Barr’s public education propaganda campaign

emd 14 May 2007 19

According to ABC News, Barr claims that 60% of ACT students are in public schools, and 40% private. Below the national average of 70% public education – and Barr is claiming that the shift to the private sector is driven by the increase in Commonwealth Government funding for private schools.

More accurate figures (including the fact that only 50% of high school students are in public schools – compared to 60% for college and primary students) are on the DET website.

I wonder if Barr has considered that closing the only public school within three suburbs means families are more likely to choose the private school that’s only a five minute walk down the road?

I wonder if he’s looked at the differences in education choices being offered at private schools compared to public schools – things like flexible multi-age classrooms, smaller school sizes, fewer students per teacher, special programs on environment or trades or music or sports…

Perhaps I’m just cynical, but isn’t it interesting that he’s timed his propaganda campaign to coincide with Public Education Week – 14-20 May? And isn’t there an ACT election next year?

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19 Responses to Barr’s public education propaganda campaign
jacross jacross 3:52 pm 18 May 07

That’s an interesting point GnT and I invite you to subsidise some poor kids with your money, I may join you in doing so in the future when I have some money but please don’t force me to at the point of the gun.

GnT GnT 9:54 pm 17 May 07

Vice Pope – reason the “school body” (parents, ex-students etc) provide more than the basics at non-govt schools is because THEY CAN AFFORD TO!

There is a big difference between incomes of public vs private families, not to mention other socio-economic differences (this is more pronounced in other cities, but still exists in Canberra).

So why should public school kids miss out on computers, gym facilities, or even shade because their parents don’t have as much to give?

nyssa76 nyssa76 6:00 pm 16 May 07

If things were necessary for a govt school, they would be provided and if not, the school could make its own arrangements.

Where I work there is carpet riding up at the top of some stairs.

Staff have repeatedly put in OH&S claims and nothing has been done.

We also need larger classrooms as there are more students in them now than were designed for. In order to have a wall knocked out to make more room it takes over 6 months.

To date it still hasn’t been done and we’re “hopeful” that it will be done soon.

The physical state of some Govt schools is unacceptable and the list is long. Perhaps if Govt schools were given more funding then these things would be fixed.

The choice now is this: Pay peanuts and have run down schools with little money going towards curriculum and resources or pay more, get all the things a school needs and get things fixed.

VicePope VicePope 8:59 am 16 May 07

Nyssa – some nongovs do better than some govs and vice versa. I have been suggesting that one important factor is commitment by the school body (including parents, ex-students etc) to provide more than the basic. If people need shade covers they should be provided by government, but if they would be nice but not necessary, it’s really a discretionary matter.

As well as being stung for school fees (and Commonwealth taxes and ACT charges that pay rather more to government schools than private ones), nongov parents and families get hit for an endless procession of raffles, fetes, quasi-voluntary building levies, special subject charges. Ex-students commonly get requests for donations. These are the things that provide some of the necessities and all of the goodies. There is nothing to stop govt schools from taking this approach (and I understand some do in Sydney).

As to the soft loans, I remember these and that the defence at the time was that it was silly for govt schools to be able to borrow from govt sources for things that were either necessary or not. I recall there was a campaign in the early 80s against a loan for ventilation in a building that had not been sited as intended – it went bad because those pushing it launched a petition against a grant for airconditioning. Wrong on two counts. If things were necessary for a govt school, they would be provided and if not, the school could make its own arrangements.

Couldn’t agree more about the silliness of keeping in the system the students who don’t want to be there, who gain nothing and who simply waste time. It’s probably got a lot to do with keeping them off the Newstart list for a while. (As a development on my previously suggested centralised zoo for recalcitrants, I could suggest a centralised place to teach some life skills to those not academically inclined but not dangerous to others – a last shot at some literacy and numeracy, a bit of civics and rights stuff and some money management).

