Weekly Wrap: October 08, 2020

08 October 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.



Federal Budget 2020: What does it mean for schools?

The Educator reports that, on Tuesday night, the Federal Government sought to allay fears by promising to put more money back into Australians’ pockets, incentivise businesses to hire new workers and help the struggling education sector get back on its feet. Schools will receive an additional $146.3 million to help roll out projects to support students, families and communities that have been hit hard during the pandemic. The Budget also addressed the looming apprenticeships and traineeships crisis, which threatens to create a new wave of unemployment across Australia if left unchecked. The government will provide $550 million for additional university places, 50,000 online short courses and $1 billion for research. Funding will also beef up a number of programs to help upskill and employ young Australians. The government has also earmarked $39.8 million to improve the education and employment prospects for up to 12,500 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, by funding additional places with the Clontarf Foundation.


New term “like starting school again” for children after months apart

The Age reports that on Monday, the first day of term four, the Andrews government gave year 7 students the all-clear to return to face-to-face learning on October 12 – the same date as year 11 and 12 students – with other senior levels to return on October 26. Mental wellbeing, not learning and excellence, will be the "highest priority", the operating guidelines for Victorian schools state. Education Minister James Merlino said: "It’s not just about getting back into their academic pursuits, it’s ... that peer-to-peer engagement with their friends." In terms of physical health, all secondary students will be expected to wear masks this term, in a shift from their time in class during term two between Victoria’s first and second waves of coronavirus. The decision to hold year 8 to 10 students back for two more weeks will provide time to monitor the impact on suppressing the virus of the other three year levels' return.


PISA Australia: report finds computers in schools reduce academic outcomes

The Herald Sun reports that computers in schools are hindering students’ basic literacy skills, with a new Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report finding countries with more computers are performing worse in reading. Australia is ranked eighth in the world in terms of the number of computers per student among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations- well above high achieving countries including Finland and Estonia. Meanwhile Australian students’ PISA results plunged in 2018 to 25th in the world in maths, 16th in reading and 14th in science. The latest report said countries with fewer computers per student per school scored better than countries with schools flush with computers like Australia. Centre for Independent Studies researcher Glenn Fahey said it confirmed previous research finding technology hindered reading outcomes. He said the report also confirmed previous findings that disadvantaged Australian children did better than their overseas counterparts, contrary to claims the Australian schooling system was disadvantaging children from poor backgrounds.


Australian children more likely to miss kinder, international study shows

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian students are almost twice as likely to start school without kindergarten or preschool than the OECD average, raising concerns about the effect on academic performance in later years. The world’s largest study of 15-year-old students found 11.5 per cent of Australian students did not attend pre-primary school or attended for less than a year, compared with the OECD average of 6.2 per cent. While the research does not detail a link between Australian students’ time at preschool and their reading scores, the OECD said there was growing evidence about the importance of high-quality pre-primary education. Sue Thomson, deputy CEO (research) at the Australian Council for Educational Research – which manages the PISA test for the federal, state and territory governments – said children who started primary school behind their peers did not catch up. The 2018 test involved about 600,000 15-year-old students in 79 countries and economies.


How does the International Baccalaureate compare to the HSC?

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that for decades, the Higher School Certificate has been the domain of NSW school-leavers. But the International Baccalaureate – which delivers a globally recognised educational qualification – has slowly increased its footprint in Australian schools as a credible alternative. About 20 NSW private schools will offer the IB diploma next year, while elsewhere in Australia there has been a greater uptake among government schools. The final IB score is still converted into an ATAR for the purpose of university admissions. This is where the diploma has courted controversy. While ATAR algorithms are calculated fresh each year and subject to scaling, IB conversion scores are available in advance. Critics say the system over-inflates IB scores and is unfair, because IB students can be awarded an unlimited number of high ATARs. Changes to be introduced from 2022 attempt to remedy this by making the conversions more granular.


