Posted on May 24, 2011

Schools in West Facing ‘White Flight’

Laura Speranza, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), May 22, 2011

PUBLIC schools across Sydney are experiencing a “white flight” of students.

Anglo-Australian parents are choosing to enrol their children in private schools over public because there are less children from migrant backgrounds, a new report by the University of Technology Sydney, based on data from the My School website, claims.

The western suburbs has the lowest number of Anglo-Australian students, accounting for as little as 2 per cent of enrolments in some schools.

Dr Christina Ho, a UTS researcher in multiculturalism, said public schools had become increasingly viewed as being “ghettoes” by many Anglo-Australian families.

“If you have a school that is 98 per cent or 97 per cent migrant-background kids, and hardly any background Anglo-Australians there, then that is a ghetto that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the society we live in,” Dr Ho said.

“Talk to enough parents about choosing schools for their kids, and sooner or later, you’ll hear one express concern about the local public school having too many Asians, or Lebanese, or Muslims, or Aborigines.

“Minority groups change, but there is a growing creed among many Australians that a good school for their children is one where minorities are in the minority. They may not use the word [ghetto] publicly . . . but it’s the sentiment going on in their minds.”

At Auburn Girls High, only 15 of the 782 students enrolled are Anglo-Australian despite there being a larger Anglo-Australian population living in the suburb of Auburn.

Anglo-Australians make up as little as 2 or 3 per cent of students at schools in Punchbowl, Canley Vale, Granville, Wiley Park, Bankstown, Belmore and Cabramatta. In Sydney’s wealthier north shore, about 67 per cent of students at Chatswood High come from a non-English speaking background.

By comparison, migrant-background students at nearby St Ignatius College in Lane Cove make up just 8 per cent.Dr Ho said students had begun to jokingly play “spot the whitey” at public schools, with the “white flight” trend having accelerated over the past 20 years across Sydney.

Migrant-background students make up 37 per cent of Catholic school students and 22 per cent of independents.