Call for Public Inquiry into Deteriorating Education Results in the ACT

The latest international test results for the ACT are a condemnation of the education record of the Stanhope Government according to Save Our Schools. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the results are disastrous and called for an independent public inquiry to establish a new direction in education policy in the ACT.

“The new PISA report shows that education quality is declining and inequity is increasing in the ACT. The report labels the ACT results as “high quality, low equity” [p.283].

“While the ACT is still achieving high average results, reading and mathematics results have fallen sharply since the Stanhope Government was first elected. The falls of 20 and 21 points respectively represent about six months of schooling. Science results have also fallen.

“The declines occurred at both the higher and lower ends of the PISA proficiency scale. The proportion of students not achieving the reading proficiency benchmark increased from 8% to 13% between 2000 and 2009 while the proportion achieving at the most advanced level fell from 25% to 18%.

“The proportion of students not achieving the mathematics benchmark increased from 11% to 14% between 2003 and 2009 while the proportion achieving at the most advanced level fell from 27% to 21%.

Mr. Cobbold said that the results show that the Stanhope Government has particularly failed the disadvantaged.

“The achievement gap between students from low and high socio-economic status (SES) families in the ACT is the biggest in Australia.

“Low SES students in the ACT are doing worse than those in most other states. Their average results are about six months or more of schooling behind low SES students in all other states except Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

“The report effectively condemns Government’s record in meeting the needs of low SES students. It says:

….low socioeconomic students in the Australian Capital Territory are not particularly well served by their education system, with average scores for these students only just above those for Tasmania and the Northern Territory, and between 19 and 24 score points lower than students of the same socioeconomic level in the other five states. [p. 281]

“This is a shameful outcome for such a well-off city as Canberra. It is an indictment of nearly 10 years in office. Despite all the Government’s rhetoric about improving social equity, massive inequities in education still exist. The declining standards also threaten the high skill base on which the local economy depends.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the Stanhope Government has clearly misdirected increases in education expenditure over the past decade.

“Education expenditure in the ACT has increased significantly in the last 10 years. Government school expenditure per student is the highest in Australia, apart from the Northern Territory. But, we are seeing lower quality and greater inequity.

“Clearly, something is very wrong with school expenditure priorities in the ACT. It suggests that the Stanhope Government has wasted millions of dollars to no effect.

“The decline in standards and equity warrants an expert public review of ACT education. An independent public inquiry should be established to advise on how to reverse the decline in educational outcomes and reduce the large achievement gaps between rich and poor, including what additional funding is needed for schools serving disadvantaged communities.”

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