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Day to Day Politics: Equality of Opportunity in Education.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

1 I was deprived of an education. I attended five state schools in six years. When I say deprived I guess I’m saying I was unfortunate that my mother, being a single mum, without support, could only find accommodation wherever she could.

I managed almost a year at Brunswick Technical School but I suffered conjunctivitis throughout my childhood and it prevented me from attending most of the time.

I started work before my fourteenth birthday. Three things helped me survive: 1) a love of reading, 2) an inquisitive mind, and 3) the word ‘observation’. Yes, I’m almost totality self-educated.

An observation.

“There is no greater need than the need for equality of opportunity in education”.

Inadvertently, because of my lack of a formal education I have always taken an interest in it. I have never truly understood why a kid from Broadmeadows isn’t entitled to the same quality of education as the kid that comes from Toorak.

Perhaps it’s an internal yearning for social justice that makes me angry that our taxes are being used to fund, swimming pools, polo fields, stables, orchestra pits and boat sheds for private schools.

Am I against parents wanting to fund and maintain a private education system? No, I’m not. I’m simply against using other people’s money to do it.

What we have now is a system of education so historically ingrained that politicians from either side lack the guts to do something about it.

Although Gonski acknowledged inequality it was still structured to economically protect rich private schools. At least Simon Birmingham had the guts to admit that some were over funded. It has now been disclosed that there are 150 being over funded under the School Resourcing Standard. Some by as much as three times, while all public schools in NSW are underfunded.

Here are a few examples: Loreto Kirribilli takes more than 2.8 times its funding entitlement. Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College takes 2.7 times its correct allotment. Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview takes more than 2.6 times its assessed level.

The Grattan Institute’s Peter Goss, school education program director said: “There is no public policy justification for over-funded schools such as these to continue receiving increasing funding each year”.

“At a minimum they should not receive any funding increases”.

An editorial in The Saturday Paper said:

“The argument that says the parents of private school students pay tax and so should see that money invested into the private system is a bogus one. There is nothing to stop that parent sending their child to a public school where that tax is being spent. What that person is asking for is a subsidy for elitism”.

“The end to government funding of private education would have to be managed gradually. It would lead to an increase in private fees and see more students enter the public system. Some schools might fail. Others might reduce their infrastructure”.

An observation

“For the life of me I fail to understand how anyone could vote for a party who thinks the existing education system is adequately funded and addresses the needs of the disadvantaged”.

Why the taxes of parents who live in Broadmeadows are being used to fund the elites of Toorak is beyond me. There may be many things wrong with our education system but none greater than the need for equality of opportunity.

2 Have you ever asked yourself why a Government department would need to spend $7 million on public relations? Well let me tell you that that is what Peter Dutton army of spin doctors and communications staff is costing taxpayers. More than $8 million a year, and his department is also spending up on external media consultants.

New figures show the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is spending $1 million on media staff and another $7 million on public relations, media monitoring and internal communications staff.

God they know how to throw it around.

3 Like rust, the doom and gloom of Neo Conservatism continues to spread itself throughout the Australian community. Where is the Leadership, the excitement that new ideas that add to a countries worth. We are entitled to ask the reason for replacing Abbott. The policies are his. What has Turnbull offered up that has his stamp on it. Nothing, he and his government seem to stumble from one crisis to another.

4 If you have read any of Stephen King’s books you will know that his genre is ’’horror.’’ Anyway, I thought you might like to what he thinks of one Donald Trump. Here are some quotes:

“A Trump presidency scares me more than anything else”.

“I’m terrified that he’ll become president”.

“The last stand of a sort of American male who feels like women have gotten out of their place and they’re letting in all these people who have the wrong skin colours”.

He added that Mr Trump’s popularity stems from people who desire a world in which there was no question “that the white American was at the top of the pecking order”

“The key chord to all of this is fear is that … We’re afraid the government is going to take away our guns, we’re afraid that Mexico is going to invade the United States, we’re afraid of this, we’re afraid of that, we’re afraid of taxes, we’re afraid of transgender bathrooms – the whole thing”.

“As long as people are fearful, it’s hard to have a rational discussion”.

“I would have laughed three or four months ago, but I think that Trump has a real shot” King told Charles. “I think that Hillary Clinton has been a lacklustre candidate, frankly, and there’s been a sense of entitlement about her campaign like, ‘Ah, it’s my turn and I’m running against a buffoon therefore I am already president. ”

5 Australia’s 226 federal MPs are elected to cast votes and enact laws. That’s why we pay their salaries.

By announcing a plebiscite on Marriage Equality, Abbott and then Turnbull allowed MPs to duck their responsibility as our elected representatives.

Why, if Parliament has always enjoyed the power and the duty to define marriage and to make critical decisions on rights in the past, does it suddenly feel the need to outsource this responsibility now?

Why are the ducking their responsibility and defaulting to the people who elected them.

My thought for the day.

“It always amazes me how vast amounts of accumulated learning can so easily be discarded rather than treasured”.

PS: I’m seriously considering that Donald Trump might be in need of mental therapy. SERIOUSLY.

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  1. trishcorry

    I do agree with not funding private schools to a degree. I come from a regional area (I have no idea if there are comparisons in capital cities) but there are gifted children – academically and sporting who have no choice but to go to the private schools here as the public schools do not have the resources to help gifted children, whereas the private schools do. It is not the fault of a child if they are not born into a rich family and they are gifted.

    The Govt needs to invest in gifted programs and ensure they have the specialist teachers and resources in public schools first before they stop funding to the private schools. It is a huge struggle for parents to send this one child to the private school (and sometimes they have other kids too, that may be going to the state school) when they are on an average wage or one lady I know is is single mum. They don’t really have the money to pay the fees, now and schools are part Govt funded . Either that, or there should be public scholarships for gifted kids to go to the private schools that can assist them, if they stop funding private schools, as it would be completely unaffordable for these families; and these gifted kids would miss out altogether.

