Weekly Wrap: October 24, 2019

24 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.



AHISA announces new national chair

The Educator reports that the nation’s peak body for private school principals has announced the appointment of a new national chair. The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) welcomed St Andrew’s Anglican College principal Rev Chris Ivey at its 2019 Biennial Conference, held in Perth earlier this month. AHISA is a professional association of 440 private school principals. Its members collectively account for 11.5 per cent of total Australian school enrolments and 20 per cent of Year 12 enrolments. The Rev Ivey takes over from Yarra Valley Grammar School principal, Dr Mark Merry, who has held the Association’s chairmanship since October 2017. In his address to AHISA’s Biennial Conference, the Rev Ivey highlighted the strength of diversity in Australia’s independent school sector, the value of diversity in AHISA’s membership and the power of schools to respond to the needs of their communities.


“An appalling practice”: Principals slam universities' pre-HSC offers to students

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, school principals want universities to stop offering places to students before they sit the HSC, saying it is an "appalling practice" that encourages pupils to slacken off during their exams and drags their classmates down with them. Thousands of students were offered places at universities such as Macquarie, Notre Dame and Wollongong before they began their HSC. But other organisations, such as the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), refuse to send out offers before exams due to concerns from schools. Secondary Principals Council acting president Craig Petersen said pre-exam offers were an "appalling practice" and "we don't support it at all". Peter Fowler, the chair of the NSW Association of Heads of Independent Schools, supports alternative tertiary entry pathways, but is concerned about pre-HSC offers. Macquarie University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Programs and Pathways Professor Sean Brawley said the university's research showed the early admissions students performed as well as, and often better than, ATAR cohorts once at university.


Not all parents vaccinate their kids. But that doesn't mean they're anti-vaxxers

According to the ABC News, while most Australian parents vaccinate their children, there's still a minority who don't — but they're not all vehement anti-vaccination activists. In fact, most non-vaccinating parents are simply "trying to get on with the job of parenting", says Julie Leask, a social scientist at the University of Sydney's Nursing School who researches people's attitudes to vaccines. "Vaccine refusal is a problem for public health so it's important to have high vaccination rates. But the national conversation has become fraught," she says. If a child is in out-of-home care it can be harder to keep up with their vaccinations, or maybe a child was born overseas and the parents are yet to catch up on the Australian schedule. Within this group facing practical barriers, there are also a significant number of parents not vaccinating their children because they believe, or they've been incorrectly instructed by a health professional, that they shouldn't get their child vaccinated as they have a minor illness. She says this is "a major contributor" to non-vaccination.


Technology meltdown: Acute teacher shortage puts tech subjects at risk

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian schools are cutting back on teaching technology skills to students because of an acute inability to find and retain qualified teachers, with many securing higher-paid jobs elsewhere. A survey of more than 400 Australian schools in August found that 96 per cent have had difficulty hiring qualified technology teachers, with more than two-thirds admitting the quality of learning their students received had suffered for it. But the vast majority of schools rely on unqualified teachers pulled from other subjects to teach it, according to a survey of 404 schools and almost 3000 technology teachers carried out by the Design and Technology Teachers' Association. Dr Scott Sleap, a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle's science faculty, said the shortfall was not a new problem, but had grown worse in recent years. He called on education departments to create incentives for qualified technology practitioners to move into teaching.


Neither church nor state can agree on Scott Morrison's draft religious laws

According to The Age, below last week’s headlines about Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies was an admission that could easily weaken his insistent calls for stronger new laws to protect religious freedom. And the timing could be crucial to the unending debate within Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s governing Coalition over whether people of faith need to be shielded from discrimination – and the size of that shield. Davies’ view is not the only view within his own church as was indicated when he called for the Anglican Church’s general synod to agree at its next meeting due next year to agree with his view. The Anglican Church’s doctrine, in other words, is far from settled. This matters because Morrison’s plan to protect religion ultimately turns on the nature of that doctrine. And it will not be Davies who rules on the definition. It will be a judge. But do church leaders really want a court to rule on their “tenets” and “doctrines” after centuries when the task was left to bishops or popes? It may be too late for them to rethink. One view within the government is that churches should be careful what they wish for.


“Confronting” lesson shows students dangers of risky behaviour

The Age reports that speaking to young accident survivors has made Kaitlyn Stiteri think twice about simple decisions such as getting into a car with a peer she doesn't know too well. "We spoke to Josh, whose story was really confronting - he made a decision that wasn't the best decision and got into a car with someone he didn't know very well and it affected his life forever," said Kaitlyn, who is one of nearly 3000 Sydney students who have visited Liverpool Hospital since 2015 to see the process of ending up in a hospital emergency department, including going through intensive care, trauma wards and rehabilitation. The "prevent alcohol and risk-related trauma in youth" program was developed by emergency departments in Canada in the 1980s based on data that showed an over-representation of young people coming in to hospitals. The program, which is partly funded by the IMB Community Foundation, is also being run at the Royal North Shore and St George hospitals.


First student rep in curriculum authority ready to shake up the board

The Age reports that Aayushi Khillan, a University of Melbourne biomedicine undergraduate, will this month take her seat on the board of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Ms Khillan has been selected as the first student representative on the powerful board, following a campaign by the Victorian Student Representative Council last year. Ms Khillan said it was important to give students a say in setting the content and direction of their education and praised the authority for taking a "progressive approach". The appointment is the latest in several changes that have increased students’ influence in Victorian schools. Since 2018, all government secondary schools have been required to include two elected student members on their school councils, with full voting rights. Some schools have also included students in their decisions on hiring new teachers. This year the Victorian Student Representative Council also succeeded in its bid to help overhaul the teaching of civics and citizenship.


