There was a slightly awkward moment on ABC’s Q&A last night when audience members were asked to speak on the inequality of funding for public and private schools, with one girl accidentally name dropping a prestigious Sydney school.
Ruby, a Year 7 student from Randwick Girl’s High School, was asked by host Hamish Macdonald to compare her experiences in her own school to other private schools she had visited.
“My school, it’s amazing, but there’s a lot of cosmetic issues. The whole school is made of concrete and it’s bare exposed concrete,” she explained.
“A lot of the classrooms are ill-equipped for modern learning and barely any of them have aircon.”
Ruby then spoke about the facilities she had seen at a private school, only she made a slight slip up.
“I went to SCEGGS and … sorry I wasn’t meant to say SCEGGS, but anyway,” she said, eliciting a round of laughter from the crowd.
Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, more commonly known as SCEGGS, is a prestigious private school in Darlinghurst.
Fees for Year 12 students are almost $40,000 a year making it one of the most expensive schools in Australia.
Macdonald quickly urged Ruby to continue, saying “Another school. A private school. How did it compare?”
Ruby went on to talk about the amazing amenities in the school, including the “huge” ground and “life-size skeleton with organs and everything”.
“And I couldn’t understand why schools like that are getting funding over schools like mine,” she said.
Macdonald then asked the schoolgirl what she wanted to be when she grew up, prompting a very swift response.
“I want to be the Prime Minister of Australia,” she said.
Viewers were quick to praise Ruby for her response and her take on inequality between public and private schools.
The question of government funding, in particular Gonski reforms, was then put to Adrian Piccoli, Director of UNSW’s Gonski Institute for Education and former NSW Education Minister.
Piccoli stated that the Gonski Reforms were about “needs based funding” and delivering extra support to schools and students who need it most.
Macdonald then questioned why public funding for private schools had risen nearly twice as fast as public funding for private schools over the last decade.
“I’m not here to defend the Commonwealth Government – either the current one or the previous one. That’s not my job here. The New South Wales government that I was a part of, we certainly did increase the amount of money we spent on public schools,” Piccoli said.
“The reason we signed up to Gonski particularly is because when I saw the numbers as minister about which schools would benefit the most, the ones who would benefit the most are country schools, regional and remote schools.”
He then said while funding is “not fixed by any stretch of the imagination” it was much better than it was 10 years ago.
Fellow panellist Vy Tran, a Year 12 student at Melbourne’s Mac. Robertson Girls’ High School, said too much focus was being put on policies and regulations rather than actually listening to what students are saying about how they experience the inequality in funding.
“We’re a government school. We don’t have ovals and swimming pools. We have collapsing ceilings. It’s not fair when I go to a debating competition in a really affluent school that has all of these big ovals to the point where they have a separate campus for their sports facilities,” Tran said.
“There’s other public that are worse off where they go in mobile classrooms with no airconditioning, with no heating, they’re cramped, they can’t even run certain subjects because of the amount of funding.”
She questioned why other schools that have state of the art facilities are still getting funding when others are left without even the most basic amenities.
“They don’t need funding and there’s so many other schools, especially the students that have raised their concerns, they actually need the funding,”
“It’s not enough to say we’re doing enough when evidently now it’s not enough. There are schools who are suffering. There are schools that are obviously doing well because of how much funding they’re getting. And you see it everywhere.”