    I had to leave school in year 10 to help out my parents, as many did in my age group. However, I went to University in my 30s. I abhor anti-intellectualism and smart shaming. Just like fear, anti-intellectualism also brings us the likes of Trump….and Abbott and Hanson.

  2. lawrencewinder

    Having taught in State, Catlic independent and Private schools … I can say with out doubt that most of the best of teaching I saw was in the state system. … and that I’ve had more heated discussion about the inequality engendered with this present system with “would-be-if-they-could-be’s” who pay a comparative pittance at lower expense independents and who are under the delusion they are getting value for money.
    I remember one of these types criticizing Gonski saying on radio…”We try to do the right thing and send them to private school even though it is a struggle.” The ego and percieved status of keeping up with the Joneses seemed a prime factor in their decision.
    And why are some state schools the best educational facility’s in the country? Parental interest in their child’s education …and it’s the same in any school.

  3. Trish Corry

    Lawrence, in my experience with my youngest two that went to the public high school here, the teaching ( subject matter knowledge, as well as basics such as spelling and grammar) were well below standard. In fact, I would call for a complete review of teachers in all schools, including high schools. To attract really good teachers, they need to raise the entry level to university, increase the teacher’s wage considerably and have a high standard of performance management in place. I won’t even start on the administration of the school and the blatant discrimination of children that goes on. Actually I will. While I’m at it; I would suggest indepth qualitative studies of student experiences in high school, so we can really see the bullying and discrimination that goes on within schools. Not just by peers but also by teachers. Sorry, I disagree. State school today is not the same as when I went to school. It needs a huge overhaul. I think there will be good teachers and terrible teachers in both state and private. A comparison between regional and city schools would also be great. Qualitative Analysis, from the student perspective. Not Quant. based on some teaching survey the bureaucrats have drummed up.

  4. Terry2

    The conservative right whilst having an ideological commitment to private enterprise, open markets, small government and lower taxes also have a strong belief in subsidising their own favourites when it suits them.

    Whenever a question is asked about why the taxpayer is providing a subsidy to private educational institutions or for that matter private health insurance companies the ‘floodgate’ argument is always brought up. Implying that a elimination or even a reduction in the subsidies will see a flood of children being transferred to public education and the collapse of the private health insurance industry as people switch to medicare funded services.

    But, do these arguments have any substance, will a levelling of funding to schools actually influence parents to move their children ? Probably not. In many instances the pattern of private schooling is a family tradition and an aspiration. There is also a powerful lobby group pushing private schools and colleges and their motivation is not just altruistic and focused on quality education, there is also a numbers game at play and a profit motive : I am still concerned about a private college awarding a scholarship worth $60,000 to a politician – a scholarship for which no other student had access.

    As regards private health insurance, I have personally seen chronic illness sufferers where the level of uninsured costs during a period of intensive treatment, known as the “gap” has forced the patients to cancel their private insurance due to these out of pocket costs and fall back onto the public system to get the same level of medical attention, same specialists but different hospital.

    This government and its constituency are opposed to change and we have to accept that so perhaps we need to focus on fairness.

  5. Kaye Lee

    In last year’s HSC in NSW, state school James Ruse Agricultural High School took out the top spot for the 20th year in a row, with 74 per cent of all exams taken by students scoring a band six or above. State schools took the top 8 spots.

    There are also state schools dedicated to kids with special talents like Newtown Performing Arts School and Westfield Sports High School.

    State school graduates do better at university than private school graduates with the same end-of-school tertiary entrance score. That’s the clear finding in a number of Australian studies since the 1980s

    And if you think bullying doesn’t go on in private schools you are very wrong. It is often worse.

    If the money that is given to wealthy private schools was instead directed to state schools then they would be better able to cater to individual need at both ends of the spectrum. Individual programs with feedback is the best way to improve results. Aim for personal bests, not to beat the other kid.

    My father, who also taught in both systems, used to say “We have a public transport system. If someone wants to drive then they should buy their own car.”

  6. wammm

    The child care industry have been caught rorting the government schemes. The private schools rorted the labor anti-GFC measures. But in little johnnies time, the churches, catholic system in particular, became so good at rorting as to open schools in 100s of little towns, in cities and remote areas. From memory, the richest catholic school in melb got $5m over payment and the bishop said he’d distribute it to the poor schools. Wow centrelink chases the unemployed for $50. But the regal rorters are the vice chancellors whose bums on seats policy of teaching and nursing degrees and VET fee help category 1-4 TAFE, ‘bridging’ courses, diplomas. These all get billions. Then the rabbott opened the education purse to ‘institutions’, (like the one his daughter got given a $60000 scholarship) and they have their little snouts snorting away. As this is debt it is hidden.
    A royal commission into the rabbott’s role and into the 10s of thousand of illiterate and enumerates is needed. In the meantime every student should have to pass NAPLAN grade 9 before incurring a debt. In fact I would doubt that more than 50% of primary teachers and 70% of high school teacher, would succeed at year 9 english and maths(20% at science)
    So what is to be done with the current unemployed teachers(50000 in NSW) and nurses(457 get jobs numbers ungoogled) gathering compound interest on hecs??

  7. Peter F

    John, I was fortunate enough to have a father who could afford to send me to boarding school when it was the only way to experience secondary education for those of us who lived outside large centres. We did not enjoy the items you mention above, but the school did have a 25 metre pool. When I pass that school now I am truly horrified at the shocking display of wealth exhibited in the obvious facilities that have been provided with government assistance.

    My father did not get tax relief for the money spent on my education, he paid for it out of after tax income.

    How times have changed.

  8. Harquebus

    Here is something that echoes my thoughts. I have posted it once before.