Victorian child sex abuse survivor wins second chance to sue Catholic Church in “landmark” case

The ABC News reports that a victim of historical child sexual abuse has won what is believed to be a landmark case in Victoria against the Catholic Church, giving him a second shot at suing for compensation. The Supreme Court heard the former altar boy was abused between the ages of 11 and 14 by the late priest Daniel Hourigan in Gippsland from 1977 to 1980. Hourigan died in 1995. The victim, referred to as WCB, sued the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sale for "personal injury suffered" in 1996 and settled for $32,500. But last week, a judge set aside the settlement because of recent legal changes and found the case should be reconsidered. Three recent legislative changes allowed the case to go ahead: an amendment to the Limitation Act scrapping the time limit for personal injury cases related to child abuse; other changes to the Act giving the court the power to set aside an earlier judgement or settlement; and the enactment of legislation making it possible to identify the Roman Catholic Trusts Corporation as the "proper defendant" in the case. The case is expected to go to trial in November.


New website for the National Office for Child Safety, updated links to important resources

The Sector reports that the National Office for Child Safety (NOCS) launched a new website in September, coinciding with National Child Protection Week. There are a range of resources on the site which have been designed to support child safety, such as the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations which are available in 10 translated languages, and the Complaint Handling Guide: Upholding the Rights of Children and Young People, a resource to support organisations that work with children to appropriately respond to complaints involving children and help children feel safe. Other resources available on the site include a Guide for Parents and Carers, an Introductory Self-Assessment Tool for Organisations, and a National Principles poster. NOCS has also commissioned the development of new resources, which will be available on the site from early 2021. They will support implementation of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and help improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in organisations across Australia.


George Pell's lawyer calls for investigation into claim bribes paid to influence sexual assault case

The Guardian reports that the barrister who led the defence of Cardinal George Pell says an international investigation should be launched into extraordinary claims that bribes were paid to influence the sexual assault case involving the senior Australian cleric. Italian newspapers have claimed that Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, a rival of Pell, was suspected of paying €700,000 (A$1.1 million) to an Australian witness in the case. Robert Richter QC said it was incumbent on Australian and international authorities to investigate the allegations. Becciu and Pell had been at odds over the Australian’s efforts to overhaul the management of Vatican finances. La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera newspapers reported that Pell’s reformist agenda threatened to expose alleged corruption committed by Becciu when he distributed millions of dollars in donations between 2011 and 2018. “I categorically deny interfering in any way in the trial of Cardinal Pell,” Becciu said. The lawyer who represented the man who accused Pell of sexually assaulting him in the 1990s, Vivian Waller, said her client had no connection to the allegations.


Boarding schools seek national COVID plan

The Courier-Mail reports that the Isolated Children’s Parents Association NSW, the peak body for rural parents, is calling for a consistent national plan for boarding school students as parents fear they won’t be able to send their children back to school next year. President Claire Butler said the last-minute decisions on border and quarantine exemptions for rural and isolated families had taken a significant toll on students and their parents, who feared they would face the same next year as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Queensland Boarding schools also echoed the calls for the plan which could provide parents and students certainty in case borders close again. Minister for Regional Education Andrew Gee said he would be consulting the peak boarding school bodies in the coming weeks to develop a “caring compassionate and commonsense” uniform plan but it would be up to states and territories to sign up.


Australia's “no jab, no pay” rule has little effect on anti-vaxxer parents – study

The Guardian reports that Australia’s “no jab, no pay” policy has been associated with a drop in the number of children catching up on their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, suggesting the policy has had little impact on those who reject vaccination science. However, the policy was associated with more children catching up on their second dose of the vaccine and on their diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis vaccine, especially in lower socioeconomic status areas, the study published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday found. The no jab, no pay policy, introduced from January 2016, meant family and childcare payments would be withheld from people who claimed to be “conscientious objectors” to vaccination. To examine the impact of the policy, researchers from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance and the University of Sydney analysed data from the Australian immunisation register for catch-up vaccinations of children aged five to under seven.


