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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

FOI delivers but Mercury declines to name poor performing schools

The Hobart Mercury has used the Freedom of Information Act to access information about literacy and numeracy levels of students in the public sector system, reporting large discrepancies that seem to reflect differences in socio-economic status, but decided not to publish the names of the schools with poor records.The Mercury responded to a request from the Premier and the Education Department who said publication of this data would only further stigmatise struggling areas.

In a follow up today, the paper says it has tried in the past to expose such disadvantage but had been urged to focus on positive stories; acknowledges the danger of letting the Government, and others responsible, off the hook; and reserves the right to publish these details if and when community attitudes dictate it should do so. The decision not to publish will be much debated by the Mercury's media colleagues.
"Our withholding of the table of schools is a singular departure from this paper's commitment to the public right to know. But it is not open-ended. If a change in community thinking requires its publication we will do so. We made our decision, not to protect a Government that flunked the exam and avoided publishing the results, but to shield innocent children -- if only temporarily -- from being implicated in that failure. But this does not let the Government off the hook. It must quickly find a way to give this information to the community. Only through this knowledge can communities and schools hope to pressure government to end the inequities in education.

The Government is on notice to do something about what appears to be the emergence of an illiterate, poor and non-working class of Tasmanian who is destined to miss out on the opportunities and trappings that the rest of us enjoy."

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