    “You want to cut tax breaks on my fifth investment property? Wah! You won’t give me more corporate tax cuts? Wah! You want working class kids to be able to sit next to my precious darling at university? Wah! Why won’t poor people stop interrupting the experts on Q&A? It’s a communist plot! Wah! Wah! Wah!”
    “It’s true that there is a class war in this country. But it is being waged every day of the week against workers and the poor, relentlessly, by these spoilt, entitled born-to-rule brats.”
    “stop the age of entitlement that has propelled the rise of a nasty, greedy, self-absorbed group of parasites that is sucking workers dry”

  9. Adrianne Haddow

    My son, now approaching 30 years of age, attended a performing arts high school in the Hunter region. My nephew attended a sports high school in the same region. Both were public schools. Both required auditions to gain entry to said schools, to prove ability as opposed to parental belief that their offspring were gifted/talented.
    For those of an academic bent there are also selective schools where evidence of academic excellence in primary school, and an entry exam are required to gain entry.

    I suspect that different state education systems are to blame for the differences of educational offerings. The NSW education department provided equality of educational outcomes for its students through this system, by resourcing and staffing these schools according to their purpose.

  10. Trish Corry

    Wow Adrienne. How fortunate to have those programs at public schools in that region, which I understand is a regional area. Is that right? Sadly, it is not the case everywhere. Certainly not where I live. Some kids who live not far from here have no choice but to board at the private school, as there are no high schools in the rural communities. Not everyone in a rural community is rich either.

    In my community one of the local private schools outperforms every single school year after year. It is held in high regard and always has been. So not in all communities are the state schools outstanding.

    We should be looking at meeting needs for ALL children and not just dismissing private schools because of our socialist/left leaning beliefs. I think it is important for the Government to really identify the gaps for all types of children and their needs and what is available in each LGA. The student should be central to the framework.

    They need to ensure the public system in every LGA can cater for any child and is a developed into a free, completely accessible system of excellence, which meets the needs of all children, before we start criticizing the work private schools have done, the need they fill in the community and taking away their funding. I think across Australia there will be a huge difference amongst schools and LGAs.

    That is why a federal centralized approach of Gonski is so important, rather than shoving it all back to the states like the LNP want to do. The disparity is clear just here between my experience and Adrienne’s alone, let alone everywhere else.

    The other question is, should only wealthy children be able to experience a religious education, if that is what is desired? I’m not religious at all, but maybe someone else who is, may want to give a perspective on this.

    Kaye, I don’t find bullying acceptable, especially by teachers at any school. I was giving a first person recount of my own experience. I’m sure that there is also very poor administration and poor management of students, including bullying and discrimination in private schools as well.

  11. kerri

    The MPs are not just ducking their responsibility to represent us they have twisted their responsibility to be to represent themselves! They no longer approach legislation as what their constituents want but instead hijack issues to support their own idealogical bent!

  12. Trish Corry

    Kaye: My father, who also taught in both systems, used to say “We have a public transport system. If someone wants to drive then they should buy their own car.”

    Ok. Let’s use two scenarios here: First one. A gifted child age 12 (grade 7) ready to go to high school. The school says that his mathematics level is more advanced than the year 12 specialized advanced maths program at the public school (That is more than 5 years advanced beyond his age group level – more advanced than specialized advanced maths in high school senior year at age 12) and only the local private school or boarding in a private school in a capital city will have the programs and specialized support he needs.

    Second Scenario: Young man, extremely talented at football, considered potential for NRL. The school of excellence for this sport is a private school. The opportunities for development and specialized coaching, mentoring or networks don’t exist in the public system, only in this school of excellence. Kids like this have a limited framework and time constraints to reach their peak. They get one shot basically.

    Both children are from low socio economic families. What type of car does your dad think they should buy so these kids get the best opportunities? How much debt should they go into, because the public system cannot meet their needs? What about the kids whose families can’t even afford private in an already subsidized system, let alone one not subsidized? There is no car buying for them. They just keep walking.

    I guess, they should just catch the bus to the public school that has no maths or sports program to meet their needs, and miss out on the opportunities the rich kids are getting hey? My town doesn’t even have a system of public transport only a few buses if we are using that example. No trains here! Not all public transport is equal across Australia either.

    Until the public system is fully developed and meets the needs of all kids, removing funding will really affect kids like this. The education of ALL children is important to me, not just the ones in a public school. There are plenty of lower to middle class kids who go to private school’s for various reasons. Their education is important to me.

    The point is, not every single school, or every area has the opportunities in the state system to meet the needs of all kids. That is the point of Gonski. Under the Liberals, nothing progressive will happen with it. To them, it is only about money, not outcomes or meeting the needs of all students. To argue to pull money out of the private system right now, is not the answer. It is the gifted and talented lower to middle class kids, and kids who live in rural communities, in areas that do not have well developed public schools in their region, that will miss out.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Trish I am not as au fait with the Queensland education system but it does seem to have problems in some areas.

    Queensland not only scores poorly compared with the rest of the world, but also with the rest of Australia in the key STEM subjects of science and maths. As few as 49.9% of Queensland students achieved at or above the proficient standard in scientific literacy at a Year 6 level.

    I don’t dismiss private schools – I just question the funding of very wealthy schools from a finite public purse. I am also a little concerned that there is a trend for explicit teaching in order to gain exam results rather than encouraging initiative, creativity, and co-operation.

    Also, I reject your assertion that excellence can only be fostered in private schools. Being a teacher, I know this to be completely untrue. There are very few schools who can afford to run elite programs for only a few kids in any system but teachers can extend their students. At my son’s school, two kids sat the HSC maths in year 9.

  14. Matters Not

    As few as 49.9% of Queensland students achieved at or above the proficient standard in scientific literacy at a Year 6 level.

    KL, would you have a link for that claim? And the year referred to?

  15. Kim Southwood

    I went through the state school system, enjoyed a free B.A. degree and became a high school teacher with a graduate dip.ed. on a Commonwealth scholarship. Wow! Weren’t those the days?

    On principle we insisted on sending our three children to state school … perhaps hoping they would have sufficient support at home to compensate for compromised standards in the state school system. First and foremost we were anti-elitist.

    In my experience, compromised standards in urban state schools exists relative to the socio-economic standards of the postcode as well as the transience of the local population. There are other significant variables including ESL students, based on country of origin.

    While I strongly agree with Trish that gifted children deserve properly resourced specialist programs, I also see the need to target the lower end of the spectrum, where behavioural and learning difficulties require equally specialised programs and resources. I believe it is in all these areas where state schools run far behind and yet bear most of the brunt.

