Weekly Wrap: October 10, 2019

10 October 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.



OPINION: Our “cruisy” education system is letting down high achievers

According to an opinion piece in The Age by Dr Katie Allen MP, the Federal Member for Higgins, she recently discussed with many of the school principals in her electorate the need for an update of the Melbourne Declaration. Despite significant and increasing investment from Federal and State and Territory governments, our benchmarking data – both nationally through NAPLAN and internationally through PISA - is showing a decline in educational standards. Dr Allen asked her local principals why this might be. Some said that while we have made great strides with those students who were falling behind - which is a good news story – they were increasingly aware we are failing to stretch our students in the more capable end of the spectrum. Some said we had created a cohort of cruisers - effectively that our educational system had forgone excellence for equity.


Experts say sex education isn't keeping up with technology

According to the ABC News, child safety experts say school-based sex education programs aren't keeping up with the times, or the technology when it comes to sexting, despite research showing one in three teens is engaging in the practice. Police in every jurisdiction across Australia run a program, in collaboration with Australian Federal Police, that educates children around sexting, cyber bullying, online child exploitation, online privacy, and what to do when something goes wrong. However, In Your Skin founder Tessa Opie, who runs education and consultation sessions around healthy relationships and sexuality, said despite many teenagers and young adults knowing the risks, sexting was still "incredibly common" and more needed to be done. "Some schools are being quite brave and quite pioneering … other schools I think are quite worried about parental backlash," she said. She has called for a complete overhaul of the national curriculum that takes a harm-reduction approach to sexting and dating online, rather than zero tolerance.


“The conversation has 100 per cent changed”: Mental health in schools

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a recent report on the mental health of Australian children and adolescents said schools "play a major role in supporting young people with emotional and behavioural problems and are often where symptoms of mental disorders are first identified". Help at school included providing informal support, suggesting students seek external help, offering individual and group counselling, providing special classes, school nurses and other programs, the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents Report stated. The Report found that one in seven children aged 4 to 17 were assessed as having mental disorders in the previous 12 months - equivalent to 560,000 Australian children and adolescents. The young respondents named bullying, substance abuse, problem eating behaviours, problematic internet use and/or electronic gaming as behaviours that "could put them at risk physically and/or mentally".


Australia’s peak Catholic education body warns government its draft religious discrimination act needs revision

The Australian reports that the National Catholic Education Commission is joining with a growing number of groups in questioning whether the protections in the government’s draft bill will allow faith based educators to preference teachers on their religion when it comes to hiring decisions. Scott Morrison’s decision to defer consideration of religious exemptions in anti-discrimination regimes — including the treatment of gay students and teachers at faith based schools — to the Australian Law Reform Commission is also identified as a key problem. The ALRC is not due to report until December 2020. Alarm is expressed with the wording of section 10 of the draft bill which contains a positive right stating that religious bodies are free to act in accordance with their faith. This section has raised alarm bells with a number of groups – including faith based educators like the Association of Independent Schools of NSW – which argue that section 10 is defined too narrowly and could fail to give protection to religious schools that preference teachers on their faith.


“Fundamental threat”: Australian Muslims call for extra protections in religious discrimination bill

According to The Age, Australia's Muslim community is urging the Morrison Government to redraft its religious discrimination laws to include an anti-vilification provision, saying incitement of hatred and violence is a "fundamental threat to Australian Muslims". A coalition of about 150 Muslim groups say Australian Muslims are vulnerable because they are "readily identifiable" by their names, appearance and dress and the places they worship. The groups say Muslim Australians do not have the same level of protection as some other religious groups - such as Jewish people and Sikhs - because they get extra protections under the Racial Discrimination Act as ethno-religious communities, from behaviour designed to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate". Public submissions on the government's proposed new religious discrimination bill closed on Wednesday.


Teachers have been shut out from education decision-making, expert argues

According to EducationHQ, educators have the knowledge and expertise to help build a “new narrative” for Australian education that could – within the next decade - trounce the dominance of neo-liberalism, an expert says. Alan Reid, Professor Emeritus of Education of the University of South Australia, has just published a thought-provoking book, Changing Australian Education: How policy is taking us backwards and what can be done about it. Reid is mindful that teachers may not be able to publicly discuss education policy and risk being fired if they criticise it. “Over the past three decades, teachers have been increasingly marginalised from educational decision-making. Policy is devised by others outside of schools and often by people with no expertise in education – politicians, economists, journalists, and business people," Reid says. This has happened because neoliberalism has increasingly underpinned Australia’s education policy and practise, he says.


