Thursday, 31 March 2016

Ballarat Botanical Gardens

I went up to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens to help my daughter out with a photography project ( I drive her, hold stuff and try to keep my shadow out of her pictures) 
WIlliam Wallace keeping guard.
The 'Statuary' ( I think that's a word)

Detail from the building.
Fountain near the fernery.
Poor old Prime Minister Reid gets pooped on by a magpie!
Autumn is starting. First few leaves 
Lovely mild Autumn day today. 

Melbourne Girls' College in Richmond has been forced to enrol 12 students it had rejected.

In an unusual intervention, Education Minister James Merlino forced Melbourne Girls' College to enrol 12 students it had initially rejected, including residents of the nearby North Richmond public housing estate.
The case highlights issues around the gentrification of public schools with booming enrolments and the impact on poorer students' access to a good education.
Richmond MP and Planning Minister Richard Wynne said he had fought with the school and Education Department for a decade to ensure students in nearby public housing were able to attend the popular school.
But last year, for the first time, he asked the Education Minister to intervene.
"They are purposefully excluding students who ought to have the opportunity to get a first class public education," he said.
"A publicly funded high school must be accessible, but particularly for young women out of our public housing towers. It's an opportunity for them to get a first-class education, to go to university and get high quality career."
He said an informal arrangement meant the school must provide girls who live south of Victoria Street with automatic entry if they wanted to attend.
But principal Karen Money denied the school excluded students in public housing, and said there was no informal arrangement. She criticised politicians for interfering in the school's enrolment processes.
"We have a substantial number of students from the Richmond and Prahran public housing flats," she said. 
Students who lived outside the school's zone were selected based on their response to four questions designed to measure their leadership skills, and their postcodes and backgrounds were not taken into account, she said.
The school was grappling with its popularity, she said, and in coming years might need to stop accepting students from outside the zone due to strong local demand.
The towering North Richmond public housing estate is one of the largest in Australia and is located about two kilometres from the Richmond school, but it is technically outside its zone, as the towers are about 500 metres closer to Collingwood College on Hoddle Street. 
The estate is home to many Vietnamese, East Timorese and Chinese migrants.
The situation "smacks of elitism", according to Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly, whose daughter recently graduated from the school.  
He said diversity and inclusiveness was the key to a successful public school. "We are not going to allow those poor kids, black and Asian kids, to be cut out," Mr Jolly said.
Victoria University adjunct professor Richard Teese said schools in gentrifying areas were are under pressure to differentiate and select in order to survive.
"Schools experience a lot of tension in their role, because on the one hand they are expected to recruit blind to background but on the other hand if they don't make a special effort for middle class parents, then those parents may take their custom elsewhere."
Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Judy Crowe – who was principal of Melbourne Girls College for 12 years – said the school never excluded students because they lived in public housing.
"The pressure on enrolment made this very complicated, especially when MGC wasn't the closest government school. The school has a strong record of accepting people in public housing."
An Education Department spokesman said that, due to a misunderstanding, some students living outside the school's enrolment boundary were not offered places when they should have been.
"Due to high demand from students residing outside Melbourne Girls' College's enrolment boundary, the school was unable to offer places to all students seeking to enrol," he said. 
The Andrews government hopes its new Richmond High School, slated to open in 2018, will alleviate enrolment pressures in the area.

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And we were told it was a new coal fired power station they opened every week.....

From the BBC
China has been building the equivalent of almost one university per week.
It is part of a silent revolution that is causing a huge shift in the composition of the world's population of graduates.
For decades, the United States had the highest proportion of people going to university. They dominated the graduate market.
Reflecting this former supremacy, among 55 to 64 year olds almost a third of all graduates in the world's major economies are US citizens.
But that is changing rapidly among younger generations. In terms of producing graduates, China has overtaken the United States and the combined university systems of European Union countries.
China has been building the equivalent of almost one university per week.
It is part of a silent revolution that is causing a huge shift in the composition of the world's population of graduates.
For decades, the United States had the highest proportion of people going to university. They dominated the graduate market.
Reflecting this former supremacy, among 55 to 64 year olds almost a third of all graduates in the world's major economies are US citizens.
But that is changing rapidly among younger generations. In terms of producing graduates, China has overtaken the United States and the combined university systems of European Union countries.
China is moving from cheap production to an economy of high skills
The gap is going to become even wider. Even modest predictions see the number of 25 to 34-year-old graduates in China rising by a further 300% by 2030, compared with an increase of around 30% expected in Europe and the United States.
In the United States, students have been struggling to afford university costs. In Europe, most countries have put a brake on expanding their universities by either not making public investments or not allowing universities to raise money themselves.
But if the West has been sleeping, China and other Asian countries such as India have raced ahead.
It isn't simply about bigger student numbers. Students in China and India are much more likely to study mathematics, sciences, computing and engineering - the subjects most relevant to innovation and technological advance.
In 2013, 40% of Chinese graduates completed their studies in a Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subject - more than twice the share of US graduates.
So the graduates who are the cornerstone of economic prosperity in knowledge-based economies are increasingly disproportionately likely to come from China and India.

