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

  • Jacqueline Z. WilsonEmail author
  • Andrew Harvey
  • Pearl Goodwin-Burns
  • Joanna Humphries
Part of the Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research book series (CHIR, volume 22)


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.


Out-of-home-care Secondary education Disadvantage Australia 



This chapter is based on data gathered in projects funded by grants from the National Priority Pool Funding, and the Sidney Myer Large Grants Fund. All research was done with full ethics approval.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline Z. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew Harvey
    • 2
  • Pearl Goodwin-Burns
    • 3
  • Joanna Humphries
    • 4
  1. 1.School of ArtsFederation University AustraliaBallaratAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity ResearchLaTrobe UniversityBundooraAustralia
  3. 3.Federation UniversityBallaratAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare IncMelbourneAustralia

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