NAPLAN report reveals gap between city and country schools widening: Grattan Institute
A report has found the progress of many students in regional and rural areas is up to two years slower than that of inner city students between Year 3 and Year 9.
The report, called Widening Gaps: what NAPLAN tells us about student progress, by independent think tank the Grattan Institute, found students from low socio-economic areas started behind and made less progress in school.
School education program director for the Grattan Institute and co-author of the report, Pete Goss, said disadvantage in schools was a pattern that played out geographically.
"Typically, we know in Australia that the level of parents' education in regional areas and remote areas on average is not as high as in the big cities," Mr Goss said.
"We know that the occupations [in rural and remote areas] are more limited and there can be higher levels of unemployment.
"We know that some regional and remote towns are doing it really tough, and living in a stressful environment where there isn't necessarily a strong culture of going to school every day [which] really adds up and affects learning."
Disadvantaged students two years behind
The report analysed data from students who had completed all four years of NAPLAN testing in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and tracked their progress.
What the report revealed about student progress was troubling: students in disadvantaged schools made around two years less progress between Year 3 and Year 9 than similarly capable students in high advantage schools.
Ross Higgins, principal of Aldridge State High School in Maryborough, Queensland, explained that access to opportunities and activities was what could put metropolitan students ahead of regional or remote students.
We should never, ever think that just because these kids come from these low socio-economic places or a rural place, that they don't have the ability or the skill set to do wonderful things.Ross Higgins, Aldridge State High School principal
"If you look at a place like Brisbane, there's a number of readily available activities that kids can be exposed to that can turn the lights on, that can really get them hooked in to learning," Mr Higgins said.
"Yet in a lot of the regional places you have to make a great effort, and sometimes financial sacrifice, to access those [activities]."
Mr Higgins, who has taught in regional and rural schools in Queensland's Wide Bay and in remote schools in Cape York said providing these engagement opportunities to country kids was not always possible.
"We do have some of the technological links nowadays where you can do some of the virtual tours, and that is a good back up plan if you cant get there physically," he said.
"But it doesn't actually do the same as if you are physically there at South Bank touching and engaging."
He said that from his experience of teaching in rural and remote areas, the report did have validity.
"I am certainly aware that the status of our rural and regional places is declining as the challenges of agriculture are enhanced," Mr Higgins said.
"The disposable income [for] families to support learning and extra curricular activities is no longer there and that does add to the challenge of being in a regional and rural area".
Report recommends increased funding
The report recommended that government funding to schools should be used to level the playing field between advantaged and disadvantaged schools.
Mr Goss said it was vital as unfortunately, Australia's disadvantaged schools were going backwards.
"The sad truth is that according to some international research, Australia doesn't do as well as we did 10 years ago at helping those bright students from poor backgrounds reach their peaks," he said.
The report also found that the highest performing students from disadvantaged schools were up to two and half years behind the highest performing students at advantaged schools.
Policy makers wanting to support educationally disadvantaged students could do so by targeting them geographically, as regional and rural areas were most in need, the report suggested.
Mr Higgins says we should not underestimate the potential of regional and rural students.
"We should never, ever think that just because these kids come from these low socio-economic places or a rural place, that they don't have the ability or the skill set to do wonderful things," he said.
Source: ABC News