Funding, Enrolments and Staffing in NSW Public Schools

The following is a summary of a submission to the Independent Inquiry on the Teaching Profession in NSW Public Schools. The full submission can be downloaded below.

The NSW public education system has undergone a huge expansion in bureaucracy since 2003. There was a massive increase in administrative staff in schools and in central and regional offices that is many times greater than the increase in students. Yet, there was only a very small increase in inflation-adjusted funding per student despite a large increase in disadvantaged students. Expanding the bureaucracy was prioritised over funding classroom learning and support. As one former principal told Save Our Schools, it reflects an “increase in roles orchestrating compliance not teaching, learning and curriculum”.

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Private School Vouchers Don’t Improve Student Achievement

The US public school advocacy organisation Public Funds, Public Schools has published a review of recent studies of vouchers in the US. The studies show that private school vouchers have not improved student achievement and have multiple negative effects including exacerbating social segregation in schools. The findings on student achievement are reproduced below. The full review is available here.

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Wealthy private schools don’t deserve bailout money

The following letter was published in the Washington Post yesterday. It has particular relevance because of similar claims from private schools in Australia for a taxpayer bailout.

I was disappointed to learn from the May 6 Metro article “D.C. prep schools keep federal loans” that many of the area’s private schools are being bailed out with taxpayer money. Sidwell Friends School, with only about 1,100 students, received $5 million in bailout money while charging $45,000 in tuition. If elite private schools cannot keep themselves afloat with that kind of revenue coming in, then those institutions deserve to go belly up and their students sent to D.C.-area public schools, where they can get a comparable, if not superior, education.

These private schools should not be allowed to be bailed out when our public schools are scrambling to redo their budgets and our underpaid public school teachers face potential furloughs. Meanwhile, the largest school district in our area, Fairfax County Public Schools, educates more than 188,000 students and employs more than 24,000 people. FCPS and other D.C.-area public schools graduate some of the best talent in the world, while charging not a cent in tuition.

Districts such as FCPS are mainstays of the local economy that provide priceless value to local communities through education and support. Small, endowment-rich private schools have no business receiving our taxpayer dollars while public school systems around the nation get left behind.

Statement on the “Science of Reading” from US Think Tank

The US National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity have jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading”. It is reprinted here in the interests of promoting rational debate.

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

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Lessons Learned From Technology in the Classroom

Larry Cuban, Emeritus Professor of Education at Stanford University, recently drew on his extensive study of technology in education over many years to draw some key lessons about the use of technology in the classroom. The following are extracts from his article which is available on his blog.

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Is The Shepparton Super-School Merger Valid?

The following is a press release issued by the Save Our Schools – No Transition Group in Shepparton, Victoria. It shows that the Shepparton schools merger plan was not formally agreed by all four school councils as required by the School Merger Guidelines.

We have evidence that the Shepparton Education Plan was not formally agreed to by all four school councils as required by School  Merger Guidelines,  prior to the announcement on 19 April, 2018, by Education Minister, James Merlino, that it would proceed.

Despite a requirement that the motion to accept the model proposed by the Strategic Advisory Committee be passed at a properly constituted meeting with a quorum, it appears that the motion was not passed in accordance with School Merger Guidelines and School Council Governance.

An FOI request written in September, 2019 requesting written advice to the Minister as required by School Merger Guidelines that all four councils had voted on the plan at a meet­ ing with a quorum has been completed and together with existing evidence appears to confirm that two of the four schools did not pass the motion  to accept the recommendation  of the Strategic Advisory Committee of one school  on one site, based  on the schools within a school model, before the announcement in April 2018. It was not voted on until months later when it was finally carried.

Community information is that three of the four schools did not pass the motion prior to the announcement and it was never voted on by one and later ratified by two.

In fairness to all concerned parties, this plan needs to be halted until this issue has been investigated and satisfactorily addressed with adequate consultation with the families of Greater Shepparton as requested at a public meeting in August, 2019.

Local MP Refuses to Discuss Shepparton Super-School

The following is a letter by a member of the Stop Shepparton Super-School group in response to a refusal by the local Independent MP, Suzanna Sheed, to discuss the super-school proposal.

The Executive Committee of Save Our Schools No Transition in Shepparton has been trying for months to obtain a meeting with our local Independent MP, Suzanna Sheed, in order to present to her the reasons and concerns of members of the community that are against having one huge super school in Shepparton with no choice for schooling and poor communication about its planning.

We have been aggressively refused a meeting with Ms. Sheed. She needs to remember that she was elected to represent her constituents.

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Stop the Shepparton Super-School

We have been fighting hard for over six months to have our voice heard on the merger of four Greater Shepparton secondary schools into one school of 2,700 to 3,000 students. We have met a stony wall of silence. We have been told ‘You need to get on board for your children’s sake, during this difficult time of transition.’ Frankly, if one more educator, politician or mayor says that sentence again, we might choke.

The decision to amalgamate the four schools was made during September/October in 2017. The so-called ‘community consultation’ involved only an online survey and two workshops held in Mooroopna and Shepparton on the same day, that families of secondary students could attend. The consultation was not advertised either in time or adequately for parents to take part in.

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Shepparton Community Continues the Fight Against Super School

The following is an open letter to Victorian politicians and education department officials from a member of the Shepparton community.

I am concerned about the lack of evidence to back the Victorian Education Department’s claims that the super school is the best option for education in Shepparton. Studies have shown that large schools do not improve academic outcomes and small schools perform better in academic outcomes, discipline, mental health and safety. In the USA and UK large schools have been made into smaller ones. Studies show smaller schools graduate a larger proportion of their students than do large schools. Schools with populations of diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds should be limited to 600 or fewer students. Schools with advantaged students should be capped at about 1000 students.

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What is really going on in Finland’s school reform?

Finland has been in the spotlight of the education world since it appeared, against all odds, on the top of the rankings of an international test known as PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, in the early 2000s. Tens of thousands visitors have traveled to the country to see how to improve their own schools. Hundreds of articles have been written to explain why Finnish education is so marvelous — or sometimes that it isn’t. Millions of tweets have been shared and read, often leading to debates about the real nature of Finland’s schools and about teaching and learning there.

We have learned a lot about why some education systems — such as Alberta, Ontario, Japan and Finland — perform better year after year than others in terms of quality and equity of student outcomes. We also understand now better why some other education systems — for example, England, Australia, the United States and Sweden — have not been able to improve their school systems regardless of politicians’ promises, large-scale reforms and truckloads of money spent on haphazard efforts to change schools during the past two decades.

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