Breaking News: Week of 23 July 2007
Monday 23 July
Tuesday 24 July
Wednesday 25 July
Thursday 26 July
Friday 27 July
Saturday Sunday, 28 29 July
Monday 23 July
- ABC News
The Education Department says its yet to fill almost 100 teaching vacancies, but its promising no classroom will go unsupervised.
Como Secondary College has its full complement of teachers, who spent today doing professional development, but dozens of other schools, mainly in the country, will be hit by the shortfall of 92 teachers however, the Education Department wouldnt give details.
I dont want to single out any particular schools, except to say that the vacancies are mostly in secondary, ah, English, Science, Design and Technology. They are across the state, but most of those vacancies are in country areas.
The Teachers Union fears the children will suffer from a lack of certainty, as relief and temporary teachers are brought in, and some regional schools continue to rely on distance education.
If youre a hundred short, thats a huge job, and thats a job thats left for schools to fill. Now, thats not acceptable you cant do that. Thats trying to run a car on an empty tank. [On Channel Seven News he went on to say that he anticipated there would be more teachers leaving over the next couple of weeks.]
Principals say the shortage has affected the quality of available teachers.
Como Principal Ross Sweeney:
We can deliver an educational programme, but our system is built of the quality of appropriate teachers. Im really concerned that the depth of that quality is at risk.
The union and opposition say teachers must be paid more.
At the moment, by the time a teacher hits the age of about 29, they hit a brick wall. They need to have opportunities, so that teachers see a way forward
The Education Department says it wont know the exact number of vacancies until tomorrow, when school starts, but it claims that no class will be left unsupervised, even if teachers fail to turn up. Bureaucrats within the department will continue to be assigned to classes without teachers. [On ABC radio it was claimed that 14 relief teachers had been flown in from overseas.]
Note: Not verified personally transcript posted on the PLATO Forum. Web
- More than 90 teaching positions vacant in WA [2:00 pm]
"The Education Department says it still has 92 teaching positions to fill before the start of term three tomorrow.
"The Department's Sharyn O'Neill says the vacancies are mostly in regional high schools but has reassured parents that all regular classrooms will be staffed.
"Despite the shortage, Ms O'Neill says the department's recruitment strategies have been working.
"She says the Education Department is not immune to the state's skills shortage and says staffing more than 775 schools around the state will always be a difficult task.
"At the end of every term we have people go on long-service leave, maternity leave, and a range of other leave entitlements so people come and go in this system," she said."From ABC News at link
- WA short 200 teachers [8:00 am]
"The State School Teachers Union still believes state schools will face a shortage of up to 200 teachers when school resumes tomorrow.
"The union's Mike Keely says despite the Education Department's recruitment drive, schools will be forced to implement emergency measures including school principals stepping back into the classroom.
"Mr Keely expects high schools and regional areas to be the worst hit with a lack of teachers in maths, science and design and technology.
"He says some of the state's most experienced teachers are considering retiring because of increasing pressures placed on them in the classroom.
"The Education Department says it is yet to confirm to extent of the shortage but hopes to do so later today."From ABC News at link
- The Australian
- Teachers launch election lobby kit
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"Moves by the Howard Government to introduce a national curriculum, raise literacy standards and debate school education are "bizarre interventions" calculated to undermine the public education system.
"The Australian Education Union has launched a federal election website with a kit for teachers to lobby politicians.
"The kit accuses the Government of running "phoney debates" on how to teach reading, and "funding blackmail" by requiring schools to grade students in report cards to parents.
"The kit includes an attack on the Government's education policies but is silent on Labor's policies, even in common areas such as a national curriculum. Analysis of Kevin Rudd's education policies is confined to paragraph-long comments after a summary of Labor's policies..."
Full story in The Australian at link
- The Melbourne Age
- Wealthy embrace state school system
Parents in Melbourne's affluent eastern suburbs are increasingly turning away from private schools and returning to the public system, an exclusive analysis of the latest census data reveals.
- Op Ed
Students must value dialogue about our past
by Peter Job, who teaches at Dandenong High School and is completing a Masters in Education related to the teaching of history
For those of us who teach history at Australian government secondary schools, the past few years have been a chastening time. In his 2006 Australia Day speech, the Prime Minister accused us of teaching history in "a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated".
- Shadow Federal Education Minister Stephen Smith Media Statement
- Maths and science continue to decline under Howard Government
Declining enrolments in Maths and Science subjects in South Australia confirm the crisis that has developed in the studying and teaching of Maths and Science, Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Stephen Smith said today.
The declining enrolments follow on from calls by the International Council of Associations for Science Education and the Australian Science Teachers Association for action to address declining science enrolments through further investment in professional development for teachers and the early promotion of science careers to students.
After more than 10 long years of complacency and neglect by the Howard Government, Australia has slipped behind many of our competitors in both the number of maths and science graduates and the quality of our maths and science education:
* Australia's maths and science education ranks only 29th in the world
according to the World Economic Forum Annual Report on Global Competitiveness;
* Maths Departments in Australia's top 8 universities have lost almost
a third of their permanent academics according to a report by the Australian Academy of Science;
* Australia graduates less than half the OECD average number of
students with a maths or statistics qualification;
* Between 2000 and 2005, there were 40,000 fewer year 12 students
studying science subjects and 17,000 fewer studying maths subjects according to the National Report on Schooling;
* Around a quarter of all science teachers don't have a science
* A quarter of maths teachers don't have a major in maths, and nearly
10 per cent have not studied any university maths at all.
These facts are an indictment on the Howard Government.
Maths and science are the foundation disciplines for many industries in Australia. Not having the expertise and experience in these areas hurts our economy and our future prosperity.
Labor has a positive policy program to encourage young Australians to study and teach maths and science by:
* halving the HECS fees of new maths and science students from 2009;
* halving the annual HECS repayments of maths and science graduates if
they take up work in a relevant maths or science occupation, particularly the teaching of maths or science.
