‘Equity’ focus a risk to public schools

THERE’S a danger that the public school system will become unattractive, says the president of ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, John Haydon, following Education Minister Yvette Berry’s pre-Budget announcement that ACT government will continue its focus on equity in the public education system.

ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations president John Haydon

“Equity is undoubtedly a major social and political challenge facing Australia at the moment. But if the ‘community conversation’ about the future of our public education is exclusively about equity and disadvantage, there is there a risk that our public schools will be seen as exclusively, or specifically, for disadvantaged students,” Mr Haydon says.

“I’d recommend having a conversation considering all aspects, not preload it with particular issues. It’s got to be broad, it’s not got to choose a particular sub-section.”

Minister Berry says that the ACT government will continue its focus on equity in the education system, which includes investing more into the support of all students regardless of individual circumstances, characteristics or background.

The intentions of the conversation titled “Future of Education” is to help students from many different walks of life learn alongside each other in ACT public schools.

“The title is a bit misleading because the entire focus of the program is on equity and on overcoming disadvantage,” Mr Haydon says.

With only a thin, geographic spread of disadvantage in the ACT compared to the lumps of disadvantage in other jurisdictions Mr Haydon says perhaps it is easier for a school to address disadvantage when it is suffered by many students rather than a few.

“We need to give disadvantaged kids every opportunity but we can’t wreck our public system by just focusing on the disadvantaged,” he says.

“I’m concerned that the if someone comes up with simplistic ideas then that would change the effectiveness of public school.”

Minister Berry says funding of more than $500,000 over two years will support a community-wide consultation and policy development process to map out the school education system, from early childhood to school leaving age, that our community wants for the future.

The government’s future of education strategy will emphasise the core value of equity in our schools, because every child regardless of their circumstance or background must have access to an education that will set them up for a bright future,” she says. 

A further $3 million will be committed to funding to cater for students with a disability.

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