Weekly Wrap: March 7, 2019

07 March 2019


Schools Need to Foster a Sense of Belonging

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, there is a global trend signalling a decline in a sense of school belonging for secondary school students. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment has reported that approximately one quarter of young people do not feel a sense of belonging at school. It also found girls reported lower school belonging than boys and the most disadvantaged were from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Much of what schools are doing is working, however, as evidenced by the three quarters of students who do feel that they belong. Nevertheless, fostering a sense of belonging is not a passive process that occurs naturally. Like any relationship – even the ones that students build with their school – intent, effort and maintenance are needed.

Experts Fear that We’ll Soon Be Raising Illiterate Generations as Aussie Kids’ Speech Issues Hit Worst Levels

According to news.com.au, an increasing proportion of Australian children could be illiterate within the next generation without urgent action. Head of Speech and Language at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Angela Morgan, said Aussie kids’ speech and language skills were the worst they have ever been and we are raising a generation of children who may not be able to read instructions or hold down a job. Prof Morgan, who has worked in the sector for 20 years, described the rate of speech issues as at epidemic proportions and said the nation was in “dire straits”. “This has gone beyond children with severe needs, we are talking at a population level now,” she said. In a related story also from news.com.au, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for spelling and literacy improvement to be a national priority for parents and children and says the issue will be a key pillar of his next term of government.

13 per cent of Australian Students Missing a Year of School by Year 10

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, nearly 13 per cent of Australian students and more than half of all indigenous students are missing at least one year of schooling by the time they reach year 10, despite the nation achieving 100 per cent school enrolment rates. Only 77.1 per cent of all students in years 1 to 10 were at school for at least 90 per cent of school days in 2017, according to a new report by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. For indigenous students, this fell dramatically to 48.8 per cent, meaning that more than 51 per cent of students missed at least one day of school a fortnight.

Principals Respond to Findings of Damning Report

According to The Educator, on Wednesday, a damning new report into principal health and wellbeing revealed that one in three school leaders have been physically assaulted and that violent incidents jumped 10 per cent over the last seven years. The survey found almost half (45 per cent) were threatened with violence in 2018, compared with 38 per cent in 2011 and that 99.7 per cent of principals work hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health. Australia’s principals say the latest data shows a worrying lack of improvement in supporting the profession and that more should be done. In a related story from Independent Schools Victoria Weekly Briefing, the latest annual report on the safety and wellbeing of Australian school leaders shows that violence and threats of violence against principals continues to be a problem, and that principals are still working too many hours per week for a healthy lifestyle.

Teacher Wellbeing Course Delivers 98 per cent Success Rate

According to The Educator, a new teacher wellbeing toolkit is having a significant, positive impact on school staff around Australia. The National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative’s (NESLI) Teacher wellbeing course is delivering an astounding 98 per cent success rate, a study into the efficacy and impact of the toolkit has found. More than 7,000 staff in 254 schools have completed the toolkit. According to the study’s findings, the schools that made the biggest gains were those in rural and remote areas. The highest degree of impact was found to be on participants’ physical health and their levels of optimism. The study follows the release on Wednesday of the 2018 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being Survey, which found worsening rates of violence, bullying and burnout among principals nationwide.

SMH Warns Child Care Providers to Have Proper Child Abuse Insurance in Place

According to The Sector, The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) has today reported that thousands of child care providers, private schools and other services working with children in Victoria have received an email advising them to ensure that they have proper insurance in place in the event that litigation is sought against them for child abuse. The arrangements will apply to approximately 2,400 child care providers and kindergartens in Victoria. Speaking with SMH, Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the changes ensured all organisations could be held to account for harm caused to survivors of child abuse regardless of their legal structure. “For too long, this legal loophole has effectively prevented child abuse survivors from suing some organisations,” she said. “This fixes that for future survivors, meaning that they can get the justice and compensation they deserve.”

What’s Behind Australia’s Teacher Shortage?

According to The Educator, reports show that more than 30 per cent of Australian teachers leave within their first five years in the role and, according to dozens of submissions made to a federal inquiry, this issue is being compounded by a lack of support and respect for the profession. The federal inquiry into the status of the teaching profession was launched in November last year by the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education to examine ways in which to lift the status of the teaching profession. In its submission to the inquiry, the Australian Heads of Independent Schools Australia (AHISA) said that until political rhetoric based on “blaming and shaming” ends, respect for the teaching profession cannot improve. AHISA national chair, Dr Mark Merry, said governments should instead adopt a ”strengths-based” approach to policy making for school education.

Vatican Launches Investigation into George Pell's Child Sexual Abuse Offences

According to ABC News, the Vatican has confirmed that it is investigating disgraced cardinal George Pell over child sexual offences committed in Australia. The move could see Australia's most senior Catholic cleric dismissed from the priesthood. Pell, 77, has been remanded in custody for the first time on five child sex offences, which he was convicted of last December, after his bail was revoked in the County Court on Wednesday. "After the guilty verdict in the first instance concerning Cardinal Pell, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) will now handle the case following the procedure and within the time established by canonical norm," Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.

How an Appeal Could Uphold or Overturn George Pell’s Conviction

According to The Conversation, a criminal trial often helps to provide finality for the accused, and closure for victims and society. But following this week’s news, George Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter QC, indicated Pell maintains his innocence and the legal team have already lodged an appeal. Richter said this would be pursued following Pell’s sentencing. Pell’s conviction no longer appears final, but provisional. The Vatican initially said it would wait until the appeal outcome before launching its own investigation that could lead to the Cardinal being defrocked. But it has now been confirmed the investigation is starting regardless.


(Canada) B.C. School Board Might be First in Canada to Provide Students with Free Tampons and Pads

According to the National Post, a British Columbia school board believes it is one of the first in the country to provide free feminine hygiene products in bathrooms. Members of the New Westminster school board debated and unanimously passed a motion Tuesday night. Starting in September, tampons and pads will be available in women’s and universal bathrooms in elementary, middle and high schools in New Westminster.

(NZ) Calls for Vatican to Protect New Zealand Children from Sexual Abuse

According to RNZ, an international group targeting church abuse is calling on the Vatican to protect children in New Zealand from sexual predators. Ending Clergy Abuse or ECA Global has issued a resolution after meeting on the fringes of the Pope's four-day abuse summit in Rome. It is calling on the Vatican to authorise this country's bishops to tackle abusers regardless of the church's internal rules. "We submit this cannot be achieved without Pope Francis instructing the bishops of New Zealand that they are responsible and will be held accountable under canon law for the professional standards and conduct of any priest, religious or lay person in their dioceses who sexually predate on children," said the resolution signed by ECA president Timothy Law, a US lawyer. It carries 24 signatures from five continents.

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