Media Release 21 June 2007 – Student/Teacher Advantage in Government Schools Slashed

Save Our Schools says that Canberra’s government secondary schools have lost much of their advantage over private schools in terms of their lower student/teacher ratio.

SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, called on the ACT Government to restore 60 teacher positions cut from government high schools and colleges earlier this year.

“The favourable staffing ratio held by government secondary schools for over 20 years has been slashed because the Minister for Education cut the resource equivalent of 60 teaching positions from high schools and colleges earlier this year. High schools lost the equivalent to 35 positions and colleges lost 25. These cuts occurred after the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected the figures that were published this week.

“The cuts mean that the student/teacher ratio in government secondary schools is more like 12.4 instead of 11.9 as reported by the ABS. Private schools have a ratio of 12.8.

“Government secondary schools have therefore lost over half their previous advantage. The situation is little changed even if we accept the Minister’s estimate of staffing cuts of 43 instead of 60. In this case, the student/staff ratio is 12.3.

“The cuts also mean the ACT advantage over interstate government schools has been completely lost as the student/teacher ratio is now the same as the national average for government secondary schools.”

Mr. Cobbold questioned the sincerity of the Government’s promotional campaign on behalf of government schools.

“The Minister told the Estimates Committee yesterday that the ACT Government is committed to promoting government schools. Slashing a key advantage held by government schools over private schools makes a mockery of any promotional campaign for government schools. It is a complete breach of faith with government schools.”

“The more favourable student/teacher ratio in government secondary schools has been an important factor in delivering high quality learning outcomes, strong pastoral care and enhancing student social and personal development. These features are now at risk because of phoney budget deficits and unnecessary cost-savings.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the Minister’s assertion that the quality of education in high schools and colleges would be unaffected by the teacher cuts demonstrated a disturbing level of ignorance about how learning occurs in schools.

“The Minister has a particularly narrow view of a good learning environment in secondary schools. It is not just what happens in the classroom. It is about the general level of support available for young people in a school. Fewer teachers mean less out-of-class learning help for students, reduced feedback for students, less out-of-class pastoral care and personal mentoring of students. Fewer adults in secondary schools mean less support for young people at a crucial stage of their learning and personal development.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the strong advantage held by government primary schools over private schools is unaffected by the cuts to teacher positions which were confined to secondary schools.

“Families can be assured that the large advantage in the student/staff ratio enjoyed by government primary schools remains.

“Save Our Schools calls on the Stanhope Government to come to its senses and provide government secondary schools with an equivalent advantage by restoring the cuts to teacher positions. It should also deliver on its 2004 election promise of an additional $12 million in funding for government high schools.”

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