Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has defended the government’s My School 2.0 website against claims that the Australian education system operates on a level playing field.
Gillard said that despite the site, which is to launch on Friday, showing wide disparities in funding between Catholic, independent and public schools, the information provided on the second version of the site would improve education.
“I didn’t want the debate in education in this country to be about what people might think is the case," she said. "I didn’t want it based on assumptions, I wanted it based on accurate information.
“I wanted people to see through My School what the amount of money to each educated child was."
Gillard said the site would offer parents information not previously available on the funding level of each individual school regardless of its type.
“We need information at the school level and we would never have had this information before,” she said. “Now, I can’t tell you in a year what information it will show, what assumptions people have made about education, what it is going to prove true and what assumptions it is going to smash to the ground.
“I suspect both will happen and [the site] will transform our education debate as we will be talking about education at the level it matters: Each school.”
Gillard's comments follow concerns from public schools that My School 2.0 will not provide parents with enough financial information.
"Without the inclusion of funds held in trusts, term deposits, investment deposits as well as physical assets, foundations and share and property portfolios, it is impossible to give a true and accurate picture (of) ... our schools," Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO) president, Peter Garrigan, told AAP.
"ACSSO continues in its belief that the My School website offers only a small snapshot of our schools."
Some private schools have also reported that they won't have their financial data ready in time to be published by the site’s Friday launch, prompting concerns the site won’t accurately present funding for students.
The Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, has also stated that on top of comparing individual school's academic results, and now finances, the government will consider including information on school assets such as trust accounts, term deposits, investment portfolios and physical assets.
According to Garrett, the government had taken advice from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in its revamping of the My School site, particularly around improving the quality of data on version two of the site.
“The advice from ACARA comes after rigorous testing, consultation and validation of the new data that will go on the site, to ensure it’s meaningful, accurate, comparable and that schools understand how their information will be presented,” Garrett said in a statement in February.
“When My School was launched last year, it opened the doors of all schools to the public and millions of Australians have used the site to get more information about their schools, demonstrating that the community is very interested in the data provided."
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