Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The great ATAR swindle

ATAR exposed

Universities should stop recruiting students based on ATAR scores, which have been shown to have little bearing on academic performance, a new report recommends.

A study between 2009 and 2013, analysing the academic marks of 11,309 Victoria University students in their first year, showed the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank score was a poor predictor of academic performance in a student's first year.

Senior research fellow at the university's Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies Dr George Messinis, who has co-authored the report, called on universities to stop relying on ATAR scores when accepting students into courses.

He highlighted findings that poor students were just as capable of outperforming their richer counterparts, but their grades were affected by socio economic status.

The report, released on Wednesday, showed that socio-economic status had a significant effect on the ATARs of students.

Merely comparing the grades of poorer and wealthier students revealed the widely expected result: richer students at elite schools got higher ATAR scores and higher university marks. 

But when controlling for factors determining socio-economic status, students at lower quality schools tended to get better grades at university.

The socio-economic factors considered included gender, quality of school and language.

"ATAR score is just one of the many factors, it doesn't really explain a lot in terms of diversity in student outcomes," said Dr Messinis.

Unfair Cuts

The Victorian and NSW governments have both sharply criticised the federal government's plan to push ahead with the cuts in the wake of the second budget and vowed to fight the move.

The first Coalition budget cut up to $25.5 billion in funding to NSW schools and hospitals over a decade, while Victoria is facing the loss of up to $19.9 billion, with the pain to start for hospitals from 2017-18 and for schools from January 2018.

The reduction in funding is achieved via a slower growth formula, linked to inflation and population growth, rather than activity in the health and education systems.

Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed the federal government would press ahead with the cuts during the budget lock-up on Tuesday, stating: "some of the states are running surpluses; we are not running a surplus. Don't shed a tear for the states."

Mr Abbott said on Wednesday that "we made certain commitments in last year's budget and those commitments carry over into this year's".

"What we've said to the states is we want to talk to them about how we can make the education and the hospital dollar go further ... We want to try to come up with efficiencies in the system and the point that the states made at the most recent COAG is that you can get savings in health. If you focus on better health outcomes, you can get significant health savings and that's what we want to do."

But Mr Shorten said the budget was "aimed at saving one person's job: Tony Abbott's" and that despite the shift in rhetoric and focus to fairness, "it still retains some of the unfairness of last year".

"There's no doubt that the way Tony Abbott is approaching the Commonwealth-state relations, it's a disaster," he said.

"If you're going to lose $80 billion worth of schools and hospitals, yep, I call it unfair."

More dirty linen to be exposed starting next week

The Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault is expecting public hearings into child sexual abuse will inspire more victims and survivors to come forward.

The support agency will be providing extra services during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings, which have been scheduled to begin from May 19.

The centre's manager, Shireen Gunn, is expecting more survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward as a result of the Commission's visit.

"It has been a bit of a snowball effect of people coming forward and then hearing about others and feeling okay to come forward themselves," she said.

Ms Gunn said while many survivors were looking forward to the chance to give evidence, the opportunity to speak out had made some victims feel anxious.

She said the commission's visit would have a toll on all victims of child sexual abuse and their families.

"Over the next few weeks there will be a very strong spotlight and they can certainly access one of our counsellors and talk about what's happened for them," she said.

Convicted paedophile priests who abused children in Ballarat's Catholic diocese were also expected to testify at the hearings, which begin next Tuesday.

DET Parents forum 

Principals are encouraged to invite parents to participate in part two of Parents Victoria’s online conference.The conference is being held during Education Week on 18 -21 May and will cover social media, online reporting, career advice and pathways, access to education, parent clubs, and funding. There will also be the opportunity for participants to raise other issues important to them. For updates, visit: Parents Victoria

The online conference will feature live online discussions, hosted by a member of Parents Victoria. Each day a special guest from a relevant organisation will be available to comment on one of the topics. Final dates and times are currently being confirmed.

You don’t need to be a member of Parents Victoria to take part and no special software is required. The online discussions will be easy to join in, with guidelines and online resources provided.

To register for the event, visit: Register for Parents Victoria Online Conference May 2015

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