Weekly Wrap: July 11, 2019

10 July 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.


Education union decries Melbourne Declaration review

Education HQ reports that a federal government review of education goals for young Australians is a smokescreen to distract from real issues in the sector, the Australian Education Union (AEU) says. Education Minister Dan Tehan has proposed a review of the Melbourne Declaration, which was nationally agreed to in 2008 and sets education goals for students. AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe says a review is unnecessary as the goals have not been achieved. "Yet Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan is determined to meddle with one of the blueprint documents guiding Australian education," she told AAP. AEU has written to the ministers about the review and also provided a submission on it, saying the Melbourne Declaration is still valid. Haythorpe says the education ministers should address the issues of fair funding for public schools and the "continued failure" of the national assessment system, NAPLAN.

Religious discrimination bill will safeguard people of faith, says attorney general

The Guardian  reports that cases such as Israel Folau’s would be captured by the government’s proposed religious discrimination bill, according to the Attorney-General, who says the legislation will include a “powerful avenue” for people of faith who face “indirect” unfair treatment. However, Christian Porter is holding firm against calls from conservative MPs to establish a religious freedom act, saying such legislation could see “sensitive public policy” determined by the courts as it adjudicated competing rights. Speaking to Guardian Australia after briefing more than 20 government MPs in Canberra on Friday, Porter said the legislation would include a clause relating to indirect discrimination, mirrored on section 7B of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). He believed this would prevent employers from putting in place a binding condition on all employees – such as occurred with Rugby Australia – that restricted someone from expressing their religious views. After the internal consultations are complete, Porter said he would begin external consultations. The legislation will be introduced in the second half of this year.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Father Frank Brennan on Israel Folau and religious freedom

The Conversation published a podcast and transcript of a conversation between Michelle Gratton and Father Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and member of the expert panel on Religious Freedom set up by Malcolm Turnbull, who says the Israel Folau matter is a “simple freedom of contract case regardless of Mr Folau’s religious views”. As for issues to do with religious schools, “Penny Wong’s bill was correct,” he said - referring to the Senator’s Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act late last year which sought to remove the capacity of religious schools to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. The only addition needed to this, he said, would be a clear commitment that “religious schools are free to teach their doctrine”.

States announce breakaway NAPLAN review

The Educator has reported that Australia's three largest states have united for a “comprehensive review” of NAPLAN to determine what form of the test works best for students. Speaking at the Education Council in Melbourne, the education ministers of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria said their states will work together to conduct their own review outside of the Council’s endorsement. Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, said it was “common sense” to conduct a review given that the test had been in place for 10 years. Queensland Education Minister, Grace Grace, said the decision to conduct a breakaway review of NAPLAN was made “in the absence of leadership from the Federal Government”. NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, said that while she was disappointed about the decision made at the Education Council not to support the proposal from NSW for a review of the NAPLAN test, she was "not deterred". Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, remains opposed to a full review of the controversial test, saying it would be “premature” to commission a full review of NAPLAN while other reviews are still outstanding.

Experts divided on phone ban in classrooms

An article in The Educator discussed the Victorian government’s announcement that from Term 1 2020, mobile phones will be banned for primary and secondary students. Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, made the announcement at McKinnon Secondary College, where teachers have reported greater student outcomes and improved behaviour since implementing its own phone ban. Neil Selwyn, a distinguished research professor at Monash University, said that while banning phones from classrooms, and from school altogether, might seem sensible, there are number of reasons to be cautious. Finnish educator, author and scholar, Pasi Sahlberg, shares similar concerns. Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, is pushing for a national ban on using mobile phones in class. However, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the ACT have said they have no plans to implement the initiative in their states and territories.

School violence inquiry hears of assaults, bullying that left Canberra student with permanent scars

According to the ABC News, a mother whose daughter still bears the scars from assaults that took place at a Canberra school has told of her family's torment throughout the ordeal at an ACT Government inquiry into the issue. In a closed hearing, Ellie* detailed years of bullying and violence inflicted on her teenage daughter at a Canberra high school which she said eventually ripped her family apart. Ellie told the inquiry that the most violent of the assaults saw her daughter punched repeatedly in the head, while the violence was filmed by other students and uploaded to social media. Ellie said she fronted the school on numerous occasions to seek out a solution. She also wrote to the ACT Education Directorate, and even took out a Personal Protection Order against the student perpetrators. But after feeling ignored and as if she had exhausted all her options, she made the difficult decision to send her daughter interstate to live with a family member and go to school more than 1,000 kilometres from the ACT. The Legislative Assembly committee inquiry is ongoing, with a final report expected in October.