    Private schools easily expel recalcitrant students and cherry pick disadvantaged students on grounds such as their sporting prowess or to meet a nominated indigenous target commitment. These are the privileges of being ‘independent’ of the government school system, which, in its turn, takes up the slack. I encountered a lot of that ‘slack’ in classes I taught and found the experience highly challenging, though well worth it.

    As far as quality of teaching goes, there is a cherry picking practice in the private and state school system, based on the classification of the graduate teacher. Graduate teachers who squeak through at the lower end of the academic scale are least likely to end up in private schools as they do not suit the elitist environment. Instead those ‘lower end’ teachers are often finally absorbed into the state school system and usually placed in the most challenging classes possible. I might add, they also hold their own in the ranks.

    The problem is there are just too many challenging classes in the state school system. It is these ‘lower end’, challenging classes we need to resource to bring our education system and indeed our society back into balance. Although I am not a Gonski expert, I was very impressed by his emphasis on raising the standard of education and resources at that ‘lower end’. This does require better purpose-trained specialist educators. I have never understood why it is such a neglected area in teacher education. Under the coalition it seems set to remain forgotten.

    There is also a middle range of students, who are branded neither ‘gifted’ nor ‘problematic’. Their education is equally compromised if they are not resourced according to their capacity. In state schools they are too frequently victims of blindness by teachers accommodating the two extremes of the system [ie. gifted and problematic]. If we are to recognise our ‘gifted’ with special programs and elitist private schools, we need to resource the majority of students who happen to sit in that middle range. If we do that right, they are very likely to provide the driving force in a dynamic, less stigmatised society.

    My thoughts: The distribution of funding to schools currently favours the elite and is unlikely to change under a Conservative Coalition government. Sadly I fear they favour resourcing the elite while cost cutting in other areas of education.

    I’m with you, John Lord. Giving tax-payer money to the elites throws society totally out of whack.

  16. kerri

    A friend removed her sons from a small primary private school when she came home to find her son with his and his brother’s ties around his neck and the upper rail of his bunk.
    He hadn’t yet jumped.
    Bullying was rife and had even been reported in mainstream media at that school with a totally ineffectual response from the principal and staff.
    As for quality of teaching staff? It is a mixed bag of good and bad luck wherever you go. I taught for 11 years in the government system with some brilliant educators and some utterly applling people. Equally I have worked with teachers in the private system who display similar variety in talent, skill and commitment.
    I don’t believe that the private parents paying taxes and therefore entitled to some government funding as The Saturday Paper has argued is a bogus one! If you refuse to fund Private schools at all, you end up with total class warfare and those with money will most likely win. The last thing you want is the wealthy right wing movers and shakers crying lifters and leaners because it is they who make up the political elite currently running this country. A government needs to be seen to be fair and equable to all kids. Lets not punish the children for the sins of the parents.
    The simple solution IMO would be that every child is funded to an equivalent amount commensurate with their level at school. That money is paid, student by student to the school you choose to send your child to. If you choose to send your child to a private school and foot the difference that is your choice but the government has done its fair share by allocating your child’s allowance to the school of your choice.
    BTW I have also worked with a small private school who regularly fundraise to support a “Community” scholarship with a disavantaged sister school. One student is chosen on ability by the principal of the disadvantaged school, to be funded for everything in the private school. And I am talking camps, music instrument and tuition, uniform, the lot! The first scholarship recipient was a refugee from Ethiopia who lived with an aunt after having witnessed her parents murders.
    It is as simplistic as the mantra of lifters and leaners to tar all private schools and all wealthy people as the enemy! It encourages cries of jealousy and poor rabble! At all times we the public must strive to be fair and intelligent in our arguments and discussions otherwise we head down the path of the Trump supporters. Name calling and stereotyping have no place where the education of children is concerned. We must keep in mind, and by that I mean in our minds as well as the minds of the wealthy political class, that not all geniuses, philanthropists and world class citizens hail from either class! No one has a monopoly on intellect or civic spirit.
    There is no doubt in my mind that Gillard, for all the right reasons, promised no drop in funding but she has created a shitstorm because the promise was made before establishing that so many schools were overfunded.
    The question I want an answer to is how a private school manages to be funded to the tune of three times it’s allotted funds? Who on earth kept doling out more and more money to the same bottomless pit???

  17. trishcorry

    Kaye. “Also, I reject your assertion that excellence can only be fostered in private schools. ”

    I have made no such assertion.

  18. Trish Corry

    Good Comment Kim. I agree with everything you say; but I will stand fast that we cannot pull funding from private schools, until all public schools in all areas can meet the needs of all students. Possibly this could start case by case by LGA. I certainly know my own LGA does not provide this. However, in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne etc,. this may very well be the case. The student should be central to the framework at all times. Resource the public schools to meet all needs, then start reducing the private funding. Put my payroll tax up, I won’t care. This is too important.

  19. Kaye Lee

    “I have made no such assertion.”

    Well it would be easy to be mistaken given these statements

    “public schools do not have the resources to help gifted children, whereas the private schools do.”

    ” ensure they have the specialist teachers and resources in public schools first before they stop funding to the private schools.”

    ” there should be public scholarships for gifted kids to go to the private schools that can assist them, if they stop funding private schools, it would be completely unaffordable for these families; and these gifted kids would miss out altogether.”

  20. Matters Not

    Adrianne Haddow

    as opposed to parental belief that their offspring were gifted/talented

    Now that’s a real problem. And when time passes and the child ‘achieves’ within the normal range, then it’s either the teachers’ or the schools’ fault. For my sins I had to attend various ‘Gifted and Talented’ conferences and listen to so much nonsense from starry-eyed parents who were ‘convinced’ their offspring were so very special. The President of the association at that time had three kids – and guess what – they were all gifted and talented. And they were in her eyes but the teachers concerned begged to differ.

    Sad really.

