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What Makes a Good School?

What Makes a Good School?

Chris Bonnor
Jane Caro
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    What Makes a Good School?
    Book Description:

    How much of what you hear about schools can you trust? Can you believe the marketing hype about unsurpassed facilities, genius teachers and stellar academic achievement? Do you listen to neighbourhood gossip about your local school? Are government statistics the answer? School choice has become one of the most agonising issues of parenthood. Chris Bonnor and Jane Caro have no magic formula, and agree that complex factors come together to make a good school. But drawing on their own experiences and knowledge as school principal, parents and advocates they give parents the tools to do homework about schools themselves. They compare talk about schools – public, Catholic, private, selective, comprehensive – against the reality. They examine how good schools respond to the recurring crises in the lives of kids. They help navigate NAPLAN tests and the My School website. And they place their analysis squarely in the middle of the national discussion about education. Schools have to be good for students, for parents and for the nation. What Makes a Good School? will help you to cover all bases.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-593-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. 1 Who are schools for?
    (pp. 1-17)

    The anxiety really starts to rise when your eldest goes into Year 4. That is when the conversations about the secondary school where you intend to send your child start in earnest.

    Once upon a time, parenting seemed like a relatively simple affair, particularly when it came to sending your kids to school. When both of us were young, for example, our parents sent us to the local primary, and then the local secondary school. Private schools were for kids from Catholic families or for the very rich. The rest of us went where we were sent, like it or...

  5. 2 The talk about schools
    (pp. 18-31)

    Schools take on particular importance at different times in people’s lives. Once someone has grown up and left their formal education behind, they usually think very little about schools until they have children of their own. When those children are grown and off their hands, they once more push schools to the back of their minds until those children have children of their own.

    Yet schools and schooling remains a subject that many, if not most, people have very strong feelings about. In an abstract way, education and (here we come up against that imprecise word again) ‘good’ schools are...

  6. 3 What are schools really like?
    (pp. 32-53)

    In a sense, most of us already know a lot about schools – after all, we’ve all been to one. We remember the buildings, our friends, the good times and the bad. We all have memories of great teachers and also the ones who should have been firmly nudged into a career change.

    If your direct experience of school was some time ago, you may need to update your fading and sometimes selective memories. If you are around our age you’ll know the story of Rip Van Winkle who went to sleep and woke up thirty years later. If you...

  7. 4 My School and your school
    (pp. 54-73)

    For parents in pursuit of the right school, the promise of a website encapsulating information about and comparing every school in the country must have seemed like a gift from heaven. No wonder the launch of My School was trumpeted – especially by the government and the media – as the dawn of a new age: letting the sun shine on our schools and so banishing the forces of darkness which only wanted to hide poor school performance. My School, supporters declared, would provide openness, transparency and an unrivalled capacity to compare schools. We would finally be able to find...

  8. 5 The agony and ecstasy of choice
    (pp. 74-90)

    Choice is always a good thing, right? It symbolises everything we value about freedom and individuality. My School is symbolic of our love affair with choice. Indeed, ‘parental choice’ has become both a right and an entitlement. Yet, nothing comes without a downside and our investment in choice is very costly. In straightforward dollar terms, Australia is out in front in our duplication of schools. Put simply, we are providing many more schools than we have kids to fill them. Due to the size of our country this will always be something of a problem. We have always needed to...

  9. 6 What is good teaching and learning?
    (pp. 91-111)

    Maybe you should just move onto the next chapter. Do we need a whole chapter on good teaching and learning when the above two quotes say it all? And yet there has been so much written about teaching and learning that you could spend the rest of your life reading volumes about this topic. What we want to do in this chapter is highlight good teaching and learning and explain how parents can recognise it.

    You might not find any reference to your pet theories, treasured personal experiences or flavour-of-the-month instant remedies for all that is supposed to be wrong...

  10. 7 What do good schools do about the things that keep parents awake at night?
    (pp. 112-139)

    One Saturday night, not so long ago, a group of teenage boys trashed property and cars in the parking area of a McDonalds in western Sydney. Some of them went to the same nearby school. On Monday morning the principal of that school was told about the incident by another student who had a part-time job at the outlet. ‘That’s terrible’, responded the principal. ‘Did your boss call the police?’ ‘No Miss’, replied the student, ‘He wants you to deal with it’.

    In another location, the principal of the high school was castigated in the local paper because he refused...

  11. 8 Trying to please everyone, from K to 12
    (pp. 140-174)

    As you make your way through this book it becomes more obvious that schools are very complex and even controversial places. We all believe in schools but why do they exist and who are they supposed to serve? Maybe it’s time to ponder what the people most actively involved – students, parents and teachers – really want in a school.

    What is one family’s great school may be another family’s disaster. As we’ve pointed out, every school, even those on the bottom of the local hierarchy, whose My School web page is covered in red and pink dots, will not...

  12. 9 Types of schools: How much does it matter?
    (pp. 175-192)

    We’ve spent many pages in this book unpacking all the features of good schools, from many angles and through many different perspectives. We have also tried to inject much of what the evidence suggests about schools – and we have tried to challenge some of the rusted-on myths that do the rounds of most neighbourhoods.

    Many of our treasured beliefs hang off a particular school title. There is no shortage of schools with special labels which are apparently able to levitate student achievement, produce well-rounded citizens and ease our mounting anxieties as parents. There are endless debates about the merits...

  13. 10 What makes a good system of schools?
    (pp. 193-217)

    Throughout this book we have considered schools mainly from the point of view of students, parents and teachers. Along the way we have discovered that their needs and wants don’t always line up. But it gets even more complicated: in this chapter we’ll revisit that other group with an increasing stake in the quality and future of our schools, that rather large interest group called Australia. How can our schools best serve the nation? Our national priorities are restated in the quote above. How do good schools do all this and deliver for students, parents and teachers? Are our schools...

  14. 11 Creating more good schools
    (pp. 218-239)

    Imagine this letter from a suburban constituent to her local member of parliament in 2020. It touches on many of our current and looming problems. The picture it paints is unhappily familiar right now for large numbers of students and parents. Too many of our schools are not obliged to take all local students. Some don’t seem to care. Others seem overwhelmed by the increasing challenges they face.

    The letter illustrates our possible future – but surely we can create a better future for all our kids and their schools, a future in which such a letter will never need...

  15. 12 How do you choose a good school?
    (pp. 240-245)

    There are many good schools across Australia and there are thousands of great teachers staffing them. We believe there are more good schools than bad ones and more good teachers than bad ones – but not a single school or teacher, however lauded and exemplary, will be perfect.

    We wish we could reveal a quick and easy way to tell at a glance which schools are which, and which teachers are which – but we can’t. Indeed, almost every school in Australia will have both its enthusiastic supporters and its disgruntled critics. One family’s good school can be another family’s...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 246-254)
  17. Index
    (pp. 255-259)