The solution to our public schools woes?

By 20 June, 2011 18

We’ve heard from the ABC recently that all is not well in our public schools, with more students choosing private over public institutions for the first time.

A solution is at hand however with a new foundation launched this year called the Raising Hope Education Foundation, with Eden Monaro MP Mike Kelly as patron.

The foundation promises to “step in to renew equity and optimism in local schools.“ Encouraging Canberrans to contribute to an “endowment fund“, programs will be rolled out in 2012 including “tutoring local students, building local schools and helping with our first Raising Hope School Conference.“ It doesn’t stop there though with plans for:

“a community initiative to bring school mums dads together with builders from the local community to help improve our schools. Through working together with businesses around the region, schools can improve the atmosphere at their school by providing small upgrades, gardens, chicken sheds or play equipment for younger students.”

Another key project” planned is working with P&C organisations to create “school pride projects” using engraved bricks to build walls, pave entrances and create school gardens… essential for improving the pride students have in their school. Less essential I would think for fixing the mould at Farrer Primary.

And where does the funding for this come from… $20-30/mth “from local teachers and parents to businesses and university students“. Because underpaid teachers want to spend their income on underfunded schools. I’m sure most readers now can see how much this smacks of late night televangelists seeking donations to send water and bibles to Africa.

It raises a question though Rioters, are our public schools failing and if so, what role should grass roots efforts play in improving them? What more can/should we do?

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18 Responses to The solution to our public schools woes?
#1
CanMum11:28 am, 20 Jun 11

What is rotting quicker than the building with mould in Farrer Primary is the relationship between the Principal and the teachers. The amount of media contact from the teachers displays a clear lack of trust between them and the Principal and I think it’s about time the Education Dept stepped in for the sake of the students!

#2
Watson1:07 pm, 20 Jun 11

They just handed out millions in building funds to public schools last year! Why didn’t Farrer use it to fix the mould?! Watson primary got lots of spruicing up done from that money and it looks quite ok. They also already have extensive gardens, done by volunteers and one employed gardener as they’re a Stephanie Alexander pilot school. The garden and kitchen thing actually does create more of a community feel and heavily relies on volunteers. Volunteers also did the front gardens which look really great and are low maintenance.

What I think would make a significant difference is to tackle the lack of support for the stragglers. Maybe they could sponsor parents to do some courses and try to use them for that?

I’d be more than happy for my total voluntary contribution to go to employing extra support staff too. Instead, it’s all going to the library. How much money can a local school library need?! There’s a perfectly good public library up the road FFS! So they’re not getting my money this year.

And if they’d ask me for extra money for engraved bricks, I don’t think they will enjoy hearing my response!

#3
ActuAli1:34 pm, 20 Jun 11

I believe that the trend towards private schooling in the ACT iseasily explained and directly related to childcare fees.

How, I hear you ask?

When my eldest was nearing school age a couple of years ago, we realised that the school fees of the local private school were less than a third of what we were already paying for her to be in childcare for 4 days per week. Yes, A THIRD of our childcare fees!

Nowdays,with parents used to paying huge childcare fees for thier toddlers and preschoolers, they can easily justify paying money for their kids education because it’s still cheaper than what they were paying for their care.

Back when I was a kid, private schooling was usually for the financial elite, but now more parents can afford and justify the costs.

Private school fees also include all the kids stationery, excursions, and in our case, swimming lessons. Most public schools now require parents to buy stationery packs at the beginning of each year, as well as other ad-hoc items and excursions. Not to mention the ‘voluntary contributions’ (There’s nothing voluntary about them – but that’s another rant)

There are a lot more trvial reasons why more kids are attending private schools, but I think the main one is affordability

#4
Watson1:51 pm, 20 Jun 11

ActuAli said :

I believe that the trend towards private schooling in the ACT iseasily explained and directly related to childcare fees.

How, I hear you ask?

When my eldest was nearing school age a couple of years ago, we realised that the school fees of the local private school were less than a third of what we were already paying for her to be in childcare for 4 days per week. Yes, A THIRD of our childcare fees!

Nowdays,with parents used to paying huge childcare fees for thier toddlers and preschoolers, they can easily justify paying money for their kids education because it’s still cheaper than what they were paying for their care.

Back when I was a kid, private schooling was usually for the financial elite, but now more parents can afford and justify the costs.

Private school fees also include all the kids stationery, excursions, and in our case, swimming lessons. Most public schools now require parents to buy stationery packs at the beginning of each year, as well as other ad-hoc items and excursions. Not to mention the ‘voluntary contributions’ (There’s nothing voluntary about them – but that’s another rant)

There are a lot more trvial reasons why more kids are attending private schools, but I think the main one is affordability

But people on low income get subsidised for childcare. Childcare benefit – which can be up to 50% of the total cost and childcare rebate, which is another 50% of out of pocket costs. So in essence, some low income families are only paying 25% of the childcare fees.

