Weekly Wrap: April 01, 2021

01 April 2021

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.


Why private schools need a gender balance in principalship

The Educator reports that, while there is certainly no shortage of women teachers in the broader independent school sector, the picture looks markedly different when it comes to school leadership. According to data on the gender of AHISA’s current general members, 60 per cent of private school heads are male while just 39 per cent are female. A quick look at the contributing factors to this show that the gender imbalance in school leadership goes well beyond a school’s hiring decisions alone. There are a number of barriers that can present themselves during the career of a female teacher who aspires to one day be principal. A notable one is motherhood and other caring responsibilities, which can be difficult to juggle with the massive workload associated with becoming a principal. Loren Bridge, executive officer of the Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia, said another barrier is gender norms, which traditionally privilege men as leaders.


Coronavirus widened digital gap for First Nations students

The Age reports that the coronavirus pandemic has widened the significant gap in digital access for First Nations students. When national lockdowns closed schools and forced students into remote learning the hope was that their studies could continue online but this was not the case for First Nations children, particularly those in remote communities. New research from World Vision and the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation showed one in four First Nations households nationally had no internet access and many reported limited access to laptops and using mobile phones with poor reception for schoolwork. First Nations households were also found to rely more on inefficient mobile data and as a result spend more of their household income on internet access. Report author, World Vision First Nations policy adviser and Wiradjuri man Dr Scott Winch said the results were not surprising and swift action was needed.


Could school funding decide the next election?

The Educator reports that more than eight in 10 Australians (83 per cent) believe that public school funding is too low and that increasing it should be a “priority issue” at the next federal election, according to a nationwide YouGov poll released last week. The poll, which surveyed 1,200 people, was released by the Australian Education Union (AEU) to mark the launch of the “Every School. Every Child.” campaign, which is targeting political parties to secure public school funding commitments. According to a report by economist Adam Rorris, public schools face a $19 billion funding shortfall over the next four years, and a recent analysis by Save Our Schools found the sector will miss out on nearly $60 billion this decade while private schools will be over-funded to the tune of $6 billion. Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said the Morrison Government is investing a record $315.4 billion in funding for all Australian schools and that funding per student will increase by more than 60 per cent by 2029.


Private schools urged to expand into outer suburbs

The Age reports that cashed-up inner-city private schools are being urged to open campuses in growth suburbs. Peter Buckingham, who uses official population and school data to help schools maintain sustainable enrolments, says non-government schools have been slow in opening in outer suburbs where the number of school-aged children has exploded. Melbourne’s most expensive schools are predominantly in inner suburbs, such as Kew and Brighton, with stable growth in the number of school-aged children. This means schools are asset rich with land now worth a fortune, said Mr Buckingham, and students often travel long distances to attend. “You only have to look at the Wyndham area”, which includes the growth suburbs of Tarneit, Truganina, Werribee and Point Cook, he said. Victoria was in the middle of a school population boom on a scale not seen for at least half a century, education expert Peter Goss has said. The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria has also called for government funding to help build in Melbourne’s growth areas.


Child safety trumps privacy as schools join abuse information-sharing scheme

The Age reports that Victorian schools, kindergartens and childcare centres will soon be authorised to share and receive sensitive information about vulnerable children without parental consent, in a bid to better spot early warning signs of family violence or neglect. On April 19, the start of term two, education workers will join the Child Information Sharing Scheme, an initiative driven by the Royal Commissions into family violence and institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Hospitals, Ambulance Victoria and community health centres will also join the scheme, which is currently limited to agencies such as Victoria Police, the Department of Human Services and youth justice, sexual assault and mental health services. The Department of Education and Training has been coaching education workers on their responsibilities under the scheme since March last year, a spokesperson said. Community Child Care Association executive director Julie Price said the reform would resolve a problem in which childcare services were sometimes constrained from passing on information about vulnerable children due to privacy laws.


Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton to bring policing “back to basics”

The Herald Sun reports that the police in schools program will return to Victoria, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has announced. Mr Patton also wants to develop a system through which victims of crime can track the progress of their cases, as part of his move to bring policing “back to basics”. Mr Patton told the Herald Sun the police in schools program was important for generating respect and trust between the law and children. “We see the importance, I see the importance, of being in schools so we get that respect for police,” Mr Patton said. Another key plank of Mr Patton’s plans is developing a way for victims and others to be able to be able to get feedback on matters they had reported to police. One model being looked at by the force’s service delivery transformation command is a publicly accessible portal which would provide updates on those cases. Mr Patton said he understood the frustration of victims who felt forgotten after going to police.


