The Save Our Schools group, which was formed last year to oppose school closures, has announced that it is taking on a broader role.
SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, said today that the organisation will campaign for public education and increased equity in education.
“Save Our Schools is not just about saving the place of the neighbourhood school in public education. It is about saving public education from the neglect and failures of governments at all levels and reducing inequity in education.
“Public education in Australia and the ACT is at a crossroad. Government schools are suffering because of inadequate funding and staffing, constant denigration by the Howard Government and massive funding increases for private schools.
“The ACT Government has just cut 60 teachers from government high schools and colleges despite a desperate need for additional staff to address student learning needs. High schools lost 35 teachers, despite a pre-election promise to increase expenditure in high schools by over $12 million to employ more teachers.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the new SOS slogan of ‘Fighting for Equity in Education’ reflects the organisation’s major concern about the ongoing social divide in education in the ACT and Australia.
“Federal and ACT Government policies are entrenching a social divide in education. There is a very large gap in school outcomes between students from well-off and disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Socio-economic inequality in student outcomes in Australia and the ACT is amongst the highest of the high-income OECD countries. There is also a large gap in Year 12 completion rates between students from high and low socio-economic status (SES) families, and this gap has increased in recent years.
“This social divide is the most pressing problem facing our school system today. It means that students from high SES backgrounds have privileged access to higher education and the higher paying occupations while students from low SES backgrounds access lower income and lower status occupations.
“Apart from wasting much talent, it also means that the general skill level in the economy is lower than its potential and that governments incur greater health, social welfare and crime management costs down the track.”
Mr. Cobbold said that SOS will provide an additional voice in support of public education and greater equity, to add to that of existing parent and teacher organisations.
“SOS will provide an avenue for broader public participation in education issues. We will be open to anyone who has a commitment to public education and improving equity. People will not need to be a current parent or teacher in order to join. We are also open to students and aim to assist them in demanding a better deal for government schools.
“SOS will collaborate and co-operate with P&C Council, the Australian Education Union and community organisations dealing with issues such as unemployment, low income, health, housing and disabilities that impact on education outcomes.”
Mr. Cobbold said that SOS will take on a range of activities including making submissions to government, publishing research and policy papers, highlighting the achievements of government schools and generally contributing to public debate on education issues. He said that the SOS website will be re-designed in coming weeks to reflect the organisation’s broader role.