Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Holiday Gardening

I went up to work and did some gardening today. It was time to start to prepare our veggie garden for the winter. I pulled out the last of the radishes and tidied up generally. I bought some hay mulsh from a local nursery and aerated the soil and spread the mulsh. 
Today I also organised our Melbourne Botanical Gardens and aquarium excursion for the second week back. I've started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. I forgot what a great story it was. I'll see if I can track down a child-friendly abridged version but it might not exist.
I put the radishes and a few yellow tomatoes on a tray for people to help themselves ( Tammy and Emily?)
I left the tomato plants as they still have lots of unrippen tomatoes on them.

Garden beds ready for winter.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Pyne Nut

Christopher Pyne's bid to deregulate tertiary fees has suffered a major setback with the influential Group of Eight universities withdrawing support for any more compromises aimed at securing crossbench support.

The powerful coalition of Australia's leading universities, which has been a key backer of the government's proposals, said on Tuesday the federal Education Minister's original package to uncap tertiary fees is being watered down to the point where the compromises being made to secure hostile Senate votes is defeating the purpose.

CEO of the Group of Eight Vicki Thomson called for a depoliticised back-to-basics review instead of a third attempt to pass the legislation.

Read what Kate Ellis ( Opposition eduction spokesperson ) thinks about Pyne's challenges leading up to the next budget at this site: http://au.educationhq.com/news/15389/christopher-pyne-wants-to-be-a-fixer-he-should-start-with-his-own-demolition-work-on-school-funding/


I've been re-reading Edgar Allan Poe. During the break I'll start work on a unit based on some of Poe's best known stories.( The Fall of the House of Usher, The Murder in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and the Pendulum) 

I've finished off my Around the World in Eighty Days unit over the last two days and also finished some work samples. It has been very smoky here over the last few days.

 ( Department of Primary Industries burning off) This morning I noticed a sign on Springs Road ( one of those developers signs complete with a generic happy family photo on it.) and machinery busy at work where once there were houses.

Below- pop up card for The Fall of the House of Usher

Pop up story for Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Manus Island education turmoil

The school for asylum seeker children inside the detention centre on Nauru is set to close.

The building the students study in - within the Regional Processing Centre 1 camp - will reportedly be converted into office space, and a gym and recreation area for detention centre staff, while the children will be sent to Nauruan schools outside the camp.

The students, aged between five and 18, are resisting the closure of their school, which is set to hold its last lessons for the current term on Friday.

They have begun a letter-writing campaign begging the government not to shut it.

Guardian Australia has been told the school will close during the next term, which starts after Easter.

Students have written letters they will send to the Department of Immigration, to the company contracted to run the detention centre, Transfield Services, and to politicians, pleading for the school to stay open.

“In Nauru everything is boring except RPC1 school and we heard the school is going to close and they are transferring us to Nauru College,” one student wrote.

“We don’t like Nauru College because it doesn’t have good education.

“There are too many dogs in the college, not safety, dangerous, even there is no refugee children also not going. We don’t have enough facilities in there. Please don’t close the RPC1 school. The teachers are very kind with us.”

The toilets at Nauru College. Some asylum seeker children have written letters saying the school is unsanitary.

Immigration department staff and teachers on the island have raised strident concerns about the standard of schooling in Nauru, which is still recovering from the near-collapse of the entire education system in the early 2000s.

Between 2000 and 2005 schools barely functioned on Nauru, no exams were held and there was a mass exodus of teachers from the profession. While schools have improved, the after-effects of the breakdown are still being felt.

Schools are often in poor condition, classrooms are dilapidated and toilets broken.

According to the Nauruan Government while school is compulsory until age 15, truancy rates at some schools run at 60%, and 34% overall.

Already, when asylum seeker children are given a positive refugee status determination, they are moved out of the asylum seeker camp and obliged to attend a local school.

But, according to sources on the island, few of the 100-or-so school-aged refugees in the Nauruan community attend. 

Most refuse to go as a protest against being held on Nauru, or out of fear of being assaulted.

