Weekly Wrap: March 28, 2019

28 March 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.


Gonski Institute leads push to scrap NAPLAN

According to Education HQ, the Gonski Institute for Education has thrown its weight behind the push to scrap NAPLAN with a submission to the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) review of the beleaguered testing regime. The Gonski Institute’s submission proposes that NAPLAN be replaced with a system of random sample testing. “There is growing evidence NAPLAN is having a negative impact on schools, students and teachers,” Gonski Institute director Adrian Piccoli said. “NAPLAN and the publishing of results on the My School website has imposed a high stakes dimension to student testing and this has led to increased student anxiety, teaching to the test and a narrowing of the curriculum.”

“Not without a fight”: The radical plan to overhaul NAPLAN

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, students would be selected to sit NAPLAN at random and school comparisons would be scrapped under a proposal to overhaul the national test to take pressure off students and schools. In its submission to a federal review, the Gonski Institute for Education said the reform was needed because it had failed to lift school performance and created more problems than benefits. "Has it actually led to school or student improvement?" said director Adrian Piccoli. "The answer is no." But the Australian Parents Council said parents would not give up school and student NAPLAN data "without a fight", and instead suggested tighter controls, such as banning secondary schools from asking for results in enrolment applications.

International education testing program set to change

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the OECD is working to move its international testing program away from standardised, summative testing as debate about the value of such assessments grows louder in Australia and around the world. Andreas Schleicher, the director of education and skills for the OECD, said his organisation was making sure the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests reflect changes in what is considered to be important in education. This means moving away from traditional knowledge testing and adding more problem-solving elements to the literacy, numeracy and science tests, and introducing a new social skills test. Mr Schleicher was one of the architects of PISA. “If people criticise multiple choice tests, I do too, and in PISA we’re trying to move away from that to try to have more adaptive, more engaging formats,” he said.

Principals’ work-life balance improving under new program

According to The Educator, the latest report into principal health and wellbeing found almost half (45 per cent) were threatened with violence in 2018, compared with 38 per cent in 2011. The report, released in February by the Australian Catholic University (ACU), also found that 99.7 per cent of principals work hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health. However, a ground-breaking program aimed at reversing these alarming trends has been seeing significant, and positive, results. The research-based Flourish program – developed by Dr Adam Fraser in consultation with a leadership group from the Shellharbour Primary Principals’ Council – has achieved significant results, including a 56 per cent increase in positivity at work and a 20 per cent decrease in stress levels.

‘It’s real to them, so adults should listen’: what children want you to know to help them feel safe

In this article from The Conversation, researcher Tim Moore outlines some key messages from a study done during the life of the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. Researchers spoke to 121 children and young people aged 4 to 18 in the ACT, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The participants represented various institutional contexts, including having attended early learning centres, schools, sporting groups, holiday camps, church groups, out-of-home care and hospitals. Key messages from the study are: children know the risks but might misjudge the extent of the danger; we should help children articulate and process their fears; we shouldn’t downplay children’s concerns; we should tell young people what is being done to protect them.

Feeling safe at school – what does the research say?

This article from Teacher Magazine looks at gender differences more closely for Australia and also examines the relationship with bullying. It asks three questions: What proportion of girls and boys feel safe at school? What relationships are there with achievement? What’s the relationship with bullying? Overall, Australian Year 4 students are more likely to have a strong belief in their safety at school than Year 8 students. At both year levels, on average, girls tended to feel safer than boys. As both girls and boys progress through school the academic achievement gap between those students who feel very safe in school and those who do not also tends to increase, but feeling safe in school appears to have a stronger relationship with academic achievement for girls than boys, and this increases as students move from primary to secondary school. This analysis also points to a relationship between bullying and perceptions of safety.

Want a safer world for your children? Teach them about diverse religions and worldviews

According to The Conversation, around 80 per cent of secondary school students who had classes about diverse religions claim to have positive views of Muslims. This compares to around 70 per cent who had not attended such classes. The Conversation’s national study of Australian Generation Z teens (those born around the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) showed teens who had been exposed to education about diverse religions and worldviews were more tolerant of religious minorities, including Muslims and Hindus, than those who hadn’t. This still holds when controlling for factors such as age, gender, school type, socio-economic status and religious identity. Gen Z teens who have had education about diverse religions overwhelmingly thought it helped them understand other people’s religions (93 per cent), that it helped make them more tolerant of other people’s religions (86 per cent), and that it was important to study these (82 per cent).

