Beyond the Classroom resources for schools, students - Page 8 of 16 - Education Matters
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Your School 2016 cover image

The Australian’s Your School publication highlights divide

Using the recently released NAPLAN results to create a ranked list of Australia’s schools, The Weekend Australian‘s Your School analysis demonstrates a clear divide in the results of high-fee private schools compared with those of their public school counterparts.

The publication provides information on over 9,000 schools nationwide, including state-by-state rankings of schools, which can be sorted by secondary, primary, most funded, least funded and more.

Independent schools currently make up three-quarters of all high schools in the top 100 according to overall performance.

The Your School analysis arrives at a time when the school funding debate appears to have been rekindled in maintstream media, recently stoked by comments from the Federal Minister for Education, Senator Simon Birmingham on ABC’s Q&A programme.

However, social and financial disadvantage have significant influence on education and, as Senior Lecturer in Research Methodology, Education Assessment and Evaluation at Sydney University, Rachel Wilson told The Weekend Australian, NAPLAN ‘was not a particularly sensitive test and was designed to set up benchmarks to identify schools that were performing poorly’.

As an example, Ms. Wilson points out that “Tasmania has a much lower income per capita and much higher levels of disadvantage and that’s reflected in their poorer performance”.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe concurred, saying that public schools are “performing as well as private, once socio-economic background is taken into account”.

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School starting age lower

Tasmanian Government releases school starting age ‘fact sheet’

Tasmania’s State Government has moved to allay concerns that the proposed new starting age for schoolchildren could be detrimental to kids’ health.

Earlier this year, Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman announced the Government would lower the starting age from five to four years and six months, following a review of the Education Act.

At five years, Tasmania currently has the oldest minimum starting age for schoolchildren of any other state or territory in Australia.

However, Early Childhood Australia’s Tasmanian branch President Anne Barwick told The Mercury that the proposed change has “the potential to impact children negatively”.

“A high percentage of Tasmanian children access kindergarten – a non-compulsory year – and this change equates to children as young as three years, six months being integrated into a school environment,” she said.

Further concerns have been raised by the union for childcare workers, the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Rural Health Tasmania and the state Opposition, causing the Government to respond with a new fact sheet on the initiative.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the fact sheet, saying it aims to dispel concerns raised by detractors of the plan.

“The Government is proposing to lower the compulsory starting age for prep by six months — not 18 months as is being falsely claimed by some,” he said.

“This means instead of starting prep at the age of five, Tasmanians will start at the age of four and a half years. This is a very significant but by no means a radical change, this simply brings Tasmania in-line with the rest of Australia.”

Mr Rockliff confirmed Ms Barwick’s concerns, however, stating that parents will have the choice to send their kids to kindergartner sooner, starting at the age of three years and six months.

The Mercury reports that Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O’Byrne contends the initiative is not backed up by solid evidence.

“All that Tasmanians have been told by the Government is that the justification for changing the school starting age is that it will bring the state into line with the rest of the country … there is no definitive Australian school starting age.”

A “Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania” petition organised by United Voice has so far been signed by 2,561 people.

The school starting age fact sheet can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Education website.