The unaccompanied minor refugees have been especially targeted on the island. None of those boys attends school regularly.

“Realistically, the children’s education ends when they leave the camp,” an island source said.

“Most of these detainee children will not go [to local schools] as they fear they are going to a dangerous, unhygienic, and poorly-administered school.”

While most Nauruans accept the presence of refugee communities on the island, there remains a sizeable minority implacably, and in some cases violently, opposed to their resettlement.

Relations between local communities and refugees had shown signs of improvement over recent months, but have deteriorated in the last few weeks, with a number of violent attacks.

One refugee student wrote that refugees were afraid to attend school with local students.

“Their attitude is not suitable with [towards] us, even once they hit our friends in school. Sometimes some fights occur that they’re too dangerous and savage and that’s possible that someone else ... [who is] not involved gets hurt.”

The school inside the RPC1 asylum seeker camp is excellent, Guardian Australia has been told.

The school, which teaches students aged between five and 18, is well-equipped and staffed by Australian registered teachers.

The immigration minister, Dutton said of the school last week: “I went to the educational facilities, the classrooms there where young people at taxpayer’s expense are being provided with English classes and schooling otherwise that is of a standard that is at least as good as I’ve seen in Australia”.

Sources on the island questioned why the school was being closed if it was so well-regarded by the government.

The department of immigration declined to answer questions on why the school is being closed!

The minister’s office did not respond to questions, but a senior source in Canberra confirmed the school closure.

Education in Nauru relies largely on government and non-government aid from overseas.

The Nauruan government spends only 7.5% of total government expenditure on education, the second-lowest rate in the Pacific.

“Nauru’s small economy and limited private sector limits job opportunities for young people. Many young people lack the basic literacy and numeracy that enable them to compete for the limited public and private sector jobs available,” the Nauru government’s Women’s Affairs Department said in a report.

The European Commission’s country paper on Nauru says, “teaching and student learning standards are low”, while the United Nations, as part of its Millennium Development Goals assessment, says high truancy rates are the “result of perceived low value of education, due to lack of jobs”.

From The Guardian

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Reading Recovery harmful?

I'm not reading recovery trained. I was SSLIP trained ( That was a reading recovery 'lite' version called Smalls Schools Literacy Intervention Program made available to small school teachers because training only took a fraction of the time.) I used it a number of times with mixed results. I found that success really depended on support from home and even parents getting students to school early for the uninterrupted program to succeed. I used to run it before school ( 8:00-8:30 four mornings a week) I use some elements of it in daily reading tasks and it seems to be working. It was a program championed in the Bendigo region in the 80s and eventually it spread to Ballarat and elsewhere along with Early Years. It has dropped in popularity I think partially because schools have become more successful in teaching reading. ( My wife teaches in a school of over 500 children and they had very few children in such a big school not able to read at benchmark level at the end of Prep.They have a small reading recovery program and could probably get by without one.) The Age have run another story about an American expert that doesn't like Reading Recovery. ( I have posted a previous story based on a visit by a different Visiting American expert) Story below:

A leading United States literacy expert has launched a scathing attack on Reading Recovery, telling a Department of Education event that aspects of the remedial reading program are "harmful". Dr Louisa Moats told Education Department staff on Tuesday that it was "indefensible" to spend money on the program, which is designed to help struggling Year 1 readers. Her comments coincide with new figures that show only 10 per cent of Victorian government primary schools offered the early-intervention program in 2014, down from 25 per cent the previous year. "The whole approach is based on ideas that have not held up to scientific scrutiny. So it is indefensible to keep on spending money on this," Dr Moats said in a video that was uploaded to YouTube.

