Wealthy private schools poaching Catholic athletes
In a submission to the schools funding inquiry, Melbourne University researcher Richard Teese has said the process of "creaming" the best students through scholarships and fee reductions had become a source of growing tension between Catholic and independent schools.
The Age reports that Professor Teese, one of Victoria's leading education authorities, has brought the trend to the attention of a Senate inquiry.
Catholic principals, he said, are losing some of their best students to "aggressive schools with strong marketing strategies".
Principals say it is not uncommon for students and their parents to get a tap on the shoulder after a Saturday morning football match, or at a local club sporting event.
Frank FitzGerald, principal of St Bernard's College in Essendon, says some of his best students have been poached after being selected to represent Victoria in sport teams.
"That's where their talent has been identified and that's where approaches have been made," Mr FitzGerald says.
Educators say that poaching has gone on for years, and also happens to government school students. But the effect it can have on enrolments was highlighted recently, with figures showing that Catholic school numbers have remained steady while enrolments in the independent sector have increased. Experts say Catholic schools are losing upper middle class families because of the scholarships offered by wealthier schools.
In Victoria, poaching takes place despite independent school guidelines stating that it shouldn't. Some principals say the driving force is enrolments: a school that does well academically or tops the premiership ladder gets good publicity.
But sporting prowess can also reap rewards for a school well after a student graduates; money cannot buy the publicity associated with having a former pupil win an Olympic medal, or play for an AFL team.
St Bede's College principal Br Ken Ormerod believes the government push to publish league performance tables of schools is compounding the problem faced by some Catholic schools.
Br Ormerod, who has previously accused Haileybury College of offering scholarships to take four of its top sports performers, likened the poaching system to a "meat market" in which students are being treated as a commodity. If schools appeared to be slipping, those with the means could simply "go out and buy the (students) that make them look good again" he told The Age last week.
Private schools' premium on muscular Christianity (The Age 20/7/04)
Senate Inquiry into Commonwealth Funding for Schools | Professor Richard Teese
Dr Richard Teese
St Bede's College, Mentone
20 Jul 2004