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ACT Auditor-General releases disappointing school report

ACT Auditor‐General, Dr Maxine Cooper, presented a performance audit report on Performance information in ACT public schools to the Speaker, for tabling in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

"ACT public schools are performing below similar schools in other jurisdictions despite expenditure on a per student basis for public schools being one of the highest in the country,*" said Cooper.

"Since 2014 reviews of ACT, public schools have consistently identified shortcomings in their analysis of student performance information and their use of data to inform educational practice. These shortcomings indicate a systemic problem." 

The audit found that the Education Directorate have started trying to improve governance and administrative arrangements for the use of student performance information in schools. These include developing sound principles for school improvement, identifying better ways to manage and use student performance information and developing systems and tools to support student performance information collection and analysis.  

"There is a high level of variability in the use of student performance information and management information systems and a wide range of school‐based assessment tools used across ACT public schools; for a small jurisdiction, such as the ACT, this is excessive," said Cooper.

The report said that although ACT public schools generally perform well in NAPLAN, there is a "comparatively low" participation rate which might distort the accuracy of results.

Under the ACT model of public education considerable autonomy and responsibility is given to schools.  

"A better balance between school autonomy and consistency across schools in how performance information is analysed and used, is needed."

* The Education Directorate advised that expenditure is attributed to capital related expenditure (ACT building and equipment values per FTE student are the highest in the country) and high employee related expenditure (low student to teacher ratios, higher than average teacher salaries and grandfathered Commonwealth superannuation schemes and payroll tax).

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