Speaking at the Department's Treasury Place building, Dr Moats said if she had a child with a learning disability she would refuse to let them take part in a Reading Recovery lesson. "The instruction is directing their attention away from what they should be paying attention to. It's just not ok, it's harmful. "The early-intervention program gives poor readers in Year 1 daily, one-to-one, 30-minute sessions with a trained teacher. It was developed in New Zealand but now runs in Australia, Britain , United States and Canada. The department's website said "Reading Recovery has a strong tradition of success with the lowest-achieving children". In 2014, 119 government primary schools in Victoria ran the Reading Recovery program. Learning Difficulties Australia council member Alison Clarke, who is also a speech pathologist, said Reading Recovery was not achieving its goals. "It is not teaching kids to de-code it's teaching them to guess," she said. She said Reading Recovery did not give children a phonological awareness – an awareness of sounds in words – or spelling patterns. "Some of the activities in Reading Recovery set children back. The whole look at the picture and guess. I teach children to sound out and then they come back from Reading Recovery and they are looking at the picture and making things up." Dr Moats was brought to Australia by the group and visited the department to speak to staff, stakeholders and academics about learning disabilities. She raised concerns about Reading Recovery following a question from the audience.  In 2012 the former state government stopped funding Reading Recovery tutors, with schools having to absorb the cost out of their own literacy budgets.(All about money of course, not about the worth of the program)The program has courted controversy in Australia, where academics are divided on the program's merits. Monash University associate professor Janet Scull said the program was a success and boosted children's literacy skills. "One of the criticism is it doesn't address phonological awareness and that is not found. It addresses the teaching of phonics through both reading and writing. It helps children notice of a range of information sources in text." Dr Scull, who has done extensive research on Reading Recovery and also trained tutors for the program, said reading difficulties were a complex issue and there was no single solution.(Exactly – Reading Recovery doesn’t work for everyone.) She said the program worked with the bottom 20 per cent of children in a school.Her views were echoed by Melbourne University Professor of language and literacy education Joe Lo Bianco. "Reading Recovery is a great asset. It helps all teachers to focus on the explicit things they can do in literacy."

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/reading-recovery-harmful-visiting-academic-louisa-moats-says-20150326-1m8m9e.h

Our new performance plan model

The AEU has released its take on the new Performance and development model proposed by the new government-

The Department has announced the key changes to the Performance and Development process for teachers, assistant principals and principals for the 2015-2016 cycle.
The changes are significant. The process is refocused on principal, assistant principal and teacher development rather than a narrow performance assessment. There is a clear emphasis on professional conversations and judgement, with the mathematical approach to assessment contained in the current model abandoned.
 For teachers, the performance and development process will maintain the current areas of professional knowledge, practice and engagement - however, they will be now be referred to as the three domains of teaching.
 For assistant principals and principals, the areas of Leadership of Quality Teaching and Life-long Learning, Strategic Resource Management, and Strengthening Community and System Engagement will be maintained - however, they will now be referred to as the three domains of principal practice.
The key changes include the: 

  • removal of the balanced scorecard;
  • removal of the percentage weightings for each domain;
  • removal of the numerical ratings for each domain with assessments now to be determined as either met, partially met, or not met;
  • removal of a numerical rating for the overall assessment with the final assessment now determined to be either met or not met;
  • removal of the online assessment calculator, and final assessment threshold;
  • requirement for professional conversations, feedback, and professional judgement to be key elements of the process;
  • a renewed emphasis on teacher and principal class employee development;
  • choice for an individual staff member and their reviewer to agree to place particular emphasis on a specific domain;
  • setting of a maximum of one goal for each of the domain areas;
  • embedding of the student/school outcome goal within the domains of teaching and principal practice;
  • move to have the process default to a calendar cycle rather than the current May to April arrangements.

The requirement to align goals with the school's strategic plan and annual implementation plan will remain.
The changes outlined in the Department's circular will be included in a revised set of performance and development guidelines, which will be provided to us next term.
Considering the former Government's punitive approach to performance and development - including their attempt to introduce quotas on the number of teachers, assistant principals, and principals who could have a successful performance and development outcome, along with the focus on numerical ratings and arbitrary differentiated performance - these changes are significant and refocus the process on genuine development of the profession.

......we'll see!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Last day of term

We had an easy last day finishing off Easter puzzles and craft and finishing up at 2:30. It's got quite cool over the last few days. 
Kookaburra keeping an eye on a magpie and next doors watering contraption.

