Weekly Wrap: August 01, 2019

01 August 2019

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.


New religious freedom laws designed for cases like Folau: AG

According to the Financial Review, Attorney-General Christian Porter is being pressured by conservative MPs and equality activists after he cited the Israel Folau case as the sort of dispute that would be covered by the Coalition's planned religious discrimination protections. As Mr Porter runs private briefings with government MPs and prepares to consult with churches, charities and other groups about the structure of new laws, Coalition MPs have warned of a credibility gap from raised expectations during the election campaign. The concerns centre on whether the laws will proactively protect religious freedom in Australia or simply add to existing anti-discrimination rules. On Wednesday, Mr Porter stressed the draft legislation would be "orthodox" in nature and would follow the architecture of existing discrimination bills. The government expects to have a completed draft of a new religious discrimination law ready by mid-August and believes some concerns about the scope of new protections from some conservative Coalition MPs will be satisfied by the final plan.


NAPLAN “stress-test” allegation dismissed

The Australian reports that claims by NAPLAN critics that the classroom tests trigger widespread stress among students have been dismissed, with one of the nation’s leading education professors saying he found little evidence of it during a recent nationwide review. William Louden did, however, back moves by New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to instigate another review of the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy, which will be its sixth in just five years, saying it was reasonable to ask questions about whether the test could be improved. Dispelling claims by the Australian Education Union and other critics that the “high-stakes assessment … increases stress for students and impacts on their health and wellbeing”, Professor Louden told The Australian teachers were capable of handling instances of student anxiety. While the subsequent report, released last month, reinforced the importance of NAPLAN data to schools, parents and students, it recommended an overhaul of the way that the information was published to prevent schools being pitted against each other or ranked by their test scores.


Hugs replaced with high fives in sexual consent course for kids

According to the ABC News, for many children, a sloppy kiss from grandma was a rite of passage growing up. Now it is being used as a light-hearted example to help empower children against potential sexual abuse. It is part of a move to teach children about body autonomy from kindergarten and help them understand concepts around sexuality and consent as they move through senior school. As a result, educators are increasingly not just teaching young people about the facts of life, but also how to navigate relationships. While the feedback about the shift to broaden the scope of the education is positive, they have said young people would like to learn more about how to become "good bystanders" and to bust some of the myths perpetuated by their biggest sex educator: porn. In Victoria, the Respectful Relationships program attracted controversy due to the nature of some of the case studies in teaching resources. The course was a proposal out of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to help teach children about maintaining control of their body.


Minister vows boost to civics education, but will it work?

According to The Educator, Victoria’s public schools are preparing to overhaul the teaching of civics and citizenship following a student-led campaign aimed at getting young people more engaged in politics. The state’s Education Minister, James Merlino, asked the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) to work with students to improve civics and citizenship education. Berwick Lodge Primary School principal, Henry Grossek, welcomed Minister Merlino’s announcement, saying the evidence presented for reform is most compelling with students disclosing a “worrying lack of knowledge about our political processes and even interest”. However, Grossek told The Educator that the Minister’s instruction “raises several important questions that deserve consideration”. “Firstly, in calling for the VCAA to ‘work with the state's peak student body, the Victorian Student Representative Council, VICSRC’, precisely what weighting will be given to the students’ input?” Grossek said. Grossek also questioned student input for curriculum change to civics and citizenship education. “By extension, shouldn't they have input into all areas of the curriculum, for consistency's sake?” he said.


Impact of School Non-Attendance “Profound and Significant”

Independent Schools Victoria’s Weekly Briefing reports that An Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) report has stressed the importance of setting attendance standards in the early years. AITSL’s report, Attendance Matters, warns that not attending school affects a student’s outcomes in “profound and significant ways”. It says that the effects of non-attendance are cumulative and if established in the early years of schooling, can persist into future years. Unauthorised absences are “strongly associated with compounding declines in achievement and engagement”, it says, but addressing the issue requires a “holistic approach to engagement that targets individual circumstances both within and outside the classroom”. The report says the impact of poor attendance on achievement is “potentially more consequential for students experiencing relative disadvantage including Indigenous students” and that closing the attendance gap for Indigenous students will require “more than mere acknowledgement of attendance and achievement disparities and an authentic approach to addressing engagement of these students”.


Poor parenting epidemic leading to “emotionally abused” kids, John Marsden says

The ABC News reports that poor parenting is leading to an epidemic of mental health issues among Australian kids, but is going unnoticed because criticising parents is considered taboo, acclaimed author and school principal John Marsden says. Marsden has just released his latest non-fiction book, The Art of Growing Up, which delves forcefully and bluntly into the topic of parenting and education. Marsden's schools — Candlebark and Alice Miller, both in Victoria — are billed as a flexible and progressive answer to a rigid traditional school system. Their motto is "take risks" and kids are encouraged to play outdoors in all weather and explore the area. Marsden has years of experience teaching in other schools and now reserves some of his harshest assessments for the model of public education and those who oversee it.


Video games in moderation safe for teens – research

According to The Educator, despite the fears of many parents, a study undertaken by The University of Sydney researchers and their high school son has found that video games, enjoyed in moderation by school age teenagers, are unlikely to have any impact on depression levels, loneliness, resilience or overall quality of life. However, the researchers also found that teens who played for more than three hours per day were likely to be more depressed and lonely and that those who played luck rather than skill-based games were more likely to become regular gamblers in adult life. Professor Ellen Garbarino and her fellow researcher/husband, The University of Sydney Economics Professor Robert Slonim, freely admit that the study was driven by concerns over the amount of time their teenage son spent gaming. The family team surveyed around 250 young adults aged between 18 and 25. The participants were questioned about their gaming habits when they were in high school, the types of games played (skill vs luck), and their current gambling habits, emotional wellbeing and quality of life.


