Weekly Wrap: November 12, 2020

12 November 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.



Regional, rural schools seek funding sweetener

The Age reports that about 50 independent schools say the new needs-based school funding regime threatens the future of many regional and remote non-government schools. The Coalition of Regional Independent Schools represents 52 regional, rural and outer-metropolitan schools. Under the changes, about 810 independent schools will have their annual recurrent funding increased by 2.5 per cent or more, 133 schools will experience little or no change, and 59 schools will lose funding. But Independent Schools Australia said the new methodology will increase funding per students for about 42 per cent of the independent sector, decrease funding per student for 35 per cent, and leave no change for 23 per cent. In response to the concerns, the Morrison Government has established a working group comprising a range of government department and school education bodies to assess the new national formula. The Federal Government has also allocated $1.2 billion to Catholic and independent schools to ease the transition, a portion of which must be spent on supporting country schools.


New study reveals poisoning exposures in Australian schools

Mirage News reports that new research from the University of Sydney has found poisoning exposures in children and adolescents while at school are relatively common and appear to be increasing, highlighting the need for more robust prevention measures. The authors state that by focusing on improved safety strategies, the incidence of poisonings in schools could decrease. Published last week in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, it is the most up-to date study to investigate poisonings in schools in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, with data revealing the types of exposures and substances involved. The researchers studied cases reported to the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre (NSWPIC) over a four and-a-half-year period (January 2014 to June 2018). NSWPIC is Australia’s largest Poisons Information Centre, taking 50 percent of the nation’s poisoning calls.


OPINION: What can data tell us about single-sex education for girls?

According to an opinion piece in The Age by Peter Adams, who was senior manager of PISA 2018, we need to acknowledge that data associated with single-sex school education has to be treated with caution and appropriately contextualised. There are technical and methodological challenges and risks associated with comparing single-sex and coeducational schools or classes. Moreover, findings from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and other global assessments highlight the need to differentiate causation and correlation when interpreting results. In the case of the impact of single-sex girls' school education, it is important not to confound academic performance, the nature of the learning environment, socioeconomic background of students and levels of self-efficacy. OECD research suggests higher academic performance by girls in single-sex schools might largely be explained in terms of levels of socioeconomic advantage.


Schools get on board for phonics check

The Australian reports that more than 1000 schools have voluntarily signed up to access a new Federal Government-sponsored phonics screening check for Year 1 students, as pressure mounts on resistant states and territories to embrace the initiative. Almost one-in-four primary schools in Victoria — 153 government schools, 69 Catholic schools and 37 from the independent sector — have registered, according to Education Department data. Interest has also been strong in Western Australia, where 194 schools have signed up — almost 30 per cent of the state’s primary schools — and in Queensland, with 204 schools, including 120 public schools, registering to test students. Launched in August, the free and voluntary online phonics check was developed by the Morrison Government at a cost of $10 million. Only South Australia has so far rolled it out across all government schools, with the state crediting the initiative for improving children’s reading ability. NSW and Tasmania are trialling the checks in some schools.


Research calls for school shake-up in 2021

The Educator reports that a sector-first research report has called for a massive school shake-up in 2021 to seek to create stronger workforces and better student outcomes. The study, titled: “Tracking Insights, Data and Evidence (TIDE) Report” was conducted by PeopleBench to investigate the connections between school workforce factors and student outcomes to identify trends and issues that will enable school leaders to build better school workforces. The research report found that schools that featured a higher proportion of part-time employment arrangements saw greater improvements in academic outcomes for their students. The article includes an interview with PeopleBench Chief Research and Insights Officer, Mike Hennessy, about the research and its implications for schools in 2021.


Is learning more important than wellbeing? Teachers told us how COVID highlighted ethical dilemmas at school

According to an article in The Conversation, as an educational ethicist, the author researches teachers’ ethical obligations. These can include their personal ethics such as protecting students from harm, respect for justice and truth, and professional norms like social conformity, collegial loyalty and personal wellbeing. Moral tensions in schools can come about when certain categories of norms conflict with each other. For example, sometimes students’ best interests are pitted against available resources. These present difficult decisions for the teacher, the school community and its leaders. As part of a global study on educational ethics during the pandemic, the author conducted focus groups with Australian childcare, preschool, primary and secondary school teachers to find out what ethical issues were most pressing for them. The article discusses three ways in which the pandemic highlighted existing tensions between ethical priorities.


