"Culture of competition" not in the best interests of schools

by Brett Henebery11 Feb 2015

The independence of schools creates a culture of competition “that cannot be in the best interests of the children, the staff or the well-being of the state,” says Lila Mularczyk, president of the Secondary Principals’ Council (SPC)

Responding to reports that the Government’s Independent Public Schools (IPS) model has been rejected by most states, Mularczyk said that NSW would never accept a model that weakens a “strong” school system.

“We remain strong as a system of schools,” Mularczyk told The Educator.

“Once you create independence of the schools, you then create a culture of competition that cannot be in the best interests of the children, the staff or the wellbeing of the state.

“There has never been an acknowledgement that this [IPS] is a model that NSW would accept.”

The backlash against the Government’s IPS proposal comes as Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, pledged $22.7m to 2200 schools in NSW, a three-year cash injection the Government said will increase school autonomy.

Marie Mulheron, president of NSW Teachers Federation, seized on the disparity between the agreement and Pyne's statement, accusing the Education Minister of being misleading.
“Minister Pyne’s attempt to mislead the NSW public is exposed in the wording of the agreement he signed with his NSW counterpart: ‘It will not establish a model of Independent Public Schools,’” Mulheron said.
“Without needs-based Gonski funding we will not be able to close the achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”
The SPC president, while welcoming the Government’s cash injection, said that the money would be spent to help reinforce existing programs and reforms being implemented in the state schools.
“We are more than happy to accept the money to support continued local decision-making and community engagement in our schools in line with our programs and reforms,” Mularczyk said.

“The greatest strength is to be maintained as a system where we have greater capacity to be meeting the needs of every child.”


  • by Paul Burgis 12/02/2015 10:59:14 AM

    I respond respectfully to Lila Mularczyk that the idea that independence creates a negative culture of competition is a myth.

    As a Principal of a large independent girls' school in NSW I see strong evidence of collaboration within and between independent schools.

    This is true at a personal and an institutional level.

    PERSONAL: In a couple of weeks time all of the independent girls' schools will send students to be poolside at Olympic Park, cheering on their own teams. Yet they will also be developing connections with one another, building respect and friendship. At the student level independence builds a strong sense of identity and a respect for others.

    INSTITUTIONAL: As someone who has engaged with or who has visited many hundreds of schools in five nations (Australia, UK, Zimbabwe, The Philippines and Tanzania), I have found that independence allows school leaders to really foster and develop values and culture. In African schools it allows for leadership to guide the school rather than grinding bureaucracy. Examine, for example, the enormous difference in the quality of education that the Katoke Project has had on the Bukoba district in Tanzania - not just for the independent schools, but the flow on effect to public schools in providing excellent, local professional learning opportunities for teachers. Associate Professor Watson OA deserves the awards he has received.

    Paul Burgis
    PLC Sydney