Federal funds to be revoked from non-compliant Islamic College of South Australia
- Minister for Education and Training
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.
Approved authorities have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with the requirements that need to be met in order to receive funding under the Education Act. The authorities are responsible for ensuring that these are being met and schools are not put in a situation like what we have seen with the Islamic College of South Australia. Approved authorities are also registered companies usually under the Corporations Act, meaning Board members also have responsibilities as company directors.
In May 2015 my Department initiated a formal review into six school authorities affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) following ongoing concerns about their financial management and governance arrangements.
As a result of this review, on 13 November 2015, my department issued a Notice of proposed decision to each of the six school authorities as required under Commonwealth legislation. These notices detailed the Department’s concerns about their independence, financial management and governance arrangements and invited each authority to ‘show cause’ why its approval to receive Federal Government funding should not be revoked.
On 30 January 2017, the Department received a submission in response to the most recent notice to ASSL, which was issued in December 2016. ASSL’s submission was received with the authority’s last quarterly report for 2016, which was due on 31 December 2016.
After carefully considering the responses received from AFIC Schools (SA) Limited (the approved authority for the Islamic College of South Australia), my Department had to make the difficult decision to revoke the funding approval for the authority. That decision took effect on 13 April 2017.
AFIC Schools (SA) Limited (ASSL) requested an internal review of the decision made to revoke funding for the school. The internal review has now been finalised.
The decision of that internal review is detailed in the statement.
The Islamic College of South Australia received $4 million Commonwealth funding in 2016 and approximately $1.2 million in 2017.