Weekly Wrap: July 30, 2020

30 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.



Child sexual abuse redress scheme pay outs $610 million slower than expected

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that it would take half a century for the estimated 60,000 survivors of institutional child sexual abuse to receive redress at the current rate, the Federal Opposition has claimed. Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney said last week’s Economic and Fiscal Update showed payments under the National Redress Scheme would decrease by $610 million to mid-2021. The Government's papers attribute the decrease to a "slower than expected uptake by survivors” for the write-down." A spokesperson for the Minister for Social Security, Anne Ruston, said that the $610 million decrease was not a budget saving. Once a survivor accepted an offer of redress, the Commonwealth paid the money which was later recouped from the relevant institutions. The scheme - which provides support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse - had received a total of 7,261 applications as of June 26. Of the 60,000 people who are expected to be eligible for redress, 2,693 payments had been made totalling $220.9 million and a further 612 offers were waiting an applicant’s decision, the Minister said in early July.


Child sex abuse survivors are five times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault later in life

According to an article in The Conversation, as Australia’s landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and other cases have shown, the impact of child sexual abuse is devastating. Re-victimisation, or the likelihood that child sexual abuse survivors will experience further sexual abuse later in life, is a particularly tragic consequence that is rarely mentioned or considered. In their research, the authors re-analysed data of 2,759 Australian boys and girls who were medically confirmed to have been sexually abused between 1964 and 1995. Overall, most (64 per cent) child sexual abuse survivors in their study were not re-victimised later in life. This percentage was consistent with the control group (67 per cent were not victims of crimes). Unfortunately, though, child sexual abuse survivors were much more likely than those in the control group to be re-victimised in what are considered medium and high harm personal injury crimes. The reasons why child sexual abuse is linked to re-victimisation are not well known. Nor are the factors that determine which survivors are more vulnerable to crimes later in life.


Only one fifth of school students with disability had enough support during the remote learning period

According to an article in The Conversation, only 22 per cent of family members and carers of students with a disability agreed they had received adequate educational support during the pandemic. Many respondents in the authors’ new research, and survey, on behalf of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) reported being forgotten in the shift to remote learning, or being the last group to be considered after arrangements had been made for the rest of the class. A number of parents and carers said the pandemic period gave them an insight into the level their child was working at. This occasionally came as a surprise, as parents discovered with adequate support their child could complete work at a much higher level than the school had recorded. For others, this period illustrated how little progress their child had been making and the lack of support they were receiving at school. The survey was launched on April 28, 2020 and remained open until the June 14, 2020 (nearly seven weeks). The authors received more than 700 responses and 1,145 text comments.


Beyond Blue encourages educators to put themselves first and guard mental health

The Sector reports that since March Be You, Beyond Blue’s free national education initiative, has experienced a 65 per cent increase in web visits compared to the same period last year, with resources specific to the pandemic having received more than 115,000 visits and over 5,300 downloads since they were made available on 20 March. The Be You resources offer advice and tools to educators, principals, families and carers about how they can support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people and are backed up by a Be You team around the country. “The increased engagement with Be You reminds us that educators care deeply about the social and emotional wellbeing of their students,” Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said. With some parts of the country returning to online learning and increased social distancing measures, Ms Harman said it was important for educators to safeguard their own wellbeing. Be You was developed by Beyond Blue in partnership with delivery partners Early Childhood Australia and headspace.


Will school temperature checks curb the spread of coronavirus?

According to an article in The Conversation, students in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in years 11 and 12, students in year 10 undertaking VCE or the applied learning equivalent, and specialist school students, are attending school for face-to-face learning. In announcing this new model, the Victorian government also revealed daily temperature checks would be introduced for all students attending school face-to-face in term 3. Non-contact infrared thermometers measure skin (peripheral) temperature without physical contact, which offers a convenient option for temperature checking large numbers of children. But their readings can be affected by factors such as outdoor temperature, where on the body you aim the thermometer, and distance from the subject. We also need to remember fever reducing medications, such as paracetamol, can lower a child’s temperature. Combined, these factors indicate non-contact infrared thermometers may not be very reliable in detecting a fever (regardless of whether or not the fever is related to COVID-19).


Parents give schools big thumbs up during COVID-19

The Educator reports that if new research is anything to go by, educators can certainly rest assured that they have the full confidence of their parent communities, who have given schools an A+ for their performance and communication during lockdown. Dr Adam Fraser, a peak performance expert and director of research company E-Lab, recently studied how parents’ attitudes towards teachers changed over the COVID-19 home schooling period. The study of over 1,000 NSW parents of primary-aged children from a diverse range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds found that a whopping 99.7 per cent of parents were satisfied with the work of their child’s teacher, and 98.5 per cent were satisfied with the communication they received from the school. Importantly, 91 per cent of parents said they had a greater level of respect for teachers following the COVID-19 lockdown.


Major report highlights opportunities for senior students

The Educator reports that a new report has set out recommendations to improve how senior students learn about their opportunities to pursue work or further studies. Led by Professor Peter Shergold, the “Review of Senior Secondary Pathways: Looking to the future” report was a major review of senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training in Australia. The report, released last Thursday, made 30 findings on the current senior secondary pathways arrangements and 20 recommendations on helping young people navigate their senior years and enter further study or the workforce. Key recommendations included the introduction of a Learner Profile that will identify a student’s range of skills, knowledge and experiences both from inside and outside the classroom and developing a national strategy with the Skills Council to deliver VET to secondary students. The Federal Government will be considering the recommendations of the review before working closely with state and territory colleagues on a response through Education Council.


