Weekly Wrap: December 03, 2020

03 December 2020

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.


How Australia spends on schools, teachers and students

The Educator reports that in a finding likely to fuel this debate, a new study has found that Australia spends $15,306 per child in mandatory education, an increase of $2,105 per student since 2010. According to the analysis of OECD and 25 other government and data body reports conducted by Teaching Abroad Direct, Australia now provides the 14th largest budget per student in the world. Luxembourg, Austria, Norway were found to be the three biggest investors per pupil, according to the latest figures. However, China has increased year-on-year spending the most per student, increasing 21 per cent per year on average. The Australian Education Union says OECD data shows Australia’s investment in public education remains “well below average”. Australia is ranked only 19th out of 37 countries in terms of average funding per public school student. In terms of education spending as a proportion of total government spending, Australia ranks below countries such as Chile, South Africa and Mexico.


New sanctions for failure to join the National Redress Scheme

The Commonwealth Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, has announced that the Commonwealth Government plans to strip organisations of their charitable status if they fail to fulfil their obligation to join the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse. The Minister said the Australian Charities and Not-for profits Commission would be given the power to deregister a charity which did not take reasonable steps to participate in the Scheme. The warning comes as Minister Ruston announced a further 70 institutions have joined the Scheme which means more than 150 applications could now be progressed. Relevant legislation will be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year through the Treasury Laws Amendment (2020 Measures No. 6) Bill 2020 (Cth) to give effect to changes to the definition of basic religious charity. To date the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments and 358 non-government institutions are participating.


Tasmania announces commission of inquiry into child sex abuse amid new allegations

SBS News reports that Tasmania will conduct a commission of inquiry into child sex abuse in public institutions. Announced by Premier Peter Gutwein last week, the inquiry will begin in 2021 and last around 12 months. The commission of inquiry will replace three other already-announced inquiries into allegations of abuse in the state's health department, the education department, and in the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. Back in 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made 409 recommendations. Mr Gutwein said 281 of those were relevant to state governments, and the Tasmanian government had accepted – either completely or in principle - a majority of those recommendations. He said the commission of inquiry would complement, not substitute, the work of the Royal Commission. The probe's terms of reference will be drawn up over coming weeks, Mr Gutwein said. Commissions of inquiry have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence and compel the production of documents. The three now-replaced inquiries did not have that power.


Parents’ grief as “trans teenager” taken into care

The Australian reports that a teenager has been taken into care in Australia’s first known case of parents being judged abusive and potentially harmful for failing to consent to their child’s self-declared transgender identity and wish for irreversible cross-sex hormone treatment. A state children’s court magistrate cited the risk of self-harm when making the protection order in October — almost a year after the teenager, who was born female and cannot be named for legal reasons — was removed from the family by police at 15 after discussing suicide online. The parents said they knew their daughter had been depressed and in need of help, but they wanted an independent psychologist to consider all possible underlying causes, not just gender issues, and to look into non-invasive treatment options. Child protection authorities have yet to back hormone treatment and have agreed to the parents’ request for a second opinion before any decision. On November 20 the parents’ lawyer filed papers seeking to appeal the magistrate’s decision, setting up the first potential test case on gender medicine in a mainstream superior court in Australia.


Cyberattacks against educational institutions on the rise

The Educator reports that over the last two years, instances of cyberattacks against schools have been on the rise, putting sensitive student data at risk of hackers. However, this year has seen the risks balloon. Even though school principals can’t usually do much in providing cybersecurity themselves, Oliver Noble, a cybersecurity expert at NordLocker said they can plan a strong strategy for other members of staff to follow. “Some of the steps that school principals should implement include organising engaging and ongoing cybersecurity training for all school staff, and making sure that a dedicated IT person creates and follows basic cybersecurity protocol,” he said. Noble said the latter of these should include password management of school equipment, Wi-Fi protection, and other important online safeguards. “Schools should also check their school’s third-party contractors and providers thoroughly,” he said.


