Public school's boom in downturn

STUDENT numbers at one of Ipswich's biggest public schools have begun to soar as the credit crunch forces parents to pull children out of private education.

Enrolments at Ipswich State High School have gone up by 55 students this year.

Barry Welch, Ipswich organiser of the Queensland Teachers Union, said hard-pressed families were turning to the state sector because they were unable to pay private school fees.

“People are going for what they believe is value for money and deciding to go public rather than private,” he said.

He said the trend was noticeable at most state schools, but was particularly strong at Ipswich State High.

A Department of Education, Training and the Arts spokesman said the increased enrolments meant an extra 2.8 classroom teacher FTE (full time equivalent) had been allocated to ensure statewide class size targets were met.

Earlier this year it was revealed there had been 17 per cent rise in teachers retiring from the profession, leaving a shortage of qualified staff in subjects such as maths and science.

One former Ipswich State High teacher, who did not wish to be named, said she doubted the school would receive the extra staff needed.

“There just aren't as many teachers coming into the profession and more and more are leaving,” she said.

Private school principals, Ross Switzer of West Moreton Anglican College and Denis Frederiksen of Ipswich Boys Grammar School, said their schools had actually experienced a slight increase in enrolment numbers this year.

“We have held our numbers from last year and have had a slight increase in enrolment figures,” Mr Switzer said.

But he said the school's international student numbers had fallen to about 90 because of economic problems in Asia.

State MP for Ipswich West Wayne Wendt said he believed some of the increase at Ipswich State High was down to the quality of its teaching and its training programs.

“They are attracting people away from other schools,” he said.

Mr Wendt said it was too soon to attribute the rise in students to the economic downturn, which he said was only starting “to bite now”.

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