Behaviour management: Self-regulated learning and wellbeing

According to an article in the Teacher, having clear strategies that promote appropriate school behaviours and prioritise student wellbeing are important for maintaining positive and caring relationships between staff, students and parents. Toward the end of 2018, the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework was introduced to replace the National Safe Schools Framework. There are strong links between wellbeing and enabling students to regulate their own learning and behaviour. As opposed to a teacher reflecting on “How well did I manage the students’ behaviour in the classroom?” the emphasis needs to be on embedding evidence-informed practices that promote wellbeing and support productive behaviour. The author’s study, published in The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, identified four focus areas for classroom behaviour management as essential elements that guide teachers when designing, implementing and managing learning: establishing classroom expectations and procedures; empowering students to take responsibility for their learning and behaviour; building rapport with students; and acknowledging productive learning behaviours.


Sharing, not caring: The Hunting puts sexting scandals in the spotlight

An article in The Age discusses The Hunting, a drama to be shown on SBS from 1 August: In a corridor on the Magill campus of the University of South Australia, which is doubling as a private secondary school, Asher Keddie faces off against Luca Sardelis, a woman literally young enough to be her daughter. Sardelis plays Zoe, a teenager whose image has ended up on a vile website called Our Local Sluts because someone has lifted a frame from a video chat between her and a male classmate. Sophie Hyde and her colleagues in the Adelaide-based collective Closer used a real case as the springboard for a drama in which the ripples from a sexting scandal touch on the parents, the teachers and the friends of the key players as well those responsible for creating and disseminating the images in the first place. Essentially, the show takes the position that the issues it addresses are not best dealt with by "just saying no" or by rigid policing, but by something far more nuanced.


How a robot helped school children bring an Aboriginal language back to life

According to an article on  Swinburne University of Technology’s news page, a cute human-like robot taught students in a small, rural school how to code while also helping them learn their local Aboriginal language. The Maitland Lutheran School is an independent, co-educational primary and middle school in the farming district of Maitland, Yorke Peninsula, in South Australia. It is located on the traditional lands of the Narungga people. The school has around 240 students from Kindergarten to Year 9, and 16 per cent of them are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Many of these students have Narungga heritage. The school wanted to support its students to connect with the heritage of the Narungga people, in partnership with the local Aboriginal community. Past research has shown digital technologies can help rediscover lost Indigenous languages. Technologies with culturally responsive ways of teaching have also been shown to improve engagement and learning among Indigenous students in STEM subjects. So, the school’s principal, David Field, decided to employ a small robot named Pink to help students understand their local culture and language. And it worked.



Teen barred from talking about child abuse in school speech (New Zealand)

Stuff reports that a 14-year-old girl says her freedom of speech was "violated" because she was not allowed to talk about child abuse in front of her class. Lucy Laws, a year 10 student at Cromwell College in Otago, was planning to speak about the topic for her English class speech. But her school said it could upset students so she changed the topic to freedom of speech, discussing why she could not talk about child abuse. Cromwell College principal Mason Stretch said all year 10 students at the school were given guidance for their speeches on a choice of topics. "A lot of consideration went into the decision to restrict some speech topics, child abuse was one," he said. "Most students do not know the experiences that their classmates have had with these issues and the content or messages presented may be upsetting for them or others in the class. We have a responsibility to ensure that our school is safe for all students."


Oregon Students Can Now Take 'Mental Health Days' Home From School (United States)

According to Time, Oregon will allow students to take ‘mental health days’ just as they would sick days, expanding the reasons for excused school absences to include mental or behavioural health under a new law that experts say is one of the first of its kind in the US. But don’t call it coddling. The students behind the measure say it’s meant to change the stigma around mental health in a state that has some of the United States’ highest suicide rates. Mental health experts say it is one of the first state laws to explicitly instruct schools to treat mental health and physical health equally, and it comes at a time that educators are increasingly considering the emotional health of students. Utah passed a similar law last year. Oregon’s bill, signed by Governor Kate Brown last month, represents one of the few wins for youth activists from around the state who were unusually active at the Capitol this year. Along with expanded mental health services, they lobbied for legislation to strengthen gun control and lower the voting age, both of which failed.


Nova Scotia sets up expert advisory panel on school sports safety (Canada)

According to the Truro News, an expert panel has been struck to advise Education Minister Zach Churchill about safety in school sports across the province. The panel will provide advice on ways to prevent and reduce injuries, including head injuries, in school sports, along with looking at strategies to promote safety and prevent injury. The panel will report back to the Minister by Aug 31. The panel was struck in response to the high school rugby controversy that made headlines this spring. The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) cancelled public school rugby games because of safety concerns on May 2. A public outcry ensued and Churchill reinstated high school rugby across the province a day later. The Minister said he made his reinstatement decision because the federation had neglected to consult school communities about the move and did not inform the Education Department it intended to make the decision public, in contravention of its agreement with the province. Churchill also referred to arguments by Dr Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer and one of the 17 panellists, and other physicians who publicly urged the NSSAF to reverse the decision.



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