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Barr closes public schools, kids go somewhere else

By 30 March 2007 24

Acccording to the Barr’s latest media release, the latest school census results are available. He has put an interesting spin in what is a very bad news story for the government.

The data show, suprise, surprise, that families flee the public system when you close a heap of public schools, be mean to their families, say even meaner things about them, and do bad things to a heap of other public schools (ask Narrabundah if they’re happy with becoming a P-2 without warning).

Shock, horror, these kids have mysteriously turned up in the comparatively stable and relatively pleasant private sector – rich anglican schools and even the poor catholic schools.

I’m sure this recent decline in public school enrolments by far exceeded the decline paraded last year as the justification for being so evil. Does that mean more schools will find themselves on a hit list this year?

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24 Responses to Barr closes public schools, kids go somewhere else
#1
Hasdrubahl8:48 pm, 30 Mar 07

I have read and re-read Barr’s media release, louise, but can find nothing to substantiate your claim that public school kids are turning up in private schools.

Perhaps I missed something?

#2
futto9:43 pm, 30 Mar 07

since when is 1.6% a “clear demographic shift”.

I would imagine there would have to be a 2 – 5% error margin in these stats.

#3
Nik_the_Pig9:47 pm, 30 Mar 07

Same here. I even read (well skimmed) through the census. It sounds likely but where is the evidence?

#4
miz10:41 pm, 30 Mar 07

The census doesn’t really show where children have moved to, as these are just 2007 figures. However there was a news item on ABC radio this arvo that indicated a further decline in public school numbers, they must have crunched the numbers. Can’t find on the website yet though.

#5
caf10:55 pm, 30 Mar 07

futto, why? it’s a census, not a survey.

#6
louise11:00 pm, 30 Mar 07

You’re right – the release was a bit scant. They didn’t want to make it too easy. You have to read the 2007 Feb census, and then you have to read other documents to discover the 2006 data (gov – non-gov enrolments 95-96). The key pieces of data for the overall picture are the 58.4% of students (35020) in government schools in Feb this year, compared with 59% (35463) reported in Feb 2006. It’s a loss of 243, which was enough to justify the entire 2020 campaign that they said was going to stop such trends in their tracks.

The real story is in the primary sector, which the loss to the private system was the greatest for years. This is because most of the schools listed, and most of those closed in 2006, were primary schools. Also, there are more local private schools for anyone fleeing the public system to choose from (shorter waiting lists than for high schools, or no waiting list at all). If they dared to release information showing where kids from closed schools had gone, the numbers would be even sadder for Barr’s propoganda machine.

As for the significance of 1.6%, it was the only number they could find to vindicate what they did in 2006, so of course it was ‘significant’. I think this might also be the shortest press release anyone in the S-hope govt has put out for a while. It’s quite tiny.

It was also all over the news, and Barr admitted that the exodus had at least continued, but would be turned around as government continued to implement its school closures program (also known as reform of the system).

#7
Ingeegoodbee5:52 am, 31 Mar 07

Louise, I think that the figures are sound but I’m not convinced that the interpretation you’re putting on them is on the money. That degree of shift from public to private education has been identified for a number of years now – I doubt that the school closures influenced it much at all. I think that the really worrying issue for education policy makers is the fact that if the trend continues the majority of kids will be in private education in around a decade from now.

The rise in primary kids shifting to private schools might be influenced by closures, but could also be explained by other factors such as increased wealth allowing some parents to choose private education from the start rather than one of the traditional models of public education for primary and private for secondary. Parents conditioned to spending $13000-odd a year per child on full time day care tend to view private school fees as a bargain.

#8
Sammy10:30 am, 31 Mar 07

I was more concerned with Hargreave’s comments on Stateline last night.

Did he say that schools would be available for community use, provided they were in a satisfactory (and safe) condition?

In the same story, they talked about the fact that a lot of the schools were falling into serious states of disrepair, especially after the hail storm.

#9
seepi11:42 am, 31 Mar 07

In the paper it says only those with asbestos issues will be sold off – and they say that is only a couple – they don’t say which ones. I’m surprised and pleased that they’re not just going to flog the lot for yet more units.

To me it makes sense that if you close schools so that the closest school for primary kids is the local private school, then people will go there. The closest school to us is private, and we will probably use that one. There is a cost to people in leaving the house earlier, and driving kids to school in the opposite direction to work.

#10
nyssa7612:32 pm, 31 Mar 07

Some of the kids could have left due to moving interstate.

The census isn’t accurate anyway as it is only indicative of the children who turned up to school on the day of the census or who were enrolled but then left after the census.

Nor does it take into consideration those students who enrolled AFTER the census date.

A more accurate figure (as all teachers know) will be the July/August census.

#11
nyssa7612:38 pm, 31 Mar 07

Also the decline could be due to the number of births in a given year.

In 2002 some high schools were inundated with large numbers of Year 7 students. By 2003 there were less students. In my old school it was a difference of almost 60 students (at least 4 teacher placements).

You just have to look at the schools’ year level totals – some years have more and do impact on student numbers as a whole.

#12
louise2:18 pm, 31 Mar 07

Fair enough comments, and I agree with the comments about trends and birth rates, but there has been an increase in private sector enrolments, which suggest that it isn’t driven completely by birthrates. Also, since the trend hasn’t slowed (but increased in the primary sector), it means that 2020 has failed its own public objectives – something conceded by Barr on the news last night.

