Media Release 21 March 2008- School Closures Fail to Stem Drift to Private Schools

Save Our Schools says that the new ACT School Census figures show that the Stanhope Government’s school closure plan has failed to stem the drift to private schools in the ACT.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the drift to private schools has accelerated and this contradicts Government claims on the benefits of school closures.

“The Minister for Education asserted in 2006 that his school closure plan would help stem the drift to private schools. Clearly, it has failed to do so. Government primary schools have lost 566 students in the two years since 9 primary schools were closed while private primary school enrolments increased by 450 students.

“Total government school enrolments declined this year by 562, which is the largest decline since 2005. In contrast, private school enrolments increased by 433 students, which is the largest increase since 2002.

“The Stanhope Government has comprehensively failed to stem the drift to private schools. Total ACT school enrolments are declining, but the private sector is increasing its share of enrolments. The government school share has declined under the Stanhope Government from 64 per cent in 2000 to 58 per cent in 2008, excluding pre-school enrolments.”

Mr. Cobbold said that since 2000:

  • Total government school enrolments have declined by 4375 students (-11%) while total private school enrolments increased by 3278 students (15%);
  • by 2808 students (-13%), while private primary school enrolments increased by 1429 students (13%);
  • Government high school enrolments have declined by 650 students (-6%), while private high school enrolments increased by 1062 (13%);
  • Government college enrolments have declined by 942 students (-14%), while private school college enrolments increased by 787 students (28%).

Mr. Cobbold said that the continuing drift to private schools raises major social issues for the whole ACT community.

“The census figures reflect the continuing development of a social divide in ACT education. It is higher income families who are choosing private schools. About 75% of Independent school enrolments and 65% of Catholic school enrolments are from high income families, compared to 49% in government schools.

“In contrast, 24% of government school enrolments are from low income families compared to 13% of Catholic school enrolments and 10% of Independent school enrolments.

“Socially segregated schools are inherently unequal. They lead to lower student outcomes for students from low income families, and schools with high enrolments of low income students have less financial and human capital resources. Socially segregated schools are also socially divisive.

“On the other hand, families don’t get a better deal by shifting to private schools. Government and private schools in the ACT achieve similar academic results. Indeed, it could be argued that private school results should be much better than they are given the much higher income composition of private schools.

“There are major benefits to the ACT community from the social diversity offered by government schools which need to be supported and enhanced. Undermining local communities by closing schools has certainly failed in this regard. Rather, it has exacerbated the social divide.”

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