What ACARA’s new strategic plan means for schools

According to The Educator, in September, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) announced it had updated its strategic plan with some small but very important changes. The move, approved by the Authority’s board last week, signals a shift in how it will drive improved teaching and learning in Australian schools in coming years. ACARA CEO David de Carvalho said the Authority’s updated vision statement – “Inspire improvement in the learning of all young Australians through world-class curriculum, assessment and reporting” – is important for several reasons. “While this change of adding “inspire” at the start of the vision statement seems small, it signals and highlights an important aspect of ACARA’s work – that we don't improve outcomes solely through our own efforts,” de Carvalho told The Educator. de Carvalho said the other important and related change to ACARA’s Strategic Plan is the addition of “Innovation” to its values.


ASIC questions “lasting impact” of CBA Dollarmites and school banking programs

According to the ABC News, there is "limited evidence" that school banking programs, which include the Commonwealth Bank's Dollarmites scheme, have a "lasting impact" on the saving behaviour of students. That was the corporate watchdog's preliminary view, buried more than halfway down its latest consultation paper. Nevertheless, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it is still seeking input from the public, as part of its ongoing school banking review. ASIC's inquiry began in October 2018, weeks after the ABC revealed that CBA paid almost $400,000 to Queensland state schools in the previous year to encourage more students to join. CBA also received a Shonky Award, courtesy of consumer advocacy group Choice, for paying schools commission in exchange for running the Dollarmites program. The corporate regulator is calling for public submissions on how such programs are marketed to schools — and the types of accounts established through these programs while students are at school and into adulthood. The deadline for filing a submission is October 31.


How should schools address drug abuse?

The Educator reports that there are increased reports of a dangerous trend on the rise again – students engaging in substance abuse. Cases of increased “chroming” by students were revealed in Queensland following a Department of Youth and Justice report last week. Also known as huffing, sniffing or rexing, chroming is a form of volatile substance abuse involving inhaling solvents or other household chemicals to get high. In March this year, South Australian principals were given the nod to deploy drug-sniffing dogs with the aim of deterring the proliferation of drugs in its schools. However, some chemicals used in chroming are not illegal at all. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), young people are more likely to follow the rules if their family, community and school coordinate their messages about the dangers of consuming illegal substances and alcohol. Aside from encouraging parents to reach out to each other and schools, ADF said alcohol and drug topics should also be discussed throughout the students’ education as part of classes focused on health and wellbeing.


How are you developing students’ online habits?

The Educator reports that the Federal Government recently announced that it is funding a study to find out how digital technology is really affecting Australian children. However, the research – which will provide recommendations to policymakers as well as guidelines for educators and parents – is yet to begin and could take years before the study wraps up. In 2017, with the aim of helping children develop safe and responsible online habits, the Federal Government partnered with the University of Sydney to boost digital literacy in schools. As the use of technology increases, so do the parallel risks posed by lax digital security and increasingly complex cyberthreats. Cyberbullying, too, is on the rise. In 2018, schools were encouraged to monitor their students’ online behaviours in a bid to deter cyberbullying and the mental health issues that come with it. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner recently announced it is developing a new program to improve students’ online safety. The Office said its eSafety Early Years project will provide a series of resources – expected to be available in 2020 – to ensure children can safely use technology.



1,700 Catholic priests accused of child sexual abuse are reportedly living freely in the US with no oversight, working in schools, and failing to register as sex offenders (United States)

According to Business Insider, almost 1,700 Catholic priests and other clergymen accused of child sex crimes live freely in the US, with no oversight from law enforcement or the Church, a new Associated Press investigation has found. The discovery was part of a broader investigation into the whereabouts of 5,100 priests, deacons, monks, and lay people in Roman Catholic Churches in the US accused of child sexual abuse dating back decades. Since August 2018, more than 130 Catholic dioceses in the US have released the names of those “credibly” accused of child sex offences, a reaction to the outing of the longstanding cover-up of endemic sexual abuse of children. The flurry was sparked by a seismic grand jury investigation into the Catholic church in Pennsylvania in August 2018, which identified nearly 300 “predator priests” and “1,000 young victims” over 70 years.


Teacher sacked for refusing to use transgender student’s pronouns sues school district (United States)

According to news.com.au, Peter Vlaming was supervising students during an activity last year when he yelled out, “Don’t let her hit the wall!” The next day, he was suspended. The French teacher at West Point High School in Virginia had accidentally referred to the transgender student using the female pronoun, rather than their preferred male pronouns “he, him and his”. The school sacked Mr Vlaming in December, citing his repeated refusal to refer to the student using male pronouns. Now he’s suing the school district, saying his religious and free speech rights were violated. “Defendants gave Mr Vlaming an ultimatum: use male pronouns for this female student or lose your job,” the complaint says. “Mr Vlaming could not violate his conscience. And it cost him his job.” Mr Vlaming, it says, “sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie”. School authorities tried to compel him to “take sides in an ongoing public debate regarding gender dysphoria and use pronouns that express an objectively untrue ideological message”, it adds.

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