A predictable row has broken out over the release of financial information via the MySchool website. Everyone is grabbing numbers to support their particular point of view.
I have just spent an hour pulling down and comparing the stats for 17 schools in our area. I chose schools that are all within easy reach of our house - I don't exactly feel like shipping my kids to a school two hours away in Sydney traffic (then again, a 2km trip around here can take an hour sometimes). All these schools are in the Five Dock-Abbotsford-Concord-Drummoyne area.
The schools were 11 primary, 5 secondary and one special school for disabled kids.
10 were state schools, 6 Catholic and one Independent.
Overall, this is a reasonably wealthy area. The average ICSEA score is 1117 (the average for the whole country is 1000) - this is a statistical measure of the wealth of the residents. The percentage of Aboriginal kids across all schools is 0.7%. The average LBOTE (Language Background Other Than English) is 57%.
Those numbers are not terribly surprising - this area could be characterised mainly as "wogs done good". That is, it is full of Italian and Greek immigrants and their kids who have succeeded in business. At 10am on a weekday, the cafes are full of bling covered wog mums who have arrived in their Mercedes or BMW.
Digging into the numbers provides some surprises though.
The above chart is income per head for all schools - the Independent high school really sticks out (green bar). The state schools are in red - you can see there is an even mix of state and Catholic, with the Catholics in last place. I'll strip out the high schools to show just the primary schools.
The state primary schools do slightly better than the Catholic primary schools in terms of income - the state schools get $8878 per head and the Micks get $8682. A fairly trivial difference.
We always hear that state schools need more resources because they deal with kids from poorer backgrounds and migrant kids etc who don't speak English at home. Does that hold up here?
For state primary schools, the average ICSEA score is 1143 - for Catholics it's 1108. That means the parents with kids at Catholic schools are in fact slightly poorer than those at state schools. What you can see in the above graph is that of the top 10 ICSEA scores in our area, one goes to an independent school, 7 to state schools and 2 to Catholic schools. The Catholic schools are clustered in the low to mid range of ICSEA (wealth) scores.
The average LBOTE for state primary schools is 54% - for Catholics, it's a whopping 71% in primary school. Looking at the graph above, you can see that the Catholic schools get a preponderance of the LBOTE kids.
Then there are the income quartiles.
The state primary schools draw 59% of their kids from families in the top income quartile - that drops to 43% for Catholics. The difference is huge. In the bottom two quartiles, 8% of state school kids come from the bottom quartile and 10% from the second bottom. For Catholics, 11% come from the bottom quartile and 14% from the second bottom.
So in our area, the kids at state schools have all the advantages. They get more money in total to spend each year (just), fewer of the kids come from LBOTE backgrounds and the bulk of their parents are in the top income quartile - and fewer are in the lowest quartiles.
The only big difference is that state schools have a whopping 1% Aboriginal student population vs 0.17% for Catholic schools.
As for the state school for disabled kids, it gets $64,073 per kid. I've seen the kids that go there - they are severely disabled, and they need every cent of that.
Things change a bit in high school.
The state school kids still come from richer backgrounds (ICSEA of 1097 vs 1042). With the income quartiles, the difference is even bigger - the Catholic high school kids draw more of their kids from the lower quartiles.
How is the income that a school receives affected by the ICSEA score? We'd expect the amount of money that a school gets to decline as the ICSEA score increases, and in our area, it does - the trend line slopes down slightly from left to right, indicating less money for richer areas. You can see from the above graph though that the state schools cluster over on the richer side and the Catholic schools are all on the slightly lower income side. This is a bit of a muchness around here - the entire area is wealthier than most of Australia, so comparing "rich and poor" is like comparing the owner of a 5 series BMW with the owner of a 7 series BMW.
I'm not saying that this area is typical by any means. What I am saying is that if you want to compare numbers, you're better off doing it by comparing like with like. There's no use comparing a state school in this area with a Catholic school in Liverpool or Mt Druitt.
Hmm, maybe that's what I'll do next - look at all the schools in say the Fairfield area.
What these stats do show however is that the state schools around here are serving a wealthier clientele than the Catholic schools, and they get slightly more money to do that. They also have to deal with a smaller number of LBOTE kids, and families from the lower income quartiles. Are the results any different? That will have to wait for another weekend when I have a few hours free.
But on the whole, how very interesting..........
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