Weekly Wrap: August 29, 2019

29 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.



“Pay the top teachers $80k more to lure best”

The Australian reports that Australia’s best teachers should be able to earn up to $80,000 more per year and top school-leavers should receive $10,000-a-year scholarships for pursuing teaching degrees at university, according to a report released on 26 August. The Grattan Institute is recommending a $1.6 billion reform package, which it says could double the number of high achievers who choose to become teachers and increase the average ATAR of teaching graduates to 85 within the next decade. The report suggests three stages of reform, including offering $10,000 cash-in-hand scholarships to high-achievers who choose to study teaching, the creation of a new tier of higher-paid roles in schools and a $20 million-a-year advertising campaign. According to the report, demand from high achievers for teaching has fallen by a third over the past decade — more than for any other undergraduate field of study. But with a higher-achieving teacher workforce, the typical student could gain an extra six to 12 months of learning by Year 9.


George Pell to take his case to the High Court

According to The Age, George Pell will take his case to the High Court, setting the scene for a final legal battle over the senior Catholic cleric's child sex abuse convictions. Sources have told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that Pell is determined to pursue his last avenue of appeal after receiving unanimous advice from his legal team that the dissenting opinion of Victorian Supreme Court Justice Mark Weinberg provided reasonable grounds to have his convictions overturned. Pell has 21 days from last Wednesday's Court of Appeal judgement to formally lodge an application for special leave to appeal to the High Court. It is likely that a short hearing to determine his application will be listed for this year. If Pell is granted leave, it is likely to be a further four to six months before his appeal is heard. Although Pell's grounds for another appeal are yet to be finalised, legal experts familiar with the workings of the High Court believe that they will centre on a broad provision which allows the court to intervene in any case "in the interests of the administration of justice".


New South Wales schools to scrap Confucius Classroom program after review

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a Chinese government-funded language and culture program will be removed from NSW public schools and replaced with one run by the NSW Department of Education. The Confucius Classroom program, run in 13 NSW schools, had been paid for by Chinese government agency Hanban, and employed teaching assistants that were vetted by the Chinese government for "good political quality" and a love of "the motherland". While a NSW Department of Education review into the program did not "discover any evidence of actual political influence being exercised", it found there were “a number of specific factors that could give rise to the perception that the Confucius Institute is or could be facilitating inappropriate foreign influence in the department". The review also flagged the number of Chinese representatives on the board of directors as a concern that could "give rise to the perception of foreign influence", while the financial contributions from Hanban to the department, specific schools and specific senior officers was scrutinised. The report made six recommendations, which the department has accepted.


Teachers warn they're overwhelmed by mental health problems in schools

The Age reports that half of all government school teachers and staff in Victoria say they know of students in their school who have self-harmed in the past year, a survey has found. Teachers in Victoria also said they were struggling to support students experiencing a host of mental health problems including anxiety, anger, depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Fewer than half of the thousands of government school employees who took part in the survey said they believed their school had access to appropriate mental health services. The Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union surveyed more than 3500 government school teachers and staff in June about mental health issues, as part of its submission to the Andrews government’s royal commission into mental health services. James Merlino, Victoria's Minister for Education, said children were in the best position to learn when they were happy and healthy. "That's why we're rolling out mental health practitioners in all government secondary schools, from term 3 of this year." The last state budget also included $65.5 million towards wellbeing initiatives in schools.


Calls for greater protection of teachers and principals

According to The Educator, an incident involving a group of students at a secondary school in Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs has highlighted concerns about staff working in a healthy and safe environment. A physical altercation between students last week left a teacher seriously injured and several students have been arrested. The incident, which took place at Berwick College about 1.30pm on Tuesday 20 August, also involved a parent, according to a report published in The Age. The newspaper quoted a statement from principal Kerri Bolch defending the school. Meredith Peace, AEU Victorian branch president, said the incident has been “deeply concerning”. “Our priority is the safety of all staff and students involved,” Peace said. 


Priests to be compelled to report confessions of child abuse in Queensland

Channel 9 reports that priests who fail to report the confessions of child abusers to the authorities will be breaking the law under new legislation to be introduced in Queensland. The state's teachers, doctors, nurses, childcare workers and school principals already have to report crimes against children to authorities. New laws affecting religious clerics will make it an offence to fail to report abuse and make it clear the sanctity of the confessional cannot be used as an excuse, defence or privilege. Introducing such legislation was among the recommendations stemming from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.