Australia's biggest workers’ compensation system faces looming financial disaster

The ABC News reports that an investigation into Australia's $60 billion workers’ compensation system has revealed the two biggest schemes are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in what has been described as "immoral and unethical practices" by an industry ombudsman. A joint Four Corners investigation with The Age and Sydney Morning Herald has found the schemes in Victoria and NSW are facing significant financial troubles. The investigation has heard claims of insurance agents gaming the system for financial incentives and it reveals concerns that an underpayment scandal at the country's biggest provider, icare, could cost up to $80 million — double what had been originally reported. The joint investigation examined hundreds of sensitive internal NSW Government documents that show despite deepening concerns about the financial viability of icare, its executives were paid some of the biggest salaries of any NSW Government agency. Questions are also being raised about how icare awards contracts. In Victoria, the workers compensation scheme WorkSafe recorded a loss of $823 million last financial year.


“Doesn't give me closure”: Dreamworld operator faces $4.5m fine following charges

The Age reports that the parent company of Dreamworld faces up to $4.5 million in fines after being charged over the 2016 ride tragedy that claimed the lives of four people, but the development gives no closure to at least one of the families. Queensland's independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle confirmed on Tuesday last week that the three charges brought against Ardent Leisure will be the only ones laid over the incident. After a lengthy inquest in 2018, Coroner James McDougall handed down a scathing report in February this year noting it was "very fortunate" nobody else had been killed on the ride prior before the incident. As a final recommendation of the exhaustive 300-page report, he asked Queensland’s Office of Industrial Relations to investigate whether to lay charges against Ardent Leisure. The Queensland government passed industrial manslaughter laws that introduced fines of up to $10 million for companies and up to 20 years' jail for an individual. However, these were not retrospective.


Government failing children by refusing to raise criminal age of responsibility, say activists and experts

SBS News reports that children as young as 10 will continue to be able to be arrested, charged and detained for at least another year as the nation's top law officials put off a decision on raising the age of criminal responsibility. Activists, lawyers and health professionals urged Australia's attorneys-general to use a law reform meeting to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. But the council of attorneys-general decided on Monday there was still work to do on what would replace the current system should the age be lifted. That work isn't expected to be finished until next year, an announcement that has drawn the ire of Indigenous-led, medical, legal and human rights organisations. NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said NSW was yet to be convinced the age should be raised. "There is understandable community concern when, for example, 13-year-olds in far north Queensland are alleged to have raped a minor, and understandable community concern that kids may feel they can get away with things if there isn't some criminal sanctions attached," he said. The Australian Medical Association said the decision not to raise the age of criminal responsibility went against medical advice.


Flu deaths drop in Australia as coronavirus restrictions save hundreds of lives

The ABC News reports that hundreds of Australian flu deaths have been avoided because of the lockdown measures used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, experts say. The latest national statistics, obtained by the ABC, reveal from January to June 2020, there were just 36 deaths from the flu. That compares to 430 deaths in the same period for 2019. Closing schools, maintaining physical distancing and boosting hand hygiene have all contributed to the massive decline in flu diagnoses and deaths. "The main reasons are due to social distancing, as influenza is spread just like COVID-19 is," Professor Ian Barr, deputy director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, said. "And the closure of schools probably also has a big part in the transmission of the flu in a normal season." The closure of Australian borders to international travellers also provided far fewer opportunities for people to bring the flu into the country from overseas.



Students call for climate action restart after COVID-19 (New Zealand)

Radio NZ reports that New Zealand's success eliminating COVID-19 should be a springboard to reboot climate action, a group of Christchurch teens say - and they've already started the dirty work - with tree planting. The Christchurch School Strike 4 Climate group is replanting an area in north Christchurch's Styx Mill conservation reserve this morning, to help restore native wetland. A school strike and events the group had planned earlier this year had to be scrapped because of the pandemic, so it's their event of the year. Member Silas Zhang says future school strikes are now being planned, and the restart period after lockdown is the ideal time to rethink the tangible actions that can be made to start healing the environment. School Strike 4 Climate wants the government to declare a climate emergency and build a renewable economy with a shift to 100 per cent renewable energy. And to help Pacific Island nations facing problems from sea level rise.


Principals unhappy with changes to physical force rules (New Zealand)

Radio NZ reports that teachers are disappointed the government has made only minimal changes to their right to use force to restrain students despite years of debate over the topic. They say schools are struggling to cope with increasing violence from their students and they need clearer rules. They are also angry the government has given them just hours to respond to its proposals, which were in a supplementary order paper included in the Education and Training Bill that was passed by Parliament earlier last week. The main change was to extend teachers' right to use force to situations where they fear a child will cause emotional distress, not just physical harm, to themselves or others. Principals' Federation president Perry Rush said it was not clear that the changes would "de-cloy" the rules so they were easy to understand and gave teachers sufficient freedom to act when they needed to. Patrick Walsh from the board of the teacher registration and disciplinary body, the Teaching Council, said the council was disappointed the government was proposing so little change.


Back to school: About a dozen countries have returned kids to classrooms. What Canada can learn from them (Canada)

The National Post reports that more than three out of four children and youth worldwide — 1.37 billion students — were affected by COVID-19 school closures as countries, fearful children would be infected and propagate the virus, emptied classrooms in March. More than a dozen countries have since fully or partially re-opened schools. As Canada’s provinces scramble to bring students back to something resembling “near-normal” learning, there are lessons to be learned from what went well — and not so well. Ontario’s Education Minister promises this week to unveil a new plan to reopen schools. Alberta has vowed to open schools at “near-normal” levels for K-to-12 students come September. British Columbia is also aiming for a full return of primary and middle school students, rather than a hybrid model of part-time in class, part-time virtual learning, that few parents want. There’s near universal agreement that continued closures would be disastrous.


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