  21. Matters Not

    Trish Corry, re your scenarios, there’s a few glaring ‘errors’ if they were meant to be grounded in the current reality.

  22. Kim Southwood

    Thanks, Trish. I understand your support for the private system is based on an under performing state school system.

    My belief is that as long as state schools are underfunded they will continue to languish as they continue to take up the ‘slack’, who are being grossly neglected from a needs based point of view.

    I certainly understand why many people pull their kids out of state schools to join the private system. Unfortunately this further marginalises many state schools.

    It is that point of tension that neo-Lib politicians capitalise on. The more education is privatised, the less pressure on the government and the more gloomy the prospect for state schools.

    With the right intention, governments can fix the system in state schools and I agree it cannot happen overnight. Unfortunately the neo-libs are engaging every cost-cutting ploy they can devise and neglecting the needs of the majority.

    We need a system which benefits society as a whole. Then, if parents aren’t satisfied they can pay for it.

  23. Kaye Lee

    My real problem is that you seem to believe the quality of teaching in private schools is better and on that, I must disagree. Those teachers have been through exactly the same training as teachers in state schools. In fact, the marks to get into the Catholic Universities for teaching are usually lower than for state funded universities. Some choose to join the private system because they think they won’t have to deal with behavioural issues – private schools tend to just expel kids who need behavioural management.

    State schools will be dealing with the vast majority of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Should we be sacrificing them so kids at private schools can hire an Olympic rowing coach or build a commercial recording studio or their fifth football field?

    By all means, offer alternatives, but those who choose to go to an exclusive school should pay for it. If the taxpayer is funding it then it should be available to any child, not just those who can afford it or those who hold certain religious beliefs.

  24. Matters Not

    Kim Southward: re your assertion

    on an under performing state school system.

    Beware the generalisation. Let’s look at two schools based in Brisbane within walking distance of each other. Brisbane State High School and Brisbane Grammar School. Both are GPS schools. Both have (atypical) student populations but have have similar SES backgrounds, with Brisbane Grammar School having the more advantaged cohort.

    In the ‘bottom quarter’ (quartile). BSHS has 2% while BGS has 0%. (A ‘typical’ school would have 25%). In the next quartile, BSHS has 7% while BGS has 2%. In the next quartile, BSHS has 21% while BGS has 10%. In the top quartile, BSH makes up its 100% with 70% in that category. On the other hand, BGS has a whooping 88% in that category. Very, very atypical.

    Now if you go to the My School website and check out the NAPLAN results, you will see that BSHS has no ‘pink’ in sight (meaning it doesn’t achieve a ‘below’ in any area.) It’s a sea of ‘green’ or ‘dark green’. Do the same for BGS amd you will soon see that BGS, in contrast, has plenty of ‘pink’. So using the normative SES background measure it would be predicted that BGS would do ‘better’ than BSHS in the things that NAPLAN measures. But it doesn’t! BSHS clearly outperforms BGS.

    As for monies spent. Each student at BSHS receives $10 778 from all sources. On the other hand each student at BGS receives more than double at $23 844.

    I could do the same exercise and repeat the results with other private and public schools.

  25. Kim Southwood

    Kaye, apologies if I appear to be saying private schools have better quality of teaching. although I did suggest in my first post that private schools try to cherry pick their teachers according to rating. But so does the state school system.

    To elaborate further on that point, I believe that ratings are not the sole determining factor in whether a teacher is ‘quality’ or not. They have to get out there and run the gauntlet, and, as we know many ‘top’ teachers leave in the first year or two for ‘better paid’ (and usually less stressful) jobs with better pathways for promotion. Others may not be the best spellers or mathematicians on the block, but they have the ability to engage students and they work hard to improve their skills, especially if well mentored. Mentoring is another vital role, especially for first-year-out teachers.

    It really annoys me that governments piously point to quality of teachers as the cause for poor outcomes. It is far more complex than that.

    Let’s get school/teacher resources and teacher numbers sorted out and increase specialist educators in key areas to make state schools more than just a ‘churn ’em out’ process for keeping kids off unemployment benefits until they’ve finished year 12.

  26. Kaye Lee


    In the Queensland schools ranked on Year 9 results in 2016, both BSHS and BGS did well achieving the same top ranking. BSHS had well over double the kids – 447 to 205. Whilst there are disadvantages to big schools, it certainly allows them to offer a wider range of subjects.


    My comment was more directed to Trish than you. I agree about mentoring for young teachers but recent studies have shown that the thing that gets the best results is the opposite of what we are doing. Individualised programs with timely feedback aimed at improvement is proving far more successful than standardised testing or even mentoring.

  27. Matters Not


    Some choose to join the private system because

    Lots of reasons. In the public system there’s a fear of a transfer to a ‘remote’ area which can have disastrous consequences for a married couple, with the other partner not being able to find suitable employment in the new location. Some have aged parents and a transfer is also disastrous. Then there’s the schooling – having to send children off to boarding school on a teacher’s salary being somewhat prohibitive.

    But there’s a fair amount of mobility between systems. After all, as you point out teachers in the large systems go through the exact same professional socialisation process, deal with the same curriculum and the like. In both systems. union membership is very, very high even though it’s not cheap.

    Not sure what the arrangements are now, but years ago the superannuation arrangements for Principals in the Catholic System was a disaster. A cause of much angst.

  28. Kim Southwood

    Yes, Matters Not, please don’t think I mean all state schools. I mentioned postcode earlier and there are many other variables. I taught at Brisbane State High for one semester on a contract in the late ’80’s and found the school and students a relative delight. I was impeccably mentored by senior teachers there. They offered schools of excellence there and drew students from many different postcodes. Kelvin Grove State High (College) also follows that path of excellence very effectively.

    Please excuse any apparent generalisations. I’ll blame it on trying to be economical with words on a complex subject.

    To elaborate on another point: Kerry (above) mentioned the bullying which can occur in private schools. Especially vulnerable groups can be those who have left the high school system for a ‘better education’ at private school or those who have entered in the disadvantaged quota that private schools attract. Of course any school can have its share of bullies and bullied, but it is not helpful for learning outcomes.

