15 JANUARY   2009 





Over the Christmas New Years holidays in Australia, citizens and taxpayers were informed of a number of schemes using special pleadings to obtain benefits and privileges for both students and their systems.

1.   Church Schools Accused of Rorting the HSC

In three items in the Sydney Morning Herald,

  • Private Schools Accused of Rorting HSC: December 29, 2008,

  • In the Know: Debate Rages over HSC Leg-Up: December 30, 2008 and

  •  Editorial: Teaching Students How to Rort the HSC is an Appalling Lesson : January 4, 2009,

readers discover that up to 30 per cent of students at some elite private schools were given 'special consideration' in the Higher School Certificate Examination for 2008. This raises questions about whether they gained an unfair advantage. The NSW Board of Studies granted dispensations such as extra time to complete examinations, coloured paper, large print  and Braille or assistance with handwriting. The claims ranged from students with disabilities and illnesses to those with unreadable handwriting and sweaty palms.

The proportion of students claiming special exam provisions jumped by more than 10 percentage points compared with the previous three years at schools including Masada College in St. Ives, St. Catherines School, Waverley; Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School in Middle Cove and Meriden School in 'Strathfield.  The Scots College in Bellevue Hill claimed special provisions for 24.54 per cent of its students, an 8. 64 percentage increase on its average of 15.9 per cent for 2005 to 2007.

 The state-wide average for NSW public schools grew from 6.35 per cent to 6.57 per cent over the same period.

In her article on December 29, 2008, Anna Patty, the Education Editor argued that it was hard to believe that the proportion of HSC students genuinely deserving special provisions at 25 of the state's wealthiest private schools was more than twice the statewide average.

The principal of Reddam House said in May that teachers at the school worked closely with individual students and were well placed to identify any potential need for them to apply for special consideration.

In a letter to the Herald, a Mr. Cooper said that during his time at the former Board of Senior School Students, óne year applications were received from all ( or nearly all) of the candidates from one well-known private school. Some were legitimate, but the vast majority were outside the bounds of being reasonable.'

The Editorial on January 3-4 had the last word. After wondering whether private school students were being given an áppalling' lesson in rorting the special consideration system for the HSC, the editor continued.

Schools' motives for seeking an unfair advantage for as many students as possible are clear. Exam results are a measure of prestige, and a good marketing point for private schools. With the same motive, other  schools have pressured below-average students to sit for the exam in their poorest subjects as TAFE candidates so as not to reduce the school's HSC average. As the Herald has reported, other underperforming students have been simply pushed out, to sit for the HSC at a government school, apparently for the same reason.

Under present arrangements, both these trends are objectionable, because a supposedly even playing field - a public examination - is tilted in favour of those students and schools prepared to stretch the rules. The pressure to rort the HSC will become ever greater if federal funding for schools becomes linked to examination performance and schools are ranked in league tables. We believe league tables of school performance are necessary and justified, but they must measure genuine performance, not the ability of schools to nobble the system.''


2.    Elite Students Exploit University Entry Scheme

Elite students appear to have learnt the 'appalling lesson' well. On 12 January 2009, once again, Anna Patty in the Sydney Morning Herald  exposed a further 'nobbling' of the system through a process of 'special consideration'. She reported that

students from exclusive 'private schools appeared to be exploiting a special consideration scheme to gain bonus points for university entry, claiming health disadvantages at much higher rates than their public school counterparts. A former Universities Admissions Centre assessor said that the upsurge in claims has been so noticeable that 'there appears to be an outbreak of anxiety and depression in some private schools.'At least one Sydney medical clinic is promoting a a service that, for about $600, will give students a completed application form for special consideration by the Board of Studies and the Universities Admissions Centre.

According to the recently retired assessor, some students are 'double dipping'- receiving special consideration for the HSC and university entry.'

DOGS note with interest that  these 'special consideration' practices are being encouraged in students by schools which for years have claimed to teach better values than schools in the public system.

DOGS also note that taxpayers are funding religious schools which seek 'special consideration' for their students in ever increasing billions of taxpayer dollars. Yet they raise fees at the same time, claiming that they cannot pay their bills.

 3.   Queensland Church Schools Seek Ten Million Government Grant to prevent Student Exodus

On January 4, 2009, Paul Weston in Adelaide Now informed readers that Independent school leaders in Queensland were worried about the exodus of students predicted in the coming economic downturn. Independent Schools Queensland director David Robertson told the Sunday Mail,

'We've got a submission to the State Government about the need for State grants to keep pace with costs. We've made a request for an immediate injection of $10 million to the recurrent funding pool. In the longer term, we'd like to see increased support generally.. We won't know until February what our enrolments will be, but we certainly would recognise that the current economic climate is likely to have an impact on that.'

Queensland Catholic educators also intend to lobby for more government funds, arguing they service lower socio-economic communities.

A survey of independent schools, by the  Queensland Sunday Mail, found that operating costs were allegedly forcing most private schools to increase their fees by 6 per cent in 2009, with parents paying up to $2000 more this year.

A spokeman for Education Minister Rod Welford said that early figures suggested that state primary school enrolments would reach 306,000 for the start of the school year, compared to 304,500 in 2008 while state secondary school figures would rise by about 1000 to 174,000.


The Church school system has been working the system for money since the beginning of State Aid in the 1960s. They are never satisfied, and now, claiming to be 'holier' than the public system, they are working the 'special consideration for students' system for marks. In the past and continuing,

  • They have worked the Needs policy into a Greeds policy from a few millions for science and library grants, into billions.

  • They massaged the fairy story of fictitious savings of church schools to the taxpayer to assist in their plundering of the public purse.

  • And now, they work the 'special consideration' scheme to obtain favoritism for students in the public examination system.

Finally, DOGS note that we have only discovered this 'nobbling' of the examination and university entry system together with the special pleading of the Queensland private sector  from interstate sources. We did not discover it in The Age.

There is a grievous lack of information on the State Aid issue in the Victoria media. Yet citizens in New South Wales and Queensland are provided with information like the above. This situation in part explains the puzzle articulated by the Rev. Tom Doyle in 2000. At that stage he was Deputy Chairperson of the National Catholic Education Commission. He said:

We are concerned that it would raise the State Aid issue in debate. The degree to which that has happened has varied around the States. It is a much bigger issue in New South Wales and Brisbane than it is, in, say, Victoria. We are trying to work out why, but we cannot.

( Proof, Committee Hansard p. 17, August 22, 2000, (States Grants) Primary and Secondary Education Assistance Bill, 2000. Senate Employment Workplace Relations Small Business and Legislation Committee.)




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Last modified:Thursday, 15 January 2009