September 6: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Smile kids! Schoolyard sins could ruin lives

The New Daily has reported that some Australian schools are reportedly trialling facial recognition technology that takes the place of teachers doing the morning roll call. The cameras will know if each and every child is present. Dr Niels Wouters, at the Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces at the University of Melbourne says, “Always being surveilled, always being on camera: We’ve all done things behind a teacher’s back and that will no longer exist I suppose,” he says, “It’s an important thing in childhood to explore boundaries.” He also notes that the identity traits a child uploads on social media or exhibits in the playground can be different to who that child really is, “It’s a good thing in a child’s development that they might present themselves differently on social media, as a form of play, but also as an experimental thing they can explore.” His main concern is who will own the data when facial recognition technology become ubiquitous.

New South Wales teacher blames weight-loss drug for grooming student

According to News.com.au, a female member of staff at a NSW school says a weight loss drug dramatically increased her sex drive, which led her to spend more than a year grooming a 15-year-old boy for sex. Jackie Mary Hays, 51, claimed she began taking the drug Duromine four months before she targeted the teenage student when working as a support staff member at the Hunter Valley school. Hays, who pleaded guilty to grooming the boy for sexual activity between April 2015 and June 2016, claimed the weight loss drug increased her sex drive. The Daily Telegraph also reported that Hays was initially charged in mid-2017 with five offences alleging she had been sending explicit text messages and phoning two students, but four of the charges were dropped after she agreed to plead guilty to one count of grooming a child for unlawful sexual activity.

Teachers ‘preparing to walk out’ as NSW principal is accused of bullying

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the principal at a primary school in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has been accused of bullying staff and students and causing eight senior teachers to leave, according to more than 20 staff members and the head of the P&C, who says more teachers are planning to quit at the end of the year. A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said it “is aware of the allegations raised about the principal of Bondi Beach Public School and is investigating the matter”.

Non-friable asbestos found in gardens at Harrison School in Australian Capital Territory

According to The Age, the origin of non-friable asbestos discovered at a Canberra school is unclear, raising questions about where else it might be found and who may have been exposed to it. The ACT government confirmed “a small amount” of non-friable asbestos had been found in garden beds at Harrison School, which remains open despite concerns being raised over children’s safety. The spokesperson said a licensed asbestos removalist would begin removing the material in the coming days, and staff would ensure children were safe by keeping them away from affected areas. The directorate did not address the question about how the material came to be at the school, and whether it had been brought in by a government or external contractor. Education Minister Yvette Berry said the situation was being managed safely and the potentially dangerous area was cordoned off.

Former NSW teacher to spend at least 12 years in jail over sexual abuse of students

According to 9news.com.au, Shane Matthews was once described by his students as “the greatest teacher in the school”. But, a Campbelltown judge found the 31-year-old former teacher guilty of abusing 17 students at Wattle Grove Public School between 2012 and 2015. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail with a non-parole period of 12 years. Matthews was found guilty of grooming young boys by offering them fake money and prizes on “superhero” days. The abuse occurred during lessons, recess, lunchtime – even in scripture class – where Matthews would ask students to perform acts on themselves or perform sexual acts on him. Victims were “encouraged, enticed and recruited to engage in offending activities”, the crown prosecutor said.

Mum takes a stand after daughter ‘broken’ by cruel school yard bullying attack in Western Australia

According to 9news.com.au, a 10-year-old Perth girl has been left “broken” and traumatised after another student allegedly wrapped a skipping rope around her throat and hung her from a tree. The Year 5 student said she thought she was going to die when she was allegedly targeted in the playground attack at Queen of Apostles Catholic School. The mother says school staff didn’t contact her or provide medical attention to the child after the incident. She said she first approached the school’s principal about bullying a few months ago. The skipping rope incident is now being investigated by police. Catholic Education WA said it was unable to comment as police were involved and to protect the privacy of the other student involved.

New NSW teachers to require a credit average, ‘superior’ intelligence

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, teaching graduates will need a credit average in their degree and must prove “superior” emotional and cognitive intelligence to be allowed to apply for a job in NSW public schools. Under new standards to be set by the NSW government, applicants with online-only degrees will be sent to the end of the queue and students’ practical teaching experience will be heavily scrutinised. Applicants will also have to show a commitment to the values of public education. The standards will apply to students beginning their education degree in 2019 and will not affect existing teachers.

INTERNATIONAL

Chinese kindergarten welcomes kids with a pole dancer

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the principal of a kindergarten in southern China has been sacked after welcoming students back to the first day of the new school year with pole dancing. First the principal, and then a female adult dancer clad in black hot pants and heels, performed the raunchy routine gyrating around a flagpole bearing the Chinese national flag, in the school’s assembly square as families and students watched on. The Bao’an education department released a statement later in the day saying multiple parents had complained about the kindergarten’s opening ceremony. The company that owns the kindergarten was ordered to dismiss the director and apologise to parents.

Smartphone ban begins in French schools

SBS News has reported that texting under the table should be a thing of the past after French children returned to class following a nationwide ban on mobile phones in schools. The new rule, a campaign pledge of President Emmanuel Macron, was brought in under a law passed in July which also banishes tablets and smart watches for primary and junior schools. High schools, which teach students aged 15 to 18, can introduce partial or total bans on electronic devices as they reopen after the summer break, though this will not be obligatory. Proponents say the law, which has prompted vigorous debate, will reduce distraction in the classroom, combat bullying, and encourage children to be more physically active during recess.

Dozens of secondary schools exclude at least 20% of pupils in the United Kingdom

The Guardian has reported that the government has been urged to address “deeply concerning” rates of exclusion in England’s secondary schools after a Guardian investigation revealed dozens had suspended at least one in five of their pupils. Of those 45 schools handing at least 20% of their pupils one or more fixed-period exclusion in 2016-17, the overwhelming proportion were academies, with one of them, the Outwood academy Ormesby in Middlesbrough, excluding 41% of their students. Five schools were run by local authorities and six schools were free schools. Fixed-period exclusions are when a pupil is formally suspended from school for a set time, usually up to three days. A student may have multiple exclusions in the same year. A spokesman for the Outwood Grange academy trust said it had taken over “some of the toughest schools in England” and repeatedly turned around their performance. He said that, in many cases, the schools it had taken over had previously been excluding high numbers of children informally, meaning the increase in the number of official exclusions was misleading.

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