Weekly Wrap: June 11, 2020

11 June 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.



Each Australian school should employ an Indigenous educator: World Vision

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that one of Australia's largest humanitarian agencies is calling for a local Indigenous teacher to be employed in every school to bolster students' understanding of Aboriginal culture and reduce discrimination in schools. A World Vision submission to the Federal Parliamentary inquiry into education in remote and complex environments suggests the role would involve providing cultural education in the classroom, as well as co-ordinating visits from local Aboriginal community members and ''on-country'' learning experiences. They would also provide cultural awareness training for school staff and help embed Indigenous perspectives across the school curriculum including in science, geography and mathematics. World Vision senior policy advisor Scott Winch said Aboriginal culture and history deserved greater respect in school environments. He said non-Indigenous teachers had a limited capacity to deliver relevant curriculum content, particularly in a local context, and that having local Indigenous community members as core staff would increase teacher confidence.


China warns students against studying in Australia in latest coronavirus escalation

SBS News reports that China on Tuesday urged students going overseas to study to think carefully before choosing Australia, due to a spate of racial incidents targeting Asians in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. "The spread of the new global pneumonia outbreak has not been effectively controlled, and there are risks in international travel and open campuses," the warning read. "During the epidemic, there were multiple discriminatory incidents against Asians in Australia. The Ministry of Education reminds all overseas students to do a risk assessment and is currently cautious in choosing to study in Australia or return to Australia." The Ministry of Education’s warning comes days after the Chinese culture and tourism ministry advised citizens against travelling to Australia due to racial discrimination and violence stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, which first emerged in China in late 2019. "We reject China's assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact," Senator Birmingham told AAP in a statement on Saturday.


The fight is on for boarders to get back to school

The Weekly Times reports that half of boarding school students in Australia are still not back in their boarding houses. That’s the finding from a national survey conducted by the NSW Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, in which more than 500 families participated. On May 2, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee released its guidelines for boarding houses to reopen under coronavirus restrictions. However, state and territory health ministers have interpreted the rules differently, and boarding school houses have had different approaches to welcoming kids back. Not all schools have the infrastructure to adequately space children out. Across the country, some schools have encouraged boarders to return as “day students” and seek alternative accommodation and some schools have welcomed selected boarders back under strict conditions. Queensland ICPA president Tammie Irons said the conditions were tough on students’ mental health and wellbeing.


Number of Australia’s vulnerable children is set to double as COVID-19 takes its toll

The Sector reports that latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 2.7 million people left their job or had their hours reduced between March and April. This means the jobs crisis is affecting 1.4 million Australian children, according to new modelling from the Mitchell Institute. The stress and anxiety facing parents who have lost their jobs, coupled with social isolation and educational disruption, are likely to put many children at a significantly higher risk of poorer education and health outcomes. A family’s socio-economic status is the biggest factor influencing children’s educational opportunities in Australia. Research by the Mitchell Institute has found children from struggling families are 10-20 per cent more likely to be missing key educational milestones compared with their peers. With schools and preschools now resuming something close to normal operations, it’s time to shift our collective focus from how we deliver education remotely, to how we support a huge newly vulnerable population of students.


Schoolies week likely to go ahead

The Educator reports that students will be free to flock to the Gold Coast for Schoolies Week celebrations after government and community leaders conceded there is little they can do to prevent the annual celebration from going ahead. Previously, Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace flagged that the event may be cancelled due to the risks posed by COVID-19. “I think if things continue the way that they are, depending on where we’re at, of course schoolies will be cancelled,” she said in April. However, Minister Grace has now acknowledged that some organisers may proceed with Schoolies plans and called for organisers and attendees to abide by health guidelines. “The Queensland Government doesn't organise schoolies, but we understand the importance of end-of-year celebrations for Year 12 graduates,” the ABC quotes Minister Grace as saying.


WA school restrictions lift, but parents told to remain outside the gates

WAtoday reports that parents are now allowed back on school grounds, but some WA schools have decided to act on lessons learned during the coronavirus restrictions by telling parents to stay away to allow their children to become more independent. While the Department of Education says parents, carers and visitors are allowed to enter school grounds again for drop offs and pick ups, WA schools are keen to keep arrangements established during the coronavirus restrictions period. With restrictions lifting, examinations will also be back on the calendar as well as school events including inter-school activities providing schools abide by a limit of 100 people in indoor settings and 300 people in outdoor areas. School camps will now be permitted for up to 100 people, and sports training, games and inter-school competitions will also start up again with schools following the same guidelines as the community for the number of people per indoor and outdoor space.


COVID-19 testing in WA schools unlikely to find asymptomatic cases, researcher says

The ABC News reports that the lead researcher for a COVID-19 study that will see school students and teachers across Western Australia tested is not expecting to find many asymptomatic cases hiding in classrooms. The Telethon Kids Institute will begin swab screening at 40 schools over the coming weeks as part of the State Government's Detect program. About 6,000 students and staff without symptoms will be tested to see if the virus is more widespread than first thought. Figures from the Department of Health, accurate as of June 4, showed only 15 coronavirus cases out of 592 detected in WA were people aged under 20. Dr Asha Bowen, lead researcher from the Telethon Kids Institute, said the low number of cases in young people in WA was also reflected in data from across Australia and around the world. 80 schools will contribute to the study by completing a series of 15-minute wellbeing surveys. The surveys will provide information on how COVID-19 is impacting the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of students, their parents and teachers. The findings are expected to be released before the end of the year.