Vocational high school certificate to be scrapped

The Age reports that Victoria’s vocational high school certificate will be abolished and merged with the VCE [Victorian Certificate of Education], in a move aimed at dispelling the persistent stigma that it is solely for non-academic children. The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning – the VCE alternative taken by more than 25,000 senior secondary school students last year – will begin to be phased out as a standalone qualification in 2023 and will be scrapped by 2025. Instead, industry-focused subjects will be included within the VCE, with students given more freedom to combine academic and vocational pathways. It means students will no longer have to choose between VCE and VCAL before beginning year 11. The overhaul of year 11 and 12 studies will cost $38 million – to be included in this Tuesday’s state budget – with some of the funding to go to hiring new "jobs, skills and pathways co-ordinators" within government schools.


Overhaul of Teacher Training

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has announced that professional development (PD) for teachers will have to meet new, more rigorous criteria, and focus on priority areas to be accredited by the NESA from 2021. NESA will still require teachers to do 100 hours of professional development for over five years to maintain their accreditation. However, the 50 hours of NESA accredited courses will now be undertaken in priority areas, while courses in the other 50 hours will need to meet an approved list of elective areas. The priority areas are: delivery and assessment of NSW Curriculum/Early Years Learning Framework (as applicable); student/child mental health; students/children with disability; and Aboriginal education and supporting Aboriginal students/children. NESA Accredited PD will replace NESA Registered PD. Transition arrangements for teachers to meet the new requirements will be available by the end of Term 4, 2020.


“Simply staggering”: NSW students fall months behind due to COVID-19

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW students have been hit worse than expected by online learning during COVID-19, with tests showing they have fallen three to four months behind in key areas such as reading and numeracy. Students did not sit NAPLAN tests in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but similar assessments provided to NSW Department of Education schools in the second half of the year found the average reading score for year 3 students in 2020 was up to four months behind last year's cohort. NSW is the first jurisdiction in Australia to measure the educational impact of remote learning. Julie Sonnemann, a fellow in school education at the Grattan Institute, whose modelling predicted the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students would grow by seven per cent, described the results as a "bigger drop than expected". The NSW Department of Education compared a weighted mean score from the check-in assessments, which were held between August and October this year, with the average of the 2019 NAPLAN tests, which were held in May.


Victorian government bans school banking

The Age reports that Victoria will ban all school banking programs, including the Commonwealth Bank's well-known Dollarmites, following ongoing concerns banks and financial institutions were using inappropriate tactics to lure children and promote credit cards. Leading consumer group Choice is now calling for other states to follow Victoria's lead and outlaw the controversial school financial literacy programs. School banking has been hit with a series of scandals in recent years. Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino announced the ban on Sunday, saying the Victorian school curriculum included financial literacy. "Victorian students deserve high-quality financial literacy, free from commercial interests – that’s why we’re banning financial institutions from delivering school banking programs," he said. The corporate watchdog ASIC reviewed school bank programs in 2019 and found serious issues with elements of the programs.


Priest's Aboriginal victims sue Pope Francis over church's failures

The Age reports that Pope Francis has been named as a defendant in a Victorian Supreme Court damages claim by three Aboriginal men who were sexually assaulted as young boys by paedophile priest Michael Glennon after the Vatican knew of his crimes against children but did not defrock him. It is the first known case in Australia in which victims of clerical sexual abuse have sought to hold the world’s most senior Catholic personally responsible for his church’s failure to take decisive action against predators in its ranks. The three plaintiffs are seeking compensation and exemplary or punitive damages against Pope Francis, the Archdiocese of Melbourne and Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli for the inaction of their predecessors. If successful it would represent the first time an Australian court has punished the church – as distinct from compensating victims of abuse – for its failure to protect children from paedophile priests.