Photos from inside the Ballarat Club

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Walking With the Dinosaurs

Our BIG term 1 excursion today was to Melbourne to Hisense Arena to see Walking With Dinosaurs.
It was great. The kids loved it. The dinosaurs look very authentic. One of our dad's came along to help.




Triceratops squaring off.

T- Rex and anklysaurus.

End of term 1 tomorrow.

Getting serious about Kinda
Early Education Ministers from key states have come together, calling on Tony Abbott to commit to funding 15 hours of kindergarten per week in the vital year before school. The Productivity Commission found that 15 hours of kindergarten is essential to boosting preschool participation, supporting children’s development and improving school readiness.

New Performance and Development schedule announced

The Department has changed the approach to Performance and Development for principal class employees and teachers in consultation with key stakeholders.

·         A changed, whole-of-practice approach to Performance and Development will be implemented in the 2015/16 cycle 

·         The whole-of-practice approach emphasises the development of teacher and principal class employee work through Performance and Development planning, goal-setting, conversations and feedback.

·         Consistent with the current guidelines teachers’ and principal class employees’ individual Performance and Development plans will be aligned with their school’s strategic plan and annual implementation plan, to ensure all school staff are working together to achieve their school’s priorities and overarching goals.

·         The whole-of-practice approach places strong emphasis on the collective responsibility amongst all school staff for the learning gain of all students, and professional learning that will have the greatest positive impact on student outcomes. 

·         Changes include the removal of the mathematical components of the current model, including percentage weightings and the use of the online assessment calculator to assess performance through the balanced scorecard. Instead, individual staff and their reviewers may agree through a professional discussion to place emphasis on particular domains of that individual’s Performance and Development plan.

·         The modification is designed to further elevate the role of professional conversations, written feedback and professional judgement in the Performance and Development process aimed at promoting professional growth.

·         Teachers will set four goals, one in each of the Domains of Teaching and a student outcomes goal, taking into account the Domains of Teaching. 

·         Principal class employees will also set four goals, one in each of the Domains of Principal Practice and a school and student outcomes goal, taking into account the Domains of Principal Practice. 

·         Consistent with the revision to the current guidelines reviewers will be required to assess each goal as either met, partially met or does not meet.  The overall assessment will be either meets or does not meet, accompanied by written feedback.

·         Additionally, the default Performance and Development planning cycle will change to the calendar year, while the progression cycle will continue to operate from May to April as required by the Victorian Government Schools Agreement 2013.

Pop-up graphs

The kids working on Minton finished their planes today. We had some left over transfers from plastic models we've made recently and they applied them to their planes and they look really great.

I made a sample pop-up bar graph for a graph we'll make next based on the children's favourite Jules Verne characters.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


OMy grade 2 and 3 student were finishing off their Minton aeroplane models today.

Minton pop-up stories.

We also started painting our Easter gardens.
I went to a very interesting PD today. My notes are below.

Understanding Aboriginal Culture in your local area
Nikki Foy

We discussed acknowledgement of country and talked about local support agencies and introduced ourselves.
Nikki talked about connections to land and community.
Nikki talked about orgaisations that can support us in schools such as VAEAI and RKECs.( provides PD support)
Nikki also talked about BADAC ( Ballarat and District Aboriginal co-operative)she also talked about the koorie hub on Main Road which includes Aboriginal housing, legal service, koorie education, youth groups, child protection and tutoring- VACSAL.
The work of Wadawurrung organisation was discussed and is mainly cultural heritage. ( 25 000 years of history and over 140 archaeological sites.)

Local connections
Nikki showed us some videos of local areas and their significance to local koories.She also showed us a timeline of local koorie culture.
Nikki and Marjorie talked about important dates (26th May National Sorry Day) 6-13th July NAIDOC Week.('We Stand on sacred ground' is the national theme for NAIDOC week.)
We had a very enlightening Q&A and Nikki will be organising some more PDs during the year.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Busy Monday

Students finished their porthole pictures this morning and they're all on display and look very authentic..