Respect for school staff encouraged by new protocols

The Esperance Express reports that the Western Australian state government has announced a new set of protocols to encourage respect for principals and teachers. The protocols, announced on 21 August, are part of a range of Department of Education resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of school staff. They state that principals and teachers don't have to respond to communications outside their normal working hours and are not expected to respond to offensive, threatening or unacceptable communication. There is also an expectation that communication and is mutually respectful between school staff and parents. The Communication Protocols will be released to schools and parents this term. The protocols were created in collaboration with the WA Council of State School Organisations and other associations and unions, to define the roles of school staff and what is expected of parents, carers and students.


Victorian teachers sacked for failing to meet standards

According to the Herald Sun, Victorian teachers are being pulled out of their classrooms after failing literacy or numeracy tests. At least two teachers have had their registrations cancelled because of new federal government rules requiring them to pass a test, aimed at lifting teacher standards. One in 10 teaching graduates fail the test. Teaching students must pass the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) at the end of their degrees. Those who were set to graduate when the test was introduced in 2016 were given provisional registration, which allowed them to teach but gave them two years and three months in which to sit the test. That time has now expired and one in 50 of those teachers has failed and been taken out of schools. Education Minister James Merlino said the government was “committed to increasing the supply of high-quality teachers for Victoria’s schools”.


Firefighter learns Auslan to ensure deaf students are not left behind when it comes to fire safety

The ABC News reports that when a Perth firefighter realised deaf and hard of hearing students were being left out when it came to taking part in school-based fire safety and awareness programs, he decided to take action. Senior firefighter Michael Hatfield, from Midland Fire and Rescue, took it upon himself to learn Australian sign language — known as Auslan — less than six months ago. It led this week to what is believed to be Australia's first Auslan fire safety presentation to students at Mosman Park School for Deaf Children. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) provides a number of fire safety and awareness programs which are set up between schools and their local fire departments. While a translator for a deaf student can be organised to attend those presentations, Mr Hatfield wanted to create a dedicated one for them, an idea DFES welcomed and supported.



Cardiac death underscores schools’ need for devices, training (United States)

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the collapse and subsequent death of a teenage student earlier this month highlights the importance of emergency response training among school staff. Although an investigation is still ongoing, Clayton County officials have confirmed that Imani Bell, a junior at Elite Scholars Academy, suffered cardiac arrest during a preseason basketball workout. Sudden cardiac death is the number one cause of exercise-related death in young athletes, according to researchers at Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, which honours the legacy of the Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman who died of heat stroke during training camp in 2001. In the United States SCD is seen in all sports but mostly in basketball and football due to higher participation levels. Georgia has required since 2010 that all schools have an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on site, and a bill passed in July requires that every student athlete and parents receive information about the early warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest. Schools are also required to hold informational meetings twice a year regarding the symptoms and warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest.


New curriculum panel will help Alberta schools return to “essential skills”, province says (Canada)

According to the CBC, the Alberta government has appointed an independent panel of experts to help develop a new school curriculum across the province, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced last week. The advisory panel will review and build on the work already done and move forward with an initial report to the minister by December. The wider public engagement process is scheduled to begin early next year. The previous redesign conducted under the former NDP government was focused too heavily on what is called "discovery learning," LaGrange said. The province is committed to moving toward an education system that ensures students "have a strong foundation of essential skills and knowledge, something we heard loud and clear from parents," the province said in a news release.


Schools unsure of legal rights during emergency lockdowns (New Zealand)

According to Radio New Zealand, principals and early childhood centres are worried that they will break the law if they stop parents from collecting their children during emergency lockdowns. They want guidance from the Education Ministry following an independent review of the lockdown of 221 Canterbury schools after 51 people were killed in two mosque attacks on 15 March. The review by KPMG said some schools faced aggressive and even violent parents determined to remove their children from classrooms that were locked-down for up to four hours. Principals were not sure what their legal position was and Shane Buckner from the Canterbury Primary Principals Association said they had hoped for advice in the report. The Education Ministry has launched a new emergency system for contacting schools and early childhood services during an emergency. Education Minister Chris Hipkins said overall schools acted professionally and tried their best, but there was a lot to be learnt.

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