Monday, February 6, 2017

Australia's Two Speed School System

Structural inequalities in schooling

There are several structural inequalities impacting Australian schools. 

Unfortunately the issue of funding tends to dominate the discussion. Focused on in isolation, this tends to polarise schools into groups such as state and non-state. 

This will intensify as we approach the possible end of Gonski funding and awareness that the difference in government funding for state and non-state schools is diminishing and could well be reversed in the next few years.

Structural inequality begins at enrolment

In terms of enrolment there are two types of schools and they treat both parents and students very differently thus generating and compounding Australia's Two Speed School System.
  • Selective schools can choose whether to enrol (or exclude) any student with little, or no, justification required. Enrolment is a school choice
  • Non-selective schools can only reject an application for enrolment under exceptional circumstances. Enrolment is a parent choice (unless there is some over-riding policy such as zoning)
Before non-state schools received substantial government funding this was not really an issue. Enrolment in a selective school was a commercial arrangement between the parent and the school. 

The early justifications for government funding of non-state schools were that 
  • the parents at the schools were taxpayers and their children should benefit
  • supporting non-state schools was a cost saving strategy for government
As the difference has diminished these claims need to be reviewed. Most of the parents of children refused enrolment by a school are also tax payers and their children should also benefit. Should that be the school's choice?

Government cost savings decrease as the school funding gap between schools diminishes. If a school uses selective enrolments to grow the school the costs to government can increase markedly to provide the additional facilities required.

Now that all schools receive substantial government funding there is a need for terms and conditions around
  • Parent choice 
  • Mutual obligation between government and schools
  • Common benchmarks for rejecting an enrolment application
  • Gaming the system
  • Means and needs testing of schools
  • Double dipping
  • "Leaners and Lifters"

Enrolment and making provision for students

Selective schools enrol students who match the school's provision and community.

Non-selective schools enrol the majority of students whose parents apply and make the best provision they can given the demands they face and their capacity.

School improvement models - better schools start with fewer problems?

Non-selective schools

Selective Schools

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