We finished our science fiction magazine front covers today. they did a terrific job. 

Pen and ink pictures of an attacking giant squid is on display.

I picked the last of our zucchinis today (I think someone has been picking them I'm sure there was more there.) and a few yellow tomatoes for people to take home. the garden is nearly finished. A few tomatoes and that is about it. We'll need to plant something for the winter.

The grade 2 and 3 kids finished their Minton story maps too.

Disturbing TAFE data
It was announced on the radio news today that enrolments in TAFE courses have dropped by 30%. Hopefully the new government can turn this dreadful data around. ( Refer to e previous post on the rise of youth unemployment)

Butt Out at school

Smoking will be banned around Victorian schools, hospitals, courts and police stations from April 13.

Smokers caught lighting up within four metres of a building where the ban applies face an on-the-spot fine of $147.

The ban also applies to kindergartens, childcare centres, hospitals and maternal child and welfare facilities. 

The ban had been scheduled to start in July, but Health Minister Jill Hennessy said it was being brought forward to coincide with the start of the school term.

"Every year in Victoria we lose 4,000 people to smoking," she said.

"Smoking-related illnesses cost the health budget about $2.4 billion and that's why I'm delighted today that we've decided to bring changes forward." 

The move also has the support of Education Minister James Merlino.

"Kids are impressionable and we don't want them to see behaviour that normalises smoking," he said. 

"Having it banned in front of the entrances to schools is an important step. 

"The incidence of smoking in schools is going down but we want it go down even further and an important step in achieving that is ensuring that when kids come into school they don't see people smoking in front of school."

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Finland changes course

Interesting story about changes in the Finnish education system as reported in The Independent

For years, Finland has been the by-word for a successful education system, perched at the top of international league tables for literacy and numeracy.

Only far eastern countries such as Singapore and China outperform the Nordic nation in the influential Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings. Politicians and education experts from around the world – including the UK – have made pilgrimages to Helsinki in the hope of identifying and replicating the secret of its success.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that Finland is about to embark on one of the most radical education reform programmes ever undertaken by a nation state – scrapping traditional “teaching by subject” in favour of “teaching by topic”.

“This is going to be a big change in education in Finland that we’re just beginning,” said Liisa Pohjolainen, who is in charge of youth and adult education in Helsinki – the capital city at the forefront of the reform programme.

Pasi Silander, the city’s development manager, explained: “What we need now is a different kind of education to prepare people for working life.

“Young people use quite advanced computers. In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.

“We therefore have to make the changes in education that are necessary for industry and modern society.”

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union - which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.

Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager – who will be presenting her blueprint for change to the council at the end of this month, said: “It is not only Helsinki but the whole of Finland who will be embracing change.

“We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow.

“There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s – but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

The reforms reflect growing calls in the UK – not least from the Confederation of British Industry and Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt – for education to  promote character, resilience and communication skills, rather than just pushing children through “exam factories”.

But there would currently be little appetite in the UK for going as far as ditching traditional subjects.

Even in Finland, the reforms have met objections from teachers and heads – many of whom have spent their lives focusing on a particular subject only to be told to change their approach.

Ms Kyllonen has been advocating a “co-teaching” approach to lesson planning, with input from more than one subject specialist. Teachers who embrace this new system can receive a small top-up in salary.

About 70 per cent of the city’s high school teachers have now been trained in adopting the new approach, according to Mr Silander.

“We have really changed the mindset,” he said. “It is quite difficult to get teachers to start and take the first step… but teachers who have taken to the new approach say they can’t go back.”

Early data shows that students are benefiting too. In the two years since the new teaching methods first began being introduced, pupil “outcomes” – they prefer that word to standards – have improved.

Finnish schools are obliged to introduce a period of “phenomenon-based teaching” at least once a year. These projects can last several weeks. In Helsinki, they are pushing the reforms at a faster pace with schools encouraged to set aside two periods during the year for adopting the new approach. Ms Kyllonen’s blueprint, to be published later this month, envisages the reforms will be in place across all Finnish schools by 2020.

