Catholic students lead exodus to public high schools
– headline in The Australian, 19 February 2009
Sydney Catholic schools, the biggest diocese after Melbourne with 147 schools, reported their biggest rise in enrolments since 1991 with 500 more students, with about 26 per cent starting Year 7 coming from a government school, as did 20 per cent of Year 11 students.
– later in the same Australian story.
Melbourne’s Catholic Education Office director Stephen Elder [said] that, in Victoria, Catholic enrolments had increased by 2400, or 1.3 per cent, this year
– report in The Age, 19 February 2009.
The trigger for both stories was a survey of public school principals suggesting that some are taking additional enrolments of students who formerly attended non-government schools. Both the survey and the Catholic response could be correct, because as I argued last month, a recession is likely to cause a cyclical shift back to cheaper government schools among some parents, without disrupting the structural shift towards private schools triggered by greater affluence, more diversity, and increased importance of education in lifetime outcomes.
With the global recession only slightly affecting employment in Australia so far, I would predict a lower increase in private school market share for term 1 2009 than is usual, but not a gain in market share for public schools.
(It’s annoying that there is no comparable survey data from previous years reported, since there will always be some students shifting from private to public schools for various reasons.)
By contrast, Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos claims
the findings indicated “parental perceptions of public schools are changing since the demise of the Howard government and the decade-long, systematic and unrelenting attack on public schools”.
As if parents spend tens of thousands of dollars extra on educating their kids based on occasional comments by politicians, rather than through observing what happens in their own families. And as my earlier post noted, the average annual shift to private schools under Howard was almost exactly the same as under Hawke and Keating.