Saturday, 30 November 2013


Gonski Background

The previous Federal Government decided ( after intense public pressure) to develop a new and more equitable funding system for all Australian schools? The Gonski panel( named after it's chairman) was formed to create a new funding model for our schools.
The Gonski panel spent two years examining everything about the funding of Australian schools and built a new model from the ground up. It's so new, it was due to start in 2014!
Every student would attract a base amount of funding, the amount needed to provide a good education. It would follow them from school to school. The panel suggested about $8000 a primary student, around $10,500 a secondary student. ( That would have meant for example an extra $90 000 for Glen Park primary School and about $8 million for Ballarat High School over 6 years)
Students at government schools would receive the full amount. Students at private schools would receive a scaled-down amount, depending on the school's ability to charge fees.
On top of the base funding would be extra loadings for measures of disadvantage, such as the number of disabled students in the school, the number of them from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the number of indigenous students, the number from non-English speaking backgrounds and so on.
The loadings would be paid in full to all schools, public and private. So generous would they be that some private schools serving heavily disadvantaged students would have all of their costs met by the public.(The reality is that the vast majority of disadvantaged students are in public schools.)
The Federal Government negotiated with the states and territories about signing up to the funding reforms and most , including the biggest ( NSW and Victoria signed up.) Just prior to the announcement of the recent Federal election the opposition spokesperson on education ( Christopher Pyne) said that they supported the Gonski panel recommendations. The now Prime minister promised that a vote for either party would ensure the implementation of the Gonski recommendations.( They had no alternative plans of there own other than to keep the flawed current funding system)Although they only committed to 4 years of initial funding rather than the 6 that the then government agreed too it was nonetheless a major policy shift.
They had spent years condemning Gonski ( In fact they called it a 'conski') up and down the country but suddenly changed horses mid stream and in essence neutralised education as an issue in the election.
Now after the election and with a change of government, it came as a surprise to say the least that the new Minister for Education Christopher Pyne has decided to scrap the Better Schools Program ( which is what the Gonski recommendations were called- it wasn't just about funding but also included teacher development amongst other reforms.)

The Current Scheme

Christopher Pyne and the new Prime Minister are on record as proffering the current system and Pyne recently said that it was a 'good starting point' for developing his new funding model.
The previous funding model saw funding for the wealthiest schools increase at a far faster rate than funding for the poorest ones.
At its heart were two features: it no longer took account of a school's ability to raise its own income, so it blindly piled public money into exquisitely appointed private schools in a way that hadn't happened before.
And it doled out the money on the basis of a fraud. Funds were allocated in accordance with the ''socioeconomic status'' of the postcode in which each student lived - not on the basis of each student's actual socioeconomic status, but on the basis of the status of those who lived in the same postcode, most of whom would never go near the school and couldn't afford it.
It meant good schools in poor areas cleaned up, even though they didn't take poor students. It meant schools taking in boarders from poor rural areas cleaned up, when the boarders themselves came from Australia's richest families.( This anomaly can be seen clearly amongst Ballarat secondary schools)
This is the system Pyne said directed funds ''to the schools that were most in need''. This is the system he said was ''a good starting point for a school-funding model''. It's the system Gonski found ''lacks coherence''.
Under the existing system, which Pyne described as "a very good principle", federal funding for the wealthiest private schools in NSW rose 50 to 90 per cent in the 10 years to 2010.

Why the Gonski Reforms Are Needed

The Gonski review was the first comprehensive review of schools funding since the 1970s, but now that the government has walked away from it, it's worth recalling what it tried to fix.
Under the existing system, the "educational outcomes" of indigenous children have fallen two years – two years – behind those of non-indigenous kids, and only 45 per cent of 20 to 24-year-old indigenous people had a year 12 or equivalent qualification in 2008, compared with 85 per cent of non-indigenous Australians!
The cost of educating disadvantaged kids can be higher, but it is a cost disproportionately borne by government schools, which educate the vast majority of disadvantaged children without adequate federal assistance.
Almost 80 per cent of kids in the lowest quarter of socio-educational advantage attend government schools, but these kids are being left behind.
Sixty per cent of children who aren't proficient in English, and about 30 per cent of indigenous children and kids living in "very remote" areas, are considered "developmentally vulnerable", and that means they're too often dropping out of the system.
In 2009, the Gonski report informed us, 56 per cent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds finished year 12, compared with 75 per cent of children from high socio-economic backgrounds.
It's not only kids from poorer, indigenous and migrant backgrounds who are dropping out of the system.
There is no common definition used by the states and territories to identify students with a disability, which makes it impossible to cater for them properly, but we do know that in 2009 only 30 per cent of Australians aged 15 to 64 with a disability had finished year 12, compared with 55 per cent of the broader population.
A lot of this, say public school educators, is because of a lack of resources. In 2010, according to the best estimates available to the Gonski panel, 85 per cent of indigenous students and 78 per cent of children with a funded disability went to public schools. Public schools, and those who work in them, cater for the majority of kids with complex needs without enough.

