I was interested to read the piece written by Verity Firth and Rebecca Huntley in the Guardian last week suggesting that if middle and high income parents sent their children to public schools then it would improve outcomes for all. It stems from Firth and Huntley’s report commissioned by think tank Per Capita titled Who’s afraid of a public school.
While there has been an increase in non-government school enrolments, I don’t think we are seeing the demise of public education. Some of the most innovative practices I have seen, have been in public schools. Yet Firth and Huntley write “if anxious parents take their kids out of the local school, it starts to do worse, forcing more worried families to depart.” Is the argument being made here that declining enrolments automatically equates to a decline in the quality of learning and teaching?
To suggest that Australia’s equity issue will be addressed by middle class and wealthy parents sending their children to public schools is simplistic. Somehow it always comes back to funding. It is so disappointing that media campaigns often have greater influence on public perception than the research.
I always come back to Professor Stephen Dinham’s statement that equity in Australian schools is determined by “each student having quality teachers and quality teaching in schools supported by effective leadership and professional learning.” Equity depends on quality not choice.