Audrey Bray, pictured with daughter Shania Rose, 12, a student at Pearces Creek Public School, warns comparing schools will lead to unnecessary student competition.
Audrey Bray, pictured with daughter Shania Rose, 12, a student at Pearces Creek Public School, warns comparing schools will lead to unnecessary student competition. Jacklyn Wagner

Comparing North Coast schools unfair

LIKE any mum, Alstonville woman Audrey Gray does not want her daughter to be treated unfairly.

But that is what she fears will happen if Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard's plans to publicly compare schools on their academic and socio-economic performance come to fruition.

Ms Gray, mother of 12-year-old Pearces Creek Public School student Shania Rose, said there was no need to pit schools against each other by publicly ranking them as it ran the risk of putting the students in unnecessary competition.

"Especially in situations where you have a lot of small schools, like we do here," she said.

"It would make some of the smaller schools, which may not rank as well simply because they have a lower number of students, seem less enticing.

"There is no need to do that, it's unfair to the schools and the kids."

The minister's proposal has rung warning bells among teachers and parents alike, but the determined minister dismissed those concerns saying results would help to target schools that needed more help with funding or teaching talent.

Alstonville Public School's gifted students' teacher, David Wright, is used to dealing with the cream of academic talent, but would not want to have his school results compared with others in the area.

"You can't compare schools with schools," he said.

"It isn't fair. There are too many variables to consider."

Mr Wright said testing was critical, and acting on that data was just as important.

He said testing students for the strengths and weaknesses was essential to helping those same students do their best.

And the same should be done for schools.

But by making those statistics public, schools and their students could be treated unfairly and that could have repercussions that might extend for years beyond a student's education.

Ms Gillard explained details of her proposal earlier this month at the Australian Council for Educational Research conference in Brisbane, explaining the aim of gathering and publishing data comparing like-for-like schools was to help governments better allocate resources and to give parents more information about options for their children.

"It's naive to think that people don't compare schools," Ms Gillard said.

"Most parents would be able to survey across their suburb and put a view in about whether the school is a good school or a bad school. Often they are doing that off incomplete information because it is not available."

Mr Wright, with 41 years' experience teaching, said students used to taking tests, as his students were, would obviously do better than students who rarely took tests.

He questioned whether schools in wester NSW, where young teachers were usually first stationed, would perform as well as eastern schools which tended to have more experienced staff.


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