New report shows Australian schools a study in inequality
Oct 28, 2015 | News
A new study has uncovered a widening gap between the achievements of rich and poor Australian children.
Children living in urban areas with well-off, well-educated parents generally demonstrate high academic achievement and school completion rates and go on to enjoy excellent employment prospects.
Those living in rural communities, those from a low socio-economic backgrounds, those with less well educated parents and those born into Indigenous families generally do not.
According to the study by the Mitchell Institute, an independent policy think tank at Victoria University, one quarter of all Australian children fail to complete their schooling and almost a third are behind international measures for reading in year seven.
And it shows a widening gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in what it describes as a “segregated” system.
Around 40 per cent of Australia's poorest 19-year-olds are leaving school early according to the report, compared with 12 per cent of the wealthiest.
“Young people who are not fully engaged in education or work are disproportionately female and from low-SES backgrounds, located more often in regional and remote locations, and Indigenous,” the report states.
“Location is strongly linked to Year 12 attainment. Remote and very remote communities have high numbers of young people not completing - 56.6 per cent and 43.6 per cent respectively.”
The report shows that the vast majority of socially disadvantaged students attend public schools, yet government spending on private schools doubled between 1991 and 2000 - more than twice the growth in funding for state schools.
Lead author Professor Stephen Lamb said the disparities between students from different backgrounds were marked in Australia compared with Canada and New Zealand.
"We haven't succeeded yet in developing an egalitarian system," he said.
"High levels of segregation of students in Australia, due in large part to residential segregation and the sector organisation of schools, tend to reinforce patterns of inequality and strengthen differences in school performance.
"We have a large proportion of kids who keep missing out at school ... it's too big a number for us to ignore, and it reflects on the quality of our system."
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the report was another demonstration of why needs-based Gonski funding was essential.
“While the report shows the school system is working for the majority of students, with most completing school and moving on to work, there are a disturbingly large number of disadvantaged students who are missing out,” she said.
“This starts from the moment children begin school - with one-in-five children arriving at school without the skills needed to succeed in their learning.
“We need to identify struggling students as early as possible and give them the extra support and resources they need to succeed at school. This investment means they will develop the skills needed to complete school and move into work.
“There is a clear link between disadvantage, poor performance at school and unemployment. Well-resourced schools are our chance to break that link.”
View the full Educational opportunity in Australia 2015: Who succeeds and who misses out Report at:
Educational opportunity in Australia 201