Urgent Action is Needed on Shameful ACT School Results

A research paper released today by Save Our Schools shows that ACT school results have fallen since 2001 and that achievement gaps between the top and bottom students are amongst the largest of all developed countries.

SOS convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said the results are an indictment of ACT education policy over the past decade and he called for an independent public inquiry to set a new direction.

“Millions and millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted over the past decade on policies that have had virtually no impact on school outcomes.

“While the ACT has amongst the best results for 15 year-old students in reading and mathematics in Australia, they have fallen over the past decade. On average, students are now about six months behind their counterparts in 2001 and 2003 according to the latest report from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

“The ACT’s equity performance has been particularly shameful.

“The ACT has amongst the largest spread of test scores for reading, mathematics and science in the 65 countries and cities participating in PISA; in the case of science it is the largest. It also has the largest spread of test scores in Australia, except for the Northern Territory. The gaps between the highest and lowest 5% of 15 year-old ACT students are equivalent to 7 to 9 years of schooling.

“These differences are strongly associated with student background. The ACT has the largest achievement gap in reading between high and low socio-economic status (SES) students in Australia.

“Low SES students in Canberra are doing worse than those in most other states. Their average reading results are about six months or more behind low SES students in all other states except Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

“The latest national PISA report delivers a damning indictment: “low socioeconomic students in the Australian Capital Territory are not particularly well served by their education system” (p. 281).”

Mr. Cobbold called for a new direction in ACT education policy.

“The ACT has to do better in education. Its future economic prosperity depends on arresting the decline in results and reducing the huge achievement gaps. The future of its children are at stake.

“We have to stop wasting money on where it is least needed. We have to stop loading up government funding for wealthy private schools; we have to do better than the tokenistic funding for low SES students that has characterised the past decade of ACT education policy; we have to do more than invest in bricks and mortar.

“A new ACT Government should commit to joining with the Federal Government to implement the funding model recommended by the Gonski Review of School Funding which would deliver a large funding increase for low SES students in government and private schools.

“But beyond this, we need a comprehensive review of ACT education to recommend policies to arrest the decline in school results and to improve school results for low SES students. The review should be conducted by an independent expert panel.”

See the full report: Declining Standards and Inequity in ACT Education


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