Meanwhile, the pre-school sector is also embracing change through an innovative project, the Playful Learning Centre, which is engaged in discussions with the computer games industry about how it could help introduce a more “playful” learning approach to younger children.

“We would like to make Finland the leading country in terms of playful solutions to children’s learning,” said Olavi Mentanen, director of the PLC project,

The eyes of the education world will be upon Finland as it opts for change: will it be able to retain or improve its showing in the PISA league tables published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

If it does, how will the rest of the education world react?

It is an English lesson, but there is a map of continental Europe on the whiteboard. The children must combine weather conditions with the different countries displayed on the board. For instance, today it is sunny in Finland and foggy in Denmark. This means the pupils combine the learning of English with geography.

Welcome to Siltamaki primary school in Helsinki – a school with 240 seven- to 12-year-olds – which has embraced Finland’s new learning style. Its principal, Anne-Mari Jaatinen, explains the school’s philosophy: “We want the pupils to learn in a safe, happy, relaxed and inspired atmosphere.”

We come across children playing chess in a corridor and a game being played whereby children rush around the corridors collecting information about different parts of Africa. Ms Jaatinen describes what is going on as “joyful learning”. She wants more collaboration and communication between pupils to allow them to develop their creative thinking skills.

Read this brief report on a study tour to Finland by the principal of Mont Albert PS  in 2012


Cheating on Exams Indian style

Students in Hajipur, north-eastern India, were given a helping hand from friends and family as they sat state exams on Thursday. People could be seen climbing buildings to pass cheat sheets to the students. Cheating is not uncommon in parts of India where competition for jobs and higher education places is fierce.

Check out this story and amazing pictures in the Guardian


New school design from the UK

(Apparently they want to create a more 'small school' atmosphere!)


Friday, 20 March 2015

Camels!.....I kid you not!

I drove up to work early this morning and went a slightly different way. I was happily gazing around ( always on the look out for kangaroos at that time of the morning) and what should I see.....at least 2 camels on a property about 500 m from work! I stopped and fumbled around for my phone and wound down the window and took a fuzzy photo of 2 of them. One standing up and the other looked like it was eating. They eventually moved away out of sight but they were camels alright!
The grounds are looking great thanks to Wayne from Ballarat Lawns and Gardens. I finished some information booklets for some PSTs who are starting on Monday, finished the community school report, did some cleaning, preparation for Easter and bought some ingredients for some cooking on Monday.Just one more week left of this term!

Porthole Pictures

We've nearly finished our work on Twenty Thousand Legues Under the Sea and will start work on Journey to the Centre of the Earth which we finished listening too this morning. I've also just started reading Around the World in Eighty Days ( Jules Verne had very long book titles! ) which we'll finish by the end of next week. 
Today we worked on our porthole pictures.
We cut out the portholes on metallic cardboard.

We added a background of marbled paper that looks like the ocean.
We also added interesting animals for Professor Aronnax to be stunned by.

On display.

We also started sketching savage giant attacking squid over the top of our newspaper front pages using black ink and old fashioned ink pens.

The kids working on the Minton stories have nearly finished. They are currently working on their story maps.
Malcolm Fraser dies
Vale Malcolm Fraser.
I never thought I'd be sorry to hear about Malcolm Fraser's death. I'm old enough to remember the dismissal and I had a remarkably Bolshie father who was very angry about Fraser, Kerr, Reg Withers et al and what he called 'the coup'. 
Fraser however re-invented himself during his long retirement and became an outspoken critic of apartheid ( which put him into a collision course with Thatcher and Howard) and a very vocal advocate for refugees rights which started with his support for Vietnamese refugees ( something modern conservatives forget) He became great friends with Gough Whitlam ( If it's good enough for Gough....) As Bill Hayden said : "One of the most significant efforts carved out by Malcolm and Gough was that they were both big enough intellectually and emotionally to put the sensational political events of 40 years ago behind them for the good of Australia." Together they were a thorn in John Howard's side and both loathed Abbott.
They will both be missed.