Sunday, 2 February 2014

Independent Schools?

The Commonwealth Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced today that his government would provide $70 million for 1500 state schools to become 'independent schools' ( presumably that means something like the charter schools in the US) That would be about $ 50 000 per school.
I think this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves about the Gonski reform package which the now government promised to deliver during the election-

* The most comprehensive review of the Australian education system in 40 years.
* Developed over 5 years.
* Consisted of a bipartisan panel of 5 experts, 3 of whom hold the Order of Australia and another the Australia Medal.
* Received over 7000 submissions, visited 39 schools and consulted 71 education groups.

The Pyne Review:

* Will be conducted over 6 months.
* The panel will consist of 2 people. Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire. 

Pyne said today: "I imagine the Commonwealth's money will mostly be spent on building the skills base for principals and their leadership teams in schools that apply for independent public schooling," he said.

"The more a principal and their leadership teams have control over the destiny of their own school the more that seems to lift that school's performance." What a strange thing to say and strange words to use- 'imagine' and 'seems to' doesn't sound very scientific.

There is no evidence, no data at all to show that this approach makes any impact on student learning. it seems based on the idea that the principal is the font of all knowledge in schools ( I know from experience that this is inaccurate and illogical) and that sufficient parents have the interest and enthusiasm to take on considerably more responsibility in managing schools. ( Victorian parents already have considerable capacity to be involved in supporting their children at school)

Pyne said today on Channel 7 News that all states and territories support this initiative, yet today the Minister of Education from NSW ( a fellow conservative) said that NSW will not be participating in the initiative. As usual no news from the Victorian state minister or Premier. This type of policy will have an impact on already struggling school communities ( refer to the US charter school experience) and in particular rural communities. A contributor to ABC News online wrote: 
'In terms of School Boards and parental participation. I live and work in a small rural community and we already struggle to get enough parents to form a P&C to raise a few dollars for our school. The notion that somehow we can conjure up enough talented and committed people to fill a School Board with roles in hiring and firing, budget and policy development and so on is laughable.' 

Today most of the kids completed their old style Australian houses ( as part of our Australia theme and work inspired by 'They Found a Cave') and they are now on display.

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