Wealthier neighbours a handicap for school of strugglers

A SYDNEY primary school that claims to have one of the highest proportions of refugees of any school in the country has missed out on extra federal funding for disadvantaged students because it is near a wealthier suburb.

The P&C representative Zenna Diab, whose daughter attends Auburn North Public School, said 95 per cent of its students were from non-English speaking backgrounds and 116 (22 per cent) were refugees.

She said because the school's catchment area for federal government funding took in the wealthier suburb of Newington, it failed to qualify. The program for disadvantaged schools would have given an extra $1000 for each student over four years, she said.

Of seven schools in the area, Auburn North Public was the only one to miss out on the extra federal funding.

It received $500 a student over two years in state government funding that ended last week.

The wealth of suburbs within a three kilometre radius of each school, using Bureau of Statistics data, was used to measure a school's funding need under the more generous federal program.

''No students at Auburn North Public School reside in Newington,'' Ms Diab said. ''Our children deserve the same opportunities being provided to every other student attending a low socio-economic disadvantaged school.''

The federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, wrote to the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, on June 4, asking him whether he could use some discretion in allocating federal funds to the school.

Mr Piccoli replied saying the federal h funding had been already allocated, leaving no extra money to give to Auburn North Public School.

A spokesman for the federal Department of Education said ''determination of a school's priority enrolment area (the school's 'catchment' area) is a matter for the NSW government''.

However, a spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said the federal government designed the methodology used to allocate the funding for disadvantaged schools.

''That includes the methodology which included the residential area of Newington,'' he said.

''However, the school has received considerable additional state funding.''

The spokesman said Auburn North Public School received $952,000 in extra funding from the state government - an extra $500 a student over two years, which ended last week.

The NSW Greens MP, John Kaye, said the NSW Department of Education had failed to ask its federal counterpart to exclude the wealthier suburb of Newington from Auburn North's catchment when the national partnership program was established in 2008.

''This is a disadvantaged community, and the school deserves the additional funding,'' he said.

''It was making excellent use of the money which it will now lose, thanks to the failure by the NSW department under [NSW] Labor to correct the list in 2008.

''Not a single Auburn North student comes from Newington, so that suburb's relative wealth should not be used as an excuse to preclude the school from funding. Students from Auburn North Public School come from some of the most vulnerable groups in Australian society.''

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