School Comparisons Will Pit Rich Against Poor

A study released by Save Our Schools, a public education advocacy group, shows that school comparisons for local areas to be released by the Federal Government later this year will pit rich schools against poor. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, called on the Federal Education Minister to ditch the publication of school comparisons in local areas.

“Our study shows that the Prime Minister’s promise that government schools in disadvantaged areas would not be compared with “likes of Geelong Grammar and the rest” is completely false.

“A local area school performance table for Northern Geelong will compare one of the richest schools in Australia – Geelong Grammar – with government and Catholic schools in Corio and Norlane, which are amongst the most disadvantaged suburbs in Australia.

“Only the very wealthy can afford to attend Geelong Grammar. Its fees are nearly $30 000 a year and it has luxurious education facilities and resources. In contrast, government and Catholic schools in Corio and Norlane serve communities with high levels of public housing, a large migrant population, low education and high unemployment.

“This is the kind of “simplistic” and “arbitrary” school comparison that the Prime Minister, the Federal Education Minister and other education ministers say they are opposed to.”

“The Federal Government is in an untenable, contradictory position. On the one hand, the Prime Minister says he does not want to see Geelong Grammar compared with Nambour High, where he went to school, because of its very different circumstances. Yet, his Government is going to compare Geelong Grammar with other nearby schools in North Geelong serving communities which are even more disadvantaged than his home town.”

Mr. Cobbold said that similar unfair comparisons of schools with vastly different resources and socio-economic profiles will be repeated in local areas all around Australia (see table below).

“The study shows that local area school performance tables will compare government and private schools in disadvantaged suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra with other government and private schools serving very high socio-economic status communities in neighbouring suburbs.

“For example, school comparisons for the eastern suburbs of Sydney would likely compare some of the most prestigious schools in Australia such as Cranbrook, Moriah College and The Scots College with the government school in Daceyville, one of the most disadvantaged suburbs in Australia.

“In the inner west, wealthy Newington College and the academically selective Fort St. High are likely to be compared with schools in the low socio-economic suburbs of Marrickville and Campsie.

“The Prime Minister, the Federal Education Minister and state and territory education ministers have all proved themselves as able stand-ins for the ‘Hollowmen’. Their assurances about unfair school comparisons stand exposed as hollow rhetoric and sophistry.”

Mr. Cobbold called on the Federal Education Minister to ditch local area school comparisons because they are likely to result in many “arbitrary” and “unfair” comparisons and because they will bring many of the same problems as full league tables.

“Local area school comparisons are partial league tables. As such, they bring the same problems as full league tables.

“Some parents may be discriminated against in gaining entry to a local school of choice because schools select those students who will boost their ranking.

“More time will be devoted to the tested subjects and less to science, history, social studies, languages, arts and music, physical education and health.

“A particular concern is that local school comparisons will undermine collaboration and co-operation between schools. Schools will be reluctant to share successful practices with other schools if it means those schools could leapfrog them in public comparisons of performance.

“Publishing local area school comparisons is likely to be counter-productive. Far from driving education improvement as Julia Gillard wants, it is likely to harm local education as well as make simplistic and unfair comparisons between schools.”

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