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Commonwealth Recurrent Funding Frequently Asked Questions

Background

Commonwealth funding to schools in Australia is determined by the Australian Education Act 2013, which commenced on 1 January 2014. The Act sets out the rights and responsibilities of approved authorities in order for them to receive Commonwealth funding for the purposes of school education.

The Australian Education Regulation 2013which also commenced on 1 January 2014, provides more detail to support the operation of the Act.

The Act and Regulation were amended in 2014 on 26 November and 11 December respectively. The Post-amendment fact sheet lists changes arising from amendments.

The Act and Regulation are administered by the Minister for Education and Training, through the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

The Guide to the Australian Education Act sets out of the department's interpretation of and expectations for compliance with the Act and Regulation. The Guide is not legally binding and does not constitute legal advice.

It includes references, where appropriate, to the Australian Education (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2013. It also includes references to the Explanatory Memorandums for the two Acts and the Explanatory Statement for the Regulation.

This collection of Frequently Asked Questions provides additional information for approved authorities with respect to recurrent funding. Answers to the questions contain links, where appropriate, to the Act, Regulation and Guide.

Question list

How can I receive Commonwealth recurrent funding?

Commonwealth recurrent funding is payable to approved authorities to provide quality education for primary and secondary students who meet the criteria for funding under the Act.

Principles for the eligibility and payment of recurrent funding are:

  1. Commonwealth recurrent funding is only paid to an approved authority.
  2. Approved authorities only receive recurrent funding for students who are eligible for funding.
  3. Commonwealth recurrent funding is calculated and provided on a ‘whole school’ basis.
  4. An approved authority for a school must spend or commit to spend recurrent funding payable under the Act for the purpose of providing school education. Expenditure considered to be for the purpose of providing school education includes (but is not limited to):
    1. salaries and other expenses relating to staff at the school, including expenses related to the professional development of the staff
    2. developing materials related to the school’s curriculum
    3. general operating expenses of the school
    4. maintaining the school’s land and buildings
    5. purchasing capital equipment for the school
    6. for a school whose capacity to contribute percentage is 0% — purchasing land and buildings
    7. administrative costs associated with the authority’s compliance with the ongoing funding requirements under the Act and requirements relating to implementation plans.

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What is an approved authority?

An approved authority is a legal entity that the Australian Government has approved to administer funding for one or more schools. The government expects that the approved authority will have management and operational authority over the schools and their administration. An approved authority has certain legal responsibilities for the funding of, and the delivery of education to, its schools.

The approved authority for a government school is its relevant state or territory government. The approved authority for a non-government school is the body corporate approved by the Minister for that school.

An approved authority can:

An approved authority must:

Approval processes and basic requirements for approved authorities are discussed in Part C Approval processes and basic requirements of the Guide to the Australian Education Act 2013. A summary of the requirements for approved authorities is given in A.3.1 Approved authorities.

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How to seek approval to become an approved authority

Commonwealth recurrent funding is only available to approved authorities. An organisation seeking approval to become an approved authority must complete an Approved Authority Application Form.

This form is available online through School Entry Point. To access the School Entry Point, you must have a verified account. The registration process to obtain account is free.

An application to become an approved authority requires the following documentation:

  1. evidence that the applicant is registered as a legal entity
  2. evidence that the applicant does not conduct any of its schools for a profit
  3. a certified copy of the applicant’s Constitution (such as the Memorandum or Articles of Association).
  4. a declaration with regard to the fit-and-proper requirement, completed on behalf of all persons who may act on behalf of the approved authority (in respect to the schools it manages)
  5. evidence of appropriate state or territory registration to provide education for the approved education levels at the approved location or locations (the certificate of registration for the applicant’s school or schools).

Approved authority applications cannot be considered without the above documentation.

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When to advise the department of changes to an approved authority?

Information about an approved authority is used by the department to determine eligibility, and make payments for Commonwealth recurrent funding.  As a result, an approved authority is required to notify the department of certain changes of circumstances.

Administrative changes requiring notification include changes to:

  • key individuals (such as the chief executive officer, chief finance officer, school principal, other approved authority signatories or contacts for department correspondence)
  • company details (such as the company name or Australian business number ( ABN))
  • changes to payment arrangements (such as bank details).

Approved authorities must also advise the department of any significant changes to schooling operations. Such changes include:

  • joining or leaving an education system
  • school closure
  • school name or address details
  • an extension to year levels.

Approved authorities must advise the department of changes by completing the Approved Authority Application Form on the School Entry Point. To access to the School Entry Point, you must have a verified account. The registration process to obtain account is free.

If an approved authority does not advise the department of administrative or schooling changes, its Commonwealth recurrent funding payments may be affected or delayed.

The Approved Authority Application Form on the School Entry Point provides more detail about the application process.

