Expert Panel on School Reform Must Support Closing the Gap Between Rich and Poor

Save Our Schools (SOS) today called on the Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA) to address the shocking gaps in school outcomes between rich and poor. Trevor Cobbold, National Convenor of SOS, said that there are massive achievement gaps between highly advantaged and highly disadvantaged students that must be closed.

“Closing the achievement gaps is the fundamental challenge facing Australian education. The Expert Panel must ensure that its policy recommendations for the next NSRA are focussed on closing the gaps. It must set clear targets to achieve greater equity in school outcomes.

“The latest NAPLAN results reveal vast inequity in school outcomes in Australia. Very large proportions of highly disadvantaged students are only achieving at the lowest proficiency level in reading, writing and numeracy. This level is well below the national proficiency standard. For example, the following percentages of Year 9 students need additional learning support in reading, writing and numeracy [see Chart below]:

  • Nearly 30% of students whose parents did not complete Year 12;
  • Nearly 20% of students whose parents are in the lowest paid occupation group (machine operators, sales/office/service/hospitality staff, assistants, labourers);
  • 24-27% of students whose parents are not in paid work;
  • 33-37% of Indigenous students;
  • 25-30% of remote area students;
  • 51-58% of very remote area students.

“By contrast, only 3-5% of students of highly educated parents and of parents in the highest occupation group (senior executives/managers) need additional learning support.

“These figures are indicative of the huge education gap between rich and poor. They are shocking and unacceptable inequalities. The Expert Panel must focus on eliminating these gaps. It should set clear equity targets for the next NSRA.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the Expert Panel must clearly specify the priority equity cohorts.

“This is a first step towards achieving equity in education These cohorts should cover low SES students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students living in rural, and remote locations, students with disability and students from other educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

Save Our Schools called on the Panel to set clear equity targets to be included in the next NSRA. It said that they should include the following:

  1. All students in the priority equity cohorts should achieve the NAPLAN national proficiency standard in all domains in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9;
  2. The average NAPLAN outcomes of each equity cohort should be similar o those of high SES students in all domains in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9;
  3. All students, whatever their background, should complete Year 12 or a vocational certificate III;

Mr. Cobbold said that these targets are necessary to close the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

“Apart from overcoming injustice in education, achieving these targets would promote increased productivity, the lack of which is bemoaned regularly by the business community and the Government. The achievement gap between rich and poor is a measure of potential productivity improvement. Closing the gap will increase Australia’s economic prosperity.”

The Expert Panel is due to present its report to the Albanese Government at the end of October.

Source: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, NAPLAN National Report, 2023.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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