School zoning is in the media again, with an article in the Age yesterday headlined, “Students snubbing school zones amid calls to scrap outdated model“.
According to the article:
Almost half of Victoria’s public students attended a government school outside their allocated catchment zone last year, raising questions about the relevance of the enrolment model.
Parents Victoria was approached for comment, but our comments were not published in the article.
Here’s what our CEO Gail McHardy supplied to the Age:
Does Parents Victoria support catchment zones for public schools?
Mostly, but in some special cases some students need to enrol elsewhere due to individual/family circumstances. The Department has a Placement Policy for that reason to permit those children who are granted approval to attend other than their neighbourhood school. PV believes that every Victorian child has the right to attend their neighbourhood school while maintaining the right of appeal to change schools if after discussion and consultation at the current school, the desired educational outcomes cannot be accommodated. PV acknowledges that some zones are at capacity.
What’s the benefit/disadvantage?
Added to the above, zoning can be a benefit by ensuring some schools maintain a level of student enrolment to retain school funding.
The reality is not all Victorian families get to exercise parental choice as there are multiple reasons why families are not able to send their children outside their local zone.
Zoning can make sure local students are guaranteed their spot if the school is deemed to be popular or more successful.
Disadvantages include smaller zoned catchment areas where enrolment demand is high and this can exclude families in the local vicinity. There are also circumstances where students have particular learning and wellbeing needs that their local school cannot accommodate due to capacity constraints.
All government schools should be fully funded (100% SRS) to enable all of them to have the same high level of facilities, staff and resources to attract families to enrol their children locally. In some cases, families do enrol outside the zone due to curriculum offerings, employment and family dynamics. However, many rely on school reputation and experiences of others in choosing a school. This can be problematic as every child is different and school leaders, teachers and student cohorts change over time. Education is always evolving and there is no perfect school.
Should there be more flexibility in zones or does PV think they should be more enforced?
Many factors like school closures back in the 1990’s; increased population growth in metropolitan growth areas; people relocating to other regions due to the pandemic; capital investment for new schools, means zones have acted as a mechanism to control supply and demand. We all are aware of people purchasing real estate or renting in zones of their preferred choice but again not everyone has the ability to do that. Department policy and process have to be fair and reasonable for all students and this must be done in cooperation with parents and schools.
Do you support calls for zones to be abolished?
No, unless there was a guarantee that no government school would be at risk of closing or amalgamation. PV has always advocated that governments have to plan for the future and maintain Victorian Government schools to enable choice.