Weekly Wrap: September 12, 2019

12 September 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.



Religious schools should be required to enrol a mix of religions: Hindu Council

According to The Age, religious schools should be required to admit a certain percentage of teachers and students from other religions so children can learn about other faiths, the peak body representing Hindus has told the Morrison government. The Hindu Council of Australia says it is afraid the government's proposed freedom of religion laws could have "unintended consequences", such as religious segregation and limiting employment opportunities for some religious groups. Hindu Council vice president Surinder Jain said that, although religious schools should have the freedom to teach their particular faith, the Bill should ensure they also employ staff and admit students from diverse backgrounds. Mr Jain said many Hindu Australians preferred to send their children to private schools because there was a perception they provided better education and discipline. He said there were no Hindu schools in Australia, which meant Hindu families often ended up sending their children to schools run by other faiths.


Student mental health crisis worsening – survey

According to The Educator, new survey data has revealed worsening mental health issues in schools, preschools, and TAFEs across the state. The Australian Education Union’s (AEU) survey of members, which informed its submission to the Mental Health Royal Commission, indicated “significant” mental health issues and a fundamental lack of support and resources to meet the needs of students. Meredith Peace, President of AEU Victoria Branch said that of “major concern” is that this burden is particularly felt in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and in regional and remote Victoria. More than 70 per cent of school principals across the state said that students did not have timely access to the services and support that they need. The survey found that almost 80 per cent of staff surveyed say mental health issues are impacting student learning. The AEU submission to the Royal Commission, calls for a full review of the current provision of student access to mental health services.


Love for language: it's who we are and where we're from

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, across Australia, 90 per cent of the 250 Indigenous languages that existed before settlement are endangered, yet language was the "essence of who we are", the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said. Mr Wyatt, who grew up speaking Noongar mixed with English, said he'd seen the power of language - and bilingualism - to bridge understanding and improve academic results. "Language shouldn't be allowed to die," said Mr Wyatt, who was a former teacher and later director of Aboriginal education in WA before entering politics. "Why wouldn't you allow them to keep the window to the world they've come from?" he said in an interview to mark Indigenous Literacy Day. Nearly 55 per cent of Indigenous students in year 9 failed to meet the national minimum standard for writing in last year's NAPLAN tests, compared to 18 per cent of non-Indigenous students. Mr Wyatt and Education Minister Dan Tehan announced $2.18 million in new funding to support language teaching. Mr Wyatt said funding was available wherever people had made the decision to resurrect a language.


Soft skills “more important than English, maths”

The Australian reports that teaching children so-called 21st- century soft skills, such as how to think creatively and solve global problems, should take precedence over specific subject areas such as English, mathematics and science, according to top universities responsible for training graduate teachers. The Australian Catholic University, which enrols about 2500 teacher degree candidates each year, has told a government review into schooling, that if the nation were to have a world-class curriculum “it should focus more on skills and competencies rather than specific content areas”. The sentiment has been echoed by the Group of Eight, which represents the top universities. Its submission to the review of the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians suggested that “a revised declaration might consider placing a greater emphasis or focus on the importance of critical thinking in the national curriculum”. The NSW Education Department recently released a paper written by renowned US cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham questioning the widely held assumption that skills, such as critical thinking, can be taught directly.


NAPLAN tests are not tough enough for the level of maths students are studying

According to an article in The Conversation by academics at Curtin University, the latest preliminary NAPLAN results came out recently, but new research has found the test might have little to do with what the kids are actually learning in class. Research by the authors, presented at the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA) conference in July this year, found the NAPLAN questions in numeracy for Years 5 and 9 do not cover many of the topics students are studying that year, based on the Australian mathematics curriculum. Yet the organisation running the tests – the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) – says NAPLAN should be aligned to the curriculum. The authors found NAPLAN mathematics is nowhere near the year level of study the students are doing at the time of taking the tests. The majority of the Year 5 numeracy test is actually content from the curriculum for Year 2 and Year 3.


Experts caution on NAPLAN results’ reliability

According to The Educator, education experts have warned that computer glitches during the latest NAPLAN tests may render this year's data unreliable. Dr Jessica Holloway and Dr Steven Lewis – researchers from Deakin University’s Centre for Research for Educational Impact (REDI) – said widespread technical disruption on the first day of the online testing had compromised the validity of the results. “We saw a lot of lost time during the tests and additional pressure for students having to rush to finish or re-sit the test another day,” Dr Holloway said. More than one million students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sat the NAPLAN tests in May and about half of all schools completed the tests online as part of Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)'s plans to move the entire testing process online by 2021. Dr Holloway said the technical glitches further weaken NAPLAN's aims to create a 'level playing field' of academic comparison across Australia. Dr Lewis said it was not clear what the tests were actually measuring. “NAPLAN and similar tests around the world tell us more about equity issues than the quality of teachers or schools,” Dr Lewis said.


Child-to-child abuse being learnt on the internet

According to The Ballarat Courier, a quarter of all child sexual abuse cases involve another child, new research reveals, with much of the behaviour being learnt on the internet. The research, released by charity Act for Kids during Child Protection Week, has brought to light the fact that the abuse is often undetected given that parents assume their child is safe around other children. Dr Katrina Lines, executive director of services with Act for Kids, said the research was undertaken as the charity had noticed an increase in referrals of peer-on-peer sexual abuse in the past decade. This was also noted in the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which reported that 23.4 per cent of the 7981 survivors indicated that they were sexually abused by another child. Dr Lines said it was a complex problem and often stemmed from domestic and family violence or the child being sexually abused themselves. Despite that, three quarters of those interviewed in the study blamed access to sexually explicit material online, in games or in films for the problematic sexual behaviours.


