The “Perfect Score”: The Burden of Educational Elitism on Children in Out-of-Home Care

Jacqueline Z. Wilson, Andrew Harvey, Pearl Goodwin-Burns, Joanna Humphries - Education in Out-of-Home Care


Annual media attention in Australia on the students and schools with the highest scores in the final year of secondary education (Year 12) promotes a narrow and elitist perception of the educational value of such statistical achievement. This in turn leaves disadvantaged students and their schools effectively stigmatised. Various disadvantaged groups benefit from equalising processes built into the senior-year system, but children in or recently discharged from out-of-home care (OHC) and adults who were in care as children are excluded from the official list of “equity” groups at secondary and tertiary levels. A very small percentage of those in OHC complete secondary school successfully, and even fewer care-leavers attempt tertiary education. We argue that the elitist ethos embraced by the secondary education system and legitimised by the media plays a key role in disadvantaging these groups. We examine as case studies the media coverage of final secondary results, juxtaposed with the experiences of several care-leavers currently attending a regional university, as gleaned from in-depth interviews and enrolment data-analysis. These accounts consistently affirm an array of systemic and cultural obstacles to the successful pursuit of their education.

This chapter is from the book Education in Out-of-Home Care