Indigenous boarding schools help close the gap, but as NAIDOC week kicks off a study shows there are highs and lows

The ABC News reports that a stark education divide exists for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people living in regional and remote areas, who have few, if any, secondary schooling options. More Indigenous families are making this difficult choice: to send their kids away from culture and community in exchange for a comprehensive western-education. There has been a 53 per cent increase in the number of Indigenous students at boarding schools since 2015, according to annual figures from the Australian Boarding School Association, which represents the majority of boarding providers. The reliance on boarding schools to educate Indigenous young people in remote areas is not working for all young people, according to a first-of-its-kind study released by the Australian National University this year. It found about 59 per cent of Indigenous teenagers who left one remote community in the Northern Territory across a decade dropped out of boarding school in their first year.


Rates of twice-exceptional children higher than previously thought

Griffith News reports that the prevalence rates of twice-exceptional children in Australian schools are significantly under-reported according to new Griffith University research. Twice-exceptional children are those who are gifted/talented in one or more areas while also possessing a learning, emotional, physical, sensory and/or a developmental disability. Dr Michelle Ronksley-Pavia from the School of Education and Professional Studies and the Griffith Institute for Educational Research, who reviewed the estimates of students in Australia in a study, said their data found more than 280,000 of all students may be twice-exceptional. “Over the past five years, educators’ understanding and recognition of twice-exceptional students has improved incrementally, yet these students are largely unrecognised in Australian schools and education policies,” she said.


Catholic Church ordered to pay $100k after golf cart crashes into six-year-old student

The Courier-Mail reports that a private Catholic school in Brisbane’s north has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in penalties and compensation after a groundskeeper crashed a golf buggy into a six-year-old student, causing severe injury to the boy’s head and leg. The Corporation of The Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a duty of care, and that failure exposing another person to death or serious injury. Magistrate Trevor Morgan said in his sentencing that the golf cart presented a “blindingly obvious risk if not managed appropriately”, particularly in an environment full of small children. Though Mr Morgan acknowledged the church was unaware of the WHS failures until the accident occurred, he said it did not diminish the defendant’s responsibility. Mr Morgan imposed a penalty of $100,000 and ordered the church to pay the complainant $2780.80 to cover their costs. No conviction was recorded, as the conduct of the church both prior and subsequent to the offence “indicate it has conducted itself as a model citizen”, according to Mr Morgan.


Principal counselled after breath testing high school students on muck-up day

The Age reports that a central Victorian high school principal has been "counselled" by the Education Department after year 12 students were subjected to alcohol breath testing on their “muck-up day” the week before last. Senior year Castlemaine Secondary College students were told to undertake a breath test to gain entry to a farewell breakfast on their last day of classes on the Friday, something parents were told had happened for the past three years. A number of parents complained directly to the school but allegedly had their concerns dismissed. No students returned a positive alcohol reading, according to the Education Department. A parent claims that a school spokesperson said there was no issue with testing students – some of whom were under 18 – and that it had been done in the name of health and safety. In response to queries about the incident by The Age, the Victorian Education Department intervened over the following weekend to "counsel" principal Paul Frye over the conduct.


New education centre aims to end culture war over student testing

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an education veteran is warning student testing has become a battleground for culture wars between those who argue teachers are avoiding accountability and others who say it reduces education to a set of numbers. But Tom Alegounarias, the former chair of the NSW Education Standards Authority and one-time president of the Board of Studies, said assessment was too important to be derailed by simplistic debates, as it was vital to a quality education system. With Professor Jim Tognolini, he has set up a Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment at Sydney University. It aims to build teacher confidence and expertise in testing, undertake research and provide expert analysis. The board will include representatives from the three school sectors, academics and teacher representatives, including unions. It will be self-funded, not-for-profit, and sit within the Sydney School of Education and Social Work, in the Faculty of Arts and the Social Sciences.


