Weekly Wrap: February 04, 2020

06 February 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.



Will my child get coronavirus at school? Here’s some perspective for Aussie parents

According to an article in The Conversation, as Australian students returned to school last week, they were met with conflicting and changing advice from federal and state governments on the coronavirus outbreak. The Australian government’s initial advice was that any child who had been in contact with an infected person be excluded from school for 14 days. But schools shouldn’t exclude children who were well and who had not had any exposure to an infected person that may have come back from China. This position was updated when the Chief Medical Officer asked people who have returned from Hubei province, or have had contact with someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, to stay at home for 14 days. This update came as four people attending a conference in Germany contracted the virus from a Chinese national who did not show any symptoms until 24 to 48 hours later. The Victorian government also updated its advice to match the federal government’s. The NSW government, however, requested children who had visited any part of China in the last two weeks not to attend school or childcare services until 14 days have lapsed from their date of departure from China.


Coronavirus fears can trigger anti-Chinese prejudice. Here’s how schools can help

According to another article in The Conversation, social stigmatisation and xenophobia are, unfortunately, well known features of disease outbreaks. And there is potential for xenophobic sentiment to build in Australian schools. The NSW government and several private schools have requested students who have just returned from China remain at home for two weeks. This goes beyond the advice of Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and federal government – that only those returning for the Hubei province (or those who have been in contact with an infected person) stay away from public places. The NSW Health Minister said the advice was not “medically necessary” but was prompted by community wishes for such measures. Instead of excluding Chinese students, schools can build trust by actively providing clear information about the rationale for control measures. They can encourage students to take protective actions such as practising good hand hygiene, and seeking medical advice by telephone in cases of illness.


Australian schools need climate change response plan

According to an article in The Age, the start of the 2020 school year has been markedly different for young Australians. Most students are attuned to the political circumstances surrounding this fire season; many are climate activists, having participated in rallies and school strikes. However, Australian schools are under-resourced and under-prepared to cope with the influx of trauma, eco-anxiety and psychological symptoms students will harbour. The climate crisis presents an unprecedented challenge for educators. Not only will they be working to create safe and supportive classroom spaces for grieving and anxious young people; they will be coming to terms with it themselves. While state governments have provided information to schools around how to support students, New Zealand has gone much further by announcing a climate change-focused curriculum for students aged 11 to 15 years old. A climate change action plan for Australian schools is desperately required. At a minimum, this response plan would feature two key areas: mental health support and a plan for action.


Bushfire-affected students back to schools rebuilt after being destroyed in blazes

The ABC News reports that students affected by the bushfires in New South Wales returned to school for the first time since this season's devastating fires. The tiny Bobin Public School on the NSW Mid North coast was destroyed by fire three months ago and Wytaliba Public School on the Northern Tablelands was extensively damaged by the deadly bushfires in November last year. With the schools rebuilt they were operational from day one of the new school year. Moruya-based relationships counsellor, Jan Ryan, has specialised in trauma, grief and loss. As part of her work with Relationships Australia she has been visiting preschools in bushfire-affected communities to assist teachers and staff to be emotionally ready when parents and children return to the classroom. What I am seeing is traumatised people trying to support traumatised people," Ms Ryan said. "Whether it's preschool or primary school or high school, the whole community's been exposed to what's happening and it's not like the fire has passed through and gone — it's a present danger." Ms Ryan said it was important for parents to reassure their children that school was a safe place.


Bushfire education is too abstract. We need to get children into the real world

According to an article in The Conversation, children and young people have been deeply impacted by the current bushfire crisis. This shows how essential it is for all children and young people, regardless of their geographic location in Australia, to have appropriate education about bushfire prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response. Over eighty years ago, the 1939 report of the royal commission into the Victorian Black Friday bushfires recommended that all schools, in the city and country, make “fire prevention a real part of the curriculum”. The final report of the 2009 royal commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday fires noted those recommendations were never fully implemented. Victoria took the lead during consultations on the Australian Curriculum in 2012. It obtained agreement from other states to include elements of bushfire education in the curriculum. However, the implementation and effectiveness of this curriculum has not been reviewed at a state, territory or national level since it was developed.


Education Minister Dan Tehan sets up a body to protect Australia’s education reputation

The Australian reports that Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has set up a new taskforce to protect the reputation of Australia’s $39 billion international education industry following the bushfire crisis. Mr Tehan said he expected the taskforce to report to him in four to six weeks with policy suggestions and ideas to protect Australia’s position as a leading provider of education to international students. In an interview with The Australian, Mr Tehan said the bushfires were unlikely to have a short term impact on the industry because this year’s intake of students had “already committed to coming to Australia for their education”. However he said “there is an immediate need to reassure parents and students that when it comes to safety — air quality in particular — we are more or less back to normal”. On Tuesday 21 January 2020, Mr Tehan chaired a meeting of the joint government-industry body, the Council for International Education, which resolved to set up the global reputation taskforce which will continue to respond as the summer progresses.


Christian schools pressure Porter on religious freedom bill

The Australian reports that Christian Porter is under pressure from Christian schools and social and legal groups to make further changes to his religious freedom bills, with the government expected to finalise its legislation by March. Ahead of submissions closing on 31 January, the Attorney-General was urged to rethink the government’s proposal to create a freedom of religion commissioner and consider impacts on sporting teams. The Australian understands faith leaders consider Mr Porter’s second exposure draft as a positive “step forward” and the government was listening to feedback but still believed extra work was required. In a memo to the Law Council of Australia, the Law Institute of Victoria raised concern that the draft bill has “privileged religious expression over discrimination protections and patient health needs”.


