Call to Reduce Chasm between Rich and Poor in School Outcomes

Save Our Schools today called for a major effort to lift school outcomes for disadvantaged students in the ACT. SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the ACT Government had to act in the light new evidence that shows a large and growing achievement gap between students from high and low income families.

“The Report on Government Services has revealed a chasm in education opportunities between rich and poor in our community. It is the major challenge facing the ACT education system. We have to do a whole lot better than we are currently.

“The ACT has the largest achievement gap in Australia in science outcomes between students from low income families and all students. The ACT gap is 26 percentage points compared to an average of 16 points for Australia.

“The Government Services Report shows that 55 per cent of ACT 15-year old students from low income families are achieving below the OECD average in science, compared to 29 per cent of all students. This suggests a much larger gap exists between students from low and high income families.

“The achievement gap in science in the ACT has increased by 5 percentage points since it was last measured.

Mr. Cobbold said that previous Reports on Government Services have shown that:

  • 53 per cent of ACT 15-year old students from low income families are below the OECD average in reading, compared to 26 per cent of all students;
  • 52 per cent of ACT 15 year old students from low income families were below the OECD average in mathematics, compared to 29 per cent of all students;
  • the achievement gap in reading and mathematics in the ACT was the largest in Australia.

“Clearly, there is a serious inequity in ACT education. There are political, social justice and economic reasons to reduce this chasm in achievement.

“The ACT Government is a signatory to the National Goals for Schooling which include a social equity goal to reduce differences in school outcomes arising from students’ socio-economic background.

“Large disparities in school outcomes for students from different social backgrounds entrench inequality and discrimination in society. It means that students from more privileged backgrounds have greater access to higher incomes, higher status occupations and positions of wealth, influence and power in society than students from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Reducing the achievement gap in school outcomes would help alleviate skill shortages in the workforce and promote increased productivity.

“Improving equity in education is the fundamental issue facing ACT education. It is incumbent on the Stanhope Government to act. We need a massive targeted program to lift student outcomes amongst the disadvantaged in our community.”

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