Weekly Wrap: June 18, 2020

18 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.



Education ministers agree to curriculum review

The Educator reports that education ministers have agreed to the terms of reference for the long-awaited review of the Australian Curriculum. On Friday, education authorities from all states and territories agreed to review the Foundation – Year 10 (F–10) Australian Curriculum, with the review to be completed by the start of 2022. The review will involve extensive consultation with the profession, and engagement with key stakeholders and respond to the needs and feedback of teachers, who will be “extensively involved” in the review process. ACARA said that in preparation for the review, it has been consulting with key education stakeholders to define the approach to, and scope of, the review. Through its program of research, ACARA has benchmarked the Australian Curriculum against the curricula of Singapore, Finland, British Columbia and New Zealand, and sought feedback from states and territories on the effectiveness of the Australian Curriculum through its annual monitoring process.


How media stereotypes affect kids' science ambitions

The Educator reports that the latest NAP – Science Literacy assessment found more than 80 per cent of Year 6 and 10 students acknowledged that science is important for many jobs and for helping people to make informed decisions. However, fewer students are taking up science as a career after school, and media stereotypes may be to blame. A study by the University of South Australia and the Australian Catholic University found that stereotypes of science and scientists can influence children’s career aspirations – even at the primary school level. UniSA researcher, Dr Garth Stahl and ACU researcher Dr Laura Scholes say understanding how these stereotypes influence students is important if Australia is to tackle the skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). In this study, researchers interviewed 45 (29 male and 16 female) Year four (9-10-year-olds) primary school students, across six economically and geographically diverse schools.


Stand up straight: school assemblies, choirs and class photos will resume next Monday

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that class photographs, choirs and assemblies can resume at NSW public schools from this week, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions for children across NSW. Inter-school sport, music and debating will also resume from next term, although some activities, such as school camps and excursions will remain on hold and major events such as the School Spectacular have been cancelled, the NSW Department of Education told principals last Thursday. Under new guidelines, assemblies will be allowed from this Monday, as long as they do not last any longer than 15 minutes. Choirs and performing arts can resume – as can out-of-hours classes such as music, dance and sports programs. Special Religious Education and ethics, which have been suspended due to a requirement that volunteers stay away from school campuses to reduce the risk of adult-to-adult transmission, will also be permitted. However, some activities remain on hold, such as school camps, excursions, and parent attendance at assemblies.


Queensland's boarding school students face potentially longer time away from classrooms due to coronavirus restrictions

The ABC News reports that there are hundreds of Queensland boarding students who aren't able to return to their schools or classrooms due to lingering coronavirus restrictions. Boarding schools across the state have been subject to strict national health guidelines that prohibit more than 25 per cent of students from sleeping in dormitories. Current guidelines suggest ways of reducing on campus numbers, including billeting students out with other families. However, according to Dr Lee-Anne Perry, Executive Director of Queensland Catholic Education, those guidelines are not viable for most of her 16 boarding schools — leaving more than 1,000 students stuck at home. Dr Perry has written to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asking for help to ease the restrictions and allow students back in time for term three. In a statement, Queensland Health said: "Boarding schools by their very nature increase the risk of transmission of disease”. The Education Minister has been contacted for comment.


Scott Morrison allows international students back from July

The ABC News reports that the Federal Government will allow international students back into the country in a "pilot basis" from next month, as Australia's higher education industry looks to recover from a double hit of travel restrictions and accusations of racism. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the pilot plan after a National Cabinet meeting in Canberra, with international students to be able to enter the country but only on "pre-approved plans" for "particular institutions". The particular universities were not specified, however Mr Morrison did single out the ACT in his statement — home of The Australian National University (ANU). The higher education sector cautiously welcomed Friday's announcement, which comes after a major lobbying effort from the sector on behalf of international students, which make up as much 30 to 40 per cent of some universities’ admissions.


Private schools could raise fees to compensate for COVID-19 closures

The Herald Sun reports that boarding schools - many of which rely heavily on high fee paying international students - have been among the worst hit by COVID-19 closures. Even now, travel and strict social distancing restrictions in dormitories meant many could not resume normal operations and return all their domestic and international boarding students, the Australian Boarding Schools Association said. “(Many) schools haven’t been charging fees for boarders while they’re not on campus. “So it’s not just the international kids, the domestic kids are a problem (financially) for schools as well,” ABSA chief Richard Stokes said. While raising fees next year was the last thing private schools wanted to do - when they knew many families were cash-strapped - it was likely they would have to, he said. Independent Schools Victoria chief executive officer, Michelle Green, said private schools did not set their budgets for the following year until July or August, so it was still too early to say if, and where, fees would rise.


