Selective schools 'condemn students to second-rate education': Whitby
The selective school system is creating an elite stream that drains resources and condemns other students to second-rate schools, a prominent Catholic education leader says.
"Good teachers are attracted to these schools and you start taking away a whole lot of resources," director of Catholic education in the Parramatta diocese Greg Whitby said.
"If we keep going down this path, we'll keep creating second and third rate schools.
"People talk about the performance of schools and how we could be better and that's true and it's a big issue, but the really challenging issue is the equity gap, which is getting wider."
Mr Whitby, who oversees 80 primary and secondary schools in Western Sydney with about 45,000 students, said that despite moves in the Sydney diocese to introduce selective streams to some Catholic schools, his schools would "never go down that path".
"Our students will sit the test and leave Catholic schools. People say 'why don't we have our own?', but we're not interested in increasing that inequity," Mr Whitby said.
"It forces us to provide learning that's fit for each student and it ultimately makes a statement about the type of society we want to build.
"We need to build a robust learning community and invest in building that capacity in everyone, not just an elite group of schools."
Mr Whitby said he echoes concerns raised by NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes and Department of Education secretary Mark Scott that the growing tutoring industry built around the selective schools test is making places more easily accessible for students from wealthier families.
"The minister has raised this, parents will try to buy their way into these schools," said Mr Whitby, who was awarded the prestigious Sir Harold Wyndham Medal Award last year for outstanding contribution to the education of young people in NSW.
"We know how important education is and every child needs to have the same opportunity and access.
"Having selective schools props up a system where those from a more well-off path are more likely to have access [to better resources]."
Mr Scott announced a review into the selective school entry test last year to make it harder to be coached to get high scores, and Mr Stokes recently flagged the idea of "opening up selective schools to local enrolments".
"We need to have public schools that are inclusive of everyone rather than deliberately separate children on the basis that some are gifted and talented and others are not," Mr Stokes said.
Nearly 15,000 year 6 students sat the selective schools entrance test in March this year, competing for 4226 places across NSW's 19 fully-selective and 29 partially selective schools.
Selective schools are also opposed by the NSW Teachers Federation, with president Maurie Mulheron saying the system segregates students without adding any significant educational value.
"They don't add anything to a child's education but they do damage to school communities by taking them out of comprehensive schools, fragmenting the system and creating social segregation," Mr Mulheron said.
"The best kids would be successful anywhere and many suffer from going from being the best in their primary school to being at the bottom of their selective high school.
"And they deprive comprehensive school of the brightest kids, so you struggle to run the extension class or the physics class and the remaining bright kids suffer in that way."
However, leading gifted education researcher at UNSW Jae Jung said selective schools help ensure gifted and talented students are being challenged by teachers with experience in teaching higher-ability classes.
"Because [many] gifted students aren't being identified, they're bored in the classroom and some become disinterested in school," Mr Jung told Fairfax Media last year.