Independent schools hit back at sceptics with research findings

by Brett Henebery30 Jul 2015

In a statement, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) chief executive, Geoff Ryan, said recent claims that there was no academic benefit for students attending independent schools were “wrong”.
 
“Several claims about the performance of independent schools are based on narrow analysis of extremely limited data sets or – even worse – simply choose to report analysis in a misleading way,” Ryan said.
 
“We aim to counter that by correlating research findings in an easy to read format.”
 
AHISA’s first infographic – titled: ‘What the research evidence says: Independent schools & student academic achievement’ – focuses on research confirming academic ‘value adding’ by independent schools out to Year 12.
 
“Schooling is generally thought about as a learning journey through to Year 12. In that context, any view of the relative performance of schools based on NAPLAN results to Year 5 or even to Year 9 must be limited,” said Ryan.
 
“However, analysis of student achievement out to Year 12 is unequivocal: students at independent schools exceed beyond expectations, even after allowing for socio-economic background and student ability.”
 
Ryan added there is also evidence in NAPLAN student gain data that independent schools begin to add value to students’ academic achievement from the early years of schooling.
 
“To ignore the evidence and downplay or deny the value of independent schooling is an empty exercise,’ said Ryan.
 
“It does not help students and undermines the reputation of academics and teachers. Schools, students, teachers and families all deserve better.”
 
Earlier this month, Save Our Schools’ (SOS) national convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said the latest research shows that governments need to get more creative about developing ways to improve student outcomes in schools.

“The new report adds to the weight of evidence that independent public schools have had little impact on student results. Many other studies around the world have come to a similar conclusion,” Cobbold, wrote in a statement on his organisation’s website.

“The evidence suggests that governments should be looking at other more effective ways to improve student achievement.”
 
However, some school leaders such as Warren Smith, acting principal at Ocean Reef Senior High School, believe independent schools naturally leads to better quality of staffing, as well as student outcomes.
 
Smith told The Educator that as an Independent Public School (IPS), staff at his school have more flexibility to respond to student needs.

“The research suggests that the greatest effect on student learning is the quality of teacher instruction. It is therefore important to select and retain quality teachers to build an effective school,” Smith told The Educator.

“Also, our school has a Workforce Plan which guides our decisions with respect to the appointment of staff. We know who we need to appoint and where they should be allocated to build future success into our instructional capability within the school.”