Social Segregation in Schools is Increasing

A new report by Canberra researcher, Barbara Preston, shows that social segregation in Australia’s schools has increased markedly over the past 25 years. Students from low income families are highly concentrated in public schools while private schools have much larger proportions of their enrolments from high income families.

The new figures, derived from ABS Census data, show that 75 per cent of students from low income families attend government schools. Catholic schools enrol 16 per cent of all low income students while Independent private schools enrol just 10 per cent.

Government schools have a much greater proportion of students from low income families and a much smaller proportion from high income families compared to either Catholic or Independent schools. Government schools have almost twice as many students from low income families as they have from high income families, while Independent private schools have twice as many students from high income families as they have from low income families.

In 2010, low income students comprised 42 per cent of all government school enrolments compared to 26 per cent of Catholic school enrolments and 23 per cent of Independent school enrolments. In contrast, high income students comprised 21 per cent of government school enrolments, 34 per cent of Catholic enrolments and 46 per cent of Independent school enrolments.

The difference in social composition is even more marked in secondary schools where 36 per cent of Catholic enrolments and 49 per cent of Independent school enrolments are from high income families. Only 20 per cent of government secondary school enrolments are from high income families.

The social composition of government and private schools has changed dramatically over the past 25 years, especially at the secondary level. Students from low income families have increased as a proportion of total government school enrolments while the proportion from high income families has decreased. Private schools have increased the proportion of their enrolments from high income families and decreased the proportion from low income families.

In 1986, government secondary schools had a similar proportion of students from low and high income families. In 2011, government secondary schools the proportion of students from low income families was more than double the proportion from high income families. In contrast, the proportion of students from high income families in private schools was only slightly higher than the proportion from low income families in 1986. By 2011, the proportion from high income families was nearly double that from low income families.

Social segregation between government and private schools has thus increased dramatically since 1986. A more accurate measure of the extent of the change takes account of the changing proportion of students from low, medium and high income families between Censuses. It shows that the indexed ratio of low to high income families for government schools increased by 71 per cent from 1986 to 2010 while it decreased by 45 per cent.

Despite these trends governments have failed to direct funding increases to where they are most needed. Since 1998-99, government funding for private schools has increased by much more than government schools. Between 1998-99 and 2008-09, government funding per government school student increased by 82 per cent in current dollar terms compared to 105 per cent per Catholic school student and 144 per cent for Independent schools.

Government schools educate the vast majority of low income students whose results are, on average, two to three years behind their high income peers. Yet, these schools are being denied the resources they need, while the more privileged private sector with much lower proportions of high need students continue to be favoured by higher increases in funding by governments. Roll on Gonski!!!

Previous Next

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.