Weekly Wrap: December 12, 2019

12 December 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.



Government rejects bipartisan call for more scrutiny of school funding

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, earlier this year, a Coalition-dominated parliamentary committee criticised the "inadequate" administration of tens of billions of dollars in federal funds and said the money was not being distributed in a transparent and accountable way. The committee suggested it was difficult to know if the funding was ultimately going to students based on need. The February report from the Public Accounts Committee recommended laws be strengthened to ensure funding was being doled out effectively and in line with national priorities and legal requirements. In its response to the committee, quietly released last week, the government said it "does not agree" with the recommendation, arguing there should be an "appropriate" level of scrutiny that allowed schools to focus on teaching. "The government believes schools and school systems are in the best position to determine how to allocate government funding to address the educational needs of their students and supports their autonomy to do so," the official response said. The response said the Department of Education was already doing "reasonable and risk-based" monitoring.


Scott Morrison to sack top bureaucrats and dismantle departments in wide-ranging public sector overhaul

According to the ABC News, Federal Government departments will be dismantled and top leaders dismissed as part of a major shake-up of the public sector. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has moved to stamp his authority on the bureaucracy, with the number of departments cut from 18 to 14. The overhaul will see the merger of some departments in a move Mr Morrison insists will cut bureaucratic red tape and lead to better services. Mr Morrison said five heads of departments would lose their jobs in the changes, which take effect on 1 February 1. He said there would be no changes to his ministry. The changes include the creation of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment: a merger of the Department of Education and Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.


States slow to move on Gonski 2 reforms

According to the Financial Review, although at least five of David Gonski's recommendations related to teacher education and how to manage classrooms, a recent report said lack of discipline in schools is the single biggest factor holding back students from disadvantaged families. Education commentators say of the five Gonski 2.0 recommendations on teacher education only one, developing a national teacher workforce strategy, has made significant progress after being put in the hands of Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). The other four recommendations are the responsibility of the states, which have been slow to act even though they all signed up to them in the National School Reform Agreement late last year. These include how to use the Australian Curriculum's teaching progressions more effectively, professional development for mid-career teachers, better classroom training for new teachers and new career paths and pay structures freed from seniority.


“Alarm bells”: Australian students falling behind in maths, science and reading

The Age reports that Australian students have recorded their worst ever results in an international test of reading, maths and science skills, and are now about a full school year behind where Australian students were at the turn of the millennium. The decline was most severe in mathematics, where the average 15-year-old Australian student is now three and a half years behind the average Chinese student who sat the test, and more than a year behind where Australia was in 2003. Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino said the Commonwealth, states and territories must agree to an urgent review of the national maths curriculum at this month’s Education Council. PISA is a test the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development holds every three years. Seventy-nine countries and economic zones took part last year, including Australia. Results have declined in independent, Catholic and government schools. More than 600,000 students took part worldwide.


“No difference” between public and private schools after accounting for socio-economics

According to the Brisbane Times, international test results reveal Australian students perform no better academically if they attend a private school over a public school once socio-economic background is taken into account. The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results released last week shocked parents, educators and government ministers. Raw scores showed students at independent schools were about one-and-a-half years ahead of those at government schools, and almost one year ahead of students at Catholic schools. But these distinctions disappeared once students’ and schools’ socio-economic background was taken into consideration – except that public schools outperformed Catholic schools in mathematics.


Critics say Gonski not the answer to PISA crisis

According to the Financial Review, adopting the Gonski 2 report in full is not the solution to Australia's collapsing maths, science and reading scores, according to a range of educators. Critics say "learning progressions" as advocated by David Gonski are too flexible, too vague and not based on evidence. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan wants the states to agree to learning progressions at this week's COAG education council meeting as part of their promised implementation of the Gonski reforms. Learning progressions set standards for what a student should learn but are independent of the year or their age. This would overturn the present year-based curriculum. The NSW government released an interim report into NAPLAN on Thursday that will go to next week's COAG education council meeting. Mr Tehan has pushed back at another review. But the findings of the interim report were inconclusive, with authors saying: "There appear to us, at this stage, to be more concerns about the impact of uses of NAPLAN data than about the tests themselves."


Charity status is not something institutions should take for granted

According to The Australian, most, if not all, universities are registered as charities with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Apart from updating their corporate details with the ACNC from time to time, many universities would regard the submission of the financial report and annual information statement as their only obligation. Such a view is an oversimplification of the requirements imposed by the ACNC. While it may be true that institutions that adopt and adhere to the highest standards of corporate governance will almost certainly comply with the basic and fundamental requirements of the ACNC, there is still need to assess themselves against the guidelines issued by the Commission. If nothing else, the ACNC pronouncements are the basis for a helpful self-assessment and good governance health-check. One requirement is that charities must promptly notify the ACNC of any significant or material breaches of the ACNC Act or governance standards. Another misconception of the ACNC is that it is fairly toothless when it comes to regulation and enforcement.


New award set to give teachers a pay rise

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW teachers returned to work last Thursday morning after accepting a pay rise under a new wages agreement which will also put an end to more experienced teachers being paid less than newer ones. The NSW Teachers' Federation said its members who attended stop-work meetings around the state voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting the Department of Education's offer of a 2.5 per cent salary increase from January, followed by 2.28 per cent in 2021. There will also be a 0.22 per cent increase in superannuation in 2021. Teachers who were earning up to $14,000 less than colleagues with fewer years of experience because of changes to the statewide pay scale can also now expect that anomaly to be fixed by 2021. One teacher who recently moved from the public school system to teach in a Catholic school said he was now being paid at least $10,000 more.