The headline from this news story on 7 News said 'Principals back Gonski'.....

School principals say funding being received under the Gonski model is making a difference.

The Turnbull government argues a new school funding agreement is needed post-2018 to replace Labor's model of extra money for disadvantaged schools, which stemmed from a report by consultant David Gonski.

But the latest State of Our Schools survey found 95 per cent of schools that received over $200,000 in increased Gonski funding said it had made a positive difference.

Schools were spending the money on teacher training, student support staff, specialist literacy and numeracy teachers, individual support for students with learning difficulties and extra classroom teachers.

But 45 per cent of principals say their school is still either under-resourced or significantly under-resourced.

The figure was up to 65 per cent in Victoria, where Gonski funding was delayed until this year.

Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe, who commissioned the survey, said the Gonski model should continue.

"We need Malcolm Turnbull to match Labor's commitment to funding Gonski in full and investing an extra $4.5 billion into our schools in 2018 and 2019, to allow schools to build on the success they are already starting to deliver," she said.

School principals also reported that fundraising by parents was a mainstay of school budgets.

Sixty per cent reported fundraising was used for classroom equipment, 46 per cent for sports equipment or uniforms, 43 per cent for textbooks and 28 per cent for basic maintenance.

"These are things which should be provided to schools without the need for them to do their own fundraising," Ms Haythorpe said.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Turnbull's own paper says it's wrong!

The federal government's own blueprint for federation reform argued Malcolm Turnbull's proposal for a radical school funding shake up could create a more unfair system and introduce "perverse" incentives for cost shifting.
It would also undermine years of work to create a more nationally consistent school system, the government's Reform of the Federation green paper found. 
Mr Turnbull said on Thursday he believed the federal government should end its involvement in public schools, but continue funding private and Catholic schools.
States would be able to make up the shortfall by levying their own share of income tax, he said.
The federal government currently pays $5.2 billion to public schools, rising to $7.14 billion in 2019. It gives $9.4 billion to non-government schools, rising to $11.6 billion by 2019. 
While the Victorian government blasted the proposal, NSW Premier Mike Baird said he supported the idea of giving "more autonomy to states" but wanted the six-year Gonski agreements funded in full.
Mr Turnbull said his approach would end "arm wrestling" between Canberra and the states over who is responsible for schooling by making state governments more accountable, he said.
The federal government's discussion paper on federation reform, released publicly by then prime minister Tony Abbott last year after sections were leaked to Fairfax Media, said this approach would create "clean lines of accountability as it would be clear which schooling sector each level of government is responsible for".
But it warned: "This option could, however, lead to very different funding models being applied across the states and territories and between the government and non-government sectors, leading to differences in the level of public funding for schools with similar population characteristics.
"This is likely to give rise to concerns about fairness, as well as introduce perverse incentives for governments to shift costs within the system."
It could also limit state governments' ability to "effectively regulate and assist the non-government sector improve student performance, or to ensure a baseline of consistency that allows easy movement for students between schooling sectors". 
"It would also undermine the considerable degree of co-operation across the schooling sectors that has built-up over many years," the green paper found.
The green paper was far more positive about an alternative proposal: giving state governments full responsibility for all schools.
This option would provide "absolute clarity" about who is responsible for schools, "promote better and more cost-effective service delivery", provide more budget certainty and allow better planning.
But Mr Turnbull said on Thursday he did not support this approach.
"I suspect no federal government would retreat from funding and continuing to support the non-government school sector because there would be a concern that they would not get a fair go from state governments, who obviously would have a competing interest with their schools," he said.
Catholic and independent schools have long argued they want to maintain their historical relationship with Canberra rather than the states.( if that is so then the states should immediately withdraw their funding for private schools)
The Independent Schools Council of Australia on Thursday welcomed Mr Turnbull's ongoing commitment to federal funding of their sector. 
NSW Premier Mike Baird said: "If you look at what the PM did, one thing I'm very very supportive of, he's determined through his proposal and approach to federation is to give more autonomy to states. 
"That's something I absolutely welcome. Is this the right mechanism? We need to do some more work. The principle of wanting to give more autonomy to states is absolutely a good thing."
Mr Baird added: "If the federal government is saying they are no longer going to fund the Gonski agreement, well, they need to tell us that over the discussions coming forward."
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said Mr Turnbull's proposal was a "cynical attempt" to justify the federal government's decision to abandon the Gonski school funding agreement. 
"It's not enough that they've torn up a signed agreement, they now want to brazenly ditch all responsibility for our government schools," he said. 
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: "It's completely and utterly unacceptable that Mr Turnbull is so willing to wash his hands of ensuring Australian kids get a decent education."
Australian Education Union deputy federal president Maurie Mulheron said Mr Turnbull's approach would be a "disaster".
"Locking in a system where state governments have full responsibility for public schools and the federal government for private schools is locking in inequity and would be the end of needs-based Gonski funding," he said. 

