The Educator Weekend Wrap: Learning gaps widen, big school changes and school websites score D minus

by The Educator26 Mar 2016

In this week’s top story, a new report by public policy think-tank, the Grattan Institute, analysed NAPLAN data and found that despite performing at the same level and starting point, some students can fall behind 2.5 years depending on what school they are at. “The really worrying thing is that the learning gaps grow much larger after Year 3, so in fact disadvantaged students are falling further behind with each year of school,” said Peter Goss, director of the institute's school education program. Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said the report was “a wake-up call” for policy-makers “who are fixated on how much Australia spends on education”.

In other news, Queensland high schools are preparing to overhaul their traditional tertiary entrance system following a decision to scrap Overall Position (OP) scores, which have been in place since 1992. Students graduating in 2018 will be the last to receive the scores, which will soon be replaced by an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), bringing Queensland in line with other states. In a major change, the external assessment for maths and science will now make up 50% of a student's overall result, while in most other subjects it will contribute 25%. However, the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) said this will make the stakes uncomfortably high for students. “If three assessments undertaken at school count for 50% and the one external assessment to be undertaken will count as 50% of the overall result, it turns that one external assessment into a very high stakes event,” said QTU vice-president, Sam Pidgeon.

Finally, a new report shows Australia’s top schools are missing out on valuable enrolments because their websites have not kept pace with the online habits of prospective parents. The report, released today by marketing and communications firm Imageseven, examined the websites of Australia’s top 100 non-government schools with a student population of over 1,000. Each website was graded to benchmark how they performed and found the average school website scored a D minus. “Never before have schools faced such competition in the pursuit of enrolments; where one click is all it takes for your prospective parents to choose the next best alternative,” saidImageseven’s business director, Andrew Sculthorpe. “We live in a world that demands instant
gratification. Prospective parents want service and information ‘yesterday’, and if we can’t meet their needs immediately, they can choose to look elsewhere.”