School Myths Busted

In the wake of the latest version of My School two researchers have published a startling account of what the numbers behind the website actually show. Former school principals Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd have revealed new findings which challenge myths about Australia’s schools.

While reports are frequently about the ‘drift to the private schools’ Bonnor and Shepherd have found that the drift could be equally seen as one from low socio-educational advantage (SEA) schools to higher SEA schools. As recently reported on Lateline, they show that enrolments are increasing in higher SEA government schools, but declining in low SEA government schools.

Lower SEA schools in all sectors are tending to lose their more advantaged students, while higher SEA schools, again in all sectors, are not only getting bigger but are increasing their enrolment of the most advantaged.

“The flipside, as Gonski warned, is that disadvantage is being compounded in lower SEA schools”, Chris Bonnor said. “Hence the student achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools are widening. My School data shows Australia’s school equity problem is worsening, especially in the secondary school years and in metropolitan areas”.

The two former principals warn against using rusted-on beliefs, rather than evidence, to decide future directions for Australia’s schools.

“The current trend is to make public schools more like private schools, in the belief that the latter get better results. We use both NAPLAN and HSC results to show this is a myth.”

They also found that government recurrent funding (per student) to private schools is increasing at around double the rate of increases to public schools.

“We are already seeing large numbers of private schools getting more public funding than goes to public schools serving similar students”, Bonnor and Shepherd warn. “The idea that private schools save public funds is at best a half-truth – on the way to becoming a myth.”

Their analysis also shows that the high spending on students who are already advantaged is not improving measurable student outcomes. “The government portion of this overspend is around $1.5 billion each year. It would be a better investment if it was redirected to more needy schools”.

Bonnor and Shepherd’s new publication is School Daze – What My School Really Says About Our Schools. It is also available for free download at EdMedia Watch

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