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And the AEU says.....

Malcolm Turnbull’s proposal to end Federal Government funding of public schools would entrench inequity and end needs-based Gonski funding in Australian schools.

Prime Minister Turnbull suggested on radio this morning that one option being discussed as part of his plans to change income tax arrangements was for State governments to take full responsibility for funding public schools, while the Federal Government took responsibility for private schools.

AEU Deputy Federal President Maurie Mulheron said the plan, which will be discussed at tomorrow’s COAG meeting, would be a disaster –  and was an attempt by Mr Turnbull to dodge responsibility for funding schools.

"Locking in a system where State governments have full responsibility for public schools and the Federal Government for private schools is locking in inequity and would be the end of needs-based Gonski funding," Mr Mulheron said.

"Schools don’t care whether their funding comes from the State or Federal Government – they just care about whether they have the funds to meet the needs of their students."

The key recommendation of the Gonski Review was that the Federal Government needed to work with the States and take the bulk of responsibility for ensuring disadvantaged schools got the funding they needed.

This meant two-thirds of the extra revenue schools need was to come from the Federal Government and one-third from the States, recognising that the Federal Government had greater access to funding than the cash-strapped States.

"Mr Turnbull’s plan goes against the principles of the Gonski model and its goal of giving every student the chance of a quality education regardless of where they go to school," says Mr Mulheron.

"We need Mr Turnbull to fund the full six years of Gonski reforms which fund all schools on the basis of need, not whether they are public or private. He needs to match Labor’s commitment to invest an extra $4.5 billion in schools in 2018 and 2019.

"Malcolm Turnbull’s real agenda is becoming clear. His income-tax plan is simply a way for the Federal Government to abandon its responsibilities to public schools and hospitals.

"State governments must reject this plan and demand that the Federal Government continue to fund all schools on the basis of need.

"We are already seeing Gonski funding making a positive difference to student results. We need the full six years of the Gonski agreements to ensure that all schools get the resources they need to educate all of their students."

Research confirms that prior to the Gonski reforms, Australia's funding system was not based on need and saw the biggest increases in funding go to private schools.

"Gonski funding aims to resolve this mess by ensuring that both levels of government take their share of responsibility for funding the schools which educate disadvantaged students," Mr Mulheron.

"Mr Turnbull wants to turn his back on this and go back to an inefficient, divisive and inequitable system which will see thousands of students left behind."

The Federal Government’s own Green Paper on Reform of the Federation warned against Turnbull's proposal, reporting that:

This option could ... lead to very different funding models being applied across the States and Territories and between the government and non-government sectors, leading to differences in the level of public funding for schools with similar population characteristics. This is likely to give rise to concerns about fairness, as well as introduce perverse incentives for governments to shift costs within the system.

The AEU says Turnbull’s plan would disadvantage students in States, which had less capacity to raise their own income tax.

"If Malcolm Turnbull fails to fund Gonski in full, he is failing our kids,” Mr Mulheron said.

"We know that one in seven 15-year-olds struggles to read properly, and one in five struggles with basic maths. We also know that disadvantaged students are five times more likely to be poor performers than students from wealthy backgrounds.

"It is not in our long-term social or economic interest to let these children leave school without the skills to get a job or lead a successful life.

"Gonski funding delivers extra funding to all schools, but delivers the biggest increases to schools which educate disadvantaged students."

New unit plan

Started work today on my next unit plan for The Silver Sword and Carries War, to start on the week beginning at ANZAC Day. I've been mucking around with a template for a suitcase for the Carrie's War unit and with my wife's help I think I've got it.