You may be right that (some) private schools have become more affordable, but it still doesn’t really explain why 50% of parents think they are better and don’t save their money instead.

#5
creative_canberran5:14 pm, 20 Jun 11

Watson said :

What I think would make a significant difference is to tackle the lack of support for the stragglers. Maybe they could sponsor parents to do some courses and try to use them for that?

Apparently they want Uni students to contribute financially and then volunteer their time to tutor students. Interesting contrast to protests that Uni students have to work to support themselves, have no time to study and have no spare change.

#6
Wily_Bear5:26 pm, 20 Jun 11

I’m already contributing to a similar initiative, albiet in the private school system. It even has a similar name to this “Raising Hope” program. It’s called “Raising Cash” and I do it by paying school fees.

#7
26049:17 pm, 20 Jun 11

Watson said :

You may be right that (some) private schools have become more affordable, but it still doesn’t really explain why 50% of parents think they are better and don’t save their money instead.

As someone who lives in the Inner North, it is easy for you to look at “Watson Primary” (Majura?) and Lyneham High and think there is nothing wrong with government education in Canberra. However, those schools are outliers. Teachers compete to teach at such schools and they generally have the most highly-regarded principals. The parents are generally more involved and demanding of teachers. Parents also pay their voluntary contributions and are actively involved in the life of the school. According to MySchool, 74% of the kids attending “Watson primary” come from the wealthiest 25% of families.

Somewhere along the line, you also need to acknowledge that not every school in Canberra is a Majura or Lyneham and that things are very different in outer suburban government schools. Leadership is generally poor at such schools and they are overwhelmingly staffed by the least experienced teachers. Because of the stupid “kids can’t be punished for anything, ever” ethos, the schools get trashed and kids basically do whatever they want with no fear of being punished for any of it. Kid threatens another kid with a knife she brought to school? One day’s suspension. Kid can’t read by the end of year eight? He gets to go on to year nine, regardless, because the school thinks that keeping him with his peers is more important than ensuring he is employable in future.

I suppose that less of this stuff goes on at your kids’ school, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t go on elsewhere. The fact is that government education only works in affluent areas nowadays. In many less well-off areas, parents have found that paying for private education is the only way to ensure that their children are properly taught and assessed, and able to learn in a safe and disciplined environment. A couple of current and former teachers who post on this forum have confirmed this in previous discussion threads (as has Ms 2604, a government school teacher).

Something to think about before making a post that essentially says “why don’t these fools just send their kids to the local govvie school and save their money, like me”.

#8
Watson10:23 pm, 20 Jun 11

2604 said :

Watson said :

You may be right that (some) private schools have become more affordable, but it still doesn’t really explain why 50% of parents think they are better and don’t save their money instead.

As someone who lives in the Inner North, it is easy for you to look at “Watson Primary” (Majura?) and Lyneham High and think there is nothing wrong with government education in Canberra. However, those schools are outliers. Teachers compete to teach at such schools and they generally have the most highly-regarded principals. The parents are generally more involved and demanding of teachers. Parents also pay their voluntary contributions and are actively involved in the life of the school. According to MySchool, 74% of the kids attending “Watson primary” come from the wealthiest 25% of families.

Somewhere along the line, you also need to acknowledge that not every school in Canberra is a Majura or Lyneham and that things are very different in outer suburban government schools. Leadership is generally poor at such schools and they are overwhelmingly staffed by the least experienced teachers. Because of the stupid “kids can’t be punished for anything, ever” ethos, the schools get trashed and kids basically do whatever they want with no fear of being punished for any of it. Kid threatens another kid with a knife she brought to school? One day’s suspension. Kid can’t read by the end of year eight? He gets to go on to year nine, regardless, because the school thinks that keeping him with his peers is more important than ensuring he is employable in future.

I suppose that less of this stuff goes on at your kids’ school, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t go on elsewhere. The fact is that government education only works in affluent areas nowadays. In many less well-off areas, parents have found that paying for private education is the only way to ensure that their children are properly taught and assessed, and able to learn in a safe and disciplined environment. A couple of current and former teachers who post on this forum have confirmed this in previous discussion threads (as has Ms 2604, a government school teacher).

Something to think about before making a post that essentially says “why don’t these fools just send their kids to the local govvie school and save their money, like me”.

Hey, that wasn’t what I was saying at all! All I was saying that affordability alone doesn’t explain why people choose private!

The Watson school story was my response to the OP question about what we would like to see improved in public education and that was totally based on my own personal experience.

I should have learnt to just keep my mouth shut in posts on this topic because it’s not as if anyone is ever interested in actually having an open debate about it without making it escalate in an us against them name-calling session.

#9
Gerry-Built9:30 am, 21 Jun 11

Whilst this idea has better legs than Barr’s – you cannot get blood out of a stone. When contributions to programs in schools are ascribed ‘voluntary’ status, most will volunteer not to pay. This program would likely receive the same parental support.

