Weekly Wrap: June 25, 2020

25 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.



Wyatt eyes deal on schools to lift Indigenous Australians out of disadvantage

The Age reports that a new goal will be set within weeks to ensure better education for Indigenous children in a national plan to fix a critical failure in the early years of high school. The Federal Government is close to a deal with the states and territories to lift classroom performance by acting on shocking attrition rates that have seen young children leave school years too early. The Federal Government is aiming to reach the deal on July 3 as part of a Closing the Gap plan that will also commit to improvements on health, welfare and Indigenous incarceration. In one new move to offer direct help to Indigenous children, Mr Wyatt is increasing funding for mentors at 250 schools to keep young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people engaged in education. While this year’s report found governments were on track to improve year 12 attainment and ensure 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds were enrolled in early education, Mr Wyatt said the emphasis on year 12 disguised problems with the attrition rate prior to year 8.


National evidence institute gets $50m in funding

The Educator reports that the Education Council has agreed to $50m in funding towards the national evidence institute – a key recommendation of the ‘Gonski 2.0’ review. The institute aims to boost Australian students’ outcomes through the use of world-leading educational research. The funding will also be used to appoint the institute’s inaugural director, Dr Jenny Donovan. Dr Donovan will be the inaugural director and will take up her position on 1 July 2020. Dr Donovan’s first priorities will be to consult with stakeholders, establish the institute’s key relationships, and begin developing its initial research agenda. Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, said that the Federal Government will provide $25m to fund the institute with the states and territories contributing the other half. “The institute will research and collate effective teaching and learning practices and share them with teachers, principals and educators to help drive further improvements in Australia’s education system,” Minister Tehan said.


RACGP: Stop asking for COVID-19 clearance “certificates”

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has called on employers, school principals and day care managers to stop requiring employees, students and parents to provide a “medical clearance” or certificate stating that they do not have the COVID-19 virus. To assist employees, parents and students who have received such a request the RACGP has produced a helpful letter template for their usual GP to sign clearly stating that doctors are unable to routinely provide patients with such a clearance. The letter stresses that testing resources should only be available to people who have had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, patients who have symptoms such as fever or cough as well as healthcare workers. RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that such requests were an ongoing source of frustration for GPs and the patients they care for.


NRL set to join National Redress Scheme for child abuse victims

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the NRL has confirmed its intention to join the National Redress Scheme to support victims of institutional child sexual abuse. Earlier this week, Netball Australia became the largest national sporting organisation so far to announce their intent to join the scheme, putting pressure on dozens of sporting peak bodies yet to do so. Australian organisations which work with children now have until June 30 to commit or face potential financial sanctions from July 1. All organisations have until December 31 to complete the process of joining the scheme after signing the letter of intent. The Australian Olympic Committee has started the process of joining the scheme in the hopes that the move is followed by its 45 member sports, including Swimming Australia. There are 33 pending applications for redress against 30 sporting organisations that are yet to join, with victims unable to receive compensation until they do.


Public schools should offer International Baccalaureate, says report

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that public schools should offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) to give students equity of access to an academically rigorous HSC equivalent that has been available only at private schools, an internal NSW Department of Education paper recommends. The paper found the IB diploma's subjects were similar to those in the HSC, but "are generally thought to be more advanced in their depth and breadth", and of a similar standard to first-year university courses. Offering it would "help attract and retain families of bright students in the public school system", says the proposal to education executives from the department's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). Unlike its Victorian and Queensland counterparts, the NSW public school system does not offer the IB diploma, so it is available only to students at 22 private schools. Former Board of Studies chief executive Carol Taylor said introducing the IB to public schools had long been considered, but the hurdles had been cost, lack of flexibility and uncertainty over how many students would choose it.


Home schooling was on the rise, even before COVID-19

The Educator reports that the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has released the 2019 Home Schooling data, showing that home schooling has been on the rise, even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to switch to remote learning. The two areas of NSW with the highest uptake of home schooling are Western Sydney, followed by the Hunter region. Dr David Roy from the University of Newcastle, who works closely with governments and disability advocacy groups, says that unlike many other states, NSW publishes detailed records, and they paint an interesting picture that is ignored at federal level. Dr Roy said families are asked why they are choosing to home school, although responses are optional in the registration process, with 17 per cent choosing not to give a reason and 27 per cent having an unclassified reason. Of the categories offered, the largest reasoning is slearning needs (including disability) which has increased to 25 per cent.


Catholics shore up primary schools as enrolments dive

The Age reports that enrolments at Catholic primary schools have dived, particularly in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, as cost-conscious families and migrant communities choose government schools. Enrolments in Catholic primary schools have fallen 1.2 per cent across the nation since 2014, while public primary school enrolments have increased 1.3 per cent. In Melbourne's eastern suburbs, once Catholic heartland, enrolments have fallen more than 12 per cent over the same period, or an average 31 students per school. Of the 26 Catholic primary schools in suburbs such as Kew, Hawthorn, Balwyn, Box Hill, Burwood, Vermont, Mount Waverley, Glen Waverley and Ashburton, fewer than a quarter increased their student numbers between 2014 and 2019. Four lost between 40 and 60 per cent of their students, My School figures show, raising questions of viability. Emma Rowe, senior lecturer in education at Deakin University, said multiple factors had led to the overall decline in enrolment at Catholic schools.