“A rollercoaster ride”: Steering schools through coronavirus cases

The Age reports that finding out a member of your school community has tested positive for coronavirus is a life-changing moment for a principal. Suddenly a lot of things need to happen in quick succession: the Health Department needs to know so it can make the call on closing the school; staff, students and families must all be told; contact tracing, testing and deep cleaning will come next, all while teachers begin to shift classes online. School closures following a confirmed case of coronavirus are based on the advice of the Victorian Chief Health Officer and the Health Department. If a school is directed to close, the Education Department then helps communicate with staff and families. Kensington Primary School principal Bridget McLaughlin felt the weight of her responsibility when she received the news in mid-March that two parents had tested positive. "It's about ensuring my staff are safe, the children are safe, the community is safe; it is quite a load," she said.


Preschoolers caught with potentially harmful “COVID-19 protector”

According to 9news, students from at least three Sydney preschools have been sent to school wearing a potentially harmful "coronavirus protector" lanyard that has no proven effect. The Toamit 'Virus Shut Out' is manufactured in Japan. It is a card attached to a lanyard that is worn around the neck. Packaging claims the device protects the wearer by "effectively blocking airborne particles and bacteria, as well as various epidemic viruses – reducing the chance of being infected or infecting others". 'Virus Shut Out's' main ingredient is chlorine dioxide, a highly corrosive substance that can cause inflammation to the airways and irritate the eyes. "It's toxic and it's corrosive so it has all the harm and no benefit," Australian National University Professor Peter Collignon told Nine.com.au. While NSW Health says it is investigating the 'Virus Shut Out' device, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has not taken specific regulatory action to ban it in Australia. While the device is not yet banned in Australia, it is illegal in the US and several countries around Asia.


South Australia puts out call for families to enrol children now for 2021 preschool year

The Sector reports that South Australian families with children eligible to start Government preschool next year are being encouraged to enrol their child this month, with those who turn four years of age before 1 May 2021 eligible to attend preschool from the beginning of next year. First Nations children, and children who are, or who have been, in out of home care are eligible to attend once they turn three years of age, information provided by the South Australian Department of Education noted.  Enrolment applications are prioritised for families living within a preschool’s catchment area, meaning children can attend their local facility. Where possible, families are encouraged to register their interest with their local preschool by June 30, although interest can be expressed at any time during the year. SA Education Minister John Gardner said preschool represented an important beginning to the educational life of a child.


WA primary school apologises for “shameful” colonial-themed dress-up day during National Reconciliation Week

The ABC News reports that a primary school principal apologised following the backlash to a colonial-themed day that encouraged students to dress as convicts, soldiers and bushrangers during National Reconciliation Week. An Aboriginal leader said she was shocked and dismayed to learn Castletown Primary School near Esperance held the event in the lead-up to Western Australia Day. The school advertised the event via a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, and overlooked the fact it fell in the middle of a culturally-significant week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. National Reconciliation Week has been celebrated since 1993, and this year's theme was "in this together". The WA Education Department said it encouraged all public schools to celebrate Reconciliation Week in "respectful and appropriate ways".



Top public school accused of “toxic culture of racism” among pupils (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that more than 250 former pupils at Westminster School have signed a letter demanding that it combat the “toxic culture of racism within the student body”, promote the teaching of black culture and confront its links with the slave trade. It is one of the first indications that Britain’s public school system is now coming under pressure to follow the example of many universities and examine how it tackles racial and colonial issues. While praising the school for “taking a constructive approach to learning”, the former pupils said “our education fell short in educating us about the great privilege that we had as predominantly white students of a public school”. The pupils complain that during their time at the school they did not read a single book by a black author and that black history and Britain’s role in the slave trade were largely ignored. In a statement, Westminster said it had established a “challenging racism committee” made up of staff and pupils and that it was reviewing its procedures to identify ways in which it could “ensure a diverse school community that is truly reflective of the multicultural city in which we live”.


Academics call for end to alcohol industry-backed youth education programme (New Zealand)

Radio New Zealand reports that New Zealand academics have slammed an in-schools live theatre programme designed to educate young students on the dangers of underage drinking. Their focus is the interactive programme Smashed, which is supported by the alcohol industry-funded organisation, The Tomorrow Project. In an editorial in the New Zealand Medical Association Journal released last Friday, University of Otago professor Jennie Connor said it was time to ban all interaction between the alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food industries and our education system. Professor Connor said it was "perhaps ironic" that while schools were unlikely to take money directly from the alcohol industry because it was "so clearly wrong", some had accepted the trojan horse that Smashed represented, and had invited the industry in through the front gate. The UK based Smashed now operated globally and was introduced to New Zealand schools last year.

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