I think it's right. Just need to decorate a sample for the kids.

Despicable proposal

For the commonwealth to remove itself from state school funding but continue to fund private education would be a despicable and heinous withdrawal from the future education of the vast majority of Australian children and make a mockery of their already dodgy innovative government credentials. If they bring this 'reform' in then we would be stuck with it. There would be no 'roll-back' just as there wasn't from the GST. No body suggests they run education in each state but they have a responsibility to fund it with our tax dollars. Their incompetence in economic and social governence is spell- binding. I completely agree with the Victorian Premier on 7:30 last night and with Ken Boston in this article from the SMH today.

The federal government would stop funding public schools while continuing to support private schools under a dramatic change to the nation's education system outlined by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
You have got to ask yourself whether we should not have clearer lines of responsibility 
Labor immediately accused Mr Turnbull of "walking away" from public school students and said the move would undo decades of work, including the Gonski school reforms, to lift standards in all the nation's schools. The proposal was originally contained in a discussion paper leaked to Fairfax Media last year. 
The federal government could walk away from its role in funding state schools under a tax reform proposal floated by ...
The federal government could walk away from its role in funding state schools under a tax reform proposal floated by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull on Wednesday outlined his plans for states to be able to raise a proportion of income tax for the first time since WWII, a move he said would make them more accountable for the services they deliver.
On Thursday Mr Turnbull named school education as one area where the federal government could wind back its involvement if states could raise their own revenue.
"You could make a very powerful case for example that, if there was a revenue sharing, if the states had access to a portion of income tax, that they would have the resources and the money [to] have the responsibility for state schools," Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.
"I suspect no federal government would retreat from funding and continuing to support the non-government school sector because there would be a concern that they would not get a fair go from state governments who obviously would have a competing interest with their schools.
"But in terms of state schools, state education, government schools, if the states had the money, if they had the money from a share of the tax base, would they not do a better job managing those schools themselves?
"That would be a question to ask the education ministers: does the education minister in Canberra know better how to run a primary school in Tasmania or South Australia or Western Australia than the education minister in those states?"
Mr Turnbull said that the national curriculum should remain in place but the constant "arm wrestling" about who has responsibilities for schools should end.
"We have a massive education department in Canberra, in the federal government, but we don't employ any teachers. You have got to ask yourself whether we should not have clearer lines of responsibility."
Labor school education spokeswoman Kate Ellis accused Mr Turnbull of advocating "an extraordinary abandonment of public education".
"This would lead to a drift away from public schooling and bring back divisive debates from decades past about the different school sectors. 
"The Commonwealth has been playing a role in public education since the 1970s.
"The Gonski reforms were all about ensuring we move to a national system where all our schools are up to standard."
Ms Ellis said federal governments have only been able to drive reforms such as Gonski, the national curriculum and the My School website because they allocate funds to public schools.
"This is an incredibly reckless, ill-considered idea," she said.
One of the nation's most experienced education bureaucrats, Ken Boston, last year slammed the proposal for the federal government to abdicate funding for public schools as "completely foreign" to the equity principles underpinning the Gonski funding model.
"This would be the antithesis of Gonski," Dr Boston said, referring to the review's model of a needs-based funding model which applies equally across all school sectors. 
"The idea should be ruled out completely."
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MEANWHILE the Murdoch media is keeping it real by following up their 'balanced' discourse on the teaching of history in our universities with this piece of crap...

Soccer maths

In an effort to get kids excited about math, the Romanian men's soccer team recently swapped the numbers on players' training jerseys for math equations. 

The players wore the jerseys ahead of a match with Spain on Sunday (not actually during the game—though that would have been interesting for the referees). The answers to the short math problems revealed the players' real numbers.

Private training providers are muscling in on high school students, receiving millions of dollars earmarked for public education