Australian curriculum looking at expanding consent education

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a major review of the national curriculum is examining whether the consent education given to school students is enough, as calls have mounted for more emphasis to be placed on the topic following an outpouring of accounts of sexual assault among teenagers. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority is consulting with consent and respectful relationships experts and teachers as it prepares to release proposed content changes to the broader national curriculum next month. The Federal Government’s answer to the consent education debate has so far been a promise to distribute Respect Matters resources, which are available online and separate to the Our Watch program, as well as committing to the upcoming Australian Curriculum review. It was revealed in Senate estimates last Thursday that the government had so far spent $363,000 - or 18 per cent - of the $1.63 million allocated to Respect Matters in this financial year.


NSW school sectors unite to boost consent education

The Educator reports that public, private and Catholic schools in NSW have reached a cross-sector agreement to improve education about sexual assault and violence. The move comes as Victoria’s government announced that consent education would become mandatory in state schools, and Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge, said the “Respect Matters” program would be rolled out to schools nationally. The latest development in NSW centres on a “Statement of Intent” by the three major school sectors to identify key areas where the education system and schools could lead meaningful change through curriculum provision based on evidence and best practice; increased support for teachers and school leaders; making sure the views of students were heard; and strengthening community and parent connections. Ahead of the statement’s signing, NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said consultation had occurred with the NSW Youth Advisory Council and her own Minister’s Student Council as students were the most important stakeholders in this conversation.


Enrolment caps fail to stop influx of students

The Educator reports that popular Sydney schools are seeing continued growth in student numbers despite government-enforced enrolment caps, a new analysis shows. The analysis, conducted by The Sydney Morning Herald, reveals that Sydney’s most in-demand schools grew by almost 10 per cent over the past year despite the introduction of enrolment caps in 2019. Rising enrolments in the state’s independent school sector made headlines in February when figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that private school student numbers grew at their fastest rate in more than a decade. Seventy-one per cent of new independent school students were enrolled in schools serving low and middle income families, while the number of students in Special and Special Assistance schools grew by 5 per cent. AISNSW chief executive, Dr Geoff Newcombe, said enrolment projections indicated that the independent school sector would grow by approximately 50,000 additional students from 2018 to 2030.


ACT Catholic schools struggling with teacher shortage

The Educator reports that ACT Catholic schools are suffering from a chronic shortage of casual teachers, a new survey has found. The survey, by the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA), involved staff in 40 schools in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. It found that 82 per cent of schools couldn't fill a casual vacancy on one or more days in the survey period, causing teachers to miss out on critical professional development sessions and lesson plans. A majority (66 per cent) of the surveyed schools were also unable to fill three or more days in their two-week timetable cycle, while 23 per cent of primary schools and 33 per cent of secondary schools experienced temporary or permanent teacher vacancies. IEUA NSW/ACT branch secretary Mark Northam said the lack of casual teachers to cover absences is disrupting the smooth running of schools in the region.



Ofsted chief asked for greater powers to check for abuse in private schools (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that the chief inspector of schools in England asked for greater powers to monitor independent schools over “potential safeguarding issues”, but was ignored by ministers. Despite concerns raised by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, the body was later stripped of its role in overseeing the inspections of private schools now engulfed by a wave of sexual assault allegations. Documents seen by the Guardian show Spielman complained to the Department for Education in 2018 and 2019 that her organisation was unable to monitor the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), to which the DfE delegates inspections of elite private schools such as Westminster and Dulwich College. They are among schools involved in a growing scandal over complaints by pupils of rape, harassment and assault at private and state institutions, documented on the Everyone’s Invited website.


UK schools record more than 60,000 racist incidents in five years (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that UK schools recorded more than 60,000 racist incidents in the past five years, the Guardian has found, as experts accused the government of failing to meet “basic safeguarding” measures by hiding the true scale of the problem. Freedom of information (FoI) requests sent to 201 councils and about a fifth of England’s multi-academy trusts uncovered a total of 60,177 racist incidents – a racist incident being defined as any situation perceived to be racist by the alleged victim or any other person, including unintentional racism. The true scale is thought to be far higher, because in 2012 the government advised schools that they had no legal duty to report racist incidents to local authorities. Further guidance issued in 2017 added that schools were not obliged to record any form of bullying. For context, there are 1,199 multi-academy trusts and 1,419 single-academy trusts in England. One hundred and nine local education authorities in England and two councils in Wales said they no longer collate the data.


In which countries do children attend single-sex schools? (Global)

According to the World Education Blog, while enrolment rates disaggregated by sex might be easy to find, comparative cross-country data on how many children are in single-sex schools are scarce. One place to look is cross-national learning assessments, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In about 60 per cent of education systems in the mostly upper-middle and high-income countries that took part in the 2015 TIMSS, less than 5 per cent of primary schools were single-sex. Gender segregation in separate classes or schools is common in countries as diverse as Chile, Ireland, Israel and Singapore and is prevalent in many Muslim-majority countries. The prevalence of single-sex schools also generally increases in secondary education, for instance from close to zero for primary to almost one in five for lower secondary education in England (United Kingdom). In most countries, the proportion of students in single-sex schools corresponds to the proportion of such schools.

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