Use caution with My School website

PARENTS are being warned against comparing performance and financial data of schools following the launch of the updated controversial My School 2.0 website on Friday.

NAPLAN and financial income totals are, for the first time, included on the site compiled by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, as well as a breakdown on average expenditure per student for 2009.

Education sector stakeholders have been quick to caution comparisons between schools could reveal inaccurate information.

State Education Minister Cameron Dick cited the complex nature of the data as potentially “unfair” for schools.

“The data could be used unfairly in relation to some schools. Some schools have different needs, some communities have different needs… that’s appropriate that they would be funded to a different level,” Mr Dick said.

“Funding is affected by location, school programs, age and size of facilities, staffing, overall enrolment.”

The website uses four location categories for schools, determined according to the Schools Geographic Location Classification Scheme of the Federal Government.

Central Queensland schools fall into three of the categories – Very Remote, Remote, and Provincial.

The fourth category is Metropolitan, and refers mainly to larger schools in cities.

Schools with five or less total enrolments in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 are excluded from recording NAPLAN results to protect student identity.

Tresswell State School, 60km west of Springsure, is the smallest Very Remote primary school in the Central Queensland region with a total of seven enrolments.

Its total income for 2009 was $274,847, with $34,356 allocated per student.

Conversely, the largest Very Remote school, Jericho State School with 19 total enrolments, recorded a total income of $423,513.

Each student was allocated $35,293.

Lochington State School, via Springsure, had a total enrolment of five students from Prep to Year 7 and had an income of $284,146, with an average allocation of $47,358 per student.

Dysart State School has a total enrolment of 429, the largest school in the Remote category, and reported a total income for 2009 of $4,116,335.

Each student received $9217.

Comet State School between Blackwater and Emerald had a total enrolment of 33 students and recorded a total net recurrent income of $415,378, averaging $12,217 per child.

St Patrick’s School in Emerald, the largest provincial school, recorded $4,527,273 net recurrent income, and each student received $6880.

The controversial financial data is reported on the site as net recurrent income, referring to the amount of income received by a school from the Federal, State, Territory government, fees, charges, parent contributions and other private sources.

Per student income refers to the amount allocated, on average, to each child and is determined by dividing the relevant income figure by those student numbers provided by the school as at the time of the school census. It is those financial figures which have caused concern in the ranks of the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Associations.

State president Margaret Leary slammed the Federal Government for failing to give the organisation an opportunity to supply additional information for schools.

“The figures presented on the My School website are not a true and fair indicator,” Ms Leary said.

“Parents should be given the opportunity to provide input into what is essentially intended as a tool for them.

“At no stage has the Federal Government or ACARA given us the opportunity to feed into the process.”

Mr Dick said parents needed to look at services offered by individual schools, and not rely on the financial bottom line.

“It’s not the only way to value a school,” he said. “School communities are made up of many things and parents need to consider all of those aspects before they make a decision about the best school for their child.”

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