More than 700 teachers under investigation over misconduct claims

The Age reports that more than 700 Victorian teachers are being investigated by the state’s teacher watchdog over alleged misconduct and 10 teachers were disqualified in the 12 months to June after being found guilty of sexual offences involving children. A further 19 teachers were suspended from practising in that period as they are under investigation, either for alleged sexual offences, or due to mental health impairment or drug and alcohol addiction. The Victorian Institute of Teaching said in its annual report that the number of professional conduct matters it dealt with had soared exponentially this year, as community expectations about child safety had changed. Some 150 of the 700 investigations were dealt with as high-risk matters. Most of the probes were rated low-risk, and 74 of the 150 high-risk matters relate to a notification of an unregistered teacher.


Is your child one of the lucky ones? Ad hoc provision of play-based learning in WA schools slammed

WA Today reports that the push to protect the right of Western Australian children to play during early childhood has reached a new peak with 10,000 individuals and more than 180 organisations now calling on the state government to act. The campaign for a WA Play Strategy asks authorities to take the concerns of teachers and parents more seriously by implementing changes that would ensure that all WA primary schools adhere to best practice. Teachers say many schools do not deliver adequate play-based learning even for the youngest students. The campaign passed the 10,000 endorsements target shortly after teachers sounded the alarm over the demise of play-based learning in schools, with the State School Teachers Union recently launching their own campaign on the issue. The Union released research by Murdoch University early childhood teaching expert Sandra Hesterman, in which more than 70 per cent of 600 teachers surveyed warned they experienced difficulties in implementing a play-based curriculum in WA classrooms.


Parents fighting to hold back their child from starting school in WA forced to consider drastic action

According to the ABC News, Rebecca Trent said she was becoming increasingly desperate after a series of knockbacks from local schools as to whether her son, Darcy, could repeat kindergarten and start pre-primary in 2021. Darcy was born on 23 June 2015, a week before the cut-off date of 30 June — meaning he would be one of the youngest in his year throughout his school life if he started pre-primary as the law requires next year. WA has the youngest compulsory school starting age in the country at four-and-a-half years, with enrolment in pre-primary mandatory for children who turn five by June 30 unless there are "exceptional circumstances". Ms Trent said she had approached eight schools in recent months, six of them public and two private, about holding Darcy back a year. She said six gave her a flat out "no" while two — one public and one private — told her she would need to provide paediatric and child psychology reports supporting her request. The organisation representing primary school principals in WA said it believed the current system was working well and changes to the starting age were not necessary.


#LetHerSpeak: Tasmania to reform sex abuse media laws after survivor-led campaign

According to SBS News, sex abuse survivors in Tasmania will finally be able to share their stories publicly, with the state planning to scrap laws banning them from naming themselves in the media. It follows a long-running #LetHerSpeak campaign by survivors demanding the right to identify themselves in the media without having to get a court order first. Attorney-General Elise Archer said the reforms, which will bring Tasmania into line with the other states, allow adult survivors to tell their stories publicly if they give the publication written consent. Tasmanian and the Northern Territory are the only places in Australia where adult sex assault survivors can't name themselves in the media. Tasmania also plans to reword the crime of "maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person" after the use of the term "relationship" was criticised as inappropriate. The state's Labor opposition says it will support the changes.


 “I wish you were murdered”: some students don’t know the difference between bullying and banter

According to an article in The Conversation, many Australian students don’t know the difference between banter and bullying, with some saying they joke about wishing their friend would “drown” or “die in a car crash”. More than 800 Australian students aged 11 to 16 took part in a survey asking about experiences of peer aggression. Almost half (48 per cent) said they had been harmed, very harmed or extremely harmed by an act of peer aggression. Bullying is a subset of peer aggression. For an act of peer aggression to be defined as bullying it must be repeated, deliberately harmful and involve a power imbalance in which the victim feels powerless. If any of these criteria is missing, it is not defined as bullying. But that doesn’t mean the experience isn’t harmful. In a lot of research on bullying, young people are simply provided with the definition of bullying and then asked questions about it. Because most people have their own idea about what bullying is, they are not likely to change their mind in one instant after they have read the definition in a questionnaire (if they read it at all).



Autism Canada doesn’t endorse “singling out children” with blue Halloween buckets (Canada)

CTV News reports that, while some US parents are giving their kids blue buckets this Halloween to signify autism, a leading Canadian advocacy group says it opposes the trend for “singling out children.” A viral Facebook post has sparked huge online debate about what blue pumpkin buckets used while trick-or-treating actually mean. American mother Omairis Taylor has a three-year-old son with autism who is non-verbal. “This year we will be trying the blue bucket to signify he has autism,” Taylor wrote. Taylor added that she made the post public in the hopes it will be shared to get the “blue bucket message out there for autism awareness.” But a spokesperson for Autism Canada, which provides information and support to people with autism, told CTVNews.ca that the blue buckets were “not something that has taken off here” and that the organisation “does not endorse the idea of a child with autism carrying a blue pumpkin bucket at Halloween.” “We believe that this practice singles out the child as being different,” Autism Canada said in a statement to CTVNews.ca.


California signs new law that bans high schools from starting before 8:30 am (United States)

According to KVOA News, California high schools will soon be barred from beginning class before 8.30 am, under first-in-the-nation legislation signed into law Sunday night by Governor Gavin Newsom. The public schools in America’s most populous state have until 1 July 2021 to implement the new standard that bill author, state Senator Anthony Portantino, insisted will “put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” according to NBC Los Angeles. “Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier,” said Portantino, a Democrat who represents the sprawling San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley suburbs of Los Angeles County. The legislation also bans middle schools from beginning before 8.00 am. A similar bill had been passed by lawmakers last year but was vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown. Backers of later start times claim teenagers, and their still-developing brains, need every extra minute of sleep possible.

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