32,300 kids banned from school: State to review suspension policies

The Brisbane Times reports that the NSW Department of Education is putting its suspension rates under the microscope as part of wide-ranging review of discipline policies in public schools. But advocacy groups are frustrated that they have been given no terms of reference nor timeframe for consultation, with many concerned that there are high numbers of primary school students with disabilities suspended for behaviour they cannot control. Four per cent of NSW public school students, or 32,300 children, received short-term suspensions last year, with more than 9000 of them in primary school. About 1.5 per cent of all students were given long-term suspensions, lasting for between four and 20 days. Education Minister Sarah Mitchell confirmed the discipline review at a budget estimates hearing. A spokeswoman for the minister said consultation would continue until the end of the year, focusing on behaviour and suspension policies.


Bush bonus: Lure of up to $50,000 for Melbourne teachers who go rural

The Age reports that teachers will be offered cash incentives of up to $50,000 to quit their jobs in Melbourne and relocate to struggling schools in regional and rural Victoria. Incentives will be highest for teachers who are willing to move to communities with the greatest need for good teachers. Teachers who remain in hard-to-fill roles will also be eligible for retention payments of up to $9000 a year in their first three years. The cash incentives form the backbone of a $42.5 million package from the Andrews government to try to arrest a decline in academic results at most regional Victorian schools. The package of incentives and support for teachers willing to make the move has been recommended by an expert advisory panel for rural and regional students. Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority data for 100 state high schools outside Melbourne revealed the average VCE performance of 61 schools worsened between 2009 and 2018, eight schools improved their results and the remaining 31 held steady.


Covert bullying higher among young girls with disabilities

According to The Educator, a new South Australian study has found a serious problem of covert bullying in schools, particularly in relation to girls with disabilities. The work, led by University of South Australia researcher Dr Anna Moffat, was reported in the Journal of School Violence and reveals that 57 per cent of girls with disabilities in upper primary school have experienced covert bullying where they are excluded from social circles, rejected, subjected to vicious rumours, whispering and threatening looks. While boys with disabilities are also bullied more than their peers, this difference was greatest in high school. The research team, including Professor Gerry Redmond and Associate Professor Pammi Raghavendra from Flinders University, used data from the Australian Child Wellbeing Project, a survey of 4,753 Australian children aged 8-14 years, 490 of whom identified as living with a disability. They looked at the influence of family, peer and teacher support on the prevalence of covert bullying in children with and without disabilities and whether there were any differences in gender or age.



Harry Potter Books Removed at Nashville Catholic School (United States)

Variety reports that the long-beloved Harry Potter books have been yanked from the library shelves of St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville, evidently for fear that students will conjure “evil spirits” upon reading the wizard-centric series. The Rev Dan Reehil laid out his objections to the books in an email obtained by the Tennessean. “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true,” the e-mail reads. “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the texts.” It’s not just the books’ magical properties; he also claimed the misadventures of Harry Potter and his friends “promote a Machiavellian approach to achieving the ends they desire.” The American Library Association in a 2000-2009 survey named the “Harry Potter” series the most banned book in the United States, primarily for religious reasons. Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, said “Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school”.


When student stress becomes a mental health disorder (Canada)

According to St Albert Today, as school ramps up for a busy fall and winter, School District 43 will be incorporating a number of strategies to help staff and students deal with stress and recognise when issues need additional support. The initiatives come as a B.C. (British Columbia) Coroners Service Death Review Panel issued recommendations on ways to prevent suicide deaths among youth. It found that 111 young people age 10 to 18 years old ended their lives between 2013 and 2018, experiencing feelings of hopelessness, distress or despair. And while 65 per cent were dealing with relationship issues at the time of their death, 32 per cent were experiencing educational issues. The report made a number of recommendations, chief among them that mental wellbeing be incorporated into social-emotional learning for students. Not everything is a mental health crisis or disorder but sometimes a failed test or relationship will feel like it. Giving students strategies for reaching out, and the confidence to open a conversation, will help. And as the school year progresses, those will be part of the curriculum, along with reading, writing and numeracy.


“This is about parents”: Why kids are playing less sport; what needs to change (New Zealand)

The NZ Herald reports that tackling the dropping numbers in youth sport must start with a change in parents' attitudes, according to leaders of several of the country's top sporting codes. New Zealand Rugby, NZ Cricket, Netball NZ, NZ Football and Hockey NZ have signed a statement of intent to make major changes to the way kids play sport, vowing to make it less competitive, more inclusive and more fun in an attempt to combat falling youth participation in sport. Sport NZ boss Peter Miskimmin says change must start with how parents view youth sport. "This is actually a campaign about parents and about parents rethinking youth sport," Miskimmin told Radio Sport Breakfast. "Because what we're seeing and what we're hearing from young people is they're not enjoying the experience so much… There's a sense of too much or over-emphasis on winning – we're not saying winning is not important, just the over-emphasis through adult expectations – and early specialisation (being forced to play one sport and encouraged to) is all a bit of a turn off and kids are walking away from sport… And for us that's a real issue given all the value that comes associated with sport for life."

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