Monday, August 2, 2021

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HomeIssue 26Zoning creates 'elite' school, divides community: Hopper

Zoning creates ‘elite’ school, divides community: Hopper

By ERWIN CHLANDA

Inequality in Alice Springs education including the creation of an “elite” primary school – Ross Park – through geographic zoning is being targeted by Independent candidate for Braitling, Kim Hopper.

For example, she says Ross Park has the highest socio-educational advantage with Sadadeen at the opposite end of the scale.

Sadadeen receives vastly more government funding ($28,726 per student, NT and Federal combined) compared to Ross Park, $16,617 (2018 figures – see table).

The school zones are dividing our community along racial and class lines, creating huge disparities in the educational outcomes of our children and resulting in segregation of our community,” says Ms Hopper (pictured, photo supplied), who, with her partner, runs a cafe and a coffee roasting and merchandising business.

“Reforming the school zones would give our community a chance to break down the racial divides in our town.

“We need to end the segregation that begins with our kids’ very first day of school. The zoning must be urgently and transparently addressed.”

In a comprehensive statement, quoting NT Government information which she says is on the public record, Ms Hopper points to huge discrepancies in five areas:–

• The Index of Community Socio-Economic Advantage (ICSEA) “which is a scale identifying  the socio-educational advantage of a school. Key factors [are] in students’ family backgrounds (parents occupation, school education and non-school education).

Indigeneity.

• Language Background other then English.

• Federal funding.

• NT Government funding.

She is quoting in her release a parent, Steph Harrison, who raised these zoning issues in a report by the Alice Springs News in April 2018 (note the map in that report).

Says Ms Hopper: “The school zones don’t make geographical sense.

“A key example of this is where town camps have been excluded from a school they are closest to, and affluent suburbs that are located a further distance from the school are included in the zone.

“We have a situation where two schools, with only 1.5kms between them, have completely different student demographics.

“One school has mostly middle class white students, and the other predominantly Aboriginal students, from low income households.

“Both schools have fantastic educators dedicated to improving outcomes for all students, but the zoning system is a disservice to all.”

The News has invited the Minister for Education, Selena Uibo, to respond.

UPDATE 2.20pm

Minister Uibo says: “I understand the community concerns regarding the Alice Springs school priority enrolment areas and a review of school zones is underway.

“The Territory Labor Government believes all children deserve equal access to quality education, regardless of their location and circumstances, and we will continue to work to deliver this.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. The zoning is why property prices are overpriced in Old Eastside and Eastside given the state of many (not all) of the houses.
    The parents don’t want their children in a disadvantaged school.
    And the well-paid parents get a public “private” standard education for free. The middle class have highjacked the zone.

  2. The history of “private” schools and the provision of government funding in Australia is a fascinating, and relatively recent one, dating from the mid 1970s, with Commonwealth funding starting under the Whitlam Labor government.
    Ironically the availability of subsidised private schooling has arguably been a significant contribution to the increasing inequity in Australian society over the last 30 years, which underlies many of our current social problems.
    Interestingly, the UK, despite many years of conservative governments, still does not subsidise private schools (some of which like Eton and Harrow etc confusingly go by the name of “public schools”).
    Alice Springs has seen a phenomenal growth in non-government schools in recent years, and the flight of the majority of non-Aboriginal children from government secondary schools during the early 2000s.
    In earlier years all those who grew up here, black and white, had a personal knowledge of each other through shared schooling, whereas now we have something approaching apartheid in secondary education, and increasingly in primary years.
    I can’t help feeling that this has fuelled social tensions in this small town.
    I wonder if there is some way to foster diversity in educational approach, but in a way which is inclusive rather than exclusive.
    (Disclosure: I was involved with developing the Steiner School in this period, and had discussions with local traditional owners with a dream of engaging with them in an educational approach perhaps more in tune with their culture. Unfortunately this was not to be.)

  3. This segregation not only fuels classism and racism between young people from the get go but also creates a deficit of cultural diversity not replicated in the broader community and later on in workplaces for these same young folk.
    Clearly a disservice to them and their ability to succeed in more social diverse situations. The run-on implications are evident in the lack of harmony and understanding between non Aboriginal and Aboriginal people in our town today.
    Imagine the cultural wealth and mutual understanding that would transpire if the funnelling of students into black and white schools was replaced with a zoning that reflected the geographic logic of the suburbs.
    I hope that the review of the zoning is taken as an opportunity to do something meaningful for education, equality and reconciliation in Alice and not just as a piece for political play.
    I’m a mum with near preschool aged kids and I live opposite Ross Park.

  4. Good on Kim Hopper for being brave enough to raise the issue of the children of the New Eastside being discriminated against.
    I have been writing letters to the powers that be since January 2016 when I was made aware that New Eastside children were not allowed to enrol at Ross Park School. I would love to know who made that decision.
    It is time that these children can once again enrol in their “local school”. Ride across the parks safely and independently when they grow old enough, as my children and their friends did of whom there were many nationalities.
    There are so many young families now in New Eastside. Let’s bring back a community feel and aim for children to enrol in pre-school in 2021. Time to put things right.

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