Investing in education, particularly measures to encourage young Australians to study maths and science, is critical to ensure our kids have the skills to compete in the workplaces of tomorrow and to secure Australia's future competitiveness and prosperity as a nation.
- The Guardian
- School with call centre training site in classroom criticised for lowering pupils' expectations
A secondary school which has opened an on-site call centre where pupils can practise selling mobile phone contracts and answering customer complaints has been criticised for lowering children's expectations.
- BBC News
- '$100 laptop' production begins
Five years after the concept was first proposed, the so-called $100 laptop is poised to go into mass production.
- The Independent
- Eton opens its doors to poorer pupils in £50m return to its roots
Eton College has surprised its critics by announcing a revolutionary move that would see up to 40 per cent of pupils drawn from poorer backgrounds.
Tuesday 24 July
- The West Australian
- Teacher stuff-up becomes cover-up [front page]
by Bethany Hiatt
"Thousands of students will turn up at State schools for the start of third term today not knowing if they will be victims of the chronic teacher shortage after the Education Department last night refused to reveal which school had failed to fill staff vacancies.
"Director-general Sharyn ONeill said yesterday the department still had 92 vacancies across the state, mostly in country secondary schools in the areas of English, science and design and technology.
"But she would not reveal which schools or even which education districts were the hardest hit, saying she did not want to single out schools. I dont think theres any one district that stands out, she said.
Theres a number of schools that have one or two vacancies so its a general spread rather than being concentrated in one school in particular.
"Last night the department told The West Australian that schools in Carnarvon, Jerramungup, southern Cross, Mt Magnet, Kalgoorlie, Warburton Ranges and Looma were regional hot spots but would not elaborate.
"Some parents may not even be told whether their child is affected by the short term because the department said it would allow individual schools to decide whether to inform them.
"The departments refusal to reveal the full extent of the teacher shortage came as it emerged that many of the head office bureaucrats who had been called in to plug gaps in schools would be paid up to twice as much as teachers performing the same tasks in the classroom next door.
"Ms ONeill said the department had up to 200 bureaucrats who were qualified to teach and could be used as part of her new classroom first campaign.
"But she could not say how many of those would be deployed in classrooms today.
"She said no bureaucrats would be forced to work in classrooms and only those who volunteered who be assigned teaching duties. They would also continue to receive their existing salaries. [emphasis added]
"As part of other measures to tackle the shortage, Ms ONeill said about 350 final-year teaching students had shown an interest in a new early offer program for graduates wanting to teach in State schools next year.
"Another 14 overseas teachers would start working in State schools today, bringing the number of teachers recruited from overseas to 29.
"The department said it was too soon to say how many recently retired teachers had shown an interest in a new pay package, including higher pay, designed to entice them back to understaffed schools.
"But state School Teachers Union president Mike Keely labelled the shortfall as shocking.
This is a terrible state of affairs, he said.
Students and teachers are affected by this, this means instability, it means relief teachers.
"Shadow education minister Peter Collier said the department was cultivating a culture of resentment among teachers because some would be paid more than others depending on where they came from.
Its performance pay WA-style, he said." [emphasis added]
From The West Australian
- Alston (page 14)
© The West Australian
- Private schools adopt anti-drugs plan [late update: website only]
Victorian private school students caught with drugs on schools premises will be handed to police under an agreement matching guidelines operating in state schools.
News Limited newspapers report that independent and Catholic schools signed an agreement last month to follow the same guidelines as state schools for any student found using, possessing or dealing drugs.
Under the agreement, principals must be advised of every incident involving students and drugs, notify police and work with any investigation or risk breaching Victoria's drug laws, the report said.
The move follows recent drug incidents at elite private schools Scotch College and Xavier College.
Police were not notified that Xavier had expelled a Year 11 student for selling marijuana to three other students, while Scotch expelled a Year 12 student for selling ecstasy to a Year 9 student.
Education Minister John Lenders said the Education Department, the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria and the Association of Independent Schools Victoria had signed the strengthened memorandum of understanding last month.
Mr Lenders said the government would closely monitor the effectiveness of the new agreement.From The West Australian online at link
- ABC News
- Efforts continue to fill teacher vacancies
"The Director General of Education says the department is pulling out all stops to fill vacant teaching positions around the State.
"Sharyn O'Neill says all regular classes will be staffed and only some specialist courses will be without a teacher.
"She's also rejected suggestions non-teaching staff, who are filling some of the vacancies, are being paid more than permanent teaching staff.
"Speaking on the ABC's Morning Program, Ms O'Neill has also defended her decision not to detail which schools are short staffed.
"The thing is here it's a moving feast so even yesterday after that press conference we filled another five or six positions and someone else took leave so I wasn't really wanting to single out schools not for any other reason except I want them to get on with the first day of school," she said."From ABC News at link
- Agreement reached on numeracy, literacy
"The New South Wales Government says the states and territories have finally agreed on national literacy and numeracy tests that meet its high standards.
"The Federal Government has made education funding conditional on national tests, which will start next year.
"The NSW Education Minister, John Della Bosca, says the tests will take place in May, now that the state is confident that parents and teachers will get the information they need.
"But he says the Federal Government wants to use the testing to punish and deprive schools, and individual students.
"That's why we've been worried about the Commonwealth's approach, and worked hard with states and territories to come up with a formula that addresses teaching and learning issues, not the Commonwealth's divisive political agenda," he said."From ABC News at link
- The Melbourne Age
- Less choice, cash cause school drift
Parents have accused the Victorian Government of failing to promote public education as aggressively as NSW, prompted by new figures showing families in Melbourne are more likely to choose independent schools than in Sydney.
