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QPEC Calls For Inquiry Into Avondale College

24 August 1999
Media Release:

Inquiry Call into Unsavoury and Unethical Practices at Avondale College.

QPEC [Quality Public Education Coalition] has written to the Minister of Education to request that he initiate an inquiry into both the enrolment practices at Avondale College and the blatantly misleading publicity material produced by the school.

This call has been sparked by the latest example of specifically
misleading advertising taken up by the College and published in
Auckland's Western Leader newspaper on 13 August (copy attached) In
this add and in many situations elsewhere the school claims to provide
the best academic education in West Auckland. However the background
to these published results tells a sorry story.

Overseen by its Principal Phil Raffills, Avondale College has involved
itself in unethical, unsavoury practices undertaken at different times
over several years. A summary of these practices includes the
following -

· Over half the students at Avondale College come from outside the
school's local home zone. To fill these places the school has scoured
intermediate schools from across a wide area of Auckland seeking
enrolments of students with high academic ability. This has included
writing directly to parents of children in the top stream classes at
intermediate schools across much of west and central Auckland to
specifically invite them to enrol their children at the school.
Needless to say no such letters were sent to parents of students of
average or below average ability. Neither were children with special
needs invited to enrol.
· The school then sifted out the highest academic achievers by requiring
all students to sit TOSCA tests for academic aptitude before selecting
out of zone enrolments.
· The school's enrolment practices have changed over the years but the
consistent theme continues to be practices which cream off the most
academically able students from across a wide area of Auckland.
· The School's decile rating has jumped dramatically to decile 5 over
the past few years as a result of these practices. Just over the fence
from Avondale College is Avondale Intermediate which is decile 2. In
fact in every compass direction from Avondale College the primary and
intermediate schools are decile 2. This is testament to the highly
selective enrolment practices the school operates. Bright students
from more affluent families well outside the school's local area are the
preferred enrolments.

These enrolment practices are followed through within the school by
practices which seriously disadvantage many local Avondale students in
the following ways:

· Many local Avondale students of lower academic ability are labelled
low achievers when they enter the school and are effectively prevented
from sitting external exams.
Most enter lower stream classes and some are put in a much-criticised
section outside the mainstream. This is called H Block (previously it
was E Block) and is referred to by many students as the "handicap"

· Needless to say top stream classes at the school are dominated by out
of zone students while local Avondale students dominate H block.

· Significant numbers of local Avondale children of lower academic
ability are now enrolling at schools outside the local area specifically
because they want the opportunity of a decent education. (Just today I
was speaking with a parent whose child was initially placed in E Block
(now called H Block) and told she would not cope with School
Certificate. She left Avondale and now attends another West Auckland
school where she passed three school certificate subjects and is
currently in the 7th Form planning a bright future despite her horror
start at secondary school)

· In three successive ERO reports aspects of the education offered to
the students outside the mainstream has been criticised as not meeting
curriculum requirements.

It is clear that the school's educational priorities bypass local
Avondale students. To a significant extent their educational interests
are being sacrificed to improve the school's exam pass rates and
artificially enhance its academic reputation.

Academic achievement is critically important and must be celebrated by
all schools. However the practices of Avondale College in its
unsavoury enrolment practices and carefully managed, massaged and
published exam results must be condemned by all in education.

We are not aware of another school anywhere in New Zealand which adopts
such unethical and unprofessional practices regarding exam results. It
needs to be pointed out here that any of the schools listed could
increase their exam pass rates overnight by adopting similar tactics to
Avondale College. Thank heaven for our young people that they don't do

We believe that local Avondale parents and students deserve a far better
deal than the situation outlined here. We believe that both the
enrolment practices and the publicity material published by the school
warrant inquiry by the Ministry of Education. The local community must
be given an assurance these practices are regarded as unacceptable by
the government and represent the antithesis of quality public
education. We would hope that the outcome of such an inquiry would
result in steps taken to ensure that our public schools act in the
interests of their local students rather than in the interests of
enhancing their reputations.

We are aware that Mr Raffills is a National Party candidate in the
forthcoming national elections and we hope and expect that this will not
deter the Minister from initiating this inquiry.

© Scoop Media

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