Recent Developments

Pyne announced on November 25th that the Gonski reforms were now scrapped and that HE would start again on his own funding plan which will take effect sometime in 2015. reaction to this has been swift and blunt to say the least.
At a meeting of state and territory education ministers on the 28th November, Pyne left state school ministers with the impression that any cuts to funding for the states would come from the public school sector alone!
The Minister of education in NSW said after the meeting "The government made a commitment that there would be no broken promises, unfortunately that has not come to pass." the Tasmanian Education Minister said "This is a bombshell revelation that will rock the public education system in Australia to its core.". The Victorian Premier said "We fought long and hard and got the best deal and we'll be fighting for that for Victoria." the federal opposition spokesperson said "This is a shameful attempt to draw attention way from a broken promise and pit parent against parent, school against school and state against state."
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said ministers had been told existing legislation locked in federal funding for private, but not public, schools - placing government school funding rises at risk.
Australian Education Union deputy president Correna Haythorpe said by only committing to deliver about a fifth of the money on a sector-blind basis, Mr Pyne was signalling that he wanted to maintain the inequity of the current arrangements.
"This announcement by Christopher Pyne is totally at odds with the Coalition's election commitment not only to honour the Gonski agreements but also to ensure exactly the same funding, dollar for dollar, goes to every school,'' Ms Haythorpe said.

Dr. Ken Boston ( former head of the NSW Education Department ) a co-author of Gonski said on ABC radio on 30th November; " It's absolutely unbelievable that a commonwealth government minister would be silly enough to take such a position. Public schools will struggle to survive if the current formula continues. The Howard government model is like putting lipstick on a pig! Mr Pyne says it's up to the states to pick up public school funding. It will bring public education to its knees.Gonski is not that complex that it can't be implemented in a matter of months."
As recently as this morning (1st December) the Prime Minister was supporting his education minister and claiming that he did not lie about implementing the Gonski reforms before and after the election.Tony Abbott says the Coalition will deliver on its education election promises, not on what some voters "thought" it was going to do. Amazingly he won't promise that individual schools won't be worse off.
This issue will not go away. Abbott And Pyne's surprise backflip will haunt this government and it's minister and will cause untold confusion, concern and heartache for schools, parents, teachers, principals and children until common sense prevails.

This story comes from reports on the ABC, Age and Sydney Morning Herald

Beowulf The Dragon Slayer

I had a busy morning today writing the summer edition of the Glen Park Gazette (A newsletter that I write twice per year for the larger school community. I mail out over 250 copies of the paper which is a mixture of school, community and education news)
We also updated On-Demand testing codes in preperation for testing (Number and Reading) this week prior to report writing next weekend.
I am posting on Teachers Pay Teachers a unit on Beowulf based on Mary Sutcliff's 'Dragon Slayer'. Click on this LINK to view the item in my TPT shop.

I have also added my War of the Worlds Unit (Go to this LINK)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Busy Friday

My early years students were busy today finishing off their readers for 'The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse' ( pictured below) while they also experimented with shapes creating a hexagon and a dodecahedron. The grade 3s are finishing up with our student teacher today. They are putting the finishing touched to their projects and creative writing stories and have a Mad Hatters Tea Party planned for Monday afternoon.
We started watching the Disney version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea today and we'll start an author profile on E. Nesbit and we'll read The Railway Children and Five Children and It as serials to finish off the year. I normally only do a week or so of Christmas activities. I always read A Christmas Carol and this year probably The Nutcracker.