Catholic schools to receive additional funding for drought relief

The Educator reports that the Federal Government has doubled the funding of Catholic schools to support families affected by drought, allocating a total of $8.2 million for Catholic schools across Queensland ($3.9 million), New South Wales ($2.8 million), Victoria ($810,000) and South Australia ($660,000). The effort is on top of the drought relief funding announced by the federal government last 7 November. “The Federal Government recognises the hardship faced by our drought-affected communities and the flow-on effects for schools,” said Jacinta Collins, executive director of National Catholic Education. Collins also said that many of their communities have been experiencing drought for some years and schools have been doing everything they can to support the wellbeing of students, which includes counselling.


Victoria rolls out extended preschool program

The Educator reports that Victoria finally kicked off its funded universal three-year-old kindergarten program last week, with the opening of 36 services in six of its local government areas (LGAs). “This is an incredibly exciting time for families across the first roll-out areas, whose children are among the first in Australia to benefit from funded universal three-year-old Kinder,” said Victoria Education Minister James Merlino. The three-year-old kindergarten program will expand to 15 more regional LGAs next year. Victoria is expected to provide five hours’ worth of funded kindergarten in all LGAs by 2022 before slowly increasing the coverage to 15 hours by 2029. The program was created in response to a report from Victoria University’s (VU) Mitchell Institute suggesting that two-year preschool programs can further strengthen the cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children – especially those from disadvantage backgrounds – compared to just one year of preschool.


ARACY releases guide on improving parent-school ties

The Educator reports that the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) has released an Australia-specific implementation guide on how schools can enhance their relationships with families to improve student outcomes. Penny Dakin, chief executive officer of ARACY, said that the guide explains not only the importance of families in improving student outcomes, but also gives a “clear picture” of how school leaders and educators can better implement a working relationship with their students’ families. The guide is broken down into six sections to guide school leaders -- from assessing their own school community and creating a culture for effective family engagement to providing examples on how to overcome challenges in establishing better ties with families. ARACY’s guide, which can be accessed through the organisation’s website, also includes various resources to help school leaders in planning and tracking their progress.


What are the priorities and things that matter most for parents in 2020?

The Advertiser reports that student wellbeing tops the list for most mums and dads, according to a national representative study of parents of primary and secondary school-aged children. Parents are also looking for wide-ranging extra-curricular opportunities and individualised support for their child. As well, they want their children well prepared for an increasingly automated and changing work environment. “Wellbeing really came out as the No. 1 issue and expectation that parents have and also the one that has really increased over time,” said Ashley Fell, co-author of McCrindle Research’s Future of Education report. “The challenge for schools is that almost a quarter of parents (24 per cent) believe schools should provide extensive individualised support for all wellbeing issues.” McCrindle surveyed more than 1000 parents across all states and demographics, held focus groups with teachers and interviewed principals for the report.


Researcher underscores the importance of media literacy in childhood development

The Educator reports that children should learn about the influence that media can have on people’s lives as soon as they start school in order to minimise any harmful impact it can have on their development, according to University of South Australia education researcher Dr Lesley-Anne Ey.  However, Ey found that media literacy, which involves learning about the role of media in society and gaining the essential skills of inquiry and self-expression, is virtually missing from the primary school curriculum in both Australia and the United States. And despite young children being enthusiastic consumers of media, the topic is only offered in upper primary. “The Australian curriculum is effective in teaching children how to create and analyse digital media but lessons on how the media influences personal development start far too late.” According to Ey, though included in the curriculum, media literacy is often left up to the teacher’s discretion on when and how it is taught.



Study suggests it's better to teach children water safety in natural environments (New Zealand)

According to Radio NZ, a University of Otago study involved 120 children, who took part in a practical water safety program in ocean, harbour and river waters around Dunedin. The children learnt to evaluate risks in the different environments, alongside key skills like floating, getting in and out of the water safely, and how to fit a lifejacket properly. The research, led by Professor Chris Button, found that retention of water safety skills was improved after teaching by experts in those different open water environments. "Learning water safety skills seems very much attached to the context in which they are taught, and that's why we think learning only in the pool is problematic as most drownings around the world tend to occur in open water," he said. "The essence of our water safety research is that learning new skills in different environments allows the development of transferable skills that can be applied to different contexts more readily."


Edmonton's public school board looks to save millions by cutting five school days next year (Canada)

According to the CBC, families and education staff will soon hear from Edmonton Public Schools about potentially cutting five school days from next year's schedule to save $2.7 million, as the board faces a provincial funding freeze. Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said that the board is considering adding three professional development days for staff and adding two more non-instructional days. Reducing busing costs for extra days that students aren't in school would save the board an estimated $150,000 per day, Estabrooks said. The other $2 million in savings would come from not having to hire substitutes when regular teachers are on professional development days or off sick. To make up for the lost school days, 11 more minutes would be added to each school day, which Estabrooks said teachers have so far supported.


International Education Day: Pressing need for new approach and massive investments to meet educational challenges (Global)

Mirage News reports that on International Day of Education, 24 January, experts from around the world, young people and members of the education community gathered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in the presence of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, French Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, and Minister and Special Adviser to the President of Niger Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou. “Education is the keystone of the Sustainable Development Goals we have set for 2030. If we fail on education, the entire construct of development will fail,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. According to UNESCO figures, 258 million children are still out of school and many of those attending school learn poorly as two-thirds of the 411 million children who are deficient in reading and mathematics attend educational establishments. “To face the challenges of tomorrow, not only do we need massive investment, but an overhaul of educational systems is necessary,” said the Director-General.

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