Does more money make a better school?
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Does more money make a better school?

Australia’s  National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results were released recently. NAPLAN results allow schools to compare how they are going in teaching children the basics, with the idea that struggling schools can then receive better funding to help disadvantaged students.

Boy on a Bike has been doing some outstanding work that Australia’s journalists conspicuously have not been, by crunching the numbers to see if better funding makes a difference to NAPLAN results.

If I’m reading it right, his general take on it is that the culture of schools and parental support have a great more to do with educational success than money.

As BOAB comments:

…schools with low NAPLAN numbers are getting more money – the big question is whether they are putting it to good use. What’s the point of giving them more money if all they do is piss it up against the wall? By that, I really mean the parents pissing it up against the wall. A school and its teachers can only do so much. Parents have to do their bit too. A good school will always have a tough time producing results if the parents don’t provide any support and direction to their kids.

Most alarmingly, BOAB discovers that a school primarily made up of indigenous kids in the western NSW town of Wilcannia has children in Year 9 (about age 14) whose numeracy and literacy skills were equivalent to city kids in Year 3 (about age 8).

It’s a complex thing to fix, but New South Wales is a state with relatively few remote Aboriginal communities and it certainly has the resources to do more about this. Sadly, in the midst of an election campaign, I don’t recall this issue ever rating a mention.

BOAB also finds that many Sydney state schools are getting good NAPLAN results, but mostly the ones in rich suburbs. State schools in poor suburbs are performing abysmally.

Overseas readers, incidentally, might be interested to know that Sydney’s top academic selective school, James Ruse High, has an astounding enrolment that is 97 per cent from a non-English speaking background, and most of these kids would have parents from India or China. There are about 850 students at James Ruse, which means there must only be around 25 traditional Aussie students at the school. Clearly, immigrating to Australia need not disadvantage a child academically.