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Audit report says Canberra schools performing below their counterparts

By Glynis Quinlan - 1 June 2017 4


ACT public schools are performing below similar schools in other states despite expenditure per student being among the highest in the country, according to ACT Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper.

In a performance audit report presented to the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday, Dr Cooper paints a picture of schools which appear to be going well but in reality should be performing much better due to the city’s high socio-educational advantage.

She says that there is a systemic problem in ACT public schools in terms of the analysis and effective use of student performance information.

“Since 2014 reviews of ACT public schools have consistently identified shortcomings in their analysis of student performance information and their use of data to inform educational practice. These shortcomings indicate a systemic problem,” Dr Cooper said.

“There is a high level of variability in the use of student performance information and management information systems and a wide range of school?based assessment tools used across ACT public schools; for a small jurisdiction such as the ACT this is excessive.

“A better balance between school autonomy and consistency across schools in how performance information is analysed and used is needed.”

NAPLAN results under par

The ACT public school performance audit report states that ACT public schools tend to perform higher than the Australian average on most NAPLAN tests.

“However, this does not provide a full picture of the performance of ACT public schools, as it does not take account of the relatively higher socio-educational advantage of the ACT and it does not measure performance over time,” the report states.

“Students at ACT public schools generally have higher socio?educational advantages, as measured by the Index of Community and Socio?educational Advantage (ICSEA).

“A comparison of ACT public schools with other Australian schools with similar ICSEA values shows that the majority of ACT public schools’ NAPLAN results are lower than similar schools in Australia.”

Initiatives to improve performance

The performance audit found that the Education Directorate had started initiatives to improve governance and administrative arrangements for the use of student performance information in schools.

These have included moves to identify better ways to manage and use student performance information, as well the development of systems and tools to support the collection and analysis of student performance information.

In its response to the performance audit report, the ACT Education Directorate noted that the ACT was not immune to a trend whereby “over the past few years, national and international assessments of student achievement in Australia have shown little improvement, and in some areas have declined, despite an overall per student increase in expenditure.

“Even though we remain a high achieving system our key focus is on student gain across years of schooling,” the Education Directorate said in a statement.

“The Education Directorate is investing in the better use of data by teachers, school leaders and as a system.”

Are you concerned that Canberra public schools aren’t doing as well as they should be? Do individual schools have too much autonomy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 Responses to
Audit report says Canberra schools performing below their counterparts
A_Cog 4:51 pm 02 Jun 17

bigred said :

Further evidence that a jurisdiction the size of a number of large regional centres interstate just does not have the critical mass to do justice to the more complex tasks carried out in the larger jurisdictions. We see Health subject to similar findings.

Not at all! The problem is not that Canberra lacks critical mass. It is that education and health are both two heavily pro-ALP workforces choked full of mates/siblings by the party, mates who are grossly incompetent coz it wasn’t skills that got them the jobs in the first place.

The problem is very simple: the public sector does not get to operate as effectively as it should because the ministers have total reach into each portfolio. So Corrections can’t run a single small jail, education can’t run 86 schools, health can’t run a few hospitals, we’ve got rubbish roads, rubbish regulation, rubbish rubbish, but billions for a tram, millions for the arboretum, hundreds of thousands for “public art”…
but the highest rate of recidivism, lowest crime solving, highest homelessness, poor school performance, among-worst hospital indicators…

bj_ACT 2:10 pm 02 Jun 17

Garfield said :

I heard part of an interview with the Education Minister on the radio regarding the findings and she was dodging the tough questions. However, reading this made me think about the shadow education minister coming to the defence of ACT Catholic schools. I think that when his argument is really boiled down, part of it says that the socio economic status in Canberra is lower than it appears to be because of the higher cost of living here, and so a formula that works well in other parts of the country leaves us short. Applying that same thinking to the ACT public schools system could be part of the reason as to why our schools are seemingly underperforming compared to other schools interstate.

I’m the first to admit I know very little about the various factors that come into play with determining the SES of a school, so its entirely possible that cost of living is already taken into account and I’m way off base, in which case I hope someone could enlighten me.

I’ll try and cover it from a post I had about Catholic school funding. The Government (with a complex mix of Federal/State, Public/Private schools funding) gives a school extra funding if they have a student from a low Socio Economic ABS CENSUS SA1 area (note that school individual students addresses are geocoded by government to determine a schools need for ‘additional funding’ based on low-Socio students location).

The lowest 25% of SEIFA Disadvantaged areas are considered low SES. But….. The issue for the ACT is that very very few areas qualify under this model, as SEIFA scores are generally very high right across Canberra. This means that a student from Harrington Ct Kambah or Langdon Ave Wanniassa is roughly funded by ACT & Federal Government to the same dollar amount as a kid from Mugga Way Red Hill or Empire Circuit Yarralumla. This model impacts equitable funding for schools and leads to results mentioned in the article.
Outcome= schools in Tuggeranong are performing (NAPLAN/PISA testing) much worse than schools in other parts of Canberra. But these underperforming schools only get limited extra funding because only a few kids actually live in low SES pockets.

A much better model to reduce the gap between poor School performances in Tuggeranong/West Belconnen (up to the well performing schools in inner areas) would be for the ACT Government to adjust funding based on the 25% most disadvantaged kids at the ACT level (not against the most disadvantaged 25% at the Australia level). This may slightly reduce funding for highly performing public schools in rich inner city Canberra, but would certainly help poorer performing schools in struggling areas. When I highlighted these issues to the ACT Council of P&C they dismissed them as just a Socio-economic-issue and gave ACT Labor an A grade mark.

Garfield 8:48 pm 01 Jun 17

I heard part of an interview with the Education Minister on the radio regarding the findings and she was dodging the tough questions. However, reading this made me think about the shadow education minister coming to the defence of ACT Catholic schools. I think that when his argument is really boiled down, part of it says that the socio economic status in Canberra is lower than it appears to be because of the higher cost of living here, and so a formula that works well in other parts of the country leaves us short. Applying that same thinking to the ACT public schools system could be part of the reason as to why our schools are seemingly underperforming compared to other schools interstate.

I’m the first to admit I know very little about the various factors that come into play with determining the SES of a school, so its entirely possible that cost of living is already taken into account and I’m way off base, in which case I hope someone could enlighten me.

bigred 8:03 pm 01 Jun 17

Further evidence that a jurisdiction the size of a number of large regional centres interstate just does not have the critical mass to do justice to the more complex tasks carried out in the larger jurisdictions. We see Health subject to similar findings.

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