The August census isn’t actually very accurate, at least for the primary sector: just ask Hall about last year’s August results.

#13
caf3:10 pm, 31 Mar 07

I doubt it was expected to yield instantaneous results.

#14
seepi4:16 pm, 31 Mar 07

Barr was claiming that the slight increase in enrolments mid last year was a direct result of 2020 plans, so he now has to concede that this decrease in numbers is a failure of 2020. He can’t use figures only when they support his plans.

#15
emd7:28 pm, 31 Mar 07

I don’t remember the exact figures I heard on ABC radio news yesterday, but it was 400+ students leaving the public system, and 270 students entering the private system. So to me it sounds like a large number of those leaving public schools have moved to private schools.

#16
nyssa7611:10 pm, 31 Mar 07

louise, going on previous years – prior to 2020 – the August census has always been the better of the two.

The increase in private school enrolments is mainly due to the fact that parents don’t want P-2 etc schools or their local school to close. Private schools don’t close in the ACT – they get bigger irrespective of socio-economic background.

Barr’s just assisted in speeding up the exodus.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2020 was a rushed policy with no forethought (or even an afterthought) as to the impact on the Govt education system.

#17
nyssa7611:15 pm, 31 Mar 07

Also, the decision re: 2020′s release just happened to coincide with both the Govt and private peak enrolment window.

This too would have scared parents and encouraged a larger attendance to the private school open nights in the proximity of the affected schools.

#18
louise8:31 am, 01 Apr 07

I know from some affected primary schools that the August census last year was dead wrong, for them. One school in particular was very concerned.

Even if August has been more accurate in the past, it certainly wasn’t last year. Is it possible that your sector (high schools? guessing from previous posts), is more reliable for August then the primary sector, where my contacts are? Primary school enrolments don’t tend to peak in June.

I agree with you though, Barr certainly did speed up the exodus, and, if you look at the school-by-school data, 2020 did nothing to increase the so-called viability of some of the remaining schools. It would have to be one of the worst examples of public policy I have ever seen, all the way from concept to execution.

#19
nyssa7612:16 pm, 01 Apr 07

No primary enrolments for the following year are in June.

Enrolments can occur throughout the year but the August one is usually the better of the two.

I wouldn’t be surprised (and I have heard of this happening) that parents pulled their children out of the Govt school lined up to close before the August census – why wait to see if it is closing?

What scares me the most about 2020 is it’s lack of public consultation during the conception process and also the fact that it was hidden amongst the Budget stuff.

I hope whoever came up with the concept got a good pay rise out of it….it seems no one else got anything good out of it.

#20
HA4:15 pm, 01 Apr 07

Aside form Barr’s release and the so-called census figures, and aside from Louise’s take on what it all means, let me tell you as a parent what the decline in our public school standards meant for us. And as background you should know both my wife and I were public-school educated, remain committed to public education (and public hospitals, roads, libraries etc) and made the decision to remove one of our children from Melrose High School in 2003 with ‘heart of heavy’ and ‘guilt aplenty’. I kinda believe that if we remove all the bright, studious and committed kids from the public system, we’re going to leave the most challenging, avergae students for teachers and the system to educate, and that’s not right, nor is it fair. So when we removed our bright, studious and committed child, and enrolled her into a very exxy private school, we realised long-term this would simply compound the ongoing problem of families deserting the public system. Why did we flee?

We encountered far too many students with little respect for others’ learning patterns and interests; we didn’t like the ongoing bullying and regular visits by police to the schoolyard because of violence; we anguished over the absolutely invisible “liberal arts” options (music, art, drama) — especially in music; we didn’t believe enough of the teaching staff was committed to maintaining a basic standard of good behaviour conducive to a healthy learning environment; and we knew we were witnessing the decline in basic discipline and standards we expected to be enforced by staff and their principal(s). We did not expect the school to set the standard for respect, decency and those other simple values; however we wanted the school to reinforce what we set as a benchmark in the family home.

None of this was being done. We watched two of our other children ‘get’ through the system, and onto college, and then to university — often with baited breath in their high school days — but we were not willing to chance the school’s arm with our third.

Andrew Barr is a nice guy; his brother’s a teachers’ union organiser; the system he and the Stanhope Government have inherited needs major surgery lest it continue to bleed many, many students in the coming decade(s).

#21
nyssa768:46 pm, 01 Apr 07

HA, there weren’t regular visits by the police to the school.

I know that for a fact.

The Arts area was well run with 2 drama rooms, 2 music rooms and 3 visual arts rooms – a luxury in other ACT Govt high schools. They also held camps for drama and music, so I don’t know where you are coming from on that point.

All the staff were committed to a basic standard of behaviour and enforced the behaviour management policy as much as the PC BS brigade would allow.

As for discipline, its a dirty word nowdays. Teachers and principals hands are tied when it comes to expelling students for negative behaviour, no matter what school your child is enrolled in.

#22
louise12:11 pm, 02 Apr 07

Seepi, do you have a reference for Barr’s comments about the 2020 effect and August census?

I don’t doubt you, just want to read it for myself and see how deep Barr dug himself in.

#23
nyssa762:58 pm, 02 Apr 07

Me too.

#24
seepi3:12 pm, 02 Apr 07

Sorry I only remember his saying it on WIN news. I remember thinking it was pretty rich to be claiming it as a success though.

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