Aussie Educator

In an effective classroom students should not only know what they are doing, they should also know why and how. Harry Wong

Since the last entry, there has been a diverse range of commentary, research findings, opposition and offerings in education, ranging from tertiary to early childhood and indigenous education. Regrettably most of this has been swamped in the media by other events both local, national and international. The one area which continues to attract a fair degree of media attention is the Gonski 2.0 proposal. This is probably because of one sector’s continuing strong opposition to what has been proposed and their actions designed to confront and change this. For more information, follow the main comments in the space below.

Indigenous education usually hits the highlights for all the wrong reasons. In recent weeks, The Conversation has highlighted multiple topics in a series of articles about this. Titles include Infographic : Are we making progress on Indigenous education ?; Is policy on Indigenous education deliberately being stalled ?; and Indigenous picture books offering windows into worlds, to name a few. You may or may not agree with the content but they are quite interesting to read. Certainly a change from other recent reports.

We continue trying to update information and adding new material where this is possible. However, there will be some disruption to this over the coming months due to 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.

Going, going, Gonski ...

As the Grattan submission to the Senate Inquiry indicated, Australia’s long and toxic school-funding wars must end so the nation can move on to other much-needed education reforms. At this point, this does not really look like happening any time soon. The Gonski 2.0 proposal and the ensuing Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017 [now having completed its first reading in the Senate], are a beginning, but only that. Getting the Bill through the Senate will take some time and effort, and almost certainly some horse-trading. Will it be possible ? Will it essentially remain the same, with the same core elements ? As the saying goes - your guess is as good as mine, and possibly better.

Several groups have maintained their rage at what is being suggested. Labor has remained opposed. Labor leader Bill Shorten used his Budget Address in Reply to say that : “A Labor Government will restore every single dollar of the $22 billion the Liberals have cut from schools - down to the last cent” Gonski blog. ‘Tanya Plibersek claimed the government’s commitment to spend more on schools was actually a cut because the amount offered was less than that previously promised by Labor’ [New Daily and the Tanya Plibersek Facebook page]. The Australian Education Union is also opposed, though Matthew Knott in a new article, reaches the conclusion they are ‘one of the biggest roadblocks to sensible education policy in this country’.

The major problem seems to be that the funding they are going to have was never really there in the first place [outside the forward estimates], it was simply said they would do it. For example, “The $22.3 billion that Labor asserts has been ripped from schools is mythical. That’s because it has never been in existing legislation or the various deals with states and territories” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] and “Most of Labor’s extra $22 billion is not directed according to student need, and would have little impact on outcomes” [The Conversation]. Several others have echoed similar positions [as well as the government of course !]. Even blogger Ned Manning has some advice for Labor, and is not the only one with this viewpoint.

The Catholic system has also shown dismay at what is being proposed. Not only have they provided commentary and responses as regards what they see as “unfair”. They have made claims suggesting Catholic schools will have to raise fees by thousands of dollars a year and urged parents to contact members of parliament and express concerns, urging the retention of existing funding levels. Surprisingly, as well as the government and especially the Minister [Simon Birmingham on Twitter], there are others from diverse fields who hold differing views about the Catholic situation including, as for example in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Others include, Independent schools back funding plan; Lyndsay Connors [and also here and here] who indicates “The objections raised by Catholic leaders to the Turnbull Government’s Gonski 2.0 funding model raise as many questions about the governance and operation of the Catholic school system as about Gonski 2.0. One of these questions is : who pays for the teachers in Catholic schools ?” which provides an unexpected answer; Catholic schools say we should trust them on funding. This is not good enough [Peter Goss and Julie Sonnemann]; Gonski Review panellist Kathryn Greiner [also here]; Ken Boston urges the Senate to back school funding changes; and more.

Several states are also anti the process. Leading the way is NSW. Not only have parliamentarians been vociferous, Mark Scott, head of the Education Department has also been chided for sending letters to principals, which are stated by the federal government to contain false information. The problem with listening to different states is you do not know what the deal made with them included. This was one of the major faults of the implementation of the original scheme.

