Equity issue with selective schools

By Greg Whitby, 26 June 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently announced plans to open a new selective secondary school in Sydney’s south-west, reportedly in response to public demand. Unfortunately, there has been less listening when it comes to the strong and united voices of education leaders against the decision: you could call it ‘selective hearing’.

The Premier’s ‘captain’s call’ to build a new selective school will not necessarily provide more opportunities for students from South West Sydney. In fact, it’s highly likely that this school will fill up with out-of-area students. Why? By their very nature, selective schools exclude rather than include. This is because they use a competitive selection process to stream their enrolments. Many children are coached from their early years (usually at great expense to parents) in the hope of them securing a place in Year 7.

We have an equity issue here. Even if educators agreed that segregating able students was a good approach (and clearly most don’t), the tutoring factor creates a system that rewards financial and not simply intellectual advantage. We should be about maximising the experience of school for all students, not just for those assessed to be academically gifted according to a test that many have had years of coaching to prepare for.

Every parent wants the very best for their child, as they should. This is why we need highly skilled teachers in every school who use evidence-based approaches to bring learning alive for each child. We get there by making smart decisions when it comes to education policy rather than popular ones. Enough please of the captain’s call!

NSW doesn’t need another selective school or a bigger tutoring industry; we just need to be more choosy when it comes to investing in high-quality schooling experiences for every child.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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