What Andrew Barr fails to understand from his current proposals is that polishing a turd, or rolling it in glitter do not achieve the same result.

#10
Thumper9:34 am, 21 Jun 11

Apparently they want Uni students to contribute financially and then volunteer their time to tutor students. Interesting contrast to protests that Uni students have to work to support themselves, have no time to study and have no spare change.

How about actually employing more teachers? Radical proposal I know….

#11
Gerry-Built10:29 am, 21 Jun 11

Actually; I’m sure lots of teachers would contribute to this fund if they could see real ideas for school improvement, and the physical results. Most teachers I know already contribute (financially) towards running their classes in some way, as well as other education-related causes. If this Foundation has some effect in shaming ACT DET or the ACT Government into spending some serious dollars on supporting physical school improvement – all the better. You could go to any Canberra public school (and likely the private ones, too) and see many, many ways in which the resources of this Foundation could be well utilised.

In ten years, I have yet to work in a school that does not have a leaking roof (quit pertinent today). The School I work in now has a $250,000 A/C system, installed three years ago from a Federal Government grant, that has NEVER worked effectively.

Shaming this Government into action may be the only way, God knows they don’t listen to either their parents or teachers/staff. The sooner the facilities management aspect of School Based Management is removed from School’s responsibility, back to DET or ACT Government, the better. The state of our school buildings is a disgrace.

#12
creative_canberran11:55 pm, 21 Jun 11

One of the bios has been updates with an absolutely classic line:

“Education is the best anti-poverty vaccine”.

The word vaccine is the “anti”, hence you don’t get an anti-polio vaccine or anti-flu vaccine. I only point this out because this group wants to tutor in schools… capacity for english is kind of important.

#13
shadow boxer8:12 am, 22 Jun 11

Despite the fact people like to go on about swimming pools and stuff I would wager the physical environment has zero influence on why people are selecting private schools.

#14
Wily_Bear10:41 am, 22 Jun 11

creative_canberran said :

One of the bios has been updates with an absolutely classic line:

“Education is the best anti-poverty vaccine”.

The word vaccine is the “anti”, hence you don’t get an anti-polio vaccine or anti-flu vaccine. I only point this out because this group wants to tutor in schools… capacity for english is kind of important.

Lol ! Creative_canberran, you get my nomination to become supervisor of the hordes of parents/uni students who are sure to volunteer as tutors.

Shadow boxer, although I agree that physical environment might play a small part in choosing private over public, I know for me it was nonetheless factored into the desicion making process. What kind of message (however subliminal) does a child get from an environment with unaddressed mould problems, faulty air conditioning/heating systems,peeling paintwork etc ? Not to mention the impact on learning. If the space is not well cared for, how can we expect children to value it ?

#15
shadow boxer10:47 am, 22 Jun 11

Yeh, mould would seem a health issue that would close the school, not sure what is going on there.

#16
Kalfour4:00 pm, 15 Jul 11

Why is the issue”providing small upgrades, gardens, chicken sheds or play equipment for younger students” instead of providing decently hygienic (mould free) schools with adequate heating and cooling systems and text books that are less than 50 years old?
Many teachers that I know actually had to shell out their own money on newer books for their students because the schools couldn’t afford to do it themselves. Children with special needs still often go unassisted in classrooms.
Maybe THESE issues should get a little more attention before we worry about ensuring that every school gets its own chicken.

Let’s also not forget the fact that private schools have the right to expel kids while public schools can’t. So if your kid is at a public school in a classroom with a disruptive, violent student, the school doesn’t have the ability to do much.

@2604 – if a kid can’t read by year 8, there’s not much point in holding them back. Why they weren’t held back in year 3, or put into an early intervention program at a young age, is totally beyond me.

#17
housebound5:15 pm, 15 Jul 11

Hang on, first school closures were supposed to ‘fix’ the system. Then it was opening a couple of super schools. Then it was the college review. Then it was the SBM review. Then it was the special needs review. And now this?

I think it would be better all around if Barr just stopped now.

#18
260411:13 pm, 15 Jul 11

Kalfour said :

Let’s also not forget the fact that private schools have the right to expel kids while public schools can’t. So if your kid is at a public school in a classroom with a disruptive, violent student, the school doesn’t have the ability to do much.

The “fact” is that public schools can and do expel students. They get moved on to other public schools. The worst cases get sent to “achievement centres”.
Principals don’t like expulsions and suspensions, because they necessitate a crapload of paperwork and because schools are seen to be performing better if they don’t suspend or expel kids. So, the majority of kids who want to work have to suffer because of executive-level apathy.

Kalfour said :

@2604 – if a kid can’t read by year 8, there’s not much point in holding them back. Why they weren’t held back in year 3, or put into an early intervention program at a young age, is totally beyond me.

The point of holding a kid back is that you can teach her to read and then she won’t waste the remaining years of her high school education not understanding what is going on.

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