Countdown on for Victoria’s 2020 mobile phone school ban

The Herald Sun reports that the mobile phone ban for Victorian schools is looming and many are still grappling with the best way to separate students from their favourite accessories. Nearly 150 secondary schools have so far received grants to upgrade or buy lockers to store mobile phones in readiness for next year’s statewide ban. Some schools have trialled the ban ahead of 2020 and others are tailoring specific policies for their individual school community. But advocacy group Parents Victoria says it remains wary about the increased workload on teachers and principals to police the ban and deal with wrongdoers, fearing it will take them away from teaching. In coming weeks more schools are expected to apply for a share of the $12.4 million fund. While many schools and parents are thankful for the blanket ban, because it gives them power to enforce policies against distracting phone use, others are concerned about the logistics.


Tasmania bans mobile phones for all public schools

According to The Educator, Tasmania has become the second state to announce a mobile phone ban in all government schools. The decision follows similar moves by Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, which are implementing restrictions in state schools to help improve students’ concentration and engagement. Until the announcement by Tasmania’s Education Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, Victoria had been the only state to ban mobile phones across the entire government school system. Minister Rockliff said a number of the state’s schools has already implemented a ban with principals reporting an increase in student wellbeing and more face to face interaction between students. The ban will be implemented from term two next year, with a review to be undertaken after 12 months. Years 11 and 12 will retain an “opt out” option, subject to approval of and in consultation with their School Association. Exemptions will be made for special circumstances such as where a student needs to monitor a health condition or is under the direct instruction of a teacher for educational purposes.


Rugby Australia and Israel Folau settle legal dispute over sacking

According to the ABC News, Rugby Australia has apologised to Israel Folau as part of a confidential settlement reached over the former Wallabies player's sacking. Mediation talks between Folau and Rugby Australia began at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Monday 2 December but were suspended after 12 hours. On Wednesday 4 December, a joint statement from Rugby Australia, NSW Rugby and Folau confirmed a settlement had been reached after talks resumed via teleconference. "While it was not Rugby Australia's intention, Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus," the statement said. "Similarly, Mr Folau did not intend to hurt or harm the game of rugby and acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused." Folau and his wife Maria published a video on Folau's website thanking supporters and the Australian Christian Lobby for their "thoughts and prayers".


EpiPen shortage forces parents to use expired, contaminated drugs to treat children

According to the ABC News, Australia faces a critical shortage of child-sized EpiPens. The Federal Government has also restricted sales of the devices, and advised parents to use EpiPens past their expiry date. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which regulates medicines, has taken the extraordinary step of approving a batch of EpiPens that are known to be contaminated with another drug. Stocks of EpiPen Junior, which is used for children who weigh 10 to 20 kilograms, began running low last month as a result of overseas manufacturing problems. The Government has told pharmacists to supply just one junior device per patient until the shortage is over. It is advising parents to use the EpiPen in an emergency, and then to use an expired one if a second dose is needed. According to the TGA, supplies are unlikely to return to normal until at least the end of January. The head of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Harry Nespolon, said the decision was understandable, though the situation was not ideal.



Chinese students top the PISA rankings, but some Shanghai parents are turning away from the school system (China)

According to an article in The Conversation, Australian 15 year olds were around three and a half years behind their counterparts in China in maths, according to the OECD’s latest results for education systems around the world. The four cities of China (Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang) that participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) topped the league tables in maths, science and reading. However, it’s important to mention China’s PISA results don’t reflect the huge number of students living outside the big cities. The author’s research into middle-class parents in Shanghai shows they find traditional schools too rigid. They want their children to be globally-minded and adopt values those schools don’t focus on as much – like self-discovery and creativity. Education is more complex than what we see on the PISA chart. Shanghai parents’ aspirations for their children show they are leaning towards the kind of educational system countries like Australia are known for.


School cafeterias waste 530K tons of food per year (United States)

According to UPI, a new study by the World Wildlife Fund suggests schools in the United States are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of post-service food waste every years. For the study, researchers analysed the amount of food wasted in 46 schools located in nine US cities across eight states. They used the results to estimate how much food is wasted by the entirety of the American school system. The findings -- detailed last week in the report Food Waste Warriors: A Deep Dive Into Food Waste in US Schools – show that school cafeterias in the United States produce approximately 530,000 tons of food waste per year. Researchers totalled the waste at a cost of $9.7 million per day or $1.7 billion per school year. In addition to measuring the amount of food and milk that gets thrown in the trash at schools participating in WWF's Food Waste Warriors program, researchers also worked to educate students on the environmental impacts of food waste.


“The most difficult student”: Education assistant reinstated after “pushing” violent 9-year-old with autism (Canada)

The CBC reports that a British Columbia education assistant has won her job back after being accused of "pushing" a nine-year-old with autism who had previously clawed at her face and kicked her in the nose. The woman was fired last May for actions that took place while she was trying to prevent the troubled girl from leaving a "calm room" for fear she might injure other students. The student — who has a history of lying — claimed the education assistant pushed her to the ground and hurt her. But in a decision that underscores the challenges of dealing with special needs children, a labour arbitrator said the woman may not have realised she shoved the girl in the heat of their confrontation. Canadian Union of Public Employees K-12 president's council head Warren Williams wouldn't comment on the specifics of the decision, but said the case highlights the extreme challenges facing education assistants.

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