School wars break out in Victoria

Two Victorian Catholic schools are planning a formal complaint over what they regard as aggressive recruiting of top students by an elite Uniting Church college.

Haileybury College in Keysborough in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne has recruited about 200 girls, many on full scholarships, from scores of surrounding schools to fill places in years 10 to 12 at its new Girls College, the Sunday Age reports.

Sr Brigid Arthur, a member of the governing board of Killester and Kilbreda Catholic colleges in outer eastern Melbourne which have lost over 20 students, told the Sunday Age that Haileybury College, which is affiliated to the Uniting Church, "doesn't seem to have much conscience about its relations with other schools."

The number of students leaving meant the schools could not afford to keep the same number of staff, Sr Arthur said, and when 13 students left, one staff member was not needed.

Sr Helen Toohey, principal of Kilbreda College in Mentone, said the loss of a large number of her students had been "very disruptive and disconcerting" for those who remained.

Killester principal Leanne Di Stefano said: "It would be offensive if Haileybury took the credit for the year 12 achievements of girls next year after having them for such a short time."

She lamented that "schools are businesses now, and this is how we do things."

The Haileybury case is the most spectacular example of escalating competitiveness between private schools for bright students and top sportspeople, the Sunday Age says.

Generous Federal Government funding and the higher profile of school results have heightened competition for the best and brightest and mean more money and prestige for a school.

Uniting Church moderator Sue Gorman expressed some disquiet, saying: "It is a concern if it is going to affect our ecumenical relationships."

But Haileybury principal Robert Pargetter said the move to include girls "supported with some scholarships" was common practice.

"We understand it's difficult, but it's a one-off and we didn't feel like we could reject girls who won scholarships fairly on the grounds of the school they went to," he told The Sunday Age.

However, Sr Brigid Arthur, says that Haileybury College's recruitment drive reflects the belief among many people that "education is a commodity, can be bought like anything else."

Schools war as pupils pinched (The Age 20/8/06)
Today's lesson: buyers beware (The Age 20/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Kilbreda College, Mentone
Killester College, Springvale
Haileybury College

Top pupils poached, schools say (The Age, 21/8/06)

21 Aug 2006