“Violence, abuse, neglect”: three Melbourne special schools in probe

The Age reports that three special schools in Melbourne will be investigated over a series of allegations of “violence, abuse and serious neglect” of students with disabilities over the past 10 years. Victoria’s Department of Education and Training has launched an investigation into multiple claims of mistreatment of vulnerable children at Marnebek School in Cranbourne East, Jackson School in St Albans and Southern Autistic School in Bentleigh East. Among the allegations that have sparked the probe are claims that children were restrained in harnesses and had their hands bound; and that children with behavioural problems were routinely isolated in “time-out” spaces including outdoor courtyards, corridors and even a windowless storeroom. Incidents provided to the department as evidence span from 2011 to early this year and include statements from former school staff as well as parents and children.


Economic Significance of Independent Schools to the Queensland Economy

Independent Schools Queensland commissioned AEC Group – a global consultancy firm with expertise in economic modelling – to update the Australia-first report that it provided on the sector in 2016 (using 2013-14 data). The latest report by AEC (using 2017-18 data) provides analysis of the economic significance of independent schools to the Queensland economy and the local economies in which they operate and shows that contributions have continued to grow. According to the report, Economic Significance of Independent Schools to the Queensland Economy, 2020 Update, independent schools contributed $4.88 billion to Gross State Product (GSP), both directly and indirectly through employment, infrastructure investment and international student programs in 2017-18. This economic contribution represents an average of $40,300 per Queensland independent school student – an average return of $3.66 for every $1 of state and federal government investment.


Queensland school attendance jumps from 80 to 91 per cent

The Brisbane Times reports that more than 91 per cent of Queensland's 600,000 students have returned to school, three weeks after all students were invited back as COVID-19 restrictions eased. However, the situation for several thousand boarding students in Queensland has changed overnight, with the education body that manages boarding student accommodation relaxing the ruling that boarding school houses be kept to 25 per cent capacity. Boarders earned the COVID-19 reprieve from Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which last Wednesday night relaxed the guideline and left the risk discretion with schools. Thousands of overseas and Indigenous communities, previously unable to return to the independent and Catholic education sectors, will now be able to return for Term 3 after schools complete the complex risk-assessment procedures. In Queensland's Catholic schools, attendance has been slightly higher.


All colours of the rainbow: why Tasmania’s new gender identity laws are warranted

According to an article in The Conversation, in late 2019, Tasmania became the first state to allow its citizens (especially transgender/agender people) to obtain a birth certificate that accurately reflects their gender identity. Given the novelty of the law, the state’s peak law reform body was directed to consider the impact of the reforms on Tasmania’s system of law and justice. On Monday, the Tasmania Law Reform Institute reported its findings that the changes in the law have no significant unintended consequences for the law and justice system. This will provide greater clarity and certainty to other Australian jurisdictions that follow Tasmania’s lead. Victoria’s own birth certificate reforms came into effect last month. The Law Reform Institute was directed to inquire into and report on a range of ostensibly legal concerns about the law that stakeholders and members of the community had raised. The Institute concluded that prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from changing their gender is inconsistent with how the law deals with the legal, bodily and medical autonomy of young people, where decision-making capacity has regard to a person’s maturity rather than a threshold minimum age.



English schools to get £1bn to help pupils catch up after lockdown (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that the government is to give an extra £650m to schools in England to help pupils catch up on teaching missed during the coronavirus lockdown since March, as part of a £1bn package. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, was to announce the funding on Friday, which will also include a separate £350m in subsidies for a one-year national tutoring programme – as revealed by the Guardian – to help the most disadvantaged children in their education by offering low-cost tuition for schools to purchase. The subsidised tutoring being offered through the new programme from September is likely to cost state schools £12 an hour in the scheme’s first year, compared with the £50 an hour usually charged by the private providers involved. School leaders said the final details of the funding to be spent in the 2020-21 academic year would determine how they could use the extra resources, but many were enthusiastic if schools were given latitude on how to best spend the money.


Hand hygiene, no face masks: SickKids experts on how schools can safely reopen in the fall (Canada)

CTV News reports that while most schools across the country remain closed for the rest of the school year, experts from one of Canada’s leading children’s hospitals are calling for schools to reopen while adhering to a list of safety guidelines. Last Wednesday, an advisory group from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto released a series of recommendations on schools reopening, which covered a range of topics, including screening students for symptoms before they arrive at school, encouraging proper hand hygiene, advising against the use of face masks for students, and implementing some physical distancing measures, but allowing children to play with each other. While the SickKids experts acknowledged that closing schools may have been reasonable during the early pandemic response, they stressed the need for students to return to school in order to avoid adverse health and welfare consequences.


Lynfield College investigating after teacher repeatedly said n-word (New Zealand)

According to Newshub, an Auckland school has launched an investigation after a teacher was filmed arguing with a student over the use of a racial slur. A teacher at Lynfield College was reading aloud from a book to students last week when they continuously read the word n***** which was in the text. A student in the year 12 class challenged the teacher in a video which has been widely shared online. "Even if you are trying to project the idea that the book is about racism and stuff you are not supposed to say it," the student argued. The teacher argues that racism "is the point of the book" and then tells the student to leave the class if he feels uncomfortable, but they will continue to use it. The incident appears to have breached the school's Code of Conduct which says students can expect to "be free from racial, gender, sexual and physical harassment" and are encouraged to "not allow aggressive, racist or sexist behaviour to go unchallenged". The teacher may have broken standards within The Code of Professional Responsibility set out by The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, specifically relating to using "authority as a teacher to undermine the personal beliefs of a learner".

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