Weekly Wrap: December 5, 2019

05 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.



Australia moves closer to compulsory child abuse reporting by priests

According to Sight Magazine, Australia's top attorneys agreed last Friday to standardise laws across the country forcing priests to report child abuse revealed to them during confessions in a move that could widen a schism between the church and the government. Federal and state attorneys-general agreed on key principles for the laws, which fall under the responsibility of state and territory governments and which address the most contentious recommendations from a government inquiry into child abuse. With half of the country's population identifying themselves as Christian, Australia has faced a crisis of faith amid worldwide allegations that churches and religious leaders had protected paedophile priests and habitually covered up sexual abuse. "Confessional privilege cannot be relied upon to avoid a child protection or criminal obligation to report beliefs, suspicions or knowledge of child abuse," according to a communique published after the attorneys’ meeting.


Religious discrimination bill gets delayed as PM Scott Morrison announces new draft

According to the ABC News, legislation aimed at preventing religious discrimination will not be introduced to Federal Parliament this year as planned, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced. The proposed laws, described as "friendless" by the Opposition, have been widely criticised by religious groups and equality advocates. The announcement capped off a difficult week for the Morrison Government, which lost a Senate vote on its union-busting bill and faced sustained questions over a police investigation involving Energy Minister Angus Taylor. In a statement, Mr Morrison said the Government had given further consideration to hundreds of submissions made to the draft bill and would issue a second version, with changes. The draft legislation attracted about 6,000 submissions, many of which were critical. Attorney-General Christian Porter previously conceded that the bill would face a "complicated" debate in Parliament but said he intended to introduce it in the final sitting fortnight which ends this week.


Education ministers to debate ditching the authority that runs NAPLAN

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the national authority for Australia’s curriculum and the NAPLAN test could be scrapped in a move that would give state and territory governments greater control over teacher standards and education reform. Education ministers will meet in Alice Springs next month to debate a recommendation to dissolve two of Australia’s most powerful education authorities and merge them into one organisation with less autonomy. The proposal comes amid widespread dissatisfaction with the NAPLAN test’s troubled online transition and tension between the Morrison government and some states over the test's future. Leaked documents outline a power shift that would make ministers more accountable when “things go wrong”, such as the online connectivity failures that disrupted tens of thousands of students who were sitting NAPLAN this year.


Tens of thousands of students have vanished from Australian schools

According to Education HQ, at least 50,000 young Australians have disappeared from the education system. These “detached” students are of compulsory school age and there is no record of who they are or why they are not in school. In the absence of any official figure, Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education dean Dr Jim Watterston and honorary fellow Megan O’Connell produced a “conservative” estimate of 50,000 detached students using data provided by two state education departments and the comparative populations of each state. “Young Australians of all ages have been able to detach themselves from the education system and we don’t know who they are, where they are, or why they remain hidden,” Watterston said. Watterston and O’Connell’s report calls for increased data sharing between schools, school systems and government departments so that the exact number of detached students can be revealed and for early intervention to prevent student detachment.


“Abused and intimidated”: Australia a world leader in school bullying

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian principals report far higher rates of bullying between students, intimidation of teachers and cyber harassment than the international average, prompting warnings that a wider culture of violence is spilling into schools. More than a third of secondary school principals said intimidation and bullying occurred at least weekly between students, compared with an OECD average of 14 per cent, the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) found. One in six said unwanted electronic contact between students happened weekly, compared to the OECD average of three per cent, while 12 per cent said students abused and intimidated teachers every week. More than 3500 lower secondary teachers and 230 principals participated in the survey, which found Australian schools have more students with special needs, migrant backgrounds and non-native speakers than the OECD average.


Teens’ literacy issues put under the spotlight

According to The Educator, a new study is urging educators and governments to turn their attention to secondary school students who are struggling literacy learners. The reading progress of primary school students has been the topic of discussion following the Federal Government’s changes to phonics teaching. Now, a study from Edith Cowan University (ECU) is asking researchers, educators and the Federal Government to address secondary students’ literacy issues. The study, titled: ‘Fallen through the cracks: Teachers’ perceptions of barriers faced by struggling literacy learners in secondary school’, noted that literacy research and interventions for struggling literacy learners typically focus on the primary school years. Citing recent PISA figures, the report found that almost one in five adolescents are in the lower performer category. A recent analysis of 10-years’ worth of NAPLAN data also shows that reading progress for K-12 students would slow as early as in Years 5-7.


Transparency fears as My School overhaul considered

According to The Brisbane Times, education ministers are considering a major overhaul of the My School website that would scrap information such as a school's average NAPLAN scores and comparisons with similar schools, and introduce ways to measure how students are progressing. But experts have called for caution, saying some of the suggestions risked reducing transparency and limiting parents' ability to compare their school's results against minimum standards. The ministers will meet in Alice Springs later this month to consider the reforms, which were prompted by an earlier review that called for the NAPLAN pages on My School to be simplified for parents. My School has been deeply controversial. Some blame it for unfairly representing schools and creating an education marketplace. But many parents support it, arguing they have a right to information about the schools their children attend.