- Op Ed
For the affluent, private is no longer the only schooling choice
by Richard Teese [Professor of Post-Compulsory Education and Training in the University of Melbourne. He is currently leading the OECD review of quality and equity in Scottish schools.]
Sixty years ago, Melburnians had very little access to academic secondary education in public high schools. Choice of the public sector meant one of three selective establishments University High, Melbourne High, and MacRobertson Girls' High. In 1948, only three suburban high schools had any matriculation students, just a handful in each. We sometimes forget that Melbourne owes its system of locally based academic high schools to the period after World War II.
- "Monday Education Section" has updated and has 13 articles [mostly for Victorian Year 12 students], but also including:
- Fast forward for slow learners
Can online programs really re-wire the brains of children with learning difficulties? Denise Ryan investigates.
Many students with learning difficulties are either not identified or are misdiagnosed by teachers as being lazy or having behavioural problems, according to speech pathologists and education experts.
- Search for the centre of attention The eyes have it
The brain functions in a way that enables us to pay attention to some things while barely noticing others. Geoff Maslen reports.
- And deja vu all over again...
© The Melbourne Age
- BBC News
- Schools get rules on biometrics
Schools are being given official guidelines to clarify how they can use and store pupils' biometric information, such as fingerprints.
- The CATO Institute [10 July: reprinted in The Wall Street Journal]
- The Culture Gap
by Brink Lindsey
"Cut through all the statistical squid ink surrounding the issue of economic inequality, and you'll find a phenomenon that genuinely deserves public concern.
"Over the past quarter-century or so, the return on human capital has risen significantly. Or to put it another way, the opportunity cost of failing to develop human capital is now much higher than it used to be. The wage premium associated with a college degree has jumped to around 70% in recent years from around 30% in 1980; the graduate degree premium has soared to over 100% from 50%. Meanwhile, dropping out of high school now all but guarantees socioeconomic failure.
"In part this development is cause for celebration. Rising demand for analytical and interpersonal skills has been driving the change, and surely it is good news that economic signals now so strongly encourage the development of human talent. Yet -- and here is the cause for concern -- the supply of skilled people is responding sluggishly to the increased demand.
"Despite the strong incentives, the percentage of people with college degrees has been growing only modestly. Between 1995 and 2005, the share of men with college degrees inched up to 29% from 26%. And the number of high school dropouts remains stubbornly high: The ratio of diplomas awarded to 17-year-olds has been stuck around 70% for three decades.
"Something is plainly hindering the effectiveness of the market's carrots and sticks. And that something is culture..."
Brink Lindsey is vice president for research at the Cato Institute and author of The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture.
Full story from The CATO Institute at link
Wednesday 25 July
- The West Australian
- Catholic bullies rife: staff survey [page 7 in some editions]
"The body which oversees most Catholic schools in WA is riddled with a culture of bullying, an internal staff survey has revealed. A health survey of Catholic Education Office staff, leaked to The West Australian, showed that more than a third of respondents believed that harassment and bullying was rife within the organisation.
"The survey, carried out by strategic information consultants Data Analysis Australia in May, also found that 69 per cent of respondents did not feel safe to speak up about difficult matters and 55 per cent believed that difficult issues were avoided rather than addressed within the organisation.
"Communication, leadership, work place culture and work roles were identified in the report's executive summary as the areas most in need of attention.
"The report said that the organisation, which provides advice and service to Catholic schools, had to focus on developing a climate of open communication and tackle issues of harassment and bullying.
"It is only by examining challenging issues (or the 'brutal facts') that any organisation can reach its potential," the report said. Catholic Education Office director Ron Dullard said he was surprised and disappointed that some people felt there was harassment and bullying within the organisation.
"The report really indicates that it's coming at a fairly low level within the organisation, which from my perspective is something that's easier to work on," he said. "I would have been very disappointed if it was saying it was coming from me, I would have been devastated." Mr Dullard conceded that it was also an issue that nearly 70 per cent of staff believed they could not freely express their opinions. [Tell us about Sacred Heart, Mr Dullard! Web]
"But he said the survey showed that people felt safe to share problems with other team or section members, but were reluctant to speak out at bigger meetings. He said he would not have known about staff concerns without using the survey to gather data. It was the first time the CEO had carried out such a survey in about eight years.
"I am not defensive about it at all," he said. "It gives us the avenues to go forward and I'd be disappointed if people thought that doing something like this wasn't good practice and basically what every organisation should be doing, if they had the courage."
"The survey results would be used to restructure the organisation. Mr Dullard pointed out another finding which said that 87 per cent of staff rated their job satisfaction as high. "The bottom line is we're trying to do things better," he said."
From The West Australian
- Students to sit national numeracy, literacy tests (page 16)
by Bethany Hiatt
"Every WA child in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the same tests in spelling, grammar, writing , reading and numeracy as children in other States next May after a landmark agreement between States and Territories was signed yesterday.
"Education Minister Mark McGowan said he had sought to ensure the testing would be of at least the equivalent quality to the "highly regarded" WALNA delivered to Years 3, 5 and 7, and the MSE Year 9 testing programme.
"Using common instruments will allow for a range of comparative data to be made available for the first time," he said.
"Mr McGowan said there had been some concern that the new testes would be held too early in the year, which would give children less time to learn the material they were to be tested on, but that also meant that schools and parents would receive the results earlier.
"He did not believe the earlier tests would disadvantage WA students, who are generally younger than their Eastern States counterparts.
"Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop welcomed confirmation that State Governments would implement national testes, but noted that she had already tied funding to their agreement to do so. She said that under the agreement the Federal Government had provided $1.8 billion over three years to lift standards in literacy and numeracy.
"I am concerned that this money has not been used to lift standards in reading and Mathematics," she said.
"Ms Bishop said the testing programme would provide comparative information about standards across Australia faster.
