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Thursday, August 28, 2008

PM puts shoulder to the wheel on increased transparency for schools

Good on the Prime Minister for picking up the ball from his deputy and making increased transparency and accountability in our schools one of the key elements in the next stage of reform of the education sector.Here's part of what he said at the National Press Club yesterday:

"I appreciate there can be debate about the most reliable indicators of school effectiveness. But I cannot understand why public institutions such as schools should not be accountable to the community that funds their salaries and their running costs. Right now, we do not have accurate, comprehensive information to allow rigorous analysis of what schools and students are achieving. This must change.Parents have a right to information to inform their family’s decision making about school enrolment. It is important, too, that this information gives parents the full picture. Simplistic league tables don’t really tell us how well a school is performing. They don’t tell us about the student population that the school started with – and its level of educational advantage.Everyone understands why a private school on Sydney’s north shore might do better than a comprehensive government high school in the outer suburbs. But it is not unreasonable to expect that schools with a similar mix of students and similar starting points should do equally well. What parents most want to know is what difference a school is going to make – in other words, the extent to which it is adding value to the results of their students. Parents overseas can get this information. Australian parents – and students – deserve the same. That is why today I announce that we will be making agreement on individual school performance reporting a condition of the new national education agreement to come into effect from 1 January 2009.Within a year, we want to see increased information available to Australian parents. And within three years, a report that shows not just how their child is doing, but how their child’s school is performing compared to similar schools.Knowing where there is underperformance will help us to target additional resources."
The PM recognised there will be plenty of argy-bargy over this. As The Australian reports today

"For years, state Labor administrations have sided with unions to reject transparency and have aggressively fought media attempts to use Freedom of Information laws to secure information on the relative performance of schools."

He's right to push hard on this one.

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