 Increase
NSW Population 6,693,206 7,301,134 9%
NSW Population under 20 1,858,902 1,933,422 4%
Public Sector FTE 294,376 332,554 13%
Education FTE 91,201 101,601 11%

OK, so the population in school has increased by around 4% in that time, so not so good. And then finally, my left leaning friends tend to be upset about the number of kids in private schools. So if the growth in kids in school is 4%, but private schools are growing, what is the public sector education growth like?

This was a harder statistic to derive, I found the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, from whose information I reverse engineered the following statistics:

2005 2012 Increase
NSW Population 6,693,206 7,301,134 9%
NSW Population under 20 1,858,902 1,933,422 4%
Number children in private schools 143,015 188,198 32%
Number children in public schools 1,715,887 1,745,224 2%
Public Sector FTE 294,376 332,554 13%
Education FTE 91,201 101,601 11%

Obligatory caveats here: I can see a number of potential points of error in these numbers.  These include:

  • Children under 5 don’t really go to public schools, they’re in some for of day care, which I think is invariably private sector, this would make the growth in public sector education smaller still
  • Some of the education sector teaches people over 20 – particularly universities.  There has been significant growth in universities, I don’t have a breakout of university staff v’s school staff.  I doubt it is sufficient to overturn these numbers though
  • The derivation of private school education is pretty soft, this number was hard to source
  • The statistics potentially don’t cover exactly the same period – each of these source reports has it’s own timing and isn’t necessarily for a full calendar year

But even after all that, what I see is an education system whose headcount has grown by 11% at the same time the number of children being educated has grown by 2%.  And therefore I see a legitimate point where the incoming government says “we don’t have enough money to pay for that.”

 

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