"The tests are being developed and coordinated by the Curriculum Corporation with input from State education authorities."From The West Australian
Related story in today's The Australian
- The Australian
- States agree to literacy testing [24 July late update]
"Students across the nation will next year take part in national literacy and numeracy testing following an agreement between the state and territory governments.
"NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca announced the agreement, saying 1.2 million students in years three, five, seven and nine will undertake the testing over three days, starting on May 13.
"A fourth "make up" day has been set aside on May 16 for students that missed a section or were absent on one of the three days, he said.
"They will be tested in spelling, grammar, punctuation, writing, reading and numeracy.
"Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said she welcomed the "confirmation" that the states and territories would participate in the national testing program, which is required under the current schools funding agreement.
"Mr Della Bosca said the governments had worked to come up with an approach that would ensure consistency across Australia.
"He said it would ensure students gained "the right skills appropriate for their age".
"Parents would be provided with a summary of their child's performance and a comparison with the national benchmarks, he said.
"Parents will continue to receive feedback about their child's performance," Mr Della Bosca said.
"This will include individual reports for each child and schools will continue to report their performance in their annual report."
"He said in NSW, the questions will closely resemble the existing Basic Skills Test (BST), English Language and Literacy Assessment (ELLA) and the Secondary Numeracy Assessment Program (SNAP) already carried out in state schools.
"A sample group of students would continue to set the ELLA, SNAP and BST tests in 2008 to ensure a continuity of data."
From The Australian at link
- The Higher Education Supplement contains several artivles, including:
Boys set adrift by dud science
The gulf between the sexes may be somewhat overstated, writes Cordelia Fine
"It's a hard time to be a man. Everywhere - in newspapers, magazines and bestselling books - are descriptions of the neurological inadequacies that supposedly explain why boys and men are such emotional dunces.
"In his highly influential book Why Gender Matters, for example, Leonard Sax tells parents and teachers of an extraordinary design flaw in the male brain.
"In young boys and girls, says Sax, emotion is processed in the primitive, basic parts of the brain. As girls approach adolescence, the cerebral cortex - the talking, reflective, reasoning parts of the brain - also becomes involved, allowing older girls and women to understand and talk about their feelings. But in boys, this useful link between emotion and distinctly human capacities is never properly forged. Male emotion remains mute and incomprehensible in the deep, dark parts of the brain.
"As Sax puts it: "In boys, as in men, the part of the brain where emotions happen is not well connected to the part of the brain where verbal processing and speech happens. Asking a teenage boy to talk about how he feels (is to ask) him to make connections between two parts of his brain that don't normally communicate."
"Immediately, we think of the prehistoric caveman fuming inarticulately in his cave. No wonder he reaches for his club, especially if his cavewoman is a little too outspoken in her complaints. Louann Brizendine, author of the bestselling The Female Brain, warns that "(m)en's brain circuits and bodies may readily revert to a physical expression of anger fuelled by the frustration of not being able to match women's words".
"Do the neural circuits of males really condemn them to such pitiful emotional illiteracy? I live with no Shakespeare or Milton, it's true, but I have noticed an absence of neither alacrity nor eloquence in my husband when it comes to expressing his feelings about my more irritating habits. I had never regarded my husband's often moving and intense emotional self-insights as any more than the normal output of a functioning adult human. Yet perhaps, I began to wonder, they deserved more wholehearted praise: a clasping of hands and thrilled cry of, "Well done! You tunnelled through to the communication centre!"
"I like to give credit where it is due. And so I read the neuroscientific research on which this popular claim about the male brain is based. Immediately, I plunged into the strange world of pseudo-science. Journal articles that on a reference list seem to offer impressive support for bold claims, on closer inspection turn out to offer findings that are tangential, ambiguous or simply irrelevant.
"Many of these articles - and the claims about sex differences that they have inspired - come under scrutiny in the online forum Language Log. Here, University of Pennsylvania professor Mark Liberman meticulously exposes with weary humour the gaping chasms between scientific fact and popular interpretation.
"He concludes that many writers who use neuroscience to "explain" boys' needs present research in a way that is "shockingly careless, tendentious and even dishonest. Their over-interpretation and misinterpretation of scientific research is so extreme that it becomes a form of fabrication."
"Liberman patiently corrects Brizendine's many false assertions about males' inferior capacity for communication - a chore that, as he puts it, "is starting to make me feel like the circus clown that follows the elephant around the ring with a shovel".
"But with little of this critical analysis reaching the popular press, the brain-based myth of incoherent male emotion persists and is used to bolster gender stereotypes. Recently, for example, well-known Australian child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg claimed emotion and language parts of the brain that are one and the same in girls are completely different in boys.
"According to Carr-Gregg, this "fact" about boy and girl brain structure "explains so much": including, apparently, why girls like pink and cuddle trucks, and boys rip the heads off Barbies.
"As it happens, Barbie is not necessarily safe in the hands of a girl either. Agnes Nairn of the University of Bath found that girls are frequently violent towards their Barbies (the forms of abuse include pulling out hair, microwaving and burning, as well as decapitation). But even setting aside neurological and psychological laxities, the idea that the location of emotion and language processing in the brain can explain girls' colour preferences or boys' aversion to Barbie dolls simply makes no sense.
"Unfortunately, we are unlikely to even notice. According to Yale psychologist Deena Skolnick Weisberg and her colleagues, neuroscientific explanations enjoy a "seductive allure". In an article to be published in The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Skolnick Weisberg shows how our normally accurate radar for nonsensical psychological explanations lets us down badly as soon as impressive-sounding neuroscientific terms creep into the picture.
"When she added neuroscience to illogically circular explanations, people's ratings of how satisfied they were with the explanations tipped from negative to positive. In fact, even students on an introductory course in cognitive neuroscience were dazzled by neuroscience in just the same way.
"Saddest of all for boys and men, these crowd-pleasing neuroscientific explanations can also subtly change the way we see our own nature. Biological, rather than socio-cultural, explanations of gender differences leave us more inclined to agree with stereotypes and to regard human nature as immutable, research has shown.
