NSW spends less educating its primary school students than most other states in Australia, an audit of the Department of Education has found.

The latest report by the NSW Auditor-General released yesterday showed that although funding for primary school students increased from $10,195 in 2006 to to $10,643 last year, spending fell short of the national average of $10,938 per student.

This made NSW primary school students the second lowest funded in Australia, behind Victoria which spent $9669.

The State Government has increased funding for private schools by 13.7 per cent over the past four years, while enrolments rose by 1.7 per cent.

Funding for private primary school students increased from $1455 to $1729 and from $2027 to $2224 for independent high school students.

The maintenance backlog for public schools decreased from $82.6 million last year to $50.8 million for repairing problems such as threadbare carpets, leaking roofs and toilets.

After examining the department’s approach to improving literacy and numeracy, the Auditor-General recommended it sharpen its focus on students at risk. It suggested the department "more effectively target its limited resources and support the needs of individuals, and more rigorously review its programs and the performance of low-achieving schools".

While test results for year 5 Aboriginal students had improved for numeracy, literacy results had worsened.

The gap in their literacy performance compared with other students had widened from 13.3 per cent to 14.4 per cent.

The Opposition’s education spokesman, Andrew Stoner, said the Government’s neglect of education had reached a new low following its recent decisions to cut the $50 back-to-school allowance and review free bus travel.

"In these difficult financial times, the State Government should be investing in our children’s education, not making cuts," Mr Stoner said.

The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, said NSW spent less on bureaucracy and administration for each student than any other state. "This is a key reason why the total expenditure per student is low as NSW has the leanest education bureaucracy in Australia," she said.

"Last financial year, NSW spent $974 more per primary school student than Victoria, the only other state with a comparable number of students."

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