By the way, I have seen the same toilet roll joke in nongov schools, at ANU and at UC.

nyssa76 nyssa76 12:26 am 16 May 07

The fact is we have a pretty expensive public schooling system in Canberra. It is well equipped (as good as or better than the average Catholic/generic private school)

VicePope, I know of several Govt schools (at least) that aren’t as good as Govt ones. They don’t have wall to wall computers, or have had to fight for air conditioning in portables or have had to wait for years for a gym.

Yes Govt schools get Govt funding but they were never entitled to the Interest Subsidy Scheme (ISS) – where a Non Govt school takes out a loan and then gets both DEST (Federal) and ACTDET to pay them back the interest on that loan.

Several Non Govt schools had more than two. They are still paying off the loans even though the scheme closed a few years ago.

Now that money is used to build structures i.e. computer labs, gyms, swimming pools and the like.

I don’t think there is one Govt school that has a swimming pool and until this year Melrose High didn’t have a gym and it is over 20yrs old.

Having worked in both systems, and in a Non Govt school that is seen as the “lesser” school around Canberra, the Non Govt schools aren’t doing too badly for themselves.

Govt schools have had to fundraise for soft fall or even shading, which is unacceptable as these are safety necessities (OH&S).

What annoys the shit out of me is the students who get E’s and D’s in Yr 10 (or Yr 12), and severely truanting, who are still given their certificates. It’s a slap in the face to the kids who actually did the work and did well.

Years ago in the Girls toilets at Dickson College there was a paper holder. Above it was a sign that read “Get your Yr 12 Certificates here” – for that very reason. Even the student body didn’t believe they were worth the paper they were printed on because of the need to give everyone a certificate even when they didn’t deserve it.

VicePope VicePope 8:27 pm 15 May 07

The anti-socials are a problem everywhere – and no, it’s not a routine private school thing to ditch them into the government system. Most of the idiots in the public system were always going to be idiots because some things are inherited and a lot of them have a solid continuous government school history. Most nongovernment schools also have a share of idiots but (as I was lambasted for saying in a different context) there is a bigger parental investment and demand for it to be controlled.

The fact is we have a pretty expensive public schooling system in Canberra. It is well equipped (as good as or better than the average Catholic/generic private school) and has some wonderful teachers – I’ve met enough to know this. It produces articulate students who can cope readily with the next layer of education they undertake.

Yet, although it’s good and free, people are leaving it for a product they have to pay for. Has ACT Education ever thought to ask those who leave (or who never went into the public system) why they left or didn’t use it? There are some problems in the public system – I am aware of loony cliqueishness and favouritism among the staff in some schools. I am aware that a pretty good proxy measure of involvement (parental attendance for feedback) is patchy overall and in some schools terrible. It tries to deal in the same way with those destined for academic success and those who will be lucky to get a run of Ds and this is bad for everyone – separating the two streams into tertiary and accredited/vocational at year 11 is not the answer. These problems shouldn’t be fatal, but they have to be acknowledged.

Is there – he whispered, having taken a good big breath – an argument for contracting the function out to one of the states or to one of the private systems and seeing if they can do better? Better still, should the Commonwealth (which seems inexplicably keen to do things with schools)
resume control and use the ACT as a best practice model administered from the Commonwealth Department?

nyssa76 nyssa76 7:48 pm 15 May 07

emd, it’s called anti-social students.

The only good thing about Howard’s new speech was the power to expel students such as these.

They are the reason parents put their children into the private system. That way, if there are any little turds, they will be booted out asap.

emd emd 7:40 pm 15 May 07

I think morgan’s hit the nail on the head. There is something wrong with our public schools if 40% of primary school parents, and 50% of high school parents, are willing to pay thousands of dollars extra to send their kids to private schools.

nyssa76 nyssa76 6:45 pm 15 May 07

DT kiss my a%$e. I asked JB if he had heard anything on as well.

You obviously have nothing to say on the topic and believe me it shows.

kris kris 1:06 pm 15 May 07

Private school attendance has been increasing in Canberra for a long time, long before the recent school closures.