Teachers have skills psychologists don't to manage students' mental health: expert

According to an article in Education HQ, many teachers don’t feel equipped to manage mental health in their classrooms — but they are the best possible resource for their students. With the rising rates of youth suicide, self-harm, and depression it can feel like a minefield that is best avoided at all costs. Teachers often worry that they will say the wrong thing, or trigger students with a comment that makes them even more upset, and so they avoid bringing up the issue of mental health with their students altogether. There is also a common misconception that because teachers are not specifically trained in psychology, they are not equipped to manage the mental health of their students. But this is a massive undervaluing of the incredible skillset of the teaching profession.It is pretty much impossible to be a teacher without gaining a deep understanding of student mental health.

Developmental delays in premature babies may last to school age, study shows

The ABC News  reports that researchers from the College of Health and Medicine's Division of Psychology at the University of Tasmania have conducted a study into the potential development delays in premature children. The findings show that executive functioning delays, such as attention difficulties, concentration and self-control, which frequently occur in premature children, persist through to school entry age. Professor Nenagh Kemp said the functions helped children deal and adapt to new situations, as well as assisting with goal-directed behaviour. Professor Kemp's team has studied a group of 140 pre-term and 80 full-term children. Professor Kemp said that premature babies could catch up with their peers as they grew older, but some did have some ongoing difficulties. There is currently no information on how long-lasting executive functioning delays can be, so researchers want to expand their work to study children aged 10 to 17.

How your school can save a life

According to The Educator, every day in Australia, more than 100,000 students stay at home because they feel worried about going to school. But for others, bullying can have a far more tragic impact. Rachel Downie, who has more than 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher, knows this all too well. When a former student committed suicide, it left the school community in a state of shock and grief. For Downie, the thought of such a thing happening again was intolerable – but not inconceivable. In 87 per cent of cases of bullying and harm, there are bystanders present. However, fears and social pressures can prevent witnesses from speaking up. To address this, Downie created Stymie, a website where students can anonymously notify schools of bullying, illegal activity, suicidal tendencies. The school can then confidentially follow it up with those affected in person and potentially save lives.

State’s rural areas face serious challenges while left waiting for teachers

According to The Courier Mail, teaching jobs are sitting vacant for months at rural and remote schools across Queensland, with experts predicting the shortfall to increase in coming years. Schools are feeling the pinch over a lack of teachers opting to move out of city areas, with principals receiving fewer applicants for key positions and being forced to look interstate and even overseas to fill the gaps. Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) acting executive director Josephine Wise said rural and remote parts of the state faced serious challenges regarding shortages.Ms Wise said ISQ was exploring new initiatives to help further attract and retain quality staff, such as researching sector workforce trends, pressure points and needs, and developing a range of workforce resources and tools.


School shootings: Utah teachers “helping” students by training to “fire back” (United States)

According to an Associated Press report from Channel 9, active shooter training for educators is becoming more common in the United States, and Utah is one of several states that generally allow permit holders to carry guns in public schools. At least 39 states require lockdown, active-shooter or similar safety drills, according to the Education Commission of the States. Other states have less explicit requirements or leave it to districts. Utah requires its elementary schools to conduct at least one safety drill each month, and its secondary schools to have detailed emergency response plans. The firearm training is voluntary, but the Utah County Sheriff's Teachers Academy already has a waiting list for its next four-week program. Despite increasing prevalence, some school safety experts aren't in favour of firearms training and worry that such lessons could cause undue stress or harm.

700 English schools reported over asbestos safety concerns (United Kingdom)

According to The Guardian, nearly 700 schools in England have been referred to the national health and safety body over concerns they are failing to safely manage asbestos in their buildings, potentially putting thousands of staff and pupils at risk, it has been revealed. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that it is only a risk if it is disturbed or damaged, which releases fibres into the air. However, campaigners and unions say asbestos in schools is often poorly managed and that staff are frequently unaware of its location in the buildings they work in. Even low levels of exposure to asbestos fibres can cause cancer decades later. Research has shown that exposure to asbestos is more dangerous the younger a person is, raising concerns over the future health of children. Last year, the UK government launched the asbestos management assurance process to find out more about asbestos in schools. According to information released following a freedom of information request, of the 2,952 schools bodies that responded in full to the survey, 2,570 (87 per cent) reported having asbestos in at least one of their buildings.

New Ontario Grade 10 career studies curriculum to include financial literacy (Canada)

According to the CBC, Ontario's new career studies curriculum for Grade 10 will include learning about financial literacy, including having students make a plan to fund their first year after high school. The province's new education minister, Stephen Lecce, unveiled the updated curriculum at Toronto's York University. Lecce says the mandatory course will focus on "monetizable skills" and the jobs of the future, such as those in science, technology, engineering and maths. He says it will also teach students about the workplace implications of social media and how to protect their privacy online. The new curriculum, which is slated to take effect in September, will also take a deeper look at financial management.


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