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The Case Against Selective Schools by a CaSPA Principal

Posted by Michael Lee. on 2 August 2018
The Case Against Selective Schools by a CaSPA Principal

CaSPA is currently providing a number of perspectives on the relative merits of Select Entry Schools and greatly value this contributiom by one of our Colleagues - Michael Lee [pictured above] on the topic:

I was surprised to find this piece on our website given that if flatters one of the most exclusive and elite forms of schooling available, all fully funded by taxpayers , few of whom have any chance of getting their children into those schools even if they live across the road.

The comment about the quality of the teaching is particularly ignorant and offensive.

The students are selected, not the teachers and those who choose to teach there are held to the same Award, standards, PL and registration standards as teachers elsewhere in that sector and in other sectors. Granted the students and parents who access these places may place many more demands and expectations on the teachers. Year 12 results are always a time of hubris, spin and statistics along with celebration and some disappointment. Are we to be so surprised that schools that only take the top 1% of students are really going to dominate the league tables?
What should be researched is what happens to the students at those places who don't achieve at this level. These schools have a real gift for turning the top 1% into the top 15%. That deserves to be subsidised by the tax payer doesn't it?

Selective schools meet the needs of some students. In doing so they distort cohorts of students at other schools in public education and within our own system, perpetuate a self full filling belief about "excellence" and create a culture quite removed from equity, opportunity for all and the all rounded learning environment that other schools know better contributes to the common good.
At a time when parents in our own schools are being judged by the government about " capacity to pay",  these schools are populated with some of the wealthiest families in the country getting a free education for their kids away from the great unwashed who are paying for them and it's all being done in the name of public education!

There are all kinds of selectivity going on in the enrolement of students into schools. Even in Catholic education there are some who have a preferential option for the rich, smart, athletic student over the refugee or the child with learning or behavioural need. We all know of Catholic schools who pray soooo eloquentally for the poor and the needy but let other Catholic schools(often less resourced and funded) educate them. Indeed the Gonski 2 funding model( iniquitous and lazy model that it is) has raised a number of questions in that regard.

Let's be clear: free, secular, compulsory schooling came to this country towards the late 19th century to educate a workforce and to equip our citizens to navigate their way in a democracy. It came as a consequence of the great reforming zeal of that time which still informs the values and charism driving the culture and direction of many of our schools today. Catholic schools were created to do this too but firstly to support families in raising their children in the faith. Any temptation to do this in a selective manner based on intellectual or athletic ability or on money needs to be resisted -certainly not celebrated.

Author: Michael Lee.
About: Currently Principal of Mary Mackillop College, ACT and president of CaspACT.
Tags: curriculum Catholic Secondary Principals Australia

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