Today, my Department has written to the school authority responsible for the Islamic College of South Australia to inform them that an internal review has reaffirmed the decision to revoke their approval for access to Federal funds.
The Internal Reviewer within my department is a senior officer who was independent of the original decision. The Internal Reviewer considered all previous information provided by AFIC Schools (SA) Limited (ASSL) (the approved authority for the Islamic College of South Australia) and new information provided in their internal review application. While some progress was demonstrated, based on all the available evidence, the authority remains non compliant with the requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013 and the additional conditions on their approval. The Internal Reviewer has decided to affirm the original decision to revoke ASSL’s approval.
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.
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 the reaffirming of the February 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.
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 28 days to seek an external review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). ASSL was notified of the decision on Thursday, 15 June 2017.