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Time for public high schools to throw in the towel? [With poll]

By johnboy - 6 June 2011 92

With the news that high school education is now majority provided by the private sector perhaps it is time to re-evaluate what public education is trying to achieve.

For decades public educators have tried to convince well off parents that the public system offers a better alternative to the private one.

As a rule the harder they try the more parents they drive away.

We have now reached, or are very close, to the point where all the children in public high schools fall into three categories:

1) Their parents don’t care about their future,
2) Their parents can’t afford to act to safeguard their future,
3) Their parents are willing to sacrifice their future on the altar of ideology.

So we’re looking at an education system wherein all the students are profoundly disadvantaged.

Some might say that this is not the place to be organising whizzy programs for accelerated university placements.

In fact the whole obsession with university linkups appears to be a massive vote of no confidence in itself by the ACT education system. Why force them out the door sooner? Have you nothing more to teach?

Rather than devoting large amounts of energy and money trying to entice the non-disadvantaged some might wonder what could be done for those that remain if the focus was to be more precisely aligned to their needs?

Is it time to throw in the towel on egalitarian public education and admit it’s the preserve of the less well off?

Public Education should

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Time for public high schools to throw in the towel? [With poll]
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Jojowood 12:50 pm 09 Jan 12

Gerry-Built said :

gemini7507 said :

I’m wondering if it might be useful to assess whether the absence of a uniform policy in Canberra high schools and colleges is a factor in many families’ decisions to send children to private schools?

It is my understanding that there is now a uniform policy in all ACT Public Schools (though it may be at the School’s board’s discretion). Having fought with “colour code” for many years, the School I am at enforced Uniform from the start of last year – and it has made a HUGE (and immediate) positive difference in the general attitude and behaviour of most students; especially those in the middle of the behaviour spectrum who could go either way.

Uniform is cheaper than trendy clothing – and can be subsidised by the Principal’s discretionary funding (although those that need it, are amongst the least likely to pursue it).

“Yes, but does it matter how the uniform policy is delivered? The principle of my daughter’s public high school in Nothern Tasmania is a sadistic pig. If children do not have the uniform, children are ordered to remove their clothing, change in to second hand ill fitting clothes, leave warm clothes off, or face detention. This is mostly carried out in the middle of winter. Children that can’t afford uniforms are the most disadvantaged and subjected to this treatment. Over the winter months large numbers of children didn’t attend school or were away due to illness. The school does not have adequate heating and there is nowhere for them to go during breaks to try to get warm. Its disgraceful and the education department doesn’t want to know about it. I’m appauled at the state education system and the treatment of disadvantaged children. Surely wouldn’t the health and wellbeing and the ability for children to attend school be the no. 1 priority!

Aurita 8:52 pm 16 Jul 11

This has been an interesting discussion. We are new to Canberra and my experience with the first school he enrolled in (public in Gungahlin) was disappointing. I could see the teacher was doing her best, she was well meaning and did a great job in teaching my son to read well. But he was bullied very badly to the extent (he was thrown down and kicked by 3 other boys that found his accent different) that my 6 year old rather reticent and stoic child started dreading going to school. My complaints were acted upon (i.e. the children were told not to repeat such behaviour) but after a few days it began again. I don’t believe the principal was involved directly (I can only conclude he did not care to be). Additionally my son was bored in class because he is slightly advanced in Math, and there was simply not enough interest/ resources/ whatever to do something about the fact that he needed more stimulation.

I pulled him out of that school to put him in Kaleen Primary – the different is startling, my son is happy, enjoying his classes and again. In contrast, he and his friends had an incident with another bunch of kids – there was immediate response from everyone in the school, the parents were called, there was continuous discussion on bullying and action. This helped the bully understand and accept his behaviour and change. My intention to write so much is to say, the attitude of the principal makes a big difference. I am sure that if we all had left him to his devices, he would have become frustrated, sad, bitter and bored. Therefore my varied experience in the public school system leads me to believe there is a lot of good in it. I love my son being able to go to school in a place with families from diverse backgrounds – from those in trade to professionals. It will give him an appreciation of the world in the long run. I guess I fall in #3 (lol)

dpm 9:32 am 09 Jun 11

Maya1 said :

… The result! Cars crossing the city passing each other as they take their children to school in each others’ suburbs. Monty Pythonist, madness.

Slightly off topic, but it’s amazing how many cars on the road during weekday morning ‘peak hour’ are there due to driving kids to school. I’m constantly amazed how quiet the roads are when it is school holidays!

trevar 9:14 am 09 Jun 11

Interestingly, I’ve just encountered this article on Education Review, which takes similar statistics from Sydney, but instead of comparing socio-economic status, they’re comparing race between public and private school enrollments. Apparently a very large majority of private school enrollments are Anglo-Celts.

I wonder, JB, if the same were found to be true of Canberra you would think that our public schools should be changed to focus on students with a language background other than English as well as low socio-economic status? Should public education be all about educating the children of impoverished migrants, or should it be about introducing children to the world?