"This "boys will be boys" attitude may result in us doing boys and men a great disservice.
"Psychologists, journalists and science communicators should be wary of swallowing and regurgitating unexamined titbits about male neurological limitations. After all, what will happen if we let boys and men off the emotional hook in the classroom and at home because we think their brains simply aren't up to it? We run the risk of precipitating the fulfilment of that false prophecy."
Cordelia Fine is a research fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne, and the author of A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives.From The Australian at link
- Free degrees to lure accountants
Universities and big accounting firms are recruiting high school students for free accounting degrees in a desperate attempt to alleviate the skills shortage in the profession.
- Talented teens encouraged to plunge
Curtin goes into schools and cherry-picks the best students to undertake a university accounting subject.
- The Washington Post
- English, Math Time Up in 'No Child' Era
44% of Schools Polled Reduce Other Topics
In the five years since a federal law mandated an expansion of reading and math tests, 44 percent of school districts nationwide have made deep cutbacks in social studies, science, art and music lessons in elementary grades and have even slashed lunchtime, a new survey has found.
Thursday 26 July
- The West Australian
- Disgruntled teacher driven to new career (page 5)
by Bethany Hiatt
"After devoting 15 year to teaching, Linda Gatter threw in her career in disgust to take a fly in, fly out job driving a front-end loader on construction sites.
"She now works in Karratha, a town in which local high school teachers are pushing for a four-day teaching week because their school is struggling to find enough staff.
"State schools started third term this week with a shortfall of 92 teachers. State School Teachers Union north-west organiser Margaret Henderson claimed Karratha was two teachers down, with two more due to leave within weeks.
"A combination of stress, heavy workloads, poor pay, badly behaved students, mismanagement and outcomes-based education is driving many teachers out of the workforce, according to Ms Gatter and other teachers who have resigned recently. [emphasis added]
"Ms Gatter, 51, said she felt bullied and under-appreciated by the Education Department and at Bussleton Senior High School where she taught English literature and was the acting head of English.
"Her pay is now equivalent to what she received as head of department and it is rising as she collects more truck-driving qualifications. I am working 12-hour days in this industry, from 6am to 6pm, but Im working fewer hours than I did as a teacher, she said.
"She used to wake at 4am to mark her students work for two hours just to keep her workload under control. Last year she took one year off without pay, because she was becoming increasingly disgruntled with the new OBE English course, hoping to return with a fresh outlook.
"But she lasted just 5 weeks before she handed in her notice in March. She said the new courses were absolutely appalling. I was really hoping that someone would see some sense and delay them or get rid of them or refine them, she said. When I went back nothing had changed, I was teaching Year 12 with a course that someone had written two weeks before and I had classes full to capacity.
"Ms Gatter said her school was reluctant to acknowledge it had problems with behaviour and truancy. Teachers lacked support and felt ground down. [emphasis added]
"Her resignation meant she also gave up all her entitlements, including accumulated sick leave."
From The West Australian
- The Geraldton Guardian [25 July]
- Learn to teach in 7 weeks
Exclusive: MP's radical plan to plug shortages
by Lauren Holt
"A revolutionary seven-week program to train up new teachers could help solve WA's school staffing crisis, according to a Mid West MP.
"National Party education spokesman and Member for Greenough Grant Woodhams recently spent three weeks in the US looking at how Illinois addressed teacher shortages.
"He said one of the strongest programs for overcoming shortages there was a course to fast track teacher training for people currently working in other professions.
"The Mid West has been in the throes of a crippling teacher shortage this year, with Geraldton's two State high schools short of up to 10 teachers.
"Mr Woodhams said the US model could be a solution to problems here. The course is an intensive seven weeks and the student teacher must nominate the subject and school they wish to teach at.
"Mr Woodhams said the reason for choosing to travel to Illinois was because of its proactive approach to solving the crisis.
"It's recognised the problem and devised this program," he said.
"The course guarantees everyone that graduates then goes on to a school that is lacking a teacher."
"He said the universities considered each newly-qualified teachers as a representative of the institution and this served to ensure standards were maintained.
"The university provides a year of continual back-up support for the year following the course" he said.
"The ownership and responsibility in recruiting teachers lay heavily with the universities. He said WA's Education Department, on the other hand, seemed to be more of an administrative organisation looking at union bargaining and pay scales.
"Mr Woodhams will now work at providing an official report for State Parliament in two months.
"The report would also focus on other programs Mr Woodhams saw while overseas which may prove useful here.
"Other measures used abroad include upgrading teachers skills so they can learn other subjects, to fill positions in more difficult-to-staff areas such as science and mathematics.
"Mr Woodhams said stronger incentives were on offer to those prepared to teach subjects that were more difficult to staff. These incentives included increased chance of promotion and higher pay.
"Mr Woodhams said the report would also look at programs for people who were financially disadvantaged or of ethnic minority.
"What they bring is a whole range of different perspectives," he said.
"It helps inspire the kids that have come from that background."
From The Geraldton Guardian
- The Melbourne Age
- Principals threaten test boycott
by Bridie Smith and Farrah Tomazin
"Principals accuse federal Labor of "political grandstanding" over its contentious plan for schools to publish league tables comparing student performance.
"In a scathing attack, Victoria's top principal group has threatened to boycott the compulsory national testing of students in years 3, 5, 7, and 9, which begins next May.
"The group yesterday rebuked the Opposition for pushing the idea. It said publishing tables that compared students and schools was not in the public interest and would not improve results.
"Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman accused Labor of falling too closely into line with Federal Government policy, despite evidence suggesting league tables were of little benefit to schools.
"He pointed to a 2004 Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision, which found releasing league tables was not in the public interest.
"This is just political grandstanding on federal Labor's part," Mr Ackerman said.
