Split decision on independent public school system
WA’S independent public schools are growing rapidly amid controversy by a parliamentary inquiry report that it creates a “two-tier system” of education.
The matter resurfaced when former Education minister Peter Collier announced an additional 79 IPS initiatives bringing the total to 524 in 2017.
The Education and Health Standing Committee established by the Government to inquire into IPS produced a controversial report claiming that the initiative “exacerbated” existing inequalities in the public education system re-enforcing a “two-tier system”.
The report said that IPS benefited by being able to recruit the best teachers with non-ips forced to accept teachers “who are less suitable for the school environment and have less experience”.
It said that remote and hard-to-staff schools are particularly disadvantaged as a result and would fall further behind while high-performing schools would continue to improve.
“It is also too early to tell whether the IPS initiative has created the conditions which will lead to improved student outcomes in the future,” the report found.
“While the Department of Education acknowledges that teacher quality is paramount in improving student outcomes, it is not clear to the committee how the IPS initiative directly promotes improved teacher quality.”
In a media statement former premier Colin Barnett told principals that the increase in IPS to 524 was “a clear indication of the support from communities across WA for their local public schools”.
“Australia has once again looked to the West for innovation in education and we have delivered it through the IPS model which is being adopted nationally,” Mr Barnett said.
Mr Barnett’s comments reflected the Australian Government’s Studentsfirst Independent Public Schools $70 million initiative to support selected government schools in Australia to become more autonomous if they desired.
“The evidence shows and overseas experience highlights that increasing school autonomy can help lift student outcomes and help schools better meet the needs of local communities,” the proposal said.
WA, that introduced IPS in 2009 and Queensland lead other States with both expanding their Independent Public Schools programs.
However, the door was open for States to benefit from millions of dollars in funding for leadership training, teacher development and resources with Tasmania’s Community Empowered Schools Program and NSW Local Schools, Local Decisions set to expand.
Former Education Minister, Peter Collier, said that Independent Public Schools would have more control over maintenance making it quicker and easier to get work done and benefit from increased funding.
The Studentsfirst IPS initiative suggested that evidence from WA showed that principals in participating schools felt more empowered with schools reporting increased engagement from their communities.
State School Teachers Union president, Pat Byrne, addressed the parliamentary inquiry into IPS to present the union’s submission to air members’ concerns that IPS increased staff workload and had issues relating to redeployment.
“WA’S IPS model performs no better than any other autonomy model that exists around the globe,” the submission said.
“In the absence of an independent, credible analysis of student outcomes, the current NAPLAN data and member testimony would suggest that student outcomes improvement can occur whether the school is IPS or not.”
The SSTUWA submission cited members’ concerns that IPS was a business model rather than an educational one with the objective of marketing schools’ image and making money.
Principals contacted said their workload had increased but this was more due to issues of greater accountability, community expectations, staffing, requirements for transparency and technology that could not be put down to IPS as being the only factor.
Geraldton Senior College principal Greg Kelly, said it was his opinion that IPS gave principals an opportunity to “hold conversations” about what they wanted for their school when recruiting staff.
“I believe that what is important, IPS or not, is the mindset you have for being positive and creative and wanting to make a better learning environment,” Mr Kelly said.
Hedland SHS principal Kelly Summers said that she liked the greater choice IPS offered to select her staff.
“IPS may make some people feel more confident, innovative and flexible to do things but I feel that it is a mental shift and that you can do very much the same things in a non-ips environment,” Ms Summers said.
She found that IPS gave her a great opportunity to use “strategic governance” and found it be wonderful for parents and community.
She used the freedom to become, perhaps, the only school in WA where, with the help of the community and training experts, her students were doing a Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure so they could increase their employment opportunities in a mining environment.
The Department of Education Services conducts an independent review of each Independent Public School in the final year of the school’s three-year Delivery and Performance Agreement with the director general.