DESE annual report review paints picture of pandemic impact on jobseekers and teacher ratings

By Melissa Coade

April 5, 2022

Department of Education, Skills and Employment minister Stuart Robert (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Lockdowns and labour market declines saw the delivery of many services by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) from March 2020, affecting sustainable prospects for jobseekers. 

According to a senate committee review of annual reports, in 2020-21, the positive overall performance of DESE was an improvement on the previous pandemic year.

“Income-support policy changes in 2020–21 and the suspension of mutual obligation requirements resulted in a larger number of New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) participants remaining on Services Australia income support payments while also receiving the coronavirus supplement, which contributed to fewer NEIS participants leaving the program (or working for 20 hours a week) three months after participating,” the review found.

“Likewise, periods of lockdown impacted the number of prisoners estimated to have participated in the Time to Work Employment Service program.”

Outcomes for teaching and learning methods were also negatively impacted by the pandemic, according to the department, with student ratings of teaching quality for 2020 for undergraduate, domestic and international students dropping due to pandemic restrictions. 

The department performed higher overall by 10 targets last financial year compared to 2019-20, and was on target to achieve 44 out of 53 targets measured, the standing committees on education and employment found. Two of the four measures not achieved in Outcome 2 were COVID-19 related.

“There were nine measures where targets were reported as not achieved [by DESE],” the committees found. 

“Five of the nine measures not achieved were under Outcome 4. The results for all five measures not achieved in Outcome 4 were linked to the impact of COVID-19 and the aftermath of the Australian bushfires.”

The review determined that DESE was in a strong position to continue supporting students, employers, and education training providers, and had met its reporting requirements. 

The department reported a surplus of $119.7 million for 2020-21 after adjusting for unfunded expenses. This result was larger than the reported surplus of $4.3 million for the previous financial period.

“This substantial increase was attributed to additional funding that DESE received to supplement expenses from prior years, as well as difficulties in acquiring contractors to complete projects,” the review found. 

“During the 2020–21 period, DESE administered $48.7 billion of expenses, of which $33.7 billion went towards funding for schools and higher education institutions, $8.7 billion towards the child care sector, $1.8 billion to employment services, and $2.3 billion to supporting apprenticeships and trainees.”

The senate standing committees also examined the annual reports of the Australian Research Council (which reported an operating deficit of $3.1 million) and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (found to be ‘apparently satisfactory’) under the education and employment portfolio.


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