Figures Fail to Prove Minister’s Assertions

Spokesperson for Save Our Schools Canberra, Trevor Cobbold, says that figures on applications for high schools released by the Minister for Education last night fail to prove his assertions about high school enrolments.

“The new figures do not prove that the threat of school closures has not hurt enrolments in high schools as the Minister asserted at the weekend. Nor do they prove that enrolments in ACT government high schools are increasing as the Minister has asserted. If anything, the figures suggest the opposite on both counts.

“The new figures suggest that the threat of closure has had a major impact on the two high schools threatened with closure. Applications at Kambah HS have declined by 33% and those at Melba by 17%. The Government’s threat to close these schools appears to have encouraged parents to look elsewhere.

“Contrary, to the Minister’s other assertion, the figures do not show an increase in enrolments in Year 7. Year 7 enrolments for 2006 are 2,432. For there to be an actual increase of 16% as the Minister asserts, enrolments would have to be over 2,800. This is clearly not the case as the Minister’s figures show 2.580 applications – well short of 2,800. The Minister has therefore failed to prove his case.

Mr. Cobbold said that the total enrolment application figures released by the Minister could even be concealing a real decline in enrolments.

“A decline in actual enrolments is just as likely as the Minister’s assertion that enrolments are increasing for several reasons:
•many parents are likely to have submitted multiple enrolments at different high schools;
•many parents will have applied earlier than normal in view of the uncertainty about the future of several high schools; and
•the over-enrolment at high demand schools may be a stepping stone to private schools for some parents.

“Each of these practices would artificially boost applications compared to this time last year.

“A decline in enrolments may be concealed by multiple applications by parents. Many parents may have submitted multiple enrolments at different high schools, giving a different first preference at each school. This would artificially boost apparent enrolments.

“The Minister’s argument that only 1st preference applications have been counted is meaningless. The enrolment process allows parents to submit multiple 1st preferences. All parents have to do is to change their 1st preference on each enrolment form for each school. This practice enables parents to maximise their options and chances of succeeding with an application. The Minister needs to have the applications cross-checked to eliminate this possibility.

“Similarly, submitting enrolments earlier artificially boosts the number of applications at any given date such as 1 September, but may conceal an actual enrolment decline. Many parents will have lodged their applications earlier than normal in view of the uncertainty about the future of several high schools, and concerns about the application of Priority Enrolment Areas in the new situation.

“Finally, there is significant over-enrolment at three high demand schools that are at capacity – Alfred Deakin, Lyneham and Telopea. These over-enrolments account for about half of the apparent increase in total applications in 2007. Parents who fail to gain entry for their children to these schools could just as well turn to private schools.

Mr. Cobbold also said that enrolments are artificially boosted by the exclusion of Amaroo School from the 2006 figures and its inclusion in the 2007 figures.

“This alone generates an apparent enrolment increase of around a quarter of what the Minister is claiming. This false comparison is indicative of the Minister’s sloppy approach to providing accurate information for consultation on the Towards 2020 plan.

Mr. Cobbold said that the Minister’s desperation to justify the flawed Towards 2020 plan has lead to his failure to consider other explanations for the increase in total enrolment applications.

“Desperate for a good news story, he has gone off on an unwarranted assertion that school closures have had no effect on enrolments without first checking for other likely explanations.

“The Minister is desperate to find any grounds to justify continuing with his flawed Towards 2020 plan, despite the flaws in the figures used to justify the plan and the lack of any educational rationale for the changes. His approach in this case only confirms his sloppy use of figures and evidence in support of his political goals.”

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