Catholic schools – Metro says they’re hot, academic says maybe not

“Maybe they’re putting brain juice in the communion wine. Whatever it is, our results suggest that if New Zealand is going to get serious about the ‘long tail of failure’ in schools, we need to look closely at why Catholic schools are doing so well,” says the editor of Auckland’s Metro Magazine, Simon Wilson.

Catholic schools of all kinds dominate the top places in the latest Metro analysis of Auckland schools: boys’ schools, girls’ schools and co-ed schools; high decile and low decile schools. Wilson says these results are a stark contrast to a generation ago when Catholic schools were often at the bottom of performance standards.

But Waikato University Education professor Martin Thrupp said it was misleading to assume Catholic schools are better.

He says statistically modeling is a very sophisticated task, something that even academics have struggled with and the way Metro does it is “so crude and they’re wrong to do it.”

“Just because the school is top of the pops in the league tables doesn’t necessarily mean it will be right for your child. They might not fit the culture of the school,” he said.

“I wouldn’t pay it too much attention myself, there’s other more rounded forms of information like ERO reports.”

The CEO of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office thinks that the Christian faith accounts for the academic success of Catholic schools.

Brother Patrick Lynch says that fundamentally a Catholic school “emphasises spirituality, faith, values, attitude, that builds a culture with the families to provide the youngsters a reason for living.

“Once you get those parameters in place it’s easier to concentrate on high expectations – when you’ve got good leadership in schools you’ve got a better chance of actually delivering a better set of outcomes.”

McAuley High School, a decile one school for girls in Otahuhu, has topped the tables this year. The magazine warns that this is not the same as saying it had the highest proportion of success in exams; it was the school most likely to improve its students’ performance in exams

The highest proportion of success in exams according to Metro, belongs to three schools: St Cuthbert’s College in NCEA exams, ACG Senior College in the Cambridge exams, and ACG Parnell College in University Entrance.

There are ten deciles and around 10% of schools are in each decile. Decile one schools have the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds whereas decile ten schools have the highest proportion of students from high socio-economic backgrounds.

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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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