Story maps

Today we created story maps for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. They consisted of images from various editions of the story. The kids wrote captions for the images and then they added a world map and marked in Nemo's course. Using an iPad app we measured the route and then converted it to leagues.( We didn't get 20 000. I guess Fourteen thousand five hundred and ninety two Leagues Under the Sea doesn't have the right ring to it) We also completed a jumbo crossword I created pre-Internet. It worked well. I remember how time consuming they were to make by hand instead of using Discovery Puzzlemaker.
My early years students created their own readers using water color images I made of the illustrations from Eric Carle's 'The Tiny Seed' We also toured outside looking for bare patches in the lawn and sowed some grass seeds of our own. They also put together their polka-dot donkeys inspired by another Eric Carle story ( the Artist who Painted a Blue Horse) which look terrific. The grade 3s have been doing work on Alice in Wonderland ( They are planning a Mad Hatters tea party on Monday) and Monsters Inc (A photo of their monster models below)
Next door is busy rolling and wrapping up his grass as feed. ( photo from our back fence below)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Today the kids made up newspaper front pages for our study of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. On their newspaper page they needed to create their own masthead, headline, story about the 'strange sea monster', an advertisement Captain Nemo puts in the paper for extra crew for the Nautilus, an advertisement for a business such as a restaurant and a story about Professor Arronax, his assistant and Ned Land going missing. They did a great job with their newspapers which I enlarged to A3 and put on display.
I also printed off a page from a comic version of the story and I used 'white out' to remove text from speech bubbles and asked the children to write in their own text. (They found it challenging to write enough information in a small space) I try to buy 'Classics Illustrated' comic versions of the books I read when I find them (I wish I had kept the ones I had as a kid) Graphic novel versions of famous books are easy to access and are a great support for reluctant readers and visual learners.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

I had to put the brakes on this afternoon when I got down the bottom of the hill when a little family of ducks waddled across the road( Mum, dad and 5 ducklings) There are a lot of water birds around the school lately. We have a little family at the school as well.
My early years students started working on a mini reader for Brown Bear today. we also finished our triffid paintings. ( Children used a description of triffids from the book to paint their own interpretation. they also finished their 'triffid snakes and ladders' games) I've just started reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Tomorrow we are going to use an iPad app to design a plan of a Nautilus type submarine. We'll also chart the course of the Nautilus using another app.( A free app called Finger Measure)
Below are photos of one of my students making her mini books about Brown Bear. There is also a photo of the triffid images and a board game and an example of the type of blueprint you can create using the PadCad lite app.
I've just notched up 12000 views, thanks.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Eric Carle

Today we continued with our Eric Carle theme.
This afternoon we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and completed a caterpillar coming out of a cocoon and a butterfly window display.

Tomorrow we will read Brown Bear Brown Bear.
My older children also finished their paintings of triffids using a description of them from the novel.  I have just started reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, one of my favourites.
My student teacher found a fun division activity on Teachers Pay Teachers which was very effective and enjoyable.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Mister Seahorse

A clearer image of my grade 6 boys diorama of the World of the Wars tripod attack on the warship. (above)

My early years students have just completed an art response for Eric Carle's Mister Seahorse.
First I drew a seahorse outline and copied it for each student. Then we tore strips of tissue paper and using a mixture of PVA glue and water we painted over the strips. We then drew seaweed on clear plastic sheets using Poska paint pens. Using water color paint we painted a 'wavy' background, cut out our sea horses once they dried and glued them down onto the painted background.I then bound the seahorse picture with the plastic sheet to make a Mister seahorse booklet. ( Images in order below) Next week we'll be continuing with our work on Eric Carle's famous books.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Performance and Development forum

Focus Group Meeting
Performance and Development in schools
Proposed enhancements for 2014
22/11/13 ( Photos attached)

Presented by Carmel Akerley
This process is seeking feedback and ideas to enhance performance and development
( Weighted score, consistency across the state, focus on development and stretching- growing.)
They want to build on current practice and to build on capabilities.
Greater emphasis development planning and feedback
Conversations around differentiated performance ( including a performance rating scale)and greater focus on capability building.

General discussion about different review processes in regional schools.( Strong emphasis on showing personal growth and tying it all back to the school's strategic plan)

Carmel wanted to know from us if the new process ( from the Department's New Directions document ) will best fit all sizes of school.
The balanced scorecards were discussed.( We felt the term 'scorecard' was a blocker)

There is a huge variance between school performance and even between performance in individual classrooms in schools.
Cascading performance expectations consist of inputs (eg resource management) and outcomes ( eg professional knowledge ) and aligns school priorities with teacher development
The enhanced PD cycle is ongoing and reflective and personal/ school goal driven.
Two elements include the standards ( meeting the requirements of your role) and meeting the goals of the school through the AIP.
Starting assumption is that PD culture is performing well.Research says that the process shifted schools to embed practices but there were disconnects.- in many schools there is not a strong culture of targeting the improvement of practice.We need a consistent format.
There was a feeling that there needs to be more emphasis on development.

