Weekly Wrap: October 3, 2019

03 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.



Australian schools are using apps to help children deal with trauma

According to the ABC News, school students are learning meditation and their emotions are being recorded with apps in a bid to prevent disruptive behaviour in the classroom and give children with backgrounds of trauma hope for a positive future. Schools in New South Wales, the ACT, New Zealand and now the Northern Territory are using the apps to help teachers understand what drives student behaviour. St Joseph's Catholic College is one of 10 schools in the Northern Territory town of Katherine trialling the Smiling Mind app, which has been developed by psychologists. In the ACT, New South Wales and New Zealand, schools were trialling another app, from the Australian Childhood Trauma Group, where students report their emotions, sleep and eating patterns every morning to their teachers. The NT has three times the rate of child protection orders compared to any other Australian jurisdiction, with 7,385 children receiving child protection services, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) latest 2017-18 data. The NT Education Department said in a statement that it provides trauma-informed training to its staff, and school counsellors were supposed to support teachers and families.


Help teachers spot mental issues: Gillard

According to Education HQ, teachers must be given more support to better understand mental health issues among their students, former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard says. One in every seven children has some form of mental difficulty Gillard says. Now chair of advocacy group Beyond Blue, she says that the most profound mental health disorders tend to manifest between the ages of 14 and mid-20s. "So it will be often a high school teacher that first notices that something is wrong," she told an economic conference in Canberra. Resources and learning modules are available through Beyond Blue for educators to help teach resilience. "I think schools are getting more thoughtful about resilience behaviour, mindfulness, anti-bullying behaviours, to enable young people to emerge from their informative years with strategies to cope when they inevitably counter stresses and strains in life," Gillard said.


China school students are the next big market for Australia

The Financial Review reports that Chinese international school Maple Leaf has opened doors at the University of South Australia, teaching Chinese students the South Australian Certificate of Education in English. The initial 19 students are a tiny percentage of the 40,000 enrolments in the for-profit company globally. But principal Steve Bousfield says growth is being driven by the rising number of Chinese middle-class families who want an overseas education for their children. "Most students come here to escape the Gaokao [Chinese school-leaving exam].” Maple Leaf, which is owned by Dalian-based businessman Sherman Jen, started teaching in 1995, initially in Canada - hence the name. It has 90 global campuses, all of which take students from China and put them through local school systems and leaving exams. Mr Bousfield rejected any suggestion that the controversy over Chinese students at Australian universities flowed through to high school students.


New report reveals “major shift towards DIY learning”

The Educator reports that a landmark global report has revealed a major shift towards do-it-yourself learning amid a perception that the government is failing to improve access to education for young Australians. The inaugural Pearson Global Learner Survey captured the opinions of nearly 12,000 learners across 19 countries, including Australia, United Kingdom, China and the United States. David Barnett, Pearson Asia Pacific Managing Director, said the report – the first to survey so many learners worldwide on such a wide range of education topics – was a wake-up call for Australia’s education system. The vast majority of Australians surveyed believe the government should support people in their education, with 90 per cent believing that the government should help to improve access to education. This is up 10 per cent from the US (80 per cent) and up 4 per cent from the UK (86 per cent).


Schools given all-clear to dump NAPLAN online for pen and paper test

The Age reports that Victorian schools whose students sat NAPLAN online have been told they can revert to a pen and paper test next year to avoid the technical glitches that plagued this year's test. The state government has also put a freeze on any additional schools switching from paper to online testing in 2020, despite having agreed with other states to a nationwide transition to NAPLAN online by 2021. School principals whose students sat the test online were told last week that they can ditch computers for pen and paper next year if they want to, and that no additional schools in Victoria will transition to online this year. Schools have been asked to inform the authority of their decision by early November. More than 50,000 Australian students had to resit parts of NAPLAN online this year because of connectivity problems. As many as 80 per cent of schools were expected to sit the test online next year, before Education Minister James Merlino’s intervention.


Major flaws found in monitoring of teacher quality in NSW

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Auditor-General has found major flaws in the way public school teachers are being monitored in NSW, with self-assessment, poor feedback and inconsistency resulting in fewer than 0.01 per cent of teachers being identified as underperforming. Research has long found teacher quality is key to student performance, but the Auditor-General's report released last Thursday found the NSW Department of Education (DoE) did not effectively monitor it across NSW's 2200 public schools last year. One of the few system-wide quality checks - a survey of students' satisfaction with teachers - was voluntary, with 65 per cent of schools participating. The main strategy to improve teaching, the Performance and Development Framework (PDF), was not being used effectively, with little guidance to schools about setting quality goals, observing teachers at work or providing effective feedback. A spokesman for the DoE said the Department welcomed the report, and accepted all its recommendations. It was in the process of implementing them in association with NESA (the NSW Education Standards Authority).


Abuse victim receives multi-million-dollar payout from Catholic Church

According to The Age, the Catholic Church is expected to pay out as much as $3 million in a landmark legal settlement with a man who was raped in the confessional when he was a nine-year-old boy by notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale. The settlement in the first civil case in which the Church admitted liability for the actions of a paedophile cleric is expected to have a massive impact on hundreds of other law suits filed in Victorian courts. Experts estimate the case was resolved for between $2 million and $3 million but combined legal costs – for the plaintiff and the church, of about $1.5 million – will be taken out of that figure. The plaintiff has dedicated his landmark payout to victims of clergy abuse who have taken their own lives. The church in Victoria is facing at least 800 new legal actions for child sexual abuse in the wake of the state government’s decision to abolish the so-called “Ellis defence”.