Major evidence shake-up for child sex abuse trials

The Queensland Times reports that NSW MPs have passed landmark reforms permitting more evidence about an accused's sexual interest in children to be considered by juries in child sexual assault trials. The new legislation, which passed state Parliament last Wednesday, was created in response to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. The Commission found the exclusion of such evidence had led to unwarranted acquittals and barriers preventing offenders being held to account. The reforms will allow relevant evidence to be put before the court while maintaining important safeguards for a fair trial, the Attorney-General said. He called on other states and territories to introduce the same reforms. It comes as the state government proposes additional legal changes, seeking to further protect young people from exploitation and reform forensic mental health laws. Special care offences - applying to adults in positions of authority who engage in sexual activity with 16 or 17-year-olds in their care - would be broadened under one government Bill being introduced to Parliament.


Do anti-bullying programs require a rethink?

The Educator reports that, according to one bullying expert, it is a mistake to see bullying as just a school-based problem for teachers to tackle, rather than a whole-of-society issue. University of South Australia bullying expert, Professor Barbara Spears, says the issue needs to be addressed at a community level if we are to successfully reduce its prevalence. With about 910,000 Australian students recorded as victims of bullying each year, and economic costs associated with bullying estimated at $2.3 billion, Professor Spears says peer-to-peer violence in the classroom needs to be addressed hand-in-hand with bi-partisan government initiatives designed to reduce violence in the broader community. Professor Spears says this bi-partisan approach would recognise that work done in policy development is premised upon solid reputable research, including community voice, and therefore, we should not have to keep reinventing the wheel when governments change, but should instead be building on what is already evidence-based.


Should parent-teacher meetings shift online?

The Educator reports that holding parent-teacher meetings is an important and long-standing function of schools, but they don’t come without their downsides. One familiar issue for educators is that they can sometimes devolve into chaos when emotions run high. The most recent data on principal health and wellbeing shows that 9.3 per cent of school leaders report being on the receiving end of physical violence by parents – an alarming trend that educators say can only be addressed as a broader, societal problem. Parent-teacher meetings can also run into issues when parents may be too busy to make the trip to the school. However, these problems may one day be a thing of the past. Early feedback from Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) members’ schools on positive gains resulting from COVID-19 restrictions indicates that parent-teacher meetings held by phone or on digital platforms have been rated a huge success by parents and teachers.


Classes better delivered online, expert says

The Educator reports that students could be better off learning on YouTube or Zoom than in the classroom, claims an expert from Australian Catholic University. Dr Michael Noetel from ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences led a systematic review of 8,000 students who were surveyed over whether fears over the quality of online teaching had any foundation. He says there are three main reasons videos works well compared with face-to-face teaching. “It’s easier to design video that works with the brains of students; students have the control to learn when they want and how fast they want; and videos can give an authentic perspective that can’t easily be replicated in class,” he said. “Students have two main channels for learning: what they see and what they hear. Lots of different ways of learning can be built to use both channels well, but we teachers aren’t perfect: we make mistakes when giving live classes, and can edit ourselves on video”. Dr Noetel said this means educators can more carefully present information so it’s easy to understand. Dr Noetel says students also get more control this way.



No students in school without coronavirus vaccine, Philippines says (The Philippines)

CTV News reports that tens of millions of children in the Philippines will not be allowed back to school until a coronavirus vaccine is available, officials announced on Monday, saying they may have to broadcast lessons on TV. Nations like France and South Korea began resuming face-to-face classes as they got their outbreaks under control, but Philippine authorities see the risk as too great. President Rodrigo Duterte said last month that even if students could not graduate, they needed to stay out of school to fight the spread of the disease. Classes are to resume at the end of August and teachers will use distance learning methods via the internet or TV broadcasts where needed, education secretary Leonor Briones said. Millions live in deep poverty in the Philippines and do not have access to computers at home, which is key to the viability of online classes. There has been little public opposition to the postponement of face-to-face classes in the Philippines, where hundreds of new infections are being detected daily despite early and strict lockdown measures.


Christchurch school investigating after Black Lives Matter posters torn down (New Zealand)

Radio New Zealand reports that an elite Christchurch private school is investigating after students reported that a teacher tore down posters and verbally abused them for promoting the Black Lives Matter movement. The students at St Andrew's College, in Strowan, were raising awareness about the movement last week. They said they were shocked when a female staff member ripped down posters and stamped on them while swearing at the Year 13 students for their actions. One of the students, who did not want to be identified, said the group received permission from senior management to put up the posters. In a statement, St Andrew's College rector Christine Leighton said the school was committed to "treating all people equally and fairly". "The behaviour witnessed by students towards the end of last week is under investigation and therefore it would be inappropriate to make any comment while this process is under way," she said. Leighton said support had been offered to the students. She said teachers were provided with a "Living our Values" guide, which included behaviours for inclusivity.


Government to provide free sanitary items in schools (New Zealand)

Radio New Zealand reports that the Ministry of Education will begin providing free period products to schools during term three, following the government's $2.6 million investment. The roll-out will begin at 15 Waikato schools and be expanded to all state and state-integrated schools on an opt-in basis in 2021. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this was another step to support young people in poverty. "We know that nearly 95,000 nine to 18-year-olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products. By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school. Findings from the Youth19 Survey found 12 percent of students in Years 9 to 13 who menstruate reported difficulty getting access to products due to cost. Approximately one in 12 students reported having missed school due to lack of access to sanitary products.

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