  29. Matters Not

    The reason for asking the year the data was collected is crucial. For years, Queensland students lagged behind other States because they were on average 6 months younger. Anna Bligh raised the school starting age by 6 months and guess what, student achievement (magically) began to improve. While various government Ministers tried to claim credit for same, the truth lies in the raised starting age. The MSM still don’t get it even when it’s pointed out

    It will be interesting to watch the outcomes from here on, given that there is now a ‘National Curriculum’ and eliminating the age differential is now washing through the system.

  30. Kaye Lee

    Interesting. There is also so much evidence accruing for the difference that early childhood education makes (another area that has been cut in various ways). This is particularly so for kids from homes where parents may not have the time or resources to spend time playing and reading and doing craft and throwing a ball.

  31. Matters Not

    Yes KL, give Bligh her due again because she introduced an ‘Prep Year’.

    Kim Southwood: it certainly is a complex area. Variables galore. Would you believe that many rural high schools suddenly achieve so much better (average) academic results when their area is in drought? I’m sure you will figure out why.

  32. trishcorry

    “I have made no such assertion.”

    Well it would be easy to be mistaken given these statements

    “public schools do not have the resources to help gifted children, whereas the private schools do.”

    ” ensure they have the specialist teachers and resources in public schools first before they stop funding to the private schools.”

    ” there should be public scholarships for gifted kids to go to the private schools that can assist them, if they stop funding private schools, it would be completely unaffordable for these families; and these gifted kids would miss out altogether.”

    No not really, I don’t think it is an easy conclusion to come to. Particularly since I was clearly speaking about regional towns and pointed to my local area several times. This is the experience of where I live. The entire point of Gonski is that there are inequities everywhere.

    If you look at the three of my statements you posted above – are you claiming these statements are incorrect and public schools can meet the needs of all students in every town in Australia? If so, why do we even need Gonski if the system is be perfect already?

  33. kerri

    Regarding quality of teachers versus money invested in private/state schools!
    No1/ teachers are the same re training as Kaye Lee has pointed out.
    No2/ the argument proffered by the LNP and their ilk is that extra cash makes no difference to outcomes which is completely counterintuitive to their argument that private schools are better.
    Coz let’s face it, we all know the private schools have more money and are frequently better resourced.
    And that last point about money and resources also spills over to teacher quality, in that any teacher can extend their students with well placed cashed up resources.
    The LNP want to blame teachers because they are working class and unworthy.
    They want to praise private schools because they went to private schools and that’s where you meet “the right sort of people” hence the old boys clubs and bequests made to the “alma mater”.
    This government is hell bent on cutting the fat in every area where they see waste. They obsess over the .04% (don’t quote me) who cheat on welfare and want disabled, elderly, unemployed etc to pay their share whilst they give them nothing. If they were to apply their obsessive cost cutting to private schools they would undoubtedly win back a huge cash sum.
    There is a system, or maybe was, in Victorian Education the bursars referred to as “funny money”. Cash given to government schools that could only be spent at the “Stores branch” of government. ie; the state financed stationery shop. (It wasn’t actually money but more like a credit note) The products were crap. The copy paper clogged the machines. The “dustless”chalk sent most people into coughing fits which is why teachers get kids to clean the board. Private schools don’tneed to bother with such funny money. Staff will happily spend funds with a philosophy (and I have actually heard this directly from staff) that “these parents are all rich and can afford it”. I have seen books thrown out and replaced because of dog eared corners in the private system.
    But similarly, when my dad worked as a government school cleaner, he brought home lab equipment in perfect condition. No cracks, chips or even scratches thrown away because as a disadvantaged school they needed to spend, again the stores branch, to a level to maintain their status as a disadvantaged school. The rationale being if you don’t spend it you clearly don’t need it and so you don’t get the funding. Keeping in mind as the money had to be spent at the stores branch, there was a limit to what you could actually buy and it could not include capital purchases such as photocopiers or electrical items and could not be used for works.
    In my observation from both outside and inside the education system everyone has an opinion because everyone went to school.
    Senior education department officials come either from the public service who have no idea how schools operate or are made up of ex teachers with a mindset to treat teachers the way they treated their students. “Naughty” little people who shouldn’t be given any latitude.
    I actually know that the pettiness in the department displayed by office staff has meant childish games like “let’s put Miss White and Mr Black in the same school as Mrs Grey” or “lets put 3 teachers with the initial G and the surname Smith in the same school” because won’ t that be funny and let’s face it this job is boring as shit!
    Dehumanising teachers and students helps no one.
    Gonski was a step in the right direction.
    Private and government schools vary enormously in programs, staff, facilities and administration.
    This government will never deliver a fair and appropriate educatiin system as they are incapable of viewing the portfolio free of their idealogical bent.

  34. Kaye Lee


    ” are you claiming [that] public schools can meet the needs of all students in every town in Australia”

    No Trish and that is a silly statement. No system ever is going to cater to all needs of all kids in all places so we must devote our limited resources to where they will do the most good. The private system was apparently offering nothing at all in your area if kids had to be sent away.

  35. Trish Corry

    Matters NotOctober 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm Edit
    Trish Corry, re your scenarios, there’s a few glaring ‘errors’ if they were meant to be grounded in the current reality.

    Really Matter Not?

    Both scenarios are real. I know both of their stories very well.

    I know your pessimistic nature won’t believe me anyway, so I am not going to list all the his life story, except – Fluent Reading at adult level from age 2 – as in could just pick up anything and read it, First IQ test and the state Govt involved at age 4, because the kindy had no idea what to do with him, Had own curriculum from year one, as he was too far advanced for the regular curriculum in Primary. Won all academic awards in Primary school, Top 1% Australia wide in All UNSW exams from years 4 – 7 for science, maths, English, Graduated High school with an OP1 (ATAR 99) in the top percentile of every subject (the highest you can get), Graduated University Bachelors with Distinction I think with all HD’s and one distinction. Plus an extensive academic achievement list too long to mention.

