November 29: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Western Australian Primary Schools Set to Focus on Play-Based Learning in Bid to Engage Young Students

According to ABC News, Western Australian schools have been given the green light to put worksheets to one side, minimise desk time and make learning fun again for young students. The WA Education Department wants schools to fully embrace play-based learning for kindergarten and pre-primary students aged between three and six, listing it as a key priority for 2019. The move follows a backlash from some early childhood educators and parents, who were concerned overly-structured learning was being imposed on students before they were ready, causing them to disengage. They blamed NAPLAN testing and the publication of results on the My School website for putting schools under pressure and turning learning into more of a chore than the start of a lifelong passion. The Department said most schools had the balance right between explicit or instructional teaching, intentional play and free play, but acknowledged that other schools could benefit from additional guidance.

Banning Smartphones from Classrooms is “Too Extreme”, Experts Say

According to The New Daily, banning smartphones from classrooms is “too extreme”, according to experts, who say a blanket ban approach takes education a step back. Last week, another College, based in Sydney’s inner west, joined a growing number of schools across Australia banning mobile phones. The move comes after the New South Wales Government in June calling for a review into Australia’s smartphone use in schools that could see devices banned. In July, the French government also banned students under the age of 15 from using smartphones during school hours. Dr Rose Cantali, child psychologist and NSW Parents’ Council president, said banning phones from classrooms was “too extreme”. Dr Joanne Orlando, an expert on children and technology at the University of Western Sydney, said a blanket ban approach needed flexibility or schools would be at risk of taking a step back in education.

No More Monkeying Around: Push to Remove Dangerous Play Equipment

According to The Age, a quiet war is being waged in parks and primary schools across Australia against a once beloved piece of play equipment. Proponents say that monkey bars encourage children to play outside in an age dominated by screens and video games, build upper body strength, balance, risk management and resilience. But those who want to see them replaced say they are among the leading causes of childhood accidents and can lead to traumatic injuries. David Eager, professor of risk management at the University of Technology Sydney, has chaired Standards Australia’s playground equipment and surfacing committee for a decade. Professor Eager does not want to see risk removed from playgrounds. On the contrary, he thinks exposing children to risk is vital in raising well-balanced and happy kids. But monkey bars, he said, are a hazard. In recent years his committee has been instead advocating for space nets, which break children’s falls, rather than monkey bars. Professor Eager said where monkey bars had been replaced, injury rates had fallen.

Why Aren’t They Doing Anything?: Students Strike to Give Climate Lesson

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, this Friday, 30 November, thousands of Australian students will go on strike, demanding their politicians start taking serious action on climate change. The movement, School Strike 4 Climate Action, has been inspired by a 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who started boycotting classes before parliamentary elections in her nation on 9 September 2018, and continues to skip school every Friday until action is taken on climate change. Students in each state capital and across 20 regional Australian centres will walk out of their classrooms this week to tell politicians that more of the same climate inaction is not good enough.

‘Everyone Had to Wait’: Why Kids Without Laptops Struggle at School

According to The Age, new research has found that one in 20 students in NSW government schools want but don’t have a computer or mobile device at home, almost 7 per cent don’t have internet access, and 20 per cent can’t afford school trips at least once a term. The study, by the University of New South Wales in partnership with The Smith Family, the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Advocate for Children, used focus groups to find out what young people felt was necessary for their lives. A mobile phone and computer and home internet access were among their answers. The researchers then surveyed 2700 students from 52 government high schools and 340 disadvantaged students involved with The Smith Family to find out whether students had access to the things they considered essential. The report also found that almost 19 per cent of the government school sample and more than 40 per cent of The Smith Family sample were deprived of three or more of the things that their peers considered essential for their ongoing education.

INTERNATIONAL

Six Students at Canadian Toronto Catholic School Charged with Sexual Assault

According to The Guardian, six students from the prestigious private all-boys Catholic school, St. Michael’s College School, in Toronto, have been arrested and charged after a video showing an alleged sexual assault by members of the school’s football team was posted on the internet. The students were charged on Monday with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon. CTV News reported that calls for resignations were heard Tuesday night as alumni of a private all-boys school in Toronto met in the wake of the allegations. According to CBC News, the principal and president of St. Michael’s College School both resigned on Thursday afternoon. Principal Greg Reeves and Father Jefferson Thompson, school president, stepped down to allow the Roman Catholic school to move “forward without distractions and allow it to focus on healing and change after the horrific events,” the board of directors of St. Michael’s said in the statement. Previous alumni, who accused the school of having a culture of “toxic masculinity” and called for reform, say the resignations give the school time to address underlying issues in its classrooms. In Ontario, the Ministry of Education requires public school boards to develop protocols with the police, that include incidents in which school principals have a mandatory obligation to contact police. Suspected sexual assault is among those incidents. However, many of the standards that govern public schools do not apply to private schools, including the duty to report suspected sexual assault to police. Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders wouldn’t say whether the school principal will be investigated for not alerting police before he did.

£3,000 for a School Trip – You Must Be Joking?

According to The Guardian, expensive school trips to far-flung corners of the globe are fast becoming the norm in the United Kingdom, not just in elite, private schools, but in ordinary state secondary schools up and down the country. Teaching unions have spoken out on this worrying trend, saying expensive school trips fall into a wider concern about parents increasingly being asked to pay for more and more aspects of their children’s education, such as “voluntary” cash contributions and access to music or drama. A 2018 survey by the union that questioned 4,000 parents and carers about the cost of education found 15 per cent of parents said they were unable to allow their child to participate in an educational trip or visit in the past year due to the cost, and more than a quarter said that their child was unable to participate in non-curriculum related trips such as residential, foreign or end-of-term excursions due to the cost.

Debates Rise Over Report at Brighton School Revealing Highest Number of Trans Pupils

According to the Brighton Journal, Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton, England, has been reported as having the highest number of openly transgender and gender fluid pupils in the country. Reports of the Brighton school’s figures in The Times has stirred up opposing views debating the “long-term effects” and “regrets” of gender transitioning at a young age. Dorothy Stringer’s equality information report has revealed 40 children aged 11 to 16 “do not identify as [the] gender presented at birth”. 36 children in the same school also identify as gender fluid, meaning the gender they describe themselves as is not fixed all the time.

French Priest Charged with Child Rape, in New Blow to Church

According to the NZ Herald, a French priest has been handed preliminary charges of raping minors in the latest blow to the Catholic Church in France. The regional prosecutor’s office said that the Rev. Robert Bonan was arrested in the town of Lautenbach near the German border. The charges were based on multiple complaints, some dating back to the 1980s.

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