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How is Commonwealth recurrent funding calculated and paid?

The Australian Education Act 2013 provides the legislative framework for Commonwealth recurrent funding. Funding is provided to approved authorities.

This section provides answers to the following questions about recurrent funding:

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How is the amount of Commonwealth recurrent funding calculated?

In 2014, recurrent funding for a school in a participating state or territory will comprise a base amount plus a total loading. The Commonwealth will pay a proportion of this funding for the school.

The base amount for a school for a year reflects:

  1. the number of students at the school for the year as reported in the school’s census
  2. the schooling resource standard (SRS) funding amount for a student at the school ($9,271 for primary students and $12,193 for secondary students in 2014)
  3. the capacity of the school’s community to contribute financially to the school.

The school’s total loading for a year comprises the total of its loadings for:

  1. students with disability
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  3. students  from low socio-economic backgrounds
  4. students who have low English proficiency
  5. schools that are not in major cities (location)
  6. schools that are not large schools (size).

The loadings (except the size loading) are a percentage of the schooling resource standard ( SRS) funding amount multiplied by the number of students at a school that qualify for that loading.

The size loading provides an amount based on the total number of students at a school. Small schools, and very small schools in very remote areas with a certain number of students, are entitled to the maximum size loading while large schools are not entitled to any size loading. All other schools are entitled to a proportion of the maximum size loading.

Whether a particular school attracts funding using the formula also depends on comparing an old per student amount for the school’s approved authority and a new per student amount. Approved authorities whose old per student amount for 2014 was less than their new per student amount for 2014 will move to the new per student amount over a period of time. Approved authorities whose old per student amount for 2013, increased by 3%, was more than their new per student amount for 2014 will continue to receive the old per student amount, plus indexation, until their new per student amount catches up.

Note: The final funding entitlement for 2015 will be determined in the latter part of the 2015 program year, after approved authorities have acquitted their 2014 funding and lodged their 2015 census return.

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How are Commonwealth recurrent funding payments made?

Commonwealth recurrent funding is paid to approved authorities via state and territory treasuries.

States and territories are required to forward recurrent payments, as soon as practicable, to approved authorities.

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When are Commonwealth recurrent funding payments made to approved authorities for non-government schools?

The timing of recurrent payments to approved authorities for non-government schools is normally as follows:

Timing of recurrent payments and the proportion of annual entitlement paid
Payment During the month of: Proportion of annual entitlement paid
1st advance January 50% of estimated entitlement
2nd advance July 75% of estimated entitlement less payments made
Final payment October 100% of actual entitlement less payments made

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How can an approved authority spend Commonwealth recurrent funding?

An approved authority for a school must spend or commit to spend recurrent funding payable under the Act for the purpose of providing school education.

Expenditure considered to be for the purpose of providing school education includes (but is not limited to):

  • salaries and other expenses relating to staff at the school, including expenses related to the professional development of the staff
  • developing materials related to the school’s curriculum
  • general operating expenses of the school
  • maintaining the school’s land and buildings
  • purchasing capital equipment for the school
  • for a school whose capacity to contribute percentage is 0% — purchasing land and buildings
  • administrative costs associated with the authority’s compliance with the ongoing funding requirements under the Act and requirements relating to implementation plans.

See also:

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How do increased or decreased student enrolments affect Commonwealth recurrent funding?

School enrolments may impact on the amount of Commonwealth recurrent funding payable to an approved authority. Significant changes in enrolment numbers affect funding.

An increase in student numbers

The Australian Education Act 2013 contains no provision for advance or unscheduled payments in respect of increases in school numbers. Further, an increase in student numbers may not necessarily result in a significant increase in the annual entitlement. However, in the event that a large increase in enrolments will affect the financial viability of an approved authority, the approved authority may seek a re-estimation of annual entitlement to future payment.

A decrease in student numbers

Because student numbers have a significant role in the calculation of recurrent funding, a decrease in student numbers can result in a significant decrease in, or overpayment of, recurrent funding to an approved authority.  If an approved authority has a significant decrease in enrolments, it should contact the department’s Grants and Data Helpdesk. The department will then work with the approved authority to minimise any impact of a reduced entitlement.

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How can an approved authority seek a re-estimation of its 2014 Commonwealth recurrent funding entitlement?

The Department may re-estimate an approved authority’s 2014 Commonwealth recurrent funding if an approved authority can demonstrate that current funding arrangements are insufficient.

To seek a re-estimation of 2014 Commonwealth recurrent funding, the approved authority must:

  • contact the department’s Grants and Data Helpdesk
  • provide a business case to support the need for a recalculation (when requested by the department). The business case must be submitted to the department by 15 March of the year in question, commencing from 2015.