Official Notice: Requirements for Schools Selected Randomly for Inspection in 2020

NESA has announced that all schools in NSW are part of NESA’s program to inspect schools selected randomly. The inspection of schools selected randomly:

  • considers school compliance with a subset of the registration requirements
  • occurs with a minimum four days’ notice
  • assesses whether the school continues to comply with the registration requirements.

The subset of requirements to be inspected in 2021 will relate to either:

  • Strand A: NESA Annual Priorities

—  Safe and supportive environment: child protection

—  Curriculum, OR

  • Strand B: Quality of student learning

—  Curriculum related to the standard of teaching and student engagement.

The subset of requirements changes annually. In 2021, 13 schools will be inspected in relation to Strand A, and another 13 will be inspected in relation to Strand B. Inspections of schools selected randomly will commence in the second half of Term 1, 2021 and be completed by the end of Term 3 2021. NESA’s website provides more information regarding:

  • the notice period for selected schools
  • an explanation of the requirements for Strand A and Strand B in 2021
  • the evidence to be available at an inspection
  • findings and outcomes of an inspection.


Parents failing to supply valid reason for their child's school absence

The Examiner reports that one in two students in Northern Tasmania are absent from school without a legitimate explanation. Education Department figures show that in 2019 more than 7,500 primary and secondary students from schools in the North recorded an unexplained - unauthorised absence. This year those numbers have increased, with more than 6,000 students recording absences in Terms 2 and 3 alone. The Government says that legitimate reasons for school absence include sickness, medical and other appointments, a family death or terminal illness. Reasons for absence that result in an unexplained - unauthorised record may include truancy, family holidays, keeping the child at home, or simply, that the parent has failed to notify the school to provide any explanation. Tasso [Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations Inc] President Jared Dickason said communication between parents and schools on this issue was an area needing improvement.



Scotland enacts law to ban smacking of children (Scotland, Canada)

CTV News reports that children in Scotland now have the same legal protection from assault as adults after the country enacted law outlawing corporal punishment. The new legislation removes the outdated “reasonable chastisement” defence that previously allowed parents to physically discipline their children. Legislators say the smacking ban is the best way to teach children that violence is not acceptable. Scotland will now join 60 other states around the world who have outlawed the corporal punishment of children. In Canada, it is a crime to assault or threaten to assault someone, no matter what their age is. However, the rules aren’t so cut and dry when it comes to your children. While spanking is not considered a criminal offence in Canada, in some circumstance spanking could still be considered child abuse under provincial and territorial laws and could lead to action by child protection authorities.


Pandemic showing the need for school reforms, says education consultant (Canada)

The CBC reports that education consultant Paul Bennett says the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the need for reforms to be made to the education system across Canada. He said the education system is rigid and inflexible when it needs to be adaptable. Bennett, the author of the book The State of the System: A Reality Check on Canada's Schools, said the effort to adapt to a three month period of emergency home learning was anything but ideal and certainly not a fair test of online learning. Bennett said provinces and territories have fared better or worse, and to varying degrees, while trying to cope with the unpredictable situation. In his book, Bennett argues in favour of a four-point strategy to turn things around. Bennett said schools should be humanised and smaller so there is closer contact with parents and more reciprocal relationships. Bennett said he thinks the system has lost sight of what's important, which is the relationship between a teacher and a student.


Now more than ever we need to talk about inclusion in schools (Global)

According to the World Education Blog, the horrifically violent circumstances surrounding the death of Samuel Paty, in a suburb of Paris on October 16 have traumatised France. Teachers have also been killed in attacks recently in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. The details and circumstances often remain unclear but are likely related to the pivotal role teachers play in their communities. Even more worrying has been the ongoing threats made by armed groups against teachers in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger for using the secular state curriculum, leading to thousands of school closures in the region. Providing “safe, non violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all” is actually a target of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). All means not only students, but also teachers. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) in its most recent Report found that the highest recorded numbers of teachers and students harmed by direct attacks were in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Palestine, and the Philippines.



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