A High Quality, Low Equity and Socially Segregated School System

Trevor Cobbold, spokesman for Save Our Schools, recently delivered an address to a forum on the future of public education in the ACT sponsored the ACT Public Education Alliance. The address makes four key points:

  • The ACT schools system has very high quality outcomes, with little difference between the government and private sectors, especially when the different social composition of the sectors is taken into account.
  • School outcomes in the ACT are not improving and, indeed, have declined in some areas over the period of the Stanhope Government.
  • There is extensive individual and social inequity in ACT school outcomes with a large achievement gap between students from low and high income families.
  • There is increasing social segregation in the ACT school system that is reflected in the ongoing drift of enrolments to the private system.

The paper also canvasses some broad policy proposals to address key weaknesses in the ACT school system.

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Proposed ACT Schools Standards Authority

The ACT Minister for Education has released a discussion paper on the establishment of an ACT Schools Standards Authority. The proposal is to expand the function of the Board of Senior Secondary Studies to be responsible for establishing and monitoring educational standards from pre-school to Year 12. This could include teacher registration, curriculum frameworks, student achievement standards, registration of private schools and home education. The Authority could also have overarching responsibilities for monitoring the general standards of schooling in the ACT.

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Schools sacrificed because Government has misled the public

Today Cook and Village Creek Primary Schools closed their doors for the last time. Kambah High School was closed to make way for a P-10 ‘super school’ to be built on the site.

Parents and children at the three schools are having their lives disrupted and face higher financial costs all because the ACT Government misled the public.

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Addressing the Social Divide in Education

A new report just published by the UK charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has highlighted need to address the educational divide. It shows that children growing up in poverty and disadvantage are less likely to do well at school. Family disadvantage is passed on from one generation to the next in a cycle of underachievement. The report says that the attitudes and experiences that lie behind social differences in education need to be addressed to break this cycle.

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Economists Say Budget Surplus is Unjustified

Several well-known economists have criticised the large Budget surplus recorded by the ACT Government. They have accused the Government of poor economic management and they all say that the Government should be spending some of the surplus instead of sitting on it.

ANZ Chief Economist, Saul Eslake, was not impressed with the ACT Government’s financial management. He said that the ACT surplus stood out from that recorded by other states. “It’s a big miss, it’s hard to understand,” he told the Canberra Times (17 August).

Mr. Eslake said that the surplus raised questions as to whether school closures had to be so severe.

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School Flagpole Farce

Remember Brendan Nelson’s edict that every school in Australia should have functioning flagpole and fly the Australian flag? It was part of the Government’s plan to promote Australian values and patriotism.

It also had a Government self-promotion component. As a condition of receiving Federal funding for flagpoles, schools were required to invite a coalition MP to a flag-unveiling ceremony, publish a picture of the MP in the school newsletter, and erect a plaque acknowledging that it was a gift from the Government.

Well, apparently Government MPs haven’t been turning up to the ceremonies and this has meant that many schools have been unable to meet the conditions for Federal funding. It seems that some Government members are not as committed to public patriotism as their leaders would wish. Continue reading “School Flagpole Farce”

You Have A Choice…Do As I Say

Julie Bishop’s ultimatum that the ACT introduce external Year 12 exams exposes the hypocrisy of the Howard Government’s education policy.

Despite its rhetoric of choice in education as being fundamental to respecting different needs, it readily over-rules the choices of parents, teachers and students where it suits Government prejudices and interests. Continue reading “You Have A Choice…Do As I Say”