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School leadership is essential for successful education reform. OECD

With less than three weeks to go to the election there is plenty to consider [and not just the language and ‘statistics’ mentioned last time]. While a number of educational areas have gained some mention, the dominant areas are Gonski funding and Child Care. Others still manage to garner some headlines, such as the role of the ATAR but these are not politically inspired.

Gonski certainly has become a major issue and is being used in several ways by the Opposition. You may recall the link to a presentation by Nick Greiner last time [start at 6 min 20sec.]. Now the architect of the scheme has spoken about the process for the first time. This was reported under the title Funding targets ‘weren’t my task’ which ties in closely with what was said by Greiner.

As a follow up, Peter Martin presents the article What kind of government better funds private schools than its own ? and spares neither side of politics. Funding to private schools rose ‘at twice the rate of public schools’ : report also indicates this. As does Federal election 2016 : school funding used in class warfare. While the Gonski team came up with the goods, the funding process ruined it with every school being assured they would not be worse off. If you are going to fund the schools with greatest need then those who do not qualify must get less because their need is not as great. Not under the system we currently have. [Check also the link to the Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd report below.]

Now we are also being told that investment in present education will boost the economy to the benefit of all. This being projected as the better option than tax cuts for business. Does government spending on education promote economic growth ? provides an interesting response but does not really appear to provide a time line for this achievement.

Perhaps we should also be looking at data that suggests other actions which can be taken. As John Hattie so eloquently puts it - “what really matters is interaction with teachers, clinical teaching, constantly measuring each student’s knowledge and responding to their individual needs” in an interview with Maxine McKew entitled Speaking with John Hattie on how to improve the quality of education in Australian schools. Also looking at other options that might/should be considered as ways of helping children succeed is Nick Cater. As he indicates - “It’s not the amount of money allocated to schools that matters but how it is spent”. There is a lot of truth in such a statement

Child care is the other area receiving considerable attention. Both sides have now offered their solutions. From a brief reading it would seem that if you choose one you get help earlier but in the long run do not receive as good a return if you are in a lower income group. The other has the potential to provide you more if you fall into that category, but you have to wait longer for the scheme to kick in [though this might be open to some negotiation]. Certainly, those in the upper income bands would want to opt for the first as they will certainly be significantly better off.

High-quality, affordable education at the heart of Labor’s new early years policy does look at both sides while PolicyCheck : Labor’s $3 billion child care plan also covers both proposals. The What are the pitfalls ? section of the latter article sums it up pretty well.

The government’s response can perhaps best be seen in both Working poor ‘pay rich rebates’ and Labor exaggerating benefits of childcare package, Federal Government says, emphasising the structural changes they have made to the scheme that would benefit those on lower incomes to a much greater extent.

Who would have thought the university entry process would prove such an interesting topic. Articles continue to appear, reasons for and against continue to be explained, and the list goes on. These range from small items such as Unis declare the ATAR obsolete [Future Focused], to opinion pieces such as Other factors in uni eligibility. Low-ATAR student offers soar takes a different view.

Others look at specific groups such as those in rural areas, in articles such as University enrolments : out of town means out of luck and Barriers on Road to Equity.

Still others look at the demand driven funding model and the need for transparency in admissions which impacts on the ATAR process. These include Putting students ‘front and centre’ in uni admissions information, Universities Australia’s ATAR peace plan and Glover holds the line on demand driven university places. Some interesting thoughts.

One article may well put the cat among the pigeons though. In an article which begins “Alison Wolf, a British economist and life peer, holds some very unfashionable views” and is titled Putting a Wolf among the education sheep. A fascinating read with a lot of common sense points.

Safe Schools and other schemes have again been in the news and often not for the right reasons. Not only has Roz Ward been a major news item, a totally separate program has now also come under fire following a complaint from a single principal. Labor acts on schools program [Queensland] provides relevant details for this. Interestingly, [Victorian] Catholic schools act on bullying details a separate scheme to be operated there.

Perhaps we would be better off taking note of the comments of Ken Wiltshire who suggests we should not “outsource the development of curriculum content” and that “controversial subjects should be taught only with parental consent”.

Poor old TAFE and VET. They seem to be swamped and sometimes forgotten, when they should not be. In NSW, TAFE cuts carpentry, plumbing and painting teachers amid nationwide apprentice shortage. Hard to believe, when just the day before Labor announces quota for apprentices on government project which could possibly cover some of those areas.

Meanwhile, Unique College is getting really bad press, after having been taken to court by the ACCC. Multiple claims about “dodgy” practices have been made. Undoubtedly there will be more to come out as the case continues.

Meanwhile, as part of the Participation in Tertiary Education in Australia report [see below], there have been calls for “measures to be introduced to improve the quality and confidence in vocational education and training”. Read the article on how the Training sector needs ‘a new and sustainable funding model’ : Report. Hopefully, this will become a reality once the political activity reaches a conclusion.

Meanwhile, there are some items which simply should not be omitted. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. There are no great details for each, simply follow those that take your interest.

Other Areas of Interest

Uneven playing field : the state of Australian schools is a report released on 1 June this year by Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd which you can download through this link. For a shorter version you can read, go to the School’s out during the long election campaign in the Inside Story. An even briefer summary can be found at Will we really get Gonski ? at Pearls and Irritations. Each is well worth reading.

Peter Noonan is always worth reading. He gets to the heart of whatever topic he is writing about and Participation in Tertiary Education in Australia, his latest report through the Mitchell Institute, is no exception. This report is no exception for clarity and data to back up what is said. Like the report noted above, this is one you should consider reading.

Don Argus may not be known for his educational writing, but his involvement in a range of industries across Australia over many years gives him some gravitas in specific areas. Anyone who can start an article with the words ‘Fairness is one of the most insidious abstract nouns used in politics … Politicians, particularly those with socialist leanings, love to use it because it can mean many things to many people’. While you may or may not agree with any or all of his statements the piece entitled To get ahead we must pursue growth not ‘fairness’. is well thought out and presented.

Site Changes

A number of pages have had small numbers of link additions.

Updates have been added to the following pages : Calendar, Conferences, Journals.

13 June 2016.

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