Save Our Schools today accused the Stanhope Government of actively promoting the drift of enrolments to private schools.
SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that enrolments in private schools have accelerated because the ACT Government has approved the expansion of private schools and shut government schools.
“The Stanhope Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the continuing drift of enrolments to private schools. It appears to have made a deliberate policy choice to approve new private schools and extend existing ones while closing government schools.
“This year alone, two private schools extended their year levels after approval by the Stanhope Government. The Government is also currently reviewing other applications for new and extending private schools.
“Since the Stanhope Government was elected, 3 new private primary schools have opened and at least 6 others have extended their years of schooling.
”In contrast, 2 government high schools and 11 primary schools have, or will be, closed and 4 primary schools are to be partially closed by being cut back from full K-6 schools to P-2 schools.
“In an overall climate of declining school numbers in the ACT, the expansion of private schools under the Stanhope Government has impacted on enrolments at government schools. A large part of the expansion of private schools occurred from 2002-2005 and it contributed, along with other factors, to the decline of enrolments in government schools.”
Mr. Cobbold said that Government’s strategy of approving new private schools and closing government schools also contradicts its own rhetoric about social inclusion.
“The Government has expanded the capacity of private schools which serve higher income families and has reduced access to neighbourhood government schools. Many low income families depend on having access to local schools.
“It is higher income families who are choosing private schools. Census data shows that 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.
“By increasing the capacity of private schools, the ACT Government has directly aided and abetted the massive increase in funding for private schools under the Howard Government to subsidise the choices of well-off families.
“In contrast, low income families and Indigenous families bore the brunt of government school closures. Nine of the 15 full or partially closed schools had relatively high proportions of enrolments from low income and Indigenous families.
“By expanding private schools and closing government schools, the Stanhope Government is exacerbating the social divide in education in the ACT. Social segregation in schooling leads to lower student outcomes and to social intolerance in communities and work places. It undermines social cohesion.
“The ACT Government needs to reverse its approach, reduce the drift to private schools and develop policies to promote social diversity in schools. The nature of Canberra society is at stake. The Government’s current strategy is a threat to sustaining a socially tolerant and cohesive community.”
Private School Expansion Since 2001
New Private Schools
Extensions to Existing Schools