I’m a public school teacher and I vote

I’ve been reading Darcy Moore’s series of posts about the Gonski Review, which recently concluded and posed this question:

How much data do we need to tell us that a well-educated, motivated teacher in an appropriately funded, resourced and supported school, freed from bureaucratic regulation, can give students what they need?

Darcy makes some excellent points about the resourcing of schools that is needed for a ‘high equity, high quality’ schooling system in Australia.

I want to add to these today simply by reminding people that Public schooling – the kind that is provided for free to all young people in Australia – is an institution that is particularly worth fighting for in this time of change.

While Public schooling often suffers at the hands of bureaucratic micro-management and ill-conceived Government initiatives, this is a scenario that can change.

What WILL NOT CHANGE, unless there is a drastic shift in the proportion of funding provided to Public schools (not just the amount), is the cultural hierarchy of schooling in Australia that sees greater choice and opportunity for those young people whose parents can afford it.

I went to a public school.   There were never enough material resources, never enough flexibility…but I know other schools that had it worse.

I’ve seen the inside of the ELITE Private schools in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.  There is no excuse for sustaining a system that provides some children with tennis courts, cricket pitches and drama theatres, when teachers at other local schools are penny-pinching to buy more whiteboard markers.

Your school has enough boats for a shed?

Your school has boats?

It is disturbing to see people speaking in hushed tones around the issue of the Gonski Review, seemingly frightened to suggest that IT’S NOT ALRIGHT for some families to buy their way into status and social advantage.  And I don’t care to hear about people who “really are supporting a middle class family, working three jobs to afford the school fees”.  

What gives a family the right to withdraw and segregate their children from the social fabric that others are relying on for the project of “diversity” to actually work?

Gated School Communities

Gated School Communities

Of course I will always be committed to working at University and through Professional Associations to help prepare and develop excellent English teachers to work in every school sector…but, as a school teacher, I will only ever work in the PUBLIC sector.   I will not teach in other sectors; they can’t buy my labour.  So, if you find yourself wondering whether Public schools really are worth fighting for, in this day and age, know this:






Mr. #Gonski please stop the over funded Elite schools from buying their way out of this!  Please disincentivise social snobbery and segregation.  Please implement a funding model that rewards families for supporting their local community school.

  1. #1 by Tahlia Newland on October 5, 2011 - 9:29 am

    I so agree. It really makes me sad and mad to see public schooling put down and underfunded. Some friends struggled to send their daughter to a posh private school and after experiencing bullying that was not taken seriously, they put her in the local HS where she was much happier. They finally admitted that the quality of the education wasn’t any better – they just had more gadgets – and that the kids behaviour was bad in different ways. Bitchiness & predjudice was much greater than in the public schools. There’s a lot of misperception out there and unfortunately government policies buy into and feed it.

    • #2 by Rebecca Wolkenstein on October 22, 2011 - 8:46 am

      Tahlia I noticed that in the film Mrs Carey’s Concert. Did you see it? The main bitch was so cruel and her passive aggressiveness really got under the teachers’ skins. At least the working class are more honest! It’s a different kind of nasty, but nastiness can appear anywhere. You can’t buy your way out of it.

  2. #3 by kmcg2375 on January 19, 2012 - 11:39 am

    This post got some attention via Twitter today, so I’ve just checked back in to add a follow up comment.

    I suspect everyone has a tale to tell about The Way Things Are in one system of education as opposed to another, but it’s important that we keep our eyes on the prize – that is, the improvement of public education.

    For example, if it is true that students and teachers from privileged backgrounds constitute a radically different demographic, or come from a different culture, how will this be catered for in a public school?

    Without better resources it is very hard to cater for diversity in a school community, and I think this is problematic for everyone involved. Public schools may already embrace a culture of diversity, but without more support it is difficult to combat factors like student absences or low teacher retention. Many teachers are now leaving the profession within the first 5 years due to burn out (I’m not sure if the rate of retention is different in public versus private though?)

    On the other hand, independent schools by their nature are already wrestling with diversity in some way. Whether the school operates to exclude the poor, or to instil a set of values (perhaps religious), or to uphold an elite ‘tradition’, a culture of diversity is not something I imagine you can take for granted there. Where a school has a selection criteria for entry, or a way to price some people out of entry, the diversity of the population has already been constrained.

    At the end of the day though, if only all students had access to high quality learning resources I would be happy.

  1. National Day of Action for Public Education « Kelli McGraw

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