Graduations are back on the cards as coronavirus rules are relaxed at Victorian schools

The Herald Sun reports that schools have moved to the final stage of COVID normal, with graduations, school sport and face-to-face parental involvement given the green light. New Department of Education rules mean unlimited numbers of staff and students are now allowed onsite for graduations and gatherings, frustrating many school leaders who have been preparing virtual events. Parents, relegated to waiting outside the school gate for months, are now able to enter school campuses for school sports and final assemblies. Such events are subject to density limits of 150 people indoors and 300 people outdoors. The rules, communicated to schools last week, mark the end of segregated classes, no-visitors onsite and mandatory online events. The Department has also relaxed rules governing students with coronarvirus-like symptoms from other underlying conditions, clearing them to attend school. Children in prep to grade two may return to school if they’ve had a negative coronavirus test, even if they still show symptoms.


Violent students, 24/7 pressure and huge workloads: Why Queensland teachers grapple with keeping the job

The Courier-Mail reports that Queensland teachers are at breaking point with insurmountable workloads, expectations of being ‘on’ 24/7, results-driven pressure, a steamroller curriculum and increasingly violent students forcing many to consider abandoning the profession. Current and former teachers, union representatives and academic experts – all confirm stress and exhaustion is rife among school faculties. Teachers who spoke to The Sunday Mail anonymously, for fear of hurting their careers, detailed the extreme challenges they face daily, which hamper their ability to keep doing the job they love – one they all consider vitally important for the children’s lives they change. Education Minister Grace Grace said there was zero tolerance for violence against teachers in Queensland schools. Ms Grace said following union negotiations the government had implemented measures which would improve data and information collection, school reviews, and to reduce workload for school opinion surveys, school annual reports and OneSchool operation.


Education Department integrity boss warned after email scandal

The Courier-Mail reports that an Education Department integrity unit boss busted sending childish emails from an employee’s computers escaped punishment despite a substantiated complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission. The executive director who makes six figures a year and leads a team of investigators, was caught twice accessing a male staffer’s computer, once to allegedly email messages of “unrequited love” to a married female superior. The Courier-Mail can reveal the computer hacking claims against executive director (integrity and employee relations) David Miller – first made by a whistleblower to the CCC – triggered the Department to hire an external investigator in May and became a headache at the highest echelons. Sources within the Department have expressed anger at the decision not to take formal disciplinary action against Mr Miller over the incidents, raising concerns it sent the wrong message given his seniority.



Marked Absent: The attendance freefall in New Zealand's schools (New Zealand)

Stuff reports that school attendance was already plummeting well before the pandemic - and it’s a crisis that educators are only just facing up to. Each year, all primary and secondary schools provide their roll data for every day of Term 2 to the Education Ministry to monitor in its annual attendance survey. There are several measures but the most important is “regular attendance” – the proportion of students who go to school at least 90 per cent of the time. Prior to 2015, this tracked along fairly steadily. Overall, there was even a slight lift in regular attendance, from 69 per cent of all students in 2011 to 69.5 per cent in 2015. But the next year, attendance dropped. One year, maybe a blip. But then it dropped again in 2017, and again the year after. By 2019 regular attendance was in freefall - in every decile, at every year level, across gender and across ethnicity. The older students get, the worse the numbers are. COVID-19 has simultaneously shone a spotlight on attendance levels while also muddying the water.


National curriculum “systematically omits” black British history (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that the national curriculum in England “systematically omits the contribution of black British history in favour of a dominant white, Eurocentric curriculum” which fails to reflect the UK’s multi-ethnic society, according to a new report. It accuses the current history curriculum of dissociating Britain from a legacy that has oppressed black people in favour of a “romanticised, filtered legacy that positions Britannia as all-conquering and eternally embracive of ethnic and cultural difference”. It calls for a curriculum that redefines conceptions of Britishness and includes black history “as a body of legitimate knowledge”. The Black Curriculum report, by Dr Jason Arday of Durham University, is part of a growing campaign in education to get black British history embedded in the national curriculum and taught in schools in England year round, rather than just during Black History Month.

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