Madonna King: It isn’t hard to learn how to respect transgender Australians

According to The New Daily, so many schools are in a pickle, trying to work out what is the best way forward to make all their students – including their transgender students – comfortable and safe. Should they have male and female and unisex toilets? Or is the best way forward to label only unisex toilets? What’s the legal position here? What’s the school position? How will the parent body respond? Liberal senator Claire Chandler is being dragged before the Anti-Discrimination Commission after saying women’s toilets are for people of the female sex and should remain that way. Just take how differently schools – who are regularly leading in policy debates – are looking at the issue of transgender students. Uniforms are another example. How does a school get its head around athletic carnivals and swimming change rooms, and single-sex sporting endeavours, including age trophies and records? In short, different schools are embarking on different paths, and some at faster rates than others. But mostly, their goal is an inclusive school community that has the support of its parent body.


Lifesavers fear COVID-19 has created a generation who can't swim

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that enrolments at swimming schools across Australia in September – a peak time for lessons – dropped 25 per cent compared with last year, according to an analysis of enrolments at 125 swimming facilities by Royal Life Saving Society Australia. It found the drops were greatest in NSW. This included a 40 per cent fall in children aged seven to nine, and a 51 per cent plunge in children aged 10 to 12, taking lessons. The data did not include Victoria where all swimming lessons had stopped. Without additional lessons, these children were unlikely to ever reach national benchmarks that recommend every 12-year-old Australian should be able to swim 50 metres, float for two minutes and know how to respond to an emergency, Royal Life Saving's chief executive Justin Scarr said. In the 12 months to the end of June, 248 people fatally drowned and 504 were involved in non-fatal drowning incidents. Primary school is when children "truly develop swimming for fun and fitness", Mr Scarr said.


Dreamworld operator Ardent Leisure fined $3.6m for Thunder River Rapids Ride deaths

The ABC News reports that Dreamworld's parent company Ardent Leisure has been fined $3.6 million over the deaths of four people on the Thunder River Rapids Ride in 2016. Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty to three breaches of workplace health and safety laws. The maximum penalty for each breach is $1.5 million — $4.5 million in total. Earlier on Monday last week, the Southport Magistrates Court heard emotional victims impact statements from the family of victims, including a teenager who saw her mother and two uncles killed on the Dreamworld ride four years ago. In a statement issued after the fine, Ardent Leisure chairman Gary Weiss and CEO John Osborne said they accepted the court's decision to impose "the largest fine in Queensland history for a workplace tragedy". "Ardent accepts responsibility for this tragedy without qualification or reservation," their statement said.



Teachers need training on inclusion (Global)

According to the World Education Blog, many factors go into the design of a truly inclusive education system. Some determine the way in which education systems are put in place, such as laws and policies, or governance and funding mechanisms. Others operate within the walls of the school. Teachers need specific skills to adapt teaching to learners’ diverse needs –acutely needed during school shutdowns – but they need support and training to know how. This World Teachers’ Day, a new policy paper by the GEM Report and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (TTF), “Inclusive teaching: Preparing all teachers to teach all students” looks at teacher training programmes, touching upon issues of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and the support mechanisms in place to help teachers foster inclusion. Only about 4 in 10 countries cover teacher training for inclusion in their laws and policies, with the highest coverage found in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Returning US school children face battery of coronavirus tests (United States)

Aljazeera reports that the two largest school districts in the United States are rolling out ambitious and costly plans to test students and staff for the novel coronavirus, bidding to help keep school buildings open amid a rise in infections among the nation’s school-age children. New York City was set to begin testing 10-20 percent of students and staff in every building once a month starting last Thursday, the same day the final wave of the district’s more than one million students began returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms for the first time in six months. With an estimated 100,000-120,000 tests expected every month, each costing between $78 and $90, New York City’s school-based testing plan goes well beyond safety protocols seen in most other districts. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District has launched a similarly comprehensive, $150m testing programme to help determine when it will be safe to resume in-person instruction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week the incidence of COVID-19 in school-age children began rising in early September as many returned to classrooms.


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