Its higher in the ACT than in other states, but thats probably got more to do with average incomes being significantly better here, and more people can afford to send their kids to private school.

LG LG 11:06 am 15 May 07

It will be interesting to see in a few years the true impact of 2020. Who wants to bet that the percentage between public and private will grow?

Comment by nyssa76 — 14 May, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

nyssa, like most ACT Government plans it’ll probably be buried in a year or two.

morgan morgan 9:55 am 15 May 07

two cars…
one is free, the other costs money
they both get you from A to B
if people are choosing to pay for the car that costs (after trying the free car)… there must be something severely wrong with the car that is free

a gross generalisation I know but…

bonfire bonfire 9:26 am 15 May 07

i was at a meeting last year when a ‘save the schools’ campaigner, who was a senior teacher stated that children from private schools arent able to cope well in higher education or later life.

one bloke at the meeting became really steamed and wanted to pop this idiot on the nose.

real good way to involve the community SOS – by insulting potential supporters with an irrelevant issue.

captainwhorebags captainwhorebags 9:01 am 15 May 07


Yeah I can understand that point of view. I always saw it as the government money going to fund a student, not a school as such. i.e., a student gets their education funded no matter where they are. If at a private school, then the parents choose to pay extra for other services. If that means that a private student gets proportionally less government funding, then that’s fair to a point.

Of course the private schools that are receiving govt funds should be regularly audited to ensure that they are not making a profit and that the funding is going to the education of the student and not the building of a megachurch etc.

That’s my take on the matter. Of course, being an election year, I expect to see parties using private vs. public as another form of class struggle.

DarkLadyWolfMother DarkLadyWolfMother 8:48 am 15 May 07

My experience with private vs public is very ‘region based’. Also remember this was back in 1986. I found most of those that I went to private schools in Canberra at the time were not, on the whole, nice people. They had a superior attitude that translated to harassing those not in their school. On the other hand, those that I met who were in private schools outside of Canberra seemed to have the same mix of jerks/nice people that I found within my own (public) school.

I suspect this has coloured all my opinions since.

johnboy johnboy 8:42 am 15 May 07

CWB, personally I can’t see any philosophical justification for Government money going to private schools.

Not that it will go away because there are so many parents for whom it is a break issue at the polls.

DT DT 8:33 am 15 May 07

So Nyssa, you’re saying your mother told you that she heard someone, who maybe lived down the street from a school or maybe knew someone who worked there, call 2CC and tell them someone possibly “smashed” some “fixtures”? I think I’ll hold off on the indignation for the time being.

captainwhorebags captainwhorebags 8:20 am 15 May 07

I don’t understand the hate some people have towards private schooling. If public schooling is inadequately funded, then parents should be asking for more public school funding, and not less private school funding.

Being neither a parent or a teacher, can anyone enlighten me on the anti private schooling fervour that goes around. Is it the religious aspect? I went to a private college from yr7-12 and whilst religion was a part of it, I’m not religious now and it wasn’t crammed down my throat, so I don’t really think it’s that relevant.

nyssa76 nyssa76 11:39 pm 14 May 07

I don’t know why he is coming out with this crap – and it is crap – when he’s already has public education at its knees.

Reality check Mr. Barr – your 2020 *cough* policy is to blame. Especially as it came out last year right in the middle of the peak enrolment period (May/June/July) for both public and private schools!

What else can we expect? I mean it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that.

Did anyone else hear the “rumour” that one of the schools closed had its “fixtures” smashed by ACT Govt workers? My mother heard it on 2CC and apparently Mr. Barr hasn’t got back to the DJ about it. The source was from a person (I believe) who lived near the school or who knew some of the people working at the sight.

JB – have you heard anything on this?

God I would LOVE to be in the policy section of ACTDET. I don’t think they would like what I have to say about the destruction of public education in the name of money.

It will be interesting to see in a few years the true impact of 2020. Who wants to bet that the percentage between public and private will grow?

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