Weekly Wrap: October 31, 2019

31 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.



Top educator has radical vision for students

According to the Financial Review, school-leaver qualifications should include whether a student has done a training course in years 11 and 12, advanced maths in final year exams or worked at McDonald's and the lines between university and training courses should be blurred, said Peter Shergold. His comments come in his first major interview since being commissioned by the government to review senior secondary pathways into work or education. The businessman and chancellor of Western Sydney University said schools make a distinction between students who are destined for university and those who they think should go into training and puts them on a course which is hard to quit. Dr Shergold, a former secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, said his review came in the middle of a large number of school and post-school reviews. He described it as an area in which a lot of issues were overlapping.


Don’t blame the teacher: student results are (mostly) out of their hands

According to an article in The Conversation by a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of New England, teachers have very little to do with why some kids are better at school than others, her team’s research shows. This contradicts the popular view that teachers matter most (after genes) when it comes to academic achievement. Previous research has suggested teacher quality – which includes their qualification level and ability to organise the class – can account for up to 30 per cent of the reason some students get better marks than others. But the team’s study of 4,533 twin pairs, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, found classroom factors – which include teacher quality and class size – accounted for only 2-3 per cent of the differences in students’ NAPLAN scores. The team acknowledges teachers matter. It is because of them all children know more at the end of a year, a week, even a day, than they did before. But the study suggests teachers are doing an even-handed job of educating our students in the core areas of literacy and numeracy.


Children with disabilities suffer “severe neglect and abuse” in Australian schools

According to The Guardian, a third of all children with disability have been restrained or secluded at school while half have been bullied in the past year, according to a government-funded report that reveals “severe neglect and abuse” of young people and calls for “special schools” to be phased out. The report, released by Children And Young People With Disability Australia (CYDA), collated the experiences of more than 500 students and their families from a national survey. Mary Sayers, the CYDA chief executive, said the report uncovered children with disabilities were regularly bullied by other students, and at times by school staff, as well as the common use of restrictive practices. Sayers called for the government to adopt a national inclusive education plan that would phase out special schools and separated classrooms/units within mainstream schools. It comes as the royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability prepares to hold its first public hearings in early November.


Parents’ group calls for views on how schools communicate

According to the Independent Schools Victoria’s Weekly Briefing, the Australian Parents Council (APC) is asking parents of school-aged children to take part in a nationwide survey on education issues. APC says that it is an apolitical organisation representing parents with children at non-government schools. It says its 2019 survey, about the ways schools and teachers communicate and share information with families, gives parents a great opportunity to “have a say and help improve the way parents and schools work together”. APC says that Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan supports the survey, and that he said “parents know their children better than anyone, so their feedback is vitally important to help further improve our education system”.


Does “Closing the Gap” require a rethink?

According to The Educator, the Federal Government has flagged more teachers in regional and remote areas in the hope of balancing the quality of student outcomes nationwide. However, it’s yet to be seen if the incentives they are offering will work. This places the future of Indigenous students in limbo, despite existing funding and programs like Closing the Gap or the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Curricula Project, which gave rise to the Little J & Big Cuz series. According to government data there has been no meaningful improvement in any of the states and territories in terms of Indigenous students’ attendance rates. Dr Tracy Woodroffe, a lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Charles Darwin University’s College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society, said that there is a need for teachers to receive pre-service training on Indigenous knowledge. The University of Sydney has also recognised the need to make school curriculums adjust to the needs of Indigenous students.


Government urged to exercise caution on curriculum review

According to The Educator, NSW principals have responded to proposed sweeping changes to the state’s curriculum, saying any change to attainment levels or progressions needs to be “very carefully considered”. Last week, the NSW Government released the interim curriculum review, which includes a renewed focus on maths, English and science. Another key recommendation of the review was to reduce the number of subjects covered and focus less on exam preparation. This according to the report’s author, ACER CEO, Professor Geoff Masters, would address the issue of the curriculum being “too lockstep in nature”. “Teaching and learning in the senior secondary school are perceived to be overly focused on examination preparation, maximising the ATAR and university entrance,” Professor Masters wrote. “[The curriculum] is insufficiently focused on equipping every student with the knowledge, skills and attributes they will require for further learning, life and work.” The NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC) welcomed the review, saying the consultation “correctly identified that the current curriculum is overcrowded and becoming increasingly so.” However, the Council’s acting president, Craig Petersen, said that while it makes sense for schools to focus on personal growth, policymakers should be careful “not to trade one system of lockstep progression for another”.


Government sets new maths standard for aspiring primary school teachers

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, aspiring teachers will have to achieve at least band four in HSC mathematics to work at a NSW primary school under a plan to boost standards. The rule will apply to students sitting the Higher School Certificate from 2021 and comes after the Berejiklian government announced plans to make maths compulsory for year 11 and 12 students. It reinstates a requirement that was dropped in 2014 when the NSW Education Standards Authority introduced new standards, including a numeracy assessment for final-year teachers and a requirement that they achieve band five in at least three HSC subjects. But there are concerns from education deans that the policy will exacerbate the severe shortage of maths teachers by creating extra demand among HSC students. Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the government was committed to raising the standards of teaching in NSW.