There are also still groups of people who are ambivalent or opposed to all aspects of the scheme. Trevor Cobbold, writing for Save Our Schools has major concerns about many aspects of the process. Lyndsay Connors also has a number of concerns. Gabrielle Chan has a range of concerns in several areas. Misty Adoniou details what she sees as the plus and minus factors of a number of areas within the proposal.

While all this has been going on, where do we now stand and what has to be done ? Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd have an interesting piece headed “Gonski’s second coming will need a miracle or three”. Gabrielle Chan indicates “He has to then convince enough Senate crossbenchers to pass the bill to change the Education Act to bring the deals to life. Already a blocking force of Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon stand in the way. ... And he has to do it before July 2017. What could go wrong ?”. Well, ....... ? However, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is a reasonable way off.

Derryn Hinch has agreed to support the proposal. The Greens, however, will play a pivotal role in what will happen after Labor chose to oppose the plan. As we indicated earlier, horse-trading will undoubtedly take place if it has not already done so. An earlier comment by Tom Greenwell pondered on what the Greens should do. As the national broadcaster indicated earlier though, “the Greens did not rule out support in the hope of giving schools long-term certainty”. While they have been described as unsure of their position since, we now have the Government in a secret bid to secure Gonski deal, which responds to most of their demands in some form, especially ‘a National Schools Resourcing Body to act as an independent watchdog’. From the same source it would also seem that ‘talks with One Nation and the Nick Xenophon Team have been progressing well’. Watch out - we may actually be close to achieving a far better process than has either existed or was believed possible.

More importantly, with the legislation set for debate on Wednesday 21 June, and limited time left before the winter break, it does not leave long for a decision to be reached and the scheme implemented in order for everyone to know what will apply. With only one week to go, and the bill not to be discussed in the Senate till Wednesday, several Senate groups face some pretty big decisions. One can only urge them to do what Gonski actually intended, and what hopefully proves to be an end to the continual wrangling which helps nobody, least of all those who will benefit most from its implementation. Wouldn’t that be a welcome surprise for all those seeking such a solution ?

Finally, a small piece which has some information but is written in a slightly more unrestrained style, can be found here. In all the hassle, there is still someone prepared to be a little different.

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.

Perceptions Are Not Reality [Skilling Australia Foundation]. ‘Using a range of local and international data sources as well as real-life success stories, this report addresses some of these pervasive and inaccurate perceptions about vocational education and, also, highlights the importance of including VET pathways in the overall discussion about our nation’s long-term educational strategies and employment solutions. Enter your details on this page to receive your copy of the full report’.

Busting myths about VET : ... [Why it pays to do your own research before making education and training decisions]. A short opinion piece, but with multiple links to further information. It brings out some of the information and ideas often missed by those looking to develop or change careers.

Gonski revisited : Making the education dollar work harder for our kids [Menzies Institute]. ‘The paper calls for a truce in the sterile debate at the size of funding for schools and calls for the implementation of reform that will improve the quality of spending - and the quality of young lives’.

Australia’s Primary Challenge : ... [How to lift teacher quality in early school years - Australian Edition]. ‘This report shows how Australian systems can begin to apply similar policies [used by high-achieving nations and systems such as Hong Kong, Japan, Finland and Shanghai] to ensure that such expertise becomes the norm in our classrooms’.

The Fantasy of Gonski Funding : ... [The ongoing battle over school spending]. ‘There are several fundamental issues with the Gonski Report which mean that future school funding agreements should not be based on the report’. Like it or not, there is a wealth of information and a number of ideas presented which are certainly different to what is commonly discussed.

Schools Funding : Unearthing the Facts. Lyndsay Connors presents a range of illuminating facts about one aspect of the recent Gonski 2.0 proceedings. Read this short article and see what you think. If you click on the Education link under the Categories link on the right, you will also be able to access other interesting articles by the same author as well as others such as Trevor Cobbold, Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd and many others.

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