200 years of Catholic education in Australia

Catholic Outlook gives an overview of the 200 year history of Catholic education in Australia. Australia’s first Catholic school was opened in October 1820 by George Morley, a Roman Catholic teacher who was paid the handsome sum of one penny per student (“…provisioned from the Government Stores”, according to an account by Catholic educator Br Kelvin Canavan). The school, which Catholic historians believe was in Hunter Street, Parramatta, taught 31 students – seven of whom were Protestants. By 1833, there were 10 Catholic schools in the colony. There are now more than 1750 Catholic schools nationally, educating some 765,000 students. This is one in five Australian students – a remarkable achievement considering that until the early 1970s, Catholic schools were funded almost entirely by parents and their local parish communities.

Asthma in Schools

Asthma Australia has been funded by the Commonwealth Government to develop a new national package of training and resources for primary and secondary schools. The program aims to increase asthma awareness and knowledge and help schools support young people and staff to confidently manage asthma. Over the next few months, there will be a range of opportunities for students, school leaders, staff, parents, carers and other education personnel to provide input into the program so that it meets the needs of the whole school community. If you would like to be directly involved contact Asthma Australia on schools@asthma.org.au

Save the Children calls for national roll-out of successful school engagement program

According to Save the Children, a program that has stopped thousands of students from dropping out of school should be federally funded and expanded to triple its reach. Ahead of the federal election, Save the Children is calling for a $10 million funding commitment over four years to be invested in Hands on Learning, a program which has kept at risk students engaged in education. The funding would enable Save the Children to triple the program’s reach to over 5000 at-risk young people each year, at 300 schools around the country, helping to address a national problem. It is aimed primarily at students in the nine to 14 year age range, a period where a high proportion of students disengage from their education.

Questions raised over report revealing practices of high-performing low-SES schools

According to Education HQ, a new report examining practices in high-performing disadvantaged schools has been released, purporting to show how school outcomes can be improved significantly without the need for more taxpayer funding. The report, released by libertarian think tank The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), identified six common themes present in all nine schools. The common themes were effective school discipline; the use of direct or explicit instruction; experienced and autonomous school leadership; data-informed practice; teacher collaboration and professional learning; and comprehensive early reading instruction.

Encouraging physical activity throughout the school day

According to Teacher Magazine, overall physical activity levels for children and young people in Australia are sitting at a D- grade, while Australian schools have received a B+ for their promotion, facilitation and encouragement of physical activity in 2018, a new report shows. A Lead investigator of the report, Dr Natasha Schranz, is the Research Translation Manager at the Heart Foundation and Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of South Australia. She says while it’s great the grades given to schools are higher than some given to other indicators, a positive and productive narrative around integrating physical activity during the school day is an important aspect to continue to develop.


(US) Firearm deaths of US school-age children at “epidemic” levels, study says

According to USA Today, calling it an “epidemic,” scientists announced an alarming increase in the number of firearm deaths of school-age children in the USA: 38,942 in those 5 to 18 years old from 1999 to 2017, according to a study released Thursday. "It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active-duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms," said Charles Hennekens, the study's lead author from Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine. He called the epidemic a major clinical, public health and policy challenge, noting that the rate of death in the USA is about six to nine times higher than in other developed nations.

(US) Education may be key to a healthier, wealthier US

According to the University of Colorado, a new study finds that the economic return of living a longer, healthier life may trump lifetime earnings. According to the United States Department of Education, the U.S. high school graduation rate will reach an all-time high this year, which is good news for both our economy and health. Policy makers often use education policy to strengthen the workforce and boost earnings, productivity and employment. But earning a diploma may also lead to a longer, healthier life. A new study from the University of Colorado Denver is the first to estimate the economic value of education for better health and longevity. The study finds that the reduced disability and longer lives among the more educated are worth up to twice as much as the value of education for lifetime earnings.

(Canada) Frontier College calls for Canada to recognize literacy as a human right

According to newswire, Frontier College, Canada's original literacy organisation, released the results of a national research report today. The report reveals how increased literacy enables Canadians to move out of poverty and recommends that governments should recognise literacy as a human right. "It's time to start a new conversation, one that recognises literacy as a human right," said Stephen Faul, President and CEO of Frontier College. "This report recommends recognising literacy as a policy priority and renewing our commitment to this priority to ensure we can unlock the potential of each and every Canadian." People with low literacy levels are more likely to experience poverty in Canada. One in five Canadians struggles with reading, writing or maths, and millions more do not have the essential skills to succeed in today's economy. The stigma surrounding low literacy, and the everyday systems and tasks that assume strong literacy skills, may affect a person's ability to find and use the services they need to lift them out of poverty.

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