The difference between attending a disadvantaged school and a more privileged one is the equivalent of three years of education, a report on Australia’s test results has found.
On Wednesday the Australian Council for Educational Research (Acer) released two reports on the performance of Australian children in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests.
The tests showed maths and science results have flatlined for the past 20 years relative to comparable countries and gone backwards in year 9 science, maths and reading.
The Acer reports found students had higher achievement when they were from a high socioeconomic background, when there was a strong school emphasis on academic success, and when they were not bullied.
The analysis of the Pisa results found that students in the top socioeconomic quartile were about three years ahead in science, reading and maths compared with those in the lowest quartile.
Indigenous students were on average about two and a half years behind non-Indigenous counterparts in the three competencies. Students from an immigrant background were about a half a year behind in all of them.
Students from metropolitan schools were about one year of schooling ahead of students in provincial schools and one-and-a-half years ahead of those in remote schools.
Boys were behind girls in maths, literacy and science, although the difference was greatest in literacy, with a gap of 27 points on the 1,000-point scale.
In reading and maths, Western Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory got the best results. Tasmania recorded the lowest results, including “significantly lower” results than the OECD average in maths.
The analysis of the Timss results found that 20% of year 4 students and 9% of year 8 students reported being bullied almost weekly.
Students who reported almost never being bullied had average scores more than 30 points higher than those who reported being bullied almost weekly.
Sue Thomson, the lead author of the two reports and its educational monitoring and research director, said the findings on Pisa and Timss “indicate that disadvantage remains an issue”.
“It also matters which school a student attends. Pisa shows that the school a student attends has an impact on outcomes.
“Disadvantaged students in average socioeconomic level schools, for example, are almost a year of schooling higher than those in disadvantaged schools.”
Disadvantaged students on average like maths and science less, are less confident, and value them less, she said.
Thomson also noted Indigenous and non-metropolitan students suffered educational disadvantages that had not improved in 20 years of Timss testing and reporting.
“Substantially fewer Indigenous students achieve the Timss intermediate international benchmark – the proficient standard for Australia – than their non-Indigenous peers,” she said. “Timss also shows that students in provincial and remote schools are less likely to achieve the benchmark.”
On 2 March the education minister, Simon Birmingham, launched a review of equity of education access for rural and regional students. ABOUT TIME! (I will be keeping a close eye on the Halsey Review. they take submissions in April and will report back at the end of the year. I don't think that is enough time!)
The opposition education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, has argued that the factors of disadvantage in the Pisa and Timss reports demonstrated the need for restoration of years five and six of Labor’s needs-based schools funding agreements.
Birmingham has argued that increased education funding as results have gone backwards showed increasing spending was not a solution.
The federal government is yet to release its new proposed schools funding allocation model, which it will raise at the Council of Australian Governments and apply from 2018.