"And in the event that a government goes down this path, they will certainly lose the trust of the teaching service and principal organisations and run the risk of us abandoning the testing."
"Federal Labor signalled this week that it would continue pushing for more performance information to be published as the states prepared to introduce a new national literacy and numeracy test from May 13 next year.
"Under a landmark agreement between the states and territories, more than 1 million children in years 3, 5, 7, and 9 will be tested in reading, writing and maths, over three days.
"Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith said this week that it was not enough to test students.
"Parents also needed to be given better information about performance, and schools ought to intervene to improve results.
"A spokesman for Mr Smith said the data would not be used to punish underperforming schools, but rather to identify schools in need of help.
"It's providing information for parents and teachers and allowing policymakers to make better decisions about where intervention and investment is needed," the spokesman said.
"However, Mr Smith's position is opposed by the Victorian Government, which argues that all schools are already required to publish their results in annual reports.
"The union representing private school teachers said that, despite years of national testing, some Australian students were still missing out on the opportunity to develop their skills.
"(Federal minister Julie Bishop's) testing and reporting regime does nothing at all to address any areas of weakness or need in the first four years of a student's schooling," Independent Education Union acting federal secretary Chris Watt said.
"Effectively, Minister Bishop is asking students, teachers, schools and families to wait until after the testing and later reporting in late year 3 before any targeted support is provided," he said."
From The Melbourne Age at link
- The Washington Post
- Students Enlisted in Ads to Recruit Teachers
In a $300,000 advertising blitz, the Prince George's County [Washington DC area] public school system is using appeals from its students in the hope that it will help lure the country's best teachers for nearly 800 jobs that remain vacant three weeks before school starts.
- The Independent
- More than 100,000 students drop out of university after first year
by Richard Garner, Education Editor
"More than 100,000 students are dropping out of degree courses after their first year, according to the results of an investigation that are published today.
"Youngsters studying for much-needed maths, science and engineering qualifications were the most likely to drop out, according to the figures. Those opting to study medicine were the most likely to complete their courses. Nearly a quarter of all students (22.4 per cent) in the UK fail to complete their courses..."
"One of the worst drop-out rates in the world is in the United States, where about 50 per cent of youngsters continue into the second year in higher education compared with 91.6 per cent in the UK."
Full story in The Independent at link
Friday 27 July
- The West Australian
- Balga principal charged with corruption [late update: online only]
by Jessica Strutt and Peta Rule
"A former principal of the year has been charged with 15 counts of corruption over his involvement in the bungled Balga Works Program for disadvantaged youth.
"Police are expected to announce today that they have charged former Balga Senior High School principal Merv Hammond after a ten-month investigation into the financial affairs of the program, which was run by convicted fraudster Michael Carton.
"The West Australian revealed last November that detectives had been investigating the bungled $2 million Government-funded program since September, with the Corruption and Crime Commission also involved.
"The State Government poured at least $350,000 of taxpayers money into the botched program after it had been scrapped and was being investigated by the CCC.
"Mr Hammond retired as principal of the school in October.
"He was previously recognised as Principal of the Year last year and credited with opening up education for hundreds of students, while stirring up controversy along the way.
"Under Mr Hammonds 12-year tenure, the school changed from a traditional educational program to vocational studies only, opened the first on-site day-care centre of teenage mothers and introduced football and netball scholarship programs for Aboriginal students.
"The Balga Works Program is also being investigated by an Upper House parliamentary inquiry."From The West Australian online at link
- Pressure on parents fuels canteen crisis
The number of volunteers willing to work in school canteens has plummeted to such low levels that WAs main parents group has taken the extraordinary step of looking at asking the Federal Government to change its welfare requirements.
- ABC News
- Academic casts doubt over Nationals' teaching course push
"The head of education at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia says it is important to consider all kinds of programs to get more people into teaching.
"The Nationals are preparing a report to be tabled in State Parliament which will recommend a teaching course used in the United States be considered in WA.
"The Nationals' spokesman for education, Grant Woodhams, wants to introduce a fast track seven-week training course offered to university graduates.
"He says it will give people wanting a career change, the university qualifications to teach.
"While Professor Gary Robson says all options need to be considered, but he doubts two months is enough time.
"On the face of it I would be very nervous about seven weeks, if that's all it was. Seven weeks would not seem to be a sufficient time for people to acquire the skills that are needed to be a good practitioner in this day and age," he said."
From ABC News
More detailed story on this in Wednesday's Geraldton Guardian
- The Australian
- Students to be screened after TB case found
Medical checks have been offered to children at a Perth primary school after a 12-year-old boy tested positive to tuberculosis.
The West Australian Health Department has announced it is offering screening to 66 children and 10 teachers at Koondoola Primary School's Intensive English Centre, in Perth's north, who may have been in contact with the boy.
- Curriculum Leadership
- Grammar knowledge and students writing
by Janet Fellowes, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University
There are many methods for teaching grammatical concepts to middle and upper primary school students. However, the rationale for doing so should always be based on assisting students to best achieve text purpose when using written communication.
In learning about grammar, children develop an understanding of how language works and they are subsequently able to use language more effectively; they are more readily able to construct understandable texts..."
Full article in Curriculum Leadership at link
- The Melbourne Age
- Victoria's newest school in the Persian Gulf
While most of the expat community living in the United Arab Emirates flee the July heat, a team of Victorian teachers will touch down in the city state of Sharjah next week to begin work in the first international school to teach the Victorian curriculum.
Saturday Sunday, 28 29 July
- The West Australian
- Teachers angry over secrecy on student with TB (page 7)
by Bethany Hiatt
"The Health Department waited a fortnight to tell Koondoola Primary School teachers that one of their students had been diagnosed with an infectious form of TB.
"The African refugee, who the Department already knew had a latent form of TB, was diagnosed as being ill with possible active TB about six weeks ago and told to have another test about three weeks ago.