    When a 2 year old just starts reading anything, it really does freak a person out. By the time he started kindy at aged 4 and other’s became aware and started testing him, his reading, comprehension and expression were identified as off the chart at 4 years old. The percentile graph was literally off the chart. As in for real “off the chart when the chart was printed out.”

    The parents were told the he was more advanced than the most advanced mathematics program for year 12, when he was in year 7. The point is the public high school in his town, could not cater for him. The Primary school said the only choice was the local Private school (not a Catholic School- a private school) or boarding at a few private schools in Brisbane. This is the KEY point here – the key point is not that you think I’m making it up.

    Gifted Children DO exist. Not all parents just ‘wish’ their children are gifted. It was not all fun and games for his parents either.

    He has been tested, poked and prodded by all and sundry since he was four years old when he started Kindy. Just because you are super smart, does not mean there is not a difficult life side to it either. School is not just about academia. When there is a brain more advanced than most adults have in an awkward 9 year old body for example – it isn’t all fun and games. All kids at either end of the spectrum are seen as ‘different’ and ALL Schools should be able to cater for ALL kids.

    Sometimes you need to accept Matters Not, despite your pessimistic nature, that you don’t know everything, nor do you know everyone. Your lived experience is not synonymous with everyone elses for you do judge others.

    Getting back to the point Matters Not – if the supports and resources do not exist NOW in the public system for all kids. Do you agree that this needs to be fixed first before they start pulling out funding from the private schools who are filing the gaps for these kids? I’m sure the same would go for kids at the other end of the spectrum who need remedial help and there is not enough help in some schools. Not all gifted kids or kids that need remedial assistance are rich.

  36. Kaye Lee

    Federal Government grants were first provided for private schools in 1964. These were intended as one-off capital grants for struggling Catholic schools to purchase science blocks.

    Recurrent per-student grants for private schools were introduced in 1970 by Gorton.

    Federal funding to private schools increased substantially during the Howard government. Between 1999 and 2005, federal funding for public schools increased by $261 per student compared to an increase of $1,584 for each private school student.

    Overall, total public funding (federal and state) has increased at a greater rate for private than public schools. Analyses of data from the Productivity Commission showed that total public funding has increased by 9.8 per cent for private schools but only 3.3 per cent for public schools over the past 10 years.

    many private schools use public funds to improve their facilities rather than reduce fees.

    We examined MySchool data from the six most expensive elite private schools in Perth that charge more than $20,000 in fees per student.

    On average, these six schools received $2,200 per student from the State Government and $3,000 per student from the Federal Government in recurrent funding.

    They also received on average $3.7 million in capital funding from the Federal Government over the past five years. Taken all together, these figures amount to an estimated public spend of $270 million over the past five years, for six schools that are already extremely well resourced.

    Our funding system is based on an illogical basis of entitlement, not need. In our current system, all schools are entitled to public funds, regardless of whether they actually need them or not. All parents are entitled to a “return” on their tax dollar, regardless of where they send their child to school.

    Rather than basing our funding model on the entitlements of schools, it should be based on the needs of students and communities.

    Very few countries, if any to our knowledge, provide similarly high levels of recurrent and capital funding to private schools, while also allowing them to charge fees.

  37. Trish Corry

    “No Trish and that is a silly statement.”

    I have no idea what your problem is then. As for someone who says they have been a teacher, I am surprised you do not show empathy for gifted students and express your understanding of the unique challenges for gifted students, nor do you appear to understand the disparity of the availability to meet all children’s needs in all regions. Nor do I understand why you think the Private system at present does not fill gaps for some kids who cannot be catered for, by the public system for a variety of reasons. Nor do I understand why you believe the public system as it is now is exceptional.

    The fortunate thing for this particular child is that the public primary school and the private high school, both were able to deliver special programs and had at least one teacher with special training in gifted students.

  38. Trish Corry

    “Rather than basing our funding model on the entitlements of schools, it should be based on the needs of students and communities.”

    Well look at that – exactly what I have been arguing for all along – placing the student at the centre of the framework; yet you have dismissed every comment I have made.

    How bizarre.

  39. Kaye Lee

    “resources do not exist NOW in the public system for all kids. Do you agree that this needs to be fixed first before they start pulling out funding from the private schools who are filing the gaps for these kids? ”

    Can you not see the paradox in this statement? If we had the funding for the resources in the public system NOW then we wouldn’t have to pull funding from private schools. That is the whole point Trish.

    And you seem badly ill-informed about the public system which most definitely does offer gifted and talented programs. Even if the school does not have sufficient children to run their own, individuals can attend camps and go to the universities for various different seminars and challenges. I know this from both sides, both as a teacher who has taken part and as a parent of children who both had the opportunity to attend such programs. My son attended a selective high school where kids were doing amazing things very early, extended based on their ability rather than chronological age. And we don’t live in a city.

    And religion can be learned and practised outside of school.

    Trish, all I am saying is we shouldn’t be funding wealthy private schools (or any at all in my opinion unless they stop charging fees).

  40. Matters Not

    Always reluctant to put my toe in the water when it comes to Trish Corry but as I understand it, this thread isn’t hers and therefore some ‘wandering’ is allowed. I’ll take as a starting point this comment:

    offering nothing at all in your area if kids had to be sent away.

    Believe it or not, some people don’t want a high school (secondary education) in their local town. There is a couple of reasons for that. First, the Commonwealth provides significant levels of ‘assistance’ to rural people if your offspring can’t access that type of education close at hand. (Forgotten the details – distances and the like). So if there isn’t a local high school, then you will be heavily subsidised for a decision you were always going to make re a private school of repute – for a whole range of reasons, including mixing with the ‘right people’ (social class and all that) and not the ‘locals’.

    The second reason flows from the first. In many of these remote towns, there is a significant Aboriginal population who may choose to enrol and therefore make the school viable. Shock, horror. We can’t have this. There’s money, social status, friendships, and the like involved.

    So while the Aboriginal population may pressure the Minister to open facilities for ‘secondary education’, there are much more well connected people who argue against same.