Young, gifted and backed: select-entry students' great expectations

The Age reports that students travel up to five hours a day to attend Nossal High School in Berwick, in Melbourne's outer south-east. Nossal High School is one of just four selective-entry schools in Victoria. The others are Melbourne High School, MacRobertson Girls' High School and Suzanne Cory High School. Lengthy commutes are common at all the schools, such is the demand. While NSW has dozens of selective-entry schools and plans for more, Victorian Education Minister James Merlino has ruled out opening another. Last week he announced $60 million in funding for almost 50,000 bright pupils from grades 5 to 8 to participate in accelerated learning programs. Australian students are ambitious relative to global peers. The OECD’s survey of 15-year-olds, called PISA, showed students from Australia and the US were more likely to want top grades, to be the best at whatever they do, and to want to select from among the best opportunities upon graduation than participants in Finland, Japan and Korea.


Seeing a GP during school lunch: Clinic opens next door to classrooms to help students

The ABC News reports that a Queensland high school is the first in the state to have a doctor onsite to help students with their overall wellbeing, and in turn boost their academic performance. Mabel Park State High School at Slacks Creek, 20 kilometres south of Brisbane, started the project six months ago after seeing similar projects overseas and in Victoria. Partnering with the University of Queensland (UQ) Health Care, students can gain access to a GP clinic within the school once a week. Mabel Park State High principal Mick Hornby said the changes to the students have been remarkable. Mr Hornby said students could use the service as they saw fit, for mental health issues, vaccinations and more, with appointments booking out each week. The system sees parents book appointments for their children online via UQ Health Care, with most appointments made outside of class time where possible. The appointments are bulk billed resulting in no cost to the school.


SA schools tackling child gaming addiction with new “Unplugged” social program

According to Channel 9, 4 per cent of teenagers who play video games are addicted - that's an estimated 78,000 children nationally. And it's having a real impact on families. The issue is also creating problems in the classroom. "We notice some kids come to school very tired, pale, irritable, unable to focus, having challenges with the relationships with their peers," student counsellor Jovan Vujinovic said. A South Australian program called Unplugged is now helping children and parents fight back, with schools running workshops aimed at getting teens to put down the controller. "The parents that come to these workshops just are desperate to understand how their child got to that point," psychiatrist Dr Huu Kim Le said. The program's strategies include helping parents set boundaries, create new routines and habits, and encourage their children to engage in other social activities.



Waikato school to pay $100k after teacher, student seriously injured by scaffolding (New Zealand)

According to the NZ Herald, a Waikato school has been ordered to pay out $100,000 after a teacher and student suffered brain injuries when falling from scaffolding. Forest View High School's board of trustees was sentenced in the Tokoroa District Court last week after the June 2018 incident. The mobile scaffolding had been put up in the Tokoroa school's auditorium to help set up lighting for assemblies and school plays. As the scaffolding was being moved with the student and teacher on a 3.9 metre platform, it toppled and the pair fell from it. They were knocked unconscious, and suffered serious lacerations, fractures and brain injuries. WorkSafe, which prosecuted the school, said Forest View had not developed a safe system of work around the use of the mobile scaffold. The judge sentencing Forest View ordered the school to pay reparation of $100,000. The judge also ordered the Forest View High School board to prepare and present a safety presentation at the National Conference of the School Trustees Association in 2020.


Restraint rules for teachers could be loosened (New Zealand)

According to RadioNZ, the body that disciplines and registers teachers has recommended changing strict rules limiting teachers' physical contact with children. The Teaching Council said teachers should be able to intervene earlier than the current threshold, which was when children were at imminent risk of serious harm. "Currently the legislation limits physical restraint to situations where there is a risk of serious and imminent harm, which has had the effect of deterring teachers from intervening before a situation gets serious," the Council said. "We are proposing to enable teachers to intervene earlier and to consider the emotional and physical harm of all the learners, as expected in the Code." Education minister Chris Hipkins said he had heard teachers' concerns about the rules and was working on them. Teachers and principals have criticised the rules, which were introduced several years ago, as too restrictive and confusing.


J K Rowling urges students not to volunteer at orphanages (United Kingdom)

According to The Guardian, J K Rowling has called on students around the world not to volunteer at orphanages, pointing to emerging evidence that “orphanage tourism” drives family separation and child trafficking. Speaking at the One Young World summit in London, the global forum for young leaders, the Harry Potter author and founder and president of children’s charity Lumos, said orphanages do “irreparable harm” and “perpetuate the abuse” of children and communities. Rowling was launching a three-year global campaign to challenge attitudes toward orphanage tourism and volunteering, #HelpingNotHelping. The campaign is backed by recently revised travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office warning of the potential harm of orphanage tourism and volunteering. Huge numbers of volunteers, tourists and backpackers visit residential children’s institutions every year, creating a multimillion-dollar tourism industry that leaves children at risk of all forms of abuse, according to Lumos.

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