"This test found he had a infectious form of TB and he was told he could not return to school after the holidays. But the Health Department did not advise his principal of his condition until the end of the holidays. The principal then advised his teachers.
"The delay in warning the teachers yesterday prompted an angry reaction from State School Teachers Union president Mike Keely, who said health and education authorities failed in their duty of care to teachers and students. If teachers and students were exposed and there was an authority that was aware of that exposure and left them in the dark, Id say thats pretty unsatisfactory, Mr Keely said.
"Koondoola principal Rod Steere said he was told at the end of the school holidays and advised by authorities the child was not infectious before then. We can only go on what the experts say, and the experts have assured us that theyve been monitoring him and hes presented no risk to our children.
"The departments director of communicable disease control Paul Van Buynder said on Thursday: Five or six weeks ago (the boy) first showed on a review that there may be some development of disease. This was confirmed through further testing over the last two or three weeks. We think its possible that he may have been infectious for a period of about four or five weeks.
"But last night he said: I know that the child had infectious tuberculosis at the time that it was advised to me early in the school holidays. I know he didnt have infectious tuberculosis a period of five weeks or so before that. There is no suggestion at that point that he was developing it.
From The West Australian at link
- Principal charged over Balga Works (page 11)
by Jessica Strutt and Gabrielle Knowles
"After a 10-month police investigation, former principal of the year Merv Hammond was charged yesterday with 15 counts of corruption over his involvement in the bungled Balga Works Program for disadvantaged youths.
"Mr Hammond, who retired as principal of Balga Senior High School in October, has been charged over the alleged misappropriation of school funds in relation to the program.
"Police will allege that in 2004 and 2005, while was the school's principal, he unlawfully funnelled about $400,000 to private companies associated with the operation of the program, which provided educational services to disengaged youth in the community..."
Full story in The West Australian
Homes crisis: State must accept its responsibility (page 18)
"No matter what kind of spin the State Government wants to put on the increasingly alarming housing crisis, it must ultimately accept some responsibility..."
"As was the case with the outcomes-based education disaster, the housing crisis has shown the State Government is more interested in political evasion than acknowledging error and remedying it." [emphasis added]
Full editorial in The West Australian
- Education greatest liberator: archbishop (page 16)
by Gabrielle Knowles
"The acting head of the Anglican Church believes providing education to Aboriginal communities is the best way to improve their futures..."
Full story in The West Australian
- The Weekend Australian
- Hard questions asked on Steiner's classroom
by Milanda Rout
"Ray Pereira could not believe what he was hearing. His son's teacher had just said his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated.
"She said his soul was hovering above the earth," Mr Pereira said. "And she then produced a couple of my son's drawings as evidence that his depiction of the world was from a perspective looking down on the earth from above. "I just looked at my wife and we both thought, 'We are out of here'."
"And so ended the Pereira family's flirtation with the alternative schooling method known as Steiner education. After this extraordinary parent-teacher interview, the Pereiras withdrew their son and his brother from the inner-city Melbourne government school that ran the Steiner stream.
"They are one of a number of families who have relayed strange Steiner experiences to The Weekend Australian, including claims that AFL football was banned because the "unpredictability of the bounce" would cause frustration among children; immunisations were discouraged; and students recited verses to save their souls in class.
"The allegations come as more and more children attend Steiner schools, with the education movement celebrating 50 years since the first school was set up in Australia. There are now more than 44 private Steiner schools across the country, 10 programs in government-run schools and it is one of the fastest-growing education movements in the world.
"But as Steiner moves into the state education system in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, questions are being raised about the alternative approach.
"Critics say that its philosophical basis is too religious -- even comparing it to Scientology -- to be in the secular public system.
"But supporters deny Steiner education is religious and argue it is a holistic approach to learning.
"The alternative curriculum is based on the teachings of 19th century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who believed a spiritual world existed alongside our physical one.
"Steiner founded anthroposophy, which believed that by deepening the power of thinking, people could become capable of experiencing "spiritual truths".
"Supporters of Steiner are adamant anthroposophy is not taught to children, and that Steiner himself said the spiritual science was only for adults who chose to do it.
"But parents and religious experts are concerned that Steiner teachers learn about anthroposophy in their training and these beliefs seep into the classroom. "What a lot of people don't get is that Steiner is based on a spiritual system not an educational one," says cult expert Raphael Aron.
"The majority of people who enrol their kids don't have a clue who Rudolf Steiner really is."
"Dr Aron, who is the director of Cult Counselling Australia, said schools varied greatly in their adherence to Steiner's anthroposophy beliefs because of the decentralised nature of the system in Australia.
"He said there was a lack of transparency in the schools and often parents were not told about what Steiner believed, making it not dissimilar to Scientology.
"We have been contacted by a few people who have come out of the Steiner system and say they are damaged and are seeking help," Dr Aron said.
"Mr Pereira said he believed parents at Footscray City Primary School were deliberately misled about the role that Steiner's beliefs played in the classroom. "It is implicit in everything they do," he said.
"Mr Pereira, who is from Sri Lanka, said his concerns about Steiner's racist beliefs were realised when his children were not allowed to use black or brown crayons because they were "not pure". He said Steiner teachers at the state-run school recommended they not immunise their children because it would lead to the "bestialisation of humans".
"But Rudolf Steiner Schools of Australia executive officer Rosemary Gentle said anthroposophy was not taught to children, although teachers were introduced to the subject during their training.
"It has nothing to do with what is taught. It is just the approach to teaching," she said.
"The teachers are given an anthroposophy background ... and it allows them to look into a child more deeply. You look at children as you would in a family. You strive to understand the child and recognise their emerging personality."
"Ms Gentle said the spotlight was on Steiner education because of a "smear and fear" campaign being waged by a small group of people. "Steiner education has been a small, but respected part of the Australian educational landscape for 50 years," she said.