    As Kim, said, it’s complicated.

  41. Matters Not

    Trish :

    Both scenarios are real. I know both of their stories very well

    How? Personal communication? Personal experience? There’s lots of claims that might be contested here because there’s so much that simply doesn’t add up.

  42. Matters Not

    Michael, I have attempted another post on this thread but without success. Have saved it and will attempt again in 45 minutes.

  43. The AIM Network

    Matters Not, there’s nothing in spam. Sometimes WordPress plays up and once in a blue moon comments can’t be posted – try closing down and reopening, it usually fixes it.

  44. Matters Not

    Did what you suggested, then tried again without success. Maybe tomorrow?

    Or maybe now?

    Re Trish again:

    Second Scenario: Young man, extremely talented at football, considered potential for NRL. The school of excellence for this sport is a private school. The opportunities for development and specialized coaching, mentoring or networks don’t exist in the public system, only in this school of excellence. Kids like this have a limited framework and time constraints to reach their peak. They get one shot basically.

    You are right in the sense, they get one shot only when it comes to the NRL. That’s why the Cowboys and the Broncos (and every other club in the NRL have talent scouts searching high and low). I worked briefly with Cyril Connell (Director of Secondary Education – played for Australia and Queensland) who, on his retirement, became a full time ‘scout’ for the Broncos (had been doing it for years) and did so until his death. He travelled to almost every game that was played. Or so it seemed. He could recognise ‘talent’ but that recognition was only the beginning of the recruitment process.

    He first talked to the school Principal re ‘character’. He then, and only then, met with the parents. All the time thinking far beyond football talent. He was always about ‘character’. And yes he made some big mistakes Julian O’Neill from your area was a notable error.

    If ‘selected’ then a scholarship was offered. Arrangements were made with specific schools. For example, Wavell High has hosted some minor notaries such as Greg Inglis, Shane Tronc, Adam Blair, Ashley Harrison, Richie Fa’aoso, Sika Manu and a whole host of others. You will note also that some of those ‘hosted’ didn’t even come from Australia. Host families were always found then as they are today.

    So maybe, just maybe, that your example wasn’t as talented as someone claimed.

    Michael it worked on an ‘edit’, strange.

  45. Carol Taylor

    My children were all educated under the public system including high school which was in a designated disadvantaged country area. End result between the three is 2 degrees, 12 years distinguished service in the Navy, 1 Honours degree, 1 PhD in molecular bioscience (biofuels), currently completing 2nd year medicine. Credit goes to Mullumbimby High School who teach children problem solving skills, encourage an inquiring mind and don’t teach-the-test.

    I believe private schools should be user-pays and are akin to children having piano lessons and ballet. Wonderful experiences, but don’t expect others to pay for them. Pay to have them at a private school or pay for them as extracurricular activities, but pay for them yourself.

    I recall a lady I knew. She and her husband had decided on only one child, so that they could give him ‘the best of everything’ including a very expensive private school education. As a teenager, he walked out the door. I guess that what he needed was more than just the things that money can buy.

  46. Matters Not

    Re the ‘debate’ as to whether private schools should be funded or not is now part of the historical record. They will! It’s now a feature of the political landscape. And that debate won’t be revived in the foreseeable future because there’s absolutely no appetite for same. Even the leadership of the various Teacher Unions accept that. (That’s not to say they are necessarily in tune with all their members on this point but hey we are talking pragmatics at this point.)

    But while private schools will continue to be ‘funded’, this does not mean that their current funding levels (and current ‘built in’ future levels) are guaranteed. The ‘left’ should be rejoicing that Birmingham has recognised the elephant in the room, described it in some detail, and has indicated his intention to remedy what is a clear failure of Labor Policy. You know the Rudd/Gillard riding instructions to Gonski that no school should get even a $ less.

    Hopefully, Birmingham will be invited to address the opening of the coming AEU Conference in an effort to lock in his commitment for fairer funding. That would be good tactics. And if Tanya was invited to address the same Conference on the final day that even might be a good strategy.

    Let’s face it, Labor unleashed the Gonski model and then ran away.

  47. Michael Taylor

    “Maybe tomorrow? Or maybe right now?”

    Whenever you want.

  48. Matters Not

    Yes Michael, I have no explanation as to why some of my longer posts – don’t. Perhaps because I am a Queenslander? Just jokin

    What I have learnt, I think, is to save the longer post and then ‘paste it’ to a much shorter post via the edit function. That worked this time.

    But perhaps I shouldn’t generalise?

  49. Matters Not

    Looking to the future re educational possibilities including access and perhaps equitable outcomes. A genuine, first class NBN could go a long way as Tony Windsor (and others) recognised. But to think that Winton State School will ever offer the same direct ‘experiences’ as let’s say Wavell High is beyond the pale.

    Personally, I’ve never met a child who was desperate to learn about Pythagoras’ Theorem (and if I had I would have been worried). Teaching isn’t all about ‘knowledge’ transmission. Teaching is about much more than that. Sociologists tell us that for most of the time teachers engage in ‘social control’. And while they may differ as to the relative time allocations, ‘social control’ lies at the heart of much of their activity. You know, teacher directed activities and rewards such as ‘get in line’, ‘be quiet’, ‘wait your turn’, ‘who knows’, ‘sit up’, ‘good answer’ and the like. And it’s not confined to the verbal commands, it’s also the non-verbal ‘looks’ and the like.

    The NBN will have difficulty replicating the same socialisation process. (And maybe that’s a good thing). But at least it might be a start. An advancement

  50. kerri

    Matters Not
    I also have the problem with longer posts. I too copy before I hit post and paste if it doesn’t work. Have lost too many good comments I could not repeat. I thought it was an iPad issue?

  51. Michael Taylor

    kerri, I’m finding recently that my iPad is very slow to load lately.

    We’ve found some of your comments caught in spam, btw. I don’t know why they end up there. Comments with a large number of links in them can get caught up in spam, but I don’t think that’s the case with your comments. Nonetheless we clear them as quickly as we can.

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