Weekly Wrap: July 09, 2020

09 July 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.



New data reveals extent of school funding inequality

The Educator reports that last week, an analysis of ACARA data by Trevor Cobbold from public school advocates Save our Schools Australia found that public funding continues to flow disproportionately to private schools. According to the data, private school funding over the past decade has grown up to nine times faster in real terms than public school funding. Despite public schools enrolling more than 80 per cent of all disadvantaged students, Catholic and private schools were found to be far better resourced than public schools in every state. The average total income per student in public schools in Australia was $14,940 compared to $23,029 per student in private schools and $16,401 in Catholic schools. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said that the Federal Government is increasing the amount of funding it delivers to schools and asking states to do the same. “Commonwealth funding has grown at a much faster than state government funding – for both government schools and non-government schools,” Minister Tehan told The Sydney Morning Herald.


Private schools ask alumni to help pay fees for families in distress

The Age reports that some of Melbourne’s highest-fee schools are appealing to former students and current parents to help pay the fees of students at risk of quitting the school because of the financial impact of COVID-19. Michelle Green, chief executive of Independent Schools Victoria, said COVID-19 was having a serious impact on independent schools putting the education and wellbeing of children at risk. Ms Green said schools had frozen fees and offered flexible payment plans or even temporarily waived fees for families hit by sudden unemployment. Several private schools have cut their fees and temporarily stood down staff in response to the pandemic. Others have held the line on fees but invited struggling families to come forward and discuss fee relief. Some high-fee schools have also said they expect to experience a decline in enrolments next year.


Premier extends school holidays

The Educator reports that Victoria’s school holidays will be extended for a week after a surge in COVID-19 cases, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced. The state recorded 191 new cases on Tuesday – the highest daily number since the outbreak began – and follows a string of school closures due to teachers and students becoming infected with the virus. Under the new rules, students in Years 11 and 12 in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire will attend school for the beginning of Term 3. Students in Year 10 who are completing their VCE subjects and those attending special schools will also be required to return to face-to-face learning. All students in other year levels will undertake remote learning during this time. Premier Andrews said that for the children of essential workers or people who can't work from home, there will be supervised school holiday programs. Premier Andrews said there has been consultation with Catholic and independent sectors around the plans for flexible and remote learning.


Just one in five students learning media literacy, as news consumption rises

The Age reports that young people have become more frequent news consumers but experts warn media literacy education has not kept up with changing habits, with most students now getting their news from other people. Research shows that 88 per cent of young Australians are consuming news, propelled by the Australian bushfire season and coronavirus pandemic. But just one in five had received lessons at school in the past year that helped them work out whether news stories could be trusted and about one-third agreed they could distinguish fake news from real news. Western Sydney University and QUT researchers surveyed 1069 Australians, aged eight to 16, between February 28 and March 16 this year: after Australia's bushfire season and in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, when misinformation and conspiracy theories were spreading on social media.


Black Lives Matter movement prompts calls for greater focus on Indigenous history in Australian schools

SBS News reports that the global Black Lives Matter movement has in part highlighted the way students learn about black history and educators in Australia say more can be done here. As several monuments around the United States and locally in Australia were torn down or defaced, there is a growing debate around how history is taught and framed. In Australia educators and researchers have told SBS News that more needs to be done to ensure school students are learning about the history that they need to know. Gumbaynggir man Michael Donovan is the Director of Indigenous Strategy at Macquarie University. He said that, while there is a policy to embed Aboriginal perspectives throughout the curriculum in New South Wales, teachers often do not have the resources to teach it. Mr Donovan said that there had been lots of improvements over the years, but there is still a long way to go to ensure that all students are learning enough about Indigenous history.


How to listen and learn from Indigenous children in order to help them

The ABC News reports that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that primary school attendance rates for Indigenous students "did not improve between 2014 and 2018 and they remained below the rate for non-Indigenous students". Hayley McQuire, a Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman, is the co‑founder and national coordinator of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition. She said the coalition is reflective of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are committed to asserting Indigenous rights to education as part of the UN declaration of rights for Indigenous people. Ms McQuire said Australia's education model is one that "came out of the industrial revolution and was all about preparing people to work in factories, overlaid with 20th-century teaching practices trying to educate 21st-century kids". She and the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition believe one way to change the education system is to listen to our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Remote learning exposed deep digital divide in schools, teachers say

The Age reports that as Victorians are warned that a return to remote learning is possible in term 3, a survey of more than 1200 educators has shone a light on deep fault-lines in Australian students’ access to technology during last term’s COVID-19 lockdown. While some students were disadvantaged in their remote learning due to poor access to devices and unstable internet connections, others arguably had too much support. Some primary school children miraculously developed perfect spelling overnight, submitting work that appeared to have been heavily edited by their parents, making it hard to assess their work objectively, teachers reported. Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education surveyed teachers on their remote learning experiences. The study’s lead author, Dr Natasha Ziebell, said the survey had highlighted wildly varying experiences of students. In a few cases, teachers reported that their own school’s child safe policies prohibited students from switching on cameras in their homes, which hampered attempts to teach them.