"Under the system, students have the same "main lesson" teacher for the first six years and textbooks are not used in primary school. Computers are banned in the primary years and television is discouraged to allow children to develop their "senses in the physical world".
"Reading and writing is delayed until children have developed adult teeth -- at age seven -- to focus on developing the child's healthy body.
Anthroposophy lecturer Robert Martin, who trains Steiner teachers, said being aware of the spiritual side of life enriched the education experience. He said people had many different names for the spiritual world -- arch angels, angels, intelligent beings and presence -- and they existed long before humans.
"I want to co-work with the angels," Mr Martin said. "These individuals are very advanced ... Our job is to co-work with the spiritual beings."From The Weekend Australian at link
- Concerns raised long before method's approval
"Serious concerns about Steiner education were raised in a government report seven years before a policy change by the Bracks administration cleared the way for its use in Victorian state schools.
"The report, completed by the Victorian Department of Education, says Steiner's approach -- in which children learn to read and write after their adult teeth come through at age seven -- was the "antithesis" of the Government's program.
"The report was completed by two curriculum officers in 2000 for then acting regional director Greg Gibbs after Footscray City Primary School indicated it wanted a Steiner stream.
"Mr Gibbs told the school he was unable to "support such a proposal" but the principal introduced Steiner in 2001.
"The program has caused deep division among parents, and the state Government has been forced to intervene, dissolving the school council last year and establishing an inquiry.
"Despite this, the state Government last year changed departmental policy, allowing programs such as Steiner and Montessori to be run in state schools.
"The report examined Steiner curriculum proposals provided by Footscray City Primary School and information available online about Steiner education.
"Authors Pat Hincks and Janette Cook say Steiner's ban on computers and multimedia in primary school is in "direct contradiction" to department policies.
"Steiner education is based on a philosophy of cocooning children from the world to develop their imagination," the report says.
"This is in direct contrast to, for example, the studies of society and environment ... where the emphasis is on study of family as a 'starting point to help them understand the world in which they live'."
"A Victorian Department of Education spokeswoman said specialised curriculums had rigorous guidelines."From The Weekend Australian at link
Brought to book [late update from 26 July]
It's time for tough love on the teachers' unions
"It is a sorry state of affairs when teachers are more interested in shielding themselves from scrutiny than looking after the best interests of their students but that appears to be the case in NSW. The Teachers Federation is determined to thwart the wishes of parents and the state Government, which has timidly tried to implement its education policy.
"In 2005, Premier Morris Iemma was dismayed by the report card his young daughter brought home which was full of incomprehensible weasel words. He boldly said he would introduce uniform report cards for all NSW state schools with A-to-E rankings on student performance.
"Mr Iemma's policy is in tune with federal and state governments which agreed yesterday to introduce national literacy and numeracy tests that will provide parents and teachers with a clear statement of student performance against national benchmarks and which will be used to identify problem areas for individual students and provide additional support.
"It sounds like good common sense but not to the NSW Teachers Federation, which has refused to introduce the plain-English report cards. It claims to have the interests of children at heart, saying unambiguous assessments would damage the self-esteem of low-achievers. It has turned a deaf ear to parents who want clear feedback on how their children are performing. It has ignored the evidence that shows that children who are praised when their work is shoddy are more likely to become lazy and narcissistic. It has scorned the directives of the NSW Government even after it was taken to the Industrial Relations Commission. Even the federal Coalition Government has been unable to discipline the unruly unionists because it has failed to follow through on a threat to withhold $3.7 billion in school funding if the report cards are not introduced.
"We are left with the distinct impression that unionists are less worried about how their students' performance will be judged than they are about their own. But until the state and federal governments get tough on them, they will not be brought to book."From The Australian at link
Natural history spun with a young-earth doctrine [late entry from 18 July]
by Stephen T. Asma [reprinted from The Chronicle of Higher Education]
"How many sheep," I carefully ask, "would a dinosaur need to eat per day while living on the ark?" I'm interviewing Ken A. Ham, director of the new Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.
"OK, let me just admit right away that under normal circumstances it is exceedingly hard to ask this question with a straight face. But he doesn't miss a beat and replies: "Well, that's an interesting question. We don't know for sure but from a biblical perspective we know that all animals were originally herbivores. (Carnivore activity happens only as a result of the Fall; no animals experience death before Adam's sin.)
"So it is possible that carnivores ate plants and grains while they lived on the ark. Even today we know that grizzly bears eat grass and vegetation primarily, so it's not true that an animal with sharp teeth and claws must eat meat or must be a carnivore. At the very least, the carnivores could survive on vegetation for a significant time span."
"I am relieved to find Ham unfazed by my line of inquiry. The fact is, I am drawn into the ark issue more fully than I expected.
"Something slowly happens to your criteria of reasonableness the more you become immersed in this creationist world view. Ham and I would be having a perfectly reasonable conversation, if only we were living in the 1600s..."
Stephen T. Asma is a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. His books include Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums (Oxford University Press, 2001).
From The Australian's Higher Education Supplement at link
- The Independent
- Cost of private education has risen by 40 per cent in the past five years [link may not work]
The cost of private schooling has rocketed by more than twice the rate of inflation - putting it out of reach of a whole range of professional people, according to a report out today. Figures released by Halifax Financial Services show fees have risen by 41 per cent in the past five years - compared with an 18 per cent rise in the retail price index.
- Coming-of-age ceremonies for British children [link may not work]
The Government is to give cash backing to "coming of age" ceremonies to help teenagers celebrate leaving school and becoming an adult. Plans for the "gradduation" ceremonies are part of a package of measures aimed at boosting youth services over the next 10 years.
All Alston cartoons are © The West Australian Newspaper
All media quotations, photographs and cartoons © their respective publishers
This page last updated 17 April, 2009 10:59 PM