This has long been an accusation levelled at some private schools, who are accused of pushing students into easier subjects to maximise their band six results so they can look like strong performers in end-of-year HSC coverage. A band 6 in one subject is not equivalent to one in another.
They also warn the HSC targets will be difficult to achieve because when the bands were created, they were based on the proportion of students who performed to certain standards over many years, such as the top five per cent fitting the criteria for band 1.
“What this means is that it is very, very difficult to get students to perform at the top level,” said one with knowledge of the HSC system who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Mr Petersen said targets risked “perverse outcomes”. One of those could be that principals became reluctant to accept students with behaviour problems from another school, even if that student might benefit from a fresh start. “They might say, ‘I’ve got an attendance target, and you’re telling me that this child has attendance issues’,” he said.
“The issue might be, ‘I don’t want to enrol students with a disability, a refugee students, students with behaviour problems, because the [regional director] is giving me grief about attendance targets already’.”
Principals are already reluctant to allow parents to take students out of class for holidays, and would likely become even more so. “We’re going to have to get tough about it,” said Mr Petersen.
“It’s not a trivial issue, because then you’re creating conflict with parents, but also some of the experiences kids have when they go away on holidays are really valuable, particularly if they are getting to experience something they don’t normally experience.”
The department spokeswoman said the School Success Model provided system-wide accountability and better-targeted support to ensure schools fully used their funding and made evidence-based decisions to benefit students.
Schools could demonstrate their achievement over several areas, and would not be focusing on a single target. “Schools will continue to support the learning and achievement of all students eligible to be enrolled in the school,” she said.
“For schools who are meeting their targets, nothing will change. If schools exceed their targets we will keep out of the way – but we look to see if their teaching practice can be scaled across similar schools.”
The SSM has not changed the department’s advice that overseas family holidays should be taken during school breaks.
Meanwhile, Labor leader Jodi McKay told a NSW Teachers Federation conference on Saturday that Labor would dump Local Schools Local Decisions if elected.
“It increased the already high administrative burden on principals and teachers and stripped away centrally provided expert support for teachers,” she said. “This includes support in curriculum implementation, assessment and reporting, professional development, student welfare and disability support.”
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