Aussie Educator

The greatest sign of success for a teacher ... is to be able to say, “the children are now working as if I did not exist”. Maria Montessori

As previously, there is plenty occurring in education at present. Similar to many situations in the past though, it is being swamped by a range of political, cultural and other news which may or may not be of equal importance. Regrettably, many of the other items have a position higher in the pecking order where grabbing the most attention is seen as the most important aspect of news appeal. Some areas have managed to break through and attain headline status, but these usually have a negative component. In this respect, weaker than expected results in aspects of NAPLAN is one that did raise headlines. A second, in the university sector, was the release of the report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in universities by the Australian Human Rights Commission - also guaranteed to make the headlines. Along the way, a spectrum of other newsworthy items have slipped under the radar. Some of these appear below. Many, regrettably, should have gained a much higher profile.

There are probably others readers will consider may have been worthy of inclusion. We regret we are simply unable to cover everything much as we might like to. We hope what has been included either opens up new areas or helps to clarify those about which you may have only a limited knowledge.

We continue trying to update information and adding new material where this is possible. However, there will continue to be disruption to this particularly over the next few months due to ongoing medical factors. We will endeavour to maintain the process as best we can, but as we indicate in our auto-reply to emails received, there will undoubtedly be some delays as the process takes its course. We hope you bear with us and, at the same time, find only a minimum of disruption and delay. It is certainly our aim to achieve this.

And then there was ...

Gonski, of course. Catholic schools launch new bid for extra money to close $1.1b ‘funding gap’. This article provides details of what is involved while all politicians have again been contacted by the National Catholic Education Commission. Meanwhile Daniel Andrews believes the federal government is using “coercion” re the Gonski funding and how it is used. This is seen to occur because all states and territories have to sign up to an interim agreement designed to ensure funding is spent to attain specific outcomes. [see both this ABC report and a similar report in The Australian.] Who would have thought you would have been expected to spend it in a particular fashion in a case such as this ?

NAPLAN results, especially as some were not as good as many might have hoped. Decline in writing skills shown in preliminary results was the major headline, even though it may have been better to have read 2017 NAPLAN results released or the data from ACARA at NAPLAN 2017 summary results. Perhaps a more realistic viewing of what is actually happening with the testing process is seen in this article by Chris Bonnor though his final statement of “Get ready for another ten years of unhappy NAPLAN birthdays” may not inspire confidence.

Principals. Earlier this year, The 2016 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being Survey was released. Philip Riley presented information regarding the level of Threats and violence to principals that were occurring. The article Fallout from ‘alarming’ principal well-being report commences gives further detail, including the fact that some states are already taking action to alleviate the problem. That these incidents occur is nothing new. Many principals experienced some level of this over the years, though it has certainly increased in both frequency and severity in recent times. In a recent article, Principal of the Matter a new source of stress is revealed as the sub-heading indicates, “School heads have a tough enough job without being second-guessed and attacked by helicopter parents”. This article provides specific examples as well as general coverage. It may well prove an area that will get worse before it gets better. Perhaps an earlier article, 10 ways we can help our principals thrive should be more widely understood ?

Gifted Education. Everyone would like to believe their child is gifted or talented. Many are. However, their giftedness is not always in the area of intellect. Think sport, creativity, musical ability, ... and you can undoubtedly name people who would fall into these categories. In most Australian school systems there is some level of scope for working with, and extending wherever possible, those students who are intellectually gifted. NSW probably has the most structured approach with selective high schools and Opportunity Classes in addition to a more generalist approach right across the system.

Much of the concern now being expressed appears to stem from a report by Christina Ho. In an earlier comment, partially titled Bastions of inequality, she looks at data then asks “about how accessible or meritocratic selective schools really are”. In a second opinion piece, she discusses Hothoused and hyper-racialised : the ethnic imbalance in our selective schools. In a second, more recent article State plans broader test to throw the school gates wide open, this aspect is also addressed. Each is well worth reading. Perhaps the articles have led to action, or there has just been a fortuitous coincidence, with the NSW Selective entry test to be overhauled amid coaching concerns, with a number of options being considered, all designed to expand the potential cohort of students who may attain places. [Also see The promise of potential.]

Others do not like particular aspects or suggestions. Selective primary schools is one not highly regarded, as can be seen from Selective primary schools ? What a terrible idea for children. The essential concern must be not to lose site of the fact that gifted intellectual children, irrespective of any other factors, need additional support and encouragement in the same way that children with disabilities need support and encouragement. Every child needs this, no matter what that specific need may be. I look forward to seeing what the NSW department finally decides is an appropriate process.

