I’ve put together a spreadsheet of NAPLAN results for Adelaide schools. NB: Not all Adelaide schools! ‘Though I like data and analyis, and I enjoy books filled with things that I already know, set out fair and square with no contradictions, spending that many hours on the My School website would just be very, very sad. I’ve concentrated on the schools in to the immediate north, east and south of the city centre. Please, let me know if there are schools that I’ve missed that you would like to see added to the analysis, and I will update my lists and the graphics below. And contact me if you would like me to send my spreadsheet to you, at my hotmail address, where I use dfr141 as my handle. Yes, the school my daughters go to is in the list, as is the secondary school we think they will attend.
The analysis is crude: I am no statistician. However I do know enough to exclude very small schools, such as the Sturt St Community School, because the very small year group sizes there mean that the data from the school is much more subject to variability.
The upshot of the analysis: the schools with the highest averages are private schools, but some public schools are level pegging with them, more or less, and many public schools are doing better than many private schools. If you have the money, and your child is a girl, then the Wilderness School looks very good indeed. Pembroke is also very good, but given the expense, it’s not clear why you would choose these schools over some of the very good state schools, such as Glenunga International, and Marryatville High School, which are performing at more-or-less the same level. The principal of one not-so-well performing private school has said that of course, they offer a rounded education, and they educate the whole person [link]. In what, I ask? Most of the state schools claim to do that too, and some of the money that parents don’t spend on high fees is often spent on “whole person” stuff, such as music lessons and drama lessons and sports clubs and the like. That’s our approach, over and above our commitment to public education (our attitudes to state education are perhaps skewed by coming from New Zealand, where only 5% of children go to private schools).
If you take a look at the website of one high profile private school, you will see that they boast of having educated 3 Nobel laureates, 41 Rhodes scholars, and 8 Premiers. So, to me, it looks as though what they are selling is privilege, the sort of privilege that helps you to know the right people (a very important thing in Adelaide, I’ve found), to establish the right connections, to be the right sort of chap. Lovely.
Given that the private schools don’t really do any better than public schools, with a couple of exceptions (that would be Wilderness and Pembroke), I have to conclude that what the private schools are selling is not education, but snobbery, the ability to say, “Oh yes, darling, my children are being educated at [fill in the private school of your choice here].” I feel deeply uncomfortable about these sorts of attitudes, and I’ve been uncomfortable about them ever since we moved here. So much for egalitarianism.
Okay…. rant over. My very very crude averaging of schools’ scores on the NAPLAN test follows. All the usual caveats apply! I’ve used Year 7 results to rank primary schools, and year 9 results to rank secondary schools (primary school goes from Reception to year 7, and secondary school from year 8 to year 12, in South Australia). I’ve simply averaged the results in each curriculum area – Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation, Numeracy – to get a score for the school. This means that I’ve given far more weight to literacy skills than to numeracy skills. I suppose I could have done something a little more complicated, like averaging the four literacy skills and then averaging that score with the numeracy score to get an overall result for each school… but that looks just as value-laden as a simple average. I’ve included each school’s ICSEA number; that’s a measure of socio-economic advantage. But again, caveats! Please, do contact me if you want the full spreadsheets: I’m very happy to share.