Former MP smacks Queensland for not banning cane from private schools

According to the Brisbane Times, Queensland must ban the cane from private schools by changing the law, says the former politician and teacher who argued successfully for it to be removed from NSW. After a successful Education Act amendment in South Australia this year, Queensland is now the only state where private schools are allowed to cane, even if the schools insist corporal punishment is not used. Former NSW MP Alan Corbett pushed for physical punishment to be removed from private schools in that state in 1995. Independent Schools Queensland, which oversees most private schools in Queensland, said corporal punishment was not used any more. Mr Corbett said caning and other corporal punishments might not be used in private schools but the possibility was there. Education Minister Grace Grace told Parliament on August 19 the Queensland government had no plan to make changes to legislation regarding corporal punishment in schools.


Handling of bullying in the ACT “frustrating, inadequate and disappointing”

According to Education HQ, the ACT Education Directorate has been presented with a litany of recommendations to stamp out violence and bullying in Territory schools, after a parliamentary inquiry heard evidence that some parents’ complaints were ignored. The final report details 23 recommendations, including that the ACT Government review its complaint handling processes, employ full-time social and youth workers in every school and amend the ACT Crimes Act to make clear that violence and bullying in schools is subject to legal enforcement. Many of the families who made submissions to the inquiry found their schools’ responses frustrating, inadequate and disappointing. The Committee recommended that the Government review existing complaints handling processes and ensure that parents and students are able to escalate their complaints and have them heard externally if necessary. The Government will formally respond to the Committee’s report in the future.


NT Govt offers temporary relocation pay hike in bid to prevent teacher exodus

Education HQ reports that the NT Government will temporarily double relocation payments for Katherine teachers, in a bid to prevent a feared exodus that would leave local schools badly understaffed. The Australian Education Union’s NT branch told EducationHQ in May that many teachers will leave the area if the government proceeds with plans to cut funding to a longstanding housing subsidy. “It could create teacher shortages, which would mean larger class sizes,” AEU NT president Jarvis Ryan said at the time. The State Government anticipates that $500,000 can be saved annually by moving to a new housing subsidy model in 2020. To “ease the transition", relocation payments will be doubled for the first year before gradually returning to original levels in 2022. The Katherine Times reports that housing subsidies are expected to reduce slightly for existing teachers but may be cut entirely for new staff.



Mixed reception: Canada’s private schools grapple with growing phone use (Canada)

The Globe and Mail reports that in the next few months the Ontario government is imposing a classroom ban on cellphones in public schools, with exceptions for instructional use. But it’s an issue many private schools across the country have already developed policies on. While some impose limitations on use in classrooms and lunchrooms, others use cellphones as educational tools to enhance students’ learning. At Crescent School, a private all-ages boys’ school in Toronto, elementary students are encouraged against bringing cellphones to school entirely, while middle-school students are asked to keep them in their lockers. At the high-school level, teachers are given freedom to decide their own policies around cellphone use, says Rob Costanzo, who served as assistant head of upper school for Crescent until the end of the spring 2019 term. Other private schools have imposed more broad bans on cellphones, such as Toronto’s Bishop Strachan School, an all-girls day and boarding school. Bishop Strachan does not allow phones except in instances where a teacher specifically requires them for class.


Science Education Is Under Legislative Attack (United States)

According to the Scientific American, nearly a quarter of a million science teachers are hard at work in public schools in the United States, helping to ensure that today’s students are equipped with the theoretical knowledge and the practical knowhow they will need to flourish in tomorrow’s world. Ideally, they are doing so with the support of the lawmakers in their state’s legislatures. But in 2019 a handful of legislators scattered across the country introduced more than a dozen bills that threaten the integrity of science education. Despite their variance, the bills shared a common goal: undermining the teaching of evolution or climate change. Sometimes it is clear: the one in Indiana would have allowed local school districts to require the teaching of a supposed alternative to evolution, while the Montana bill would have required the state’s public schools to present climate change denial. Sometimes it is cloaked in vague high-sounding language about objectivity and balance, requiring a careful analysis of the motives of the sponsors and supporters.


Top of the class: Labour seeks to emulate Finland's school system (United Kingdom, Finland)

The Guardian reports that the Finnish education system is the envy of the world. Along with Tove Jansson’s Moomins, Nokia phones and Iittala glassware, it has become one of the country’s most celebrated exports – and it’s easy to see why. Its students consistently score well at the top end of the Pisa international league tables. There are no Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education, UK]-style inspections, no streaming by ability, no national exams until 18, no school uniforms, no school league tables and no fee-paying private schools. At its party conference this week, Labour committed to follow Finland’s lead and not only scrap Ofsted but abolish private schools by forcing them to integrate them in the state sector. The British Labour party is far from alone in its enthusiasm for the Finnish education system. Every year hundreds of delegations of teachers and policymakers from all over the world pour into Helsinki to see this nirvana for themselves.

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