Today, my department has written to the school authority responsible for the Islamic College of South Australia to inform them that their approval for access to Federal funds has been revoked with effect from 13 April 2017 (end of Term 1).
This means that the Islamic College of South Australia will no longer be receiving Australian Government funding from 14 April 2017.
It is disappointing that after the number of chances this school has been given and the constructive work the Department has been doing with the authority since November 2015 the school has still failed to meet the reasonable standards and expectations placed on them.
This decision has not been taken lightly. However the Department was left with no choice. The school authority is not meeting the strict conditions placed on them in April 2016, which included obligations around improvements to governance and financial management and regular reporting on progress in making the required changes.
School governance should be of the highest standard and funding should be exclusively used for the education and welfare of students. The Australian Education Act 2013 requires, amongst other obligations, that all school authorities operate not-for-profit, be financially viable, be a ‘fit and proper person’, and ensure that funding provided is used only for school education. All school authorities in Australia are required to meet these requirements in order to receive Australian Government funding.
It is frustrating that after all this time the school is again in a situation where there have been multiple resignations from the Board as recently as last week – including the resignation of the Principal.
There has been a constant turnover of Board members at this school since 2015. As the entity responsible for the school, the current board must take responsibility for all decisions past and present.
Schools receive significant taxpayer funding. Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education and for the benefit of students.
My Department’s concerns centre on the Islamic College of South Australia’s independence, financial management and governance arrangements.
With this decision, our attention now turns to working with the students and their families, the teachers and the whole school community about how we best support them through this difficult time.
I have contacted Minister Close and my Department has been working with their South Australian counterparts on how we minimise the impact this decision may have on the school community.
While this is a difficult time for the school, I remain committed to ensuring that all school authorities meet the requirements of the Education Act to ensure that our taxpayer dollars and any private investment by parents is being spent to benefit Australian students.
The approved authority has 30 days to seek a review of this decision.
On 13 November 2015, the department notified the AFIC Schools (SA) Limited (ASSL), the approved authority for the ICOSA, of its proposal to revoke the approval of ASSL as an approved authority for non-compliance with the Act. Similar notices were issued to the other five AFIC related schools.
Since November 2015, the department has issued a number of additional notices which have included variations to ASSL’s approval by making the approval subject to conditions, including the submission of quarterly reports. The department has noted that failure to comply with the conditions could result in ASSL’s approval being further varied or revoked.
On 30 January 2017, the department received a submission in response to the most recent notice to ASSL, which was issued in December 2015. ASSL’s submission was received with the authority’s last quarterly report for 2016, which was due on 31 December 2016.
The Islamic College of South Australia received $4 million Commonwealth funding in 2016.