First-of-its-kind program helps educators gauge students' mental health

The Educator reports that in June, a study found that over 90 per cent of senior students consider COVID-19’s disruption to normal schooling to be a stressful experience, and more than one in four say it was “one of the most stressful experiences of my life”. The study also found that students consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be more stressful than global and local politics, friendship pressures, family issues, body image and health concerns. The hope is that the more data that emerge, the better chance researchers and educators have of addressing and resolving the mental health issues that young people are experiencing. However, as it stands, data from Australia and New Zealand are lacking, as are well-conducted longitudinal investigations. In response, Monash University has developed THRIVE@Monash, a new initiative to help educators rapidly understand the digital markers of poor mental health in students during COVID-19. Led by Professor Kim Cornish, Director of the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash has begun the first stage of longitudinally surveying the Monash student body to gauge the range of students' experiences since lockdown.


Principals sound alarm as students take up vaping, become black market “dealers”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that principals across Sydney have written to parents warning them of a significant increase in vaping among teenagers, with teachers catching students as young as year 7 using vapes at school or even becoming dealers. NSW Secondary Principals' Council president Craig Petersen said vaping was now a major issue for schools. Principals report that teenagers travel several kilometres to find retailers willing to sell to them under the counter and then become "dealers" in the high school "black market". The issue has become politically fraught, with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt delaying by six months his plan to ban imports of nicotine electronic-cigarettes and refills, under pressure from lobbyists and 28 Coalition MPs who signed a letter condemning the proposed restrictions. The health effects of vaping are hotly contested.


Jackie Trad school appointment fiasco poses serious questions about the independence of Queensland's public service

The ABC News reports that according to the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), Ms Jackie Trad, the former Deputy Premier, had considerable influence, though Ms Trad herself was unaware of it. Bureaucrats in the Education Department bent over backwards to please her — even engaging in misleading and deceitful conduct that may have ended their own careers. That's why the chair of corruption watchdog Alan MacSporran was so keen to talk about the broader implications of his investigation, even after declaring Ms Trad had no criminal case to answer. This is not just about the technical anomalies in the process of appointing a school principal, but also a public service that appears to be all too willing to bow to perceived political pressure. The CCC found no evidence the former Deputy Premier corruptly or dishonestly sought to influence the appointment process. But it is of deep concern that senior public servants felt it necessary to bend the rules to deliver what they perceived to be the wishes of the Deputy Premier, and some of them may face internal disciplinary hearings.


Stamp duty to go, cost of food and school fees to rise as part of bold NSW tax blueprint

The ABC News reports that the cost of fresh food, healthcare, education and childcare could increase under a bold plan to overhaul the tax system. The New South Wales Review of Financial Relations has released its draft on Wednesday last week with 15 recommendations, after it was ordered by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet last year. The review was headed by former Telstra CEO David Thodey. "Without reform, the states are going to find it very difficult to face an increasing challenge in funding for the essential services that they provide," he said. "Namely health, education and infrastructure." The review has recommended either increasing the GST rate above 10 per cent or broadening its base to include fresh food, education and health. The review highlighted there were a "number of challenges" with changing the GST and it would also need unanimous support from the states and the Federal Government.



Schools urged to ensure students' security and privacy when conducting classes online (Canada)

The CBC reports that as most parts of Canada are gradually reopening their economies following months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some provinces — including Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and New Brunswick — have released plans on how they aim to allow students to return to the classroom in September. But those school boards continuing with partial or fully virtual learning need to ensure measures are in place to protect students' privacy and safety when using video-conferencing platforms for online classes, a cybersecurity expert says. "It's understandable that people want to get classes up and going during a pandemic," said Rebecca Herold, a data security and privacy expert based in Des Moines, Iowa. "But they need to think it through first and establish the guardrails around how those online classes are going to actually occur." School boards across the country have been using a variety of software programs for online learning during the pandemic.


US schools have lost 24.5 million records in breaches since 2005 (United States)

According to TechRepublic, a report from Comparitech has looked into cyber attacks on educational institutions in the United States, finding that there have been more than 1,300 breaches since 2005 and more than 24 million records lost. Comparitech data researcher Sam Cook dug deeper into the data and discovered that every state besides Wyoming has reported at least one breach since 2005, with California and Arizona suffered from the most amount of records lost. While the numbers show that 2008 had the most education data breaches, these numbers are a bit skewed because the majority of states have only implemented breach notification laws in the last few years. It was only in 2018 that the Federal Department of Education mandated that all Title IV institutions have to report all breaches regardless of size. The study data show that public schools and universities often suffered from more breaches than private ones.


Schools opting for group starts over Kiwi tradition (New Zealand)

Radio NZ reports that Ministry of Education figures show 101 schools have dropped the Kiwi tradition of letting children start school on their fifth birthday in favour of a system they say works better. The schools are using "cohort entry", which sees five-year-olds start in groups on either the first day of term or the middle of term after their birthday. Schools have been able to insist on cohort entry since the start of 2018 and further changes last year refined the rules around the age at which children can start and to stipulate two entry points each term. This year 20 schools adopted the scheme and it was not clear how many more would take it up next year. Tawa School principal Barri Dullabh said the school had been using cohort entry before he started working there about two years ago and he was enthusiastic about its advantages. "It's that opportunity to come and start school with a group of children, you're not the only one starting by yourself," he said. There were also advantages for the teachers and the rest of the class. "You're not having kids coming in all the time having to reset the routines all the time," he said.

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