There is no pro-forma for the business case.  An approved authority should provide a written statement explaining:

  • the change in student numbers and/or characteristics
  • the operational need for a re-estimation
  • why the existing payments are not currently sufficient.

After the business case has been assessed, the approved authority will be advised of the outcome.  If the request is approved, the approved authority then will be requested to provide a revised statement of enrolments with the reference date for the count of student enrolments and characteristics as indicated on the Statement of Enrolments template in the Approved Authority Application Form at the Schools Entry Point.

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What is the census (for non-government schools)?

The Department of Education collects information from all non-government schools in the annual census. Census data is used with other data to calculate the approved authority’s entitlement to Commonwealth recurrent funding.

Census data is also used for statistical purposes such as:

  • the National Schools Statistics Collection ­ the official statistical description of schooling in Australia
  • the school's profile published by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority ( ACARA) on the My School website.

The census collects information on student numbers and characteristics, including:

  • gender, age and grade
  • students with disability
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

The annual census is collected via the department’s Schools Service Point. For up-to-date information on collection and reporting processes, it is important that census participants read instructions and definitions carefully.

This section provides answers to the following questions about the school census:

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What are key dates for the census?

Each year the annual census has three key dates:

  1. census day, the first Friday in August (for 2015: Friday, 7 August)
  2. the deadline for submitting census information (including the online declaration), the second Friday in August (for 2015: Friday, 14 August)
  3. the deadline for submitting special circumstance applications (if a student is usually in regular attendance but is absent during the census student reference period for students), by the third Friday in August (for 2015: Friday, 21 August)

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Which students are counted in the census?

Students reported in the census are those students who are:

  1. enrolled and participate in a level of education that constitutes primary or secondary level of education and who attend schooling on a daily basis,  and
  2. in attendance for at least one day in the census reference period (including census day) and who regularly attend school.

The census reference period consists of the four school weeks (excluding school holidays) prior to the census day. Note that the reference period is particular to each state and territory.

Note: Students on visas are counted in the census but may be specifically excluded from Commonwealth recurrent funding. See Do students on visas receive Commonwealth recurrent funding?

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What do I need to do if a student is not present during the census reference period, but regularly attends my school?

If a student is usually in regular attendance but is absent during the census reference period, the school may make a Special Circumstances Application to include the student in the census.

Applications must be received by the department by the third Friday in August (for 2104: Friday, 15 August).

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What records need to be kept about the census?

Non-government schools are required to retain for seven years records such as enrolments and attendance records used in the school census. ( Regulation 37, Australian Education Regulation 2013)

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Do students on visas receive Commonwealth recurrent funding?

A student on a visa may attract recurrent funding if he or she is:

  1. enrolled and participating in a primary or secondary level of education
  2. attending schooling on a daily basis (for example, in attendance at some time in the census reference period, including census day and with a regular pattern of attendance)
  3. has a visa that permits him or her to attend regular daily schooling (that is, the student does not have a visa limited to study for 12 weeks/three months or less), and
  4. not an overseas student.

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What is an overseas student?

A student is an overseas student if he or she is on a visa that is specifically related to studying in Australia (or a bridging visa attached to a substantive visa with those provisions).

Note: There are three categories of student that are exempt from this definition of ‘overseas student’. These exemptions are listed at the end of this section.

Under the previous arrangements, the department maintained a long list of visa subclasses that could enable a student on a visa to attract funding. Under the new Act, this process has been simplified and all similar students attract funding unless they are the primary visa holder, or the dependant of a primary visa holder that is issued for the purposes of study.

Details of visa subclasses are available on the website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  As at January 2014, Australian student visa subclasses included:

Australian student visa subclasses and descriptions
Australian student visa subclasses Description
570 Independent English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) visa
571 Schools Sector visa
572 Vocation Education and Training Sector visa
573 Higher Education Sector visa
574 Postgraduate Research visa
575 Non Award Sector visa

Overseas students are not eligible for funding under the Act.

The Australian Education Regulation 2013 specifies that the definition of ‘overseas student’ does not include:

  1. a dependant of a person who is receiving a sponsorship or scholarship from an institution specified in Table A or B of section 4(1) of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 where the institution is meeting the full cost of the education component of the course
  2. a student studying in Australia under a properly registered student-exchange programme
  3. a person or dependant of a person who is receiving a sponsorship or scholarship from the Commonwealth.

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How can I get payment details for my approved authority/ school?

Payment documentation, including the Recipient Created Tax Invoice is only available to those people registered as a finance contact for an approved authority.  The documentation is available for downloading from the School Entry Point.

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Who do I contact if I have a question about my approved authority payment?

In the first instance, approved authorities should review their latest payment information, available for downloading, at the School Entry Point.

Any further concerns can be emailed to the department’s Grants and Data Helpdesk.

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