Principal class performance domains:
1.Capability development and quality teaching
2.Strategic resource management
3.Relationships and system engagement
4).School student growth outcomes
We had a robust discussion about some of the terminology, ( use of the term productivity was questioned) and having goals in each domain.

Guide on weighting:
weighting would be 10% for domain 1, 10% domain 2, 10% domain 3' domain 4 50% with a discretionary weighting of 5% increments.
When beginning the review process there would be an opportunity to allocate preferred minimum and maximum weight to each domain.

Teacher performance domains consist of:
1. Student outcomes
2. Professional knowledge - know how students learn, know the content and how to teach it.
3. Professional practice - planning for effective teaching and learning, assessment, reporting on student learning
4. Professional engagement- engage in professional learning, engage professionally with colleagues, parents/ careers and the community.
Teachers would identify a goal from each domain.

Guide on weightings:
Teacher weightings 15% domain1, 15% domain2, 15 % domain 3 and 40% domain 4 with 15% discretionary weighting.
Each domain must have an allocated weight range.
Some concerns that the weighting in the first 3 domains should lead to success in domain 4 ( it is a product of the others) therefore it should not be worth 50%.Questions about data sets - multiple sources of data to be used at our discretion. Likewise domain 1 is the most important domain and should be higher.

At the end of the cycle we would be looking at the differentiated performance assessment ( In the mid cycle review we are looking at whether we need to provide more support) At the end of the cycle they propose a five point scale
1- not meeting
2- developing
( below achievement of the goal)
3- at or above
4- above
5- outstanding
There will be an overall rating using the indicative scale. We were asked about whether we liked the scale and the wording for it.
A concern that staff will see this as a compliance checklist. Concerns that it doesn't support team work and collaboration within the school.
The debate was robust. The process is due to be rolled out early next year.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

War of the Worlds

Today my students started wrapping up their work on War of the Worlds. My grade 6 boy finished up his War of the Worlds diorama ( the scene where the tripod battles the warship. refer photo below) and the grade 5s completed danger scales for the story. ( Refer photo below) In the background they put copies of their magazine covers of original art work and then added a graph measuring dangerous events put in sequence from the story. I also had them add some important quotes from the story. Most chose the iconic opening sentences to the story. Tomorrow they'll complete 'snakes and ladders' games for the day of the Triffids.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Giant moth

Another busy day at work today. There is often a little surprise for me when I get to school ( such as a dead possum, ) Today I found a huge moth ( the biggest I've ever seen outside the Melbourne Museum) on the path. It had a wing span of 14 cm. We put it in a 'bug catcher' as it would have been easy pickings for one of the many magpies about the place.
One of my students designed her own Science Fiction magazine cover. She drew a fantastic picture of a tripod from War of the Worlds, scanned it into Word and then added the title of the magazine and the titles of articles that could be inside. ( Images below)
We had a glorious day of 30 degrees Celsius yesterday but today it was down to 12 and very chilly. Two of my children rolled themselves up in travel rugs on the oval ( No comment?) and the others decided to build a cubby. I have also attached a photo of a wall display that my student teacher created for Jack in the Beanstalk.

Finished Projects

The kids finished their restaurant projects today. My grade 6 boy also created a web page for his restaurant. ( Some of the grade 5s are also trying it with his help) He also created a QR code so you could use our iPad QR reader app to access the web page. ( Refer photos of the display board)
Two of my early years students also made their own readers for the John Burningham book 'The Shopping Basket' ( Refer to the photo below)
I have been finding little fragments of blue linen around the grounds over the last few days. I did't realise our flag was as tattered as it is. I'll have to arrange a new one. (Refer photos)
After work today I met up with my Andrew Harrison principal at Pentland to discuss progress on our review. ( mid-cycle review) A new review process starts next year so we are finishing off what we started until then.
Pentland's data looks really good. Andrew should be very proud of the work he has put in at Pentland since he started there. After our meeting we attended the November meeting of the Moorabool Network. ( I was elected 'assistant Secretary' which means I fill in for the secretary if he misses a meeting.
Our conference is in December and I'm looking forward to it. ( Photo below of the Gordon Hotel where we hold our meetings, it is a central location for us.)