I stand by my assertion that the biggest failure in our education system, whether public or private, is that the profession doesn’t have control of the system, but bureaucrats do, and as such, the profession finds it impossible to apply the latest research on teaching and learning to their practice. Imagine if the medical profession couldn’t apply the latest medical research to their practice! I even think giving the profession more authority would help the issue of behaviour management (which, despite becoming such a hot topic, is tangential to this thread).

I just have to agree with beejay76 at comment #65.

Calamity 8:55 am 09 Jun 11

Oh, and I also bought a copy of Communist Manifesto from eBay… let the learning begin!! 😉

Calamity 8:54 am 09 Jun 11

Gerry-Built said :

viva_la_albert said :

I really do hope someone from the Department of Education reads our comments. They spend enough time and money on audits and school validations. I don’t understand the point of school surveys either, I’m sure they know what the public education system is like.

Doesn’t matter – Mr Barr already knows what is best; he’s decided what it is… 🙁

I ‘tweeted’ ABarrMLA asking him to read this thread… I’m quite sure he will take my advice! haha
If you’re a tweeter type person, you should do the same!

shadow boxer 8:47 am 09 Jun 11

Feathergirl said I know two young ladies who within the last five years finished private school thanks to their grandparent footing the bill. Both girls have had babies at age 21 and still live at home with mum – they are unemployed. I don’t believe a private education is best for kids. Bogans do what bogans do no matter where they are bless ‘em.

The idiocy of citing individual examples to judge a system aside what is wrong with having a baby at 21, it’s not like it’s 13 or anything.

Educating your children is about providing your kids with knowledge and the best opportunities you can to support the choices they make as adults, unfortunately you can’t control those choices.

Classified 6:55 am 09 Jun 11

Maya1 said :

2604 said :

The solution? Institute a voucher system and abolish the PEAs so that kids from anywhere can apply to go to any school. Then, principals would actually have to compete by offering parents what they want. Further, principals should be subject to oversight by superintendents.

No, this would only encourage more cars on the road, increase congestion and green house gases and with childhood obesity on the rise it would not provide children the opportunity to walk/cycle to school. Better to encourage people to send their children to local schools. Imagine wanting to send your children to the local school so they could walk/cycle, but being unable to because it was full of out of area children who are driven across town to attend. The result! Cars crossing the city passing each other as they take their children to school in each others’ suburbs. Monty Pythonist, madness.

Although this is a good point, I’d be quite happy to burn a few extra litres a week to have my kids in a school that was well run and suited their needs.

Maya1 12:27 am 09 Jun 11

(Following on from the suggestion that children should be able to be enrolled at any public school.)
Local children should always be given priority over children from elsewhere. What would happen if a local child could not attend the local school because others from out of area had enrolled first? What if the local child’s family had no car, how would the child get to a distant school? And petrol costs are only going to go up.

Gerry-Built 9:49 pm 08 Jun 11

viva_la_albert said :

I really do hope someone from the Department of Education reads our comments. They spend enough time and money on audits and school validations. I don’t understand the point of school surveys either, I’m sure they know what the public education system is like.

Doesn’t matter – Mr Barr already knows what is best; he’s decided what it is… 🙁

Gerry-Built 9:47 pm 08 Jun 11

Watson said :

Hey, as you seem to know your stuff, can you tell me who might be to blame for our local primary school only having 1 part-time support teacher for around 400 kids? Something someone said led me to believe that it was the school choosing to use their funding in other ways, but maybe this is a wrong assumption.

sooooooo… Schools receive points based on the number of students that are classified as needing enough assistance (very, very high hurdle, which less and less kids seem to pass over every year… seemingly). For example, being high-functioning Aspergers won’t even put you on the map. These points transfer into funding; which is *supposed* to pay for Teaching Assistants – but the rub; it is up to the school to decide the best way to use that. Points are also only provided for core subjects.

You school has either; not enough highly ranked students, or the funding is being redirected. Probably worth asking…

Watson 8:47 pm 08 Jun 11

Maya1 said :

2604 said :

The solution? Institute a voucher system and abolish the PEAs so that kids from anywhere can apply to go to any school. Then, principals would actually have to compete by offering parents what they want. Further, principals should be subject to oversight by superintendents.

No, this would only encourage more cars on the road, increase congestion and green house gases and with childhood obesity on the rise it would not provide children the opportunity to walk/cycle to school. Better to encourage people to send their children to local schools. Imagine wanting to send your children to the local school so they could walk/cycle, but being unable to because it was full of out of area children who are driven across town to attend. The result! Cars crossing the city passing each other as they take their children to school in each others’ suburbs. Monty Pythonist, madness.

About half of the kids at our local school seem to get dropped off by car anyway. But I suppose it could be 100%. I definitely highly value the close proximity of our school. It also means that most of my daughter’s friends live closeby and we often run into them at the shops. All the kids in our street go to that school too. It does definitely create a community feel.

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