Mental Health. A recent article, Students’ mental health in crisis suggests there are multiple problems evident. While the article suggests NSW believes it has remained fairly stable, it would be interesting to see what the case was across all states and territories and if required, what could be implemented toward minimising these instances in the future. As part of the article, Child Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said “one in every seven pupils in primary school and one in four in secondary schools had endured mental health issues”. If, with his expertise in the area, he is shown to be accurate, then there is a spectrum of concerns to address and multiple approaches which will need to be implemented if they are not already in place. This is not an area anyone would wish to see increase in the future.

Learning to Excel : how Gonski can transform school classrooms. This is an interesting article which looks at eight principles for reversing our classroom decline. It would actually be difficult to disagree with these, though not everyone would accept them all at face value. One response in a Letters to the Editor column took an opposite opinion, witness : “May I add to the eight principles for reversing our classroom decline ? Educational theorists and consultants should shelve all their meaningless jargon, donate their inflated fees to a local public school, and let teachers get on with their job”. Many teachers would probably know what he meant.

University funding - continues to be a topic of considerable debate. All parties and interested bystanders seem to be adding commentary on this. Universities Australia has The facts : cuts to uni funding will undermine Australia’s economic success. A second site on the same topic was Indiscriminate Cuts ‘threaten’ quality of unis. Campus Morning Mail notes the Innovative Universities suggesting Government can’t count. This site also has another commentary indicating Risk of more cuts if Birmingham bill is blocked, while the Group of Eight urge Xenophon to save SA [read and see].Even students were involved as the NUS called on unis, government to end ‘slanging match’.

The Report on tertiary education funding changes by a Senate Committee has now been completed. Majority and minority reports were not unexpected and duly arrived. There is an interesting review of the result, as it stands, by Tim Pitman in The Conversation but there is still a long way to go before this is settled. As an ABC News Report indicates, there is “a Senate crossbench to appease”. Rounding up cats may have nothing on that task.

Change the Course, the National University Student Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment, released by the Australian Human Rights Commission, has raised a number of concerns. Time for a conversation is an interesting take on this.

Universities Australia, was soon active, along with its members. They initially Welcomed the report on student safety, assisted in setting up a New 24/7 national university support line for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment and took a range of steps as detailed at Respect. Now. Always. including a 10-point action plan. Stephen Parker’s article entitled A safe campus is everyone’s responsibility, written just before release of the report is well worth reading, especially the last paragraph.

Individual universities, as well as the national groups are also taking steps. One can only believe, with the input of all parties and a changing culture, this can only improve dramatically in the future. It would be a travesty if it did not.

There are recently produced items that warrant at least a brief mention. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Follow each link that piques your particular interests.

The New Work Smarts
‘By 2030, automation, globalisation and flexibility will change what we do in every job. To prepare young people for this future we must urgently shift our understanding of what it will mean to be smart in the New Work Order. Analysing 20 billion hours of work completed by 12 million Australians each year, this report reveals the most important skills we will need to be work smart in the future’.

Strengthening School-industry STEM Skills Partnerships
‘The report describes a number of pilot projects in which primary and secondary schools engaged with industry with a view to strengthening the interest of students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’. There is also an interesting critique by Geoff Edwards, available for download here.

The private advantage that isn’t : ...
School costs and student achievement in Australia. ‘Whenever Australian educators go overseas they are often asked how we provide and fund schools in the antipodes. It’s hard to explain because it is complicated and at odds with practice elsewhere’. Chris Bonnor provides a further short piece that is well worth reading.

VET : securing skills for growth
‘In the report, CEDA will seek to examine the following questions. What is the role of VET within the broader education strategy of Australia ? What role does VET play in securing Australia’s future skills ? What outcomes do we want from the VET system ? In examining those questions, CEDA seeks to assess the current outcomes of the sector and propose ways the VET system could be improved in order to meet the skills Australia will require for growth’.

What Works Best in Education for Development : ...
A Super Synthesis of the Evidence. ‘All education decision makers want essentially the same thing : to know what works in meeting education’s greatest challenges. The Super Synthesis groups the evidence visually to enable decision makers - national governments, development partners and involved stakeholders - to easily assess possible interventions by the degree of their impact on education quality and participation, and their likely associated costs’.

Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education [Discussion Paper]
‘The Review will consider the key issues, challenges and barriers that impact on the learning outcomes of regional, rural and remote students. More importantly, the Review aims to identify innovative and fresh approaches to support improved access and achievement of these students in school and in their transition to further study, training and employment’. The author is Professor John Halsey. A final report is due by the end of 2017. Submissions can be made via the online submission form until 5.00 PM AEST Tuesday 29th August 2017.

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