Poorer and regional school students well behind richer city peers

According to The Brisbane Times, poorer Australian students are 18 months behind their better-off peers at school, a new report has found. The Deloitte report, released on Sunday, also found regional students were on average eight months behind at school. If academic results could be improved by 50 per cent for poorer and Aboriginal students, the economy could get a boost of more than $200 billion over 50 years, the report said. While it said there were obvious benefits in improving education outcomes, there were no guidelines in place on how to achieve this. This means there is a need for more research and policy-making in education, it added. One of the largest factors in school performance was the quality of teaching staff, the report said. Governance at a student's school, their classroom environment and resourcing were also pinned as major factors. By targeting these issues, there could be uniform improvements for these students, the report said.


The majority of music students drop out before the end of high school – is the ATAR to blame?

According to The Conversation, more than half of year 10 music students in NSW dropped the subject by the time they reached year 12. Their teachers said this was so they could choose subjects that would help them get a higher ATAR. These are the findings of the author’s PhD study where she looked at data across NSW schools and conducted interviews with music teachers. An average of 56 per cent of students in year 10 music courses dropped out by the time they reached year 12 between 2008 and 2016. This comes to an average of around 7,200 music students lost between year 10 and 12. Interviews with 50 teachers at 23 schools around NSW – including comprehensive, selective, independent and Catholic – suggest many of their best music students opt for subjects that will perform better when it comes to their ATAR. The Universities Admission Centre’s report on scaling in HSC recommends students don’t “choose courses on the basis of what you believe is the likely effect of scaling”.


High expectations can put students six months ahead of their peers

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, holding high expectations of students in year five could put them six months ahead of their peers by the first year of high school, new research from the NSW Department of Education has found. The research found high expectations were an even more powerful influence on learning progress than relevant lessons, strong friendships and a positive attitude to homework. Behaviour was also key to progress in learning, with year five students who exhibit "positive" behaviour – self-control, remaining still when required, and acting co-operatively – five months ahead of those who do not by year seven. Researchers at the department's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) linked data from student surveys with year five and seven NAPLAN results to analyse how different factors influence progress in learning.


Mental health, environment top concerns for young Australians

According to SBS News, Mission Australia's Youth Survey Report 2019 has found that mental health is the most pressing issue for Australia’s young people, closely followed by climate change. Australia's youth now consider the environment the second most important issue in the country, a survey of teenagers has found. More than 25,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 answered the annual survey by Mission Australia, which released a report on its findings last week. When asked about the most important issues in Australia, mental health ranked highest with 36.2 per cent, followed by the environment (34.2 per cent), and equity and discrimination (24.8 per cent). The respondents ranked coping with stress, school or study problems, and mental health as their top three concerns. However, the majority of young people, 60.7 per cent, reported that overall, they were happy or very happy with their lives. Nearly six in 10 (58.3 per cent) said they felt positive or very positive about their future while 12.2 per cent reported feeling negative or very negative.


The top skills for a “global mindset”

According to The Educator, volunteering and learning about different cultural perspectives have been rated as the most effective practices in boosting a global mindset for young people, a new worldwide study has found. The study, which involved more than 11,000 teenagers and 1,900 teachers in 34 countries, is the first of its scope to identify which education practices effectively support PISA global competencies. Nine in ten teachers (90 per cent) and three-quarters of students (76 per cent) said volunteering their services in the wider community made them more “globally competent”. Dr. Christina Hinton and a team of researchers from Research Schools International and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, conducted the study on behalf of Round Square.



Excessive and Inappropriate Screen Use in Schools – A Legal Ticking Time Bomb? (New Zealand)

According to Education Central, the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have both produced recent recommendations by age for appropriate screen use per day; for example, the Ministry of Health recommends no more than two hours of recreational screen use per day for children aged 5 to 18 years. Computer companies themselves provide recommendations (and limitations of their own liability) as to appropriate use of the hardware they sell, though usually these are buried in the fine print and simply “accepted” by consumers by the click of a button. So where does this all leave schools? What if, in 5 or 10 years, there is clear empirical data proving excessive and/or inappropriate screen (and headphone) use by school age children increases the risk of hearing loss; vision pathology, psychological dysfunction as a result of inappropriate content exposure (i.e. porn; violence); social dysfunctionality; weaker academic performance; or obesity? Early studies and findings already exist citing each of these issues. Will schools be at legal risk from ex-students claiming the schools themselves permitted or even dictated the use of screens without ensuring students were properly protected? 


Cities need to pull their weight in using education to help migrants and refugees feel included (International)

According to World Education Blog, on 26 November 2019 the GEM Report released its 40th policy paper ahead of the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum next month to mark the one-year anniversary of the Global Compact on Refugees. The paper highlights the increasingly important role of cities using education as a lever for the inclusion of people on the move. It calls for international and non-governmental organisations to recognise cities as partners and for governments to clarify and support cities’ role in education. People on the move tend to concentrate in urban areas, whether arriving from rural areas or across borders. Many living in cities are foreign born, for instance, – from 46 per cent in Toronto to 62 per cent in Brussels, 83 per cent in Dubai and 39 per cent in Sydney. Those forcibly displaced also often end up in cities: around 60 per cent of the world’s refugees live in urban areas. Currently, many migrants in poorer countries end up in slums with limited access to a free education. In richer countries they are often segregated into schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

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