Oh captain, my captain!

Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported on the NSW Government’s decision to open a new selective school in South West Sydney is what is known in politics as a ‘Captain’s Call’. Unfortunately, Premier Berejiklian has made the wrong call on this one. More selective schools makes for a good sound bite, but it’s not sound policy.

As stated in this article (“’Complete surprise’: new selective school Berejiklian captain’s call”), the selective system favours advantaged students. Surely the schools we need now, and in the future, won’t equate student worth to a test score that can be manipulated through practice and coaching? We’re so much smarter than that.

Repeating dated approaches to schooling falls short as a response to the needs of students today. Just because we’ve done things like this in the past doesn’t mean we need to in the future, especially when the evidence just doesn’t stack up. The real test is what makes the most difference to outcomes for students.

So what does make the most difference? It’s not bricks and mortar but really effective teaching, supported by investment in professional learning. Wouldn’t it be great to see the NSW Government intervene to get the best teaching to students who really need it most? Now that really would be a good call, Captain.

Greg Whitby AM KSG
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta

(Originally sent to SMH as a letter to the editor Friday 7 June 2019)

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2 thoughts on “Oh captain, my captain!

  1. Greg, after the hackles had settled down it made me wonder why so few educational decision makers have to the fore the educational philosophy that want realised. Sadly this captains call says very strongly NSW is far more interested in fostering the academic elite and sifting the chaff from the wheat than in providing an apt contemporary holistic education for all children.

  2. I felt like education had taken one giant step backwards with Premier Berejiklian announcement last week. Selective schools and opportunity classes seem like such a narrow educational philosophy and yet they are widely supported. I have close friends who pay huge money to ensure their children are coached to meet the requirements of the entry exams and for what? It is widely recognised that children that are coached often suffer in this environment and what is it saying about comprehensive schools? They are not capable of meeting the demands of all children that attend school. I absolutely know this is not true.
    My twins attend a comprehensive school which prides itself on its Opportunity Classes and parents start planning their entry from Year 5. There are a range of abilities within theses classes and some students are unable to maintain their place, which adds another layer and complication to the streaming debate.
    What I find most frustrating is that within OC students are given freedoms that the students in regular classes are not provided with, they can choose their own texts, work on personalised projects and the T&L is less teacher focused. I have raised the question why this can’t be the practiced across the cohort, which would negate the need for an OC. I see it working in our system so effectively and yet the public system seems light years away. All so depressing really. Their response: because we have always done it this way!! Even more depressing.

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