Under an arrangement with the Victorian Education Department, private providers are able to enrol students at host schools – which students never attend – to access government funding.
They are also able to access additional government training subsidies for some of these students. 
Some principals have hit out at the scheme, saying it is an abuse of much-needed funding for public schools.
However providers say they are offering an innovative alternative to traditional classroom learning and have lifted the profile of vocational education and training. 
SEDA, which has links to the AFL and delivers Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning and Vocational Education and Training sports programs, has grown from 18 students in 2007 to more than 2000 students across Victoria, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
A 2013 audit by the Victorian Registrations and Qualification Authority found SEDA was non-compliant with minimum standards and provided misleading advice about job prospects in the sport and recreation industry.
The audit, which was obtained by The Age through Freedom of Information laws, said SEDA students were unsure or unaware of the host school they were enrolled at. "None reported that they had attended their school since enrolment," it said.
It found no evidence that the host schools were responsible for the health and wellbeing of these Year 11 and 12 students.
SEDA has since lifted its game and is now compliant.
Bendigo Senior Secondary College principal Dale Pearce said private providers should not be tapping into schools funding.
"This looks like an abuse of schools funding," he said. "There's little enough of that to go around legitimate school students."
"The schools aren't initiating the program, the students don't attend the school and the private provider does all the delivery."
He said SEDA was no longer a re-engagement program, and was providing an alternative to school. "If SEDA wants to be funded like a school they should apply to be registered as a school."
But SEDA chief executive Dominic Cato said the program was innovative and challenged the status quo of teaching. "It also challenges those in the education sector who are uncomfortable with a partnering approach between schools and other registered providers," he said.
"We have people in education who support our innovation and the results we have achieved, but also critics who believe that a school should be fully responsible for education delivery.  The thing that I find most disappointing is that the critics never take the time to speak with parents and students about the program." 
SEDA currently receives up to $8000 of government funding per student for 506 of its students, with host schools retaining a small administration fee. It also charges students fees of almost $4000. 
Mr Cato said 92 per cent of SEDA students completed the senior VCAL in 2015, compared to 78 per cent in government schools. 
An Education Department spokeswoman said many schools entered into partnerships with external providers to deliver VCAL.
It recently released new guidelines for schools which have contracts with non-school senior secondary providers like SEDA to ensure they meet their obligations. 

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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Message from DET in response to the Domestic Violence Royal Commission

Today the Royal Commission into Family Violence tabled its report in Parliament.

The report is the result of evidence given by hundreds of witnesses over the past 13 months from across the Victorian community and government – including our Department.

This is a historic moment in our state; one which many people should be able to look back on as a turning point in our state’s refusal to tolerate this deeply damaging social problem.

For anyone who remembers the seemingly impossible aspiration to change smoking rates in the population, we have the same long-term agenda ahead of us to eradicate family violence. And we will need to stick at it.

The report makes 227 recommendations. The Victorian Government has committed to accepting all of the report’s recommendations in full.

You can read the report online, see: Report and Recommendations - Royal Commission into Family Violence

Each one of us has a responsibility to help prevent family violence. Given the significant role of our trusted service platforms such as schools, early childhood services, Maternal Child Health services and TAFEs, we will play a leading role in helping to achieve the recommendations of the Commission.

The recommendation to mandate the introduction of respectful relationships education into every government school in Victoria from prep to year 12 is fundamental to changing attitudes and beliefs over a generation. It is an opportunity for our next young leaders to see gender equality, respect and resolutions other than violence as the norm.

The Royal Commission’s recommendations will shape the work of our Department and services in the years to come. I encourage you to talk with your colleagues about the ways in which this report and its recommendations can enhance the work you do.

Gill Callister

History nonsense

The Daily Mail seems genuinely surprised that University students can think for themselves, that Captain Cook DIDN'T 'discover' Australia, that aborigines were living here before white people arrived and therefore their country was 'occupied' .......etc etc.
I'm not sure where they have been, but we have been using this sort of terminology in primary school for years and teachers were at pains to tell us that Cook didn't discover Australia when I was at school.The general belief when I was a kid was that aborigines had been in Australia for 20000 years but that was 40 years ago! Since then archaeologists have pushed that date back to at least 50000 years. New discoveries have been made all the time.This date of first arrival is fluid and I'd be happy to use their terminology but also give an approximate time if using timelines with kids.
 I've taught my students in the past that the Dutch visited Australia, and William Dampier well before Cook, and there was Torres and possibly the Portuguese before that.( even Malays and Chinese) And to assume that Wentworth and co. were the first to cross the Blue Mountains is absurd!

Below is the 'startling' story in the Sydney media this morning!

University students are being taught to refer to Australia as having been 'invaded' by the British rather than discovered or settled as history books have commonly suggested.
Teaching guidelines for universities across the country suggest it is 'incorrect' to say Captain Cook 'discovered' Australia and inappropriate to say Aboriginals have lived here for 40,000 years.
According to a Diversity Toolkit on Indigenous terminology for the University of NSW, it is more appropriate to say the country was invaded or occupied.
Teaching guidelines for universities across the country suggest it is 'incorrect' to say Captain Cook 'discovered' Australia and is more appropriate to use words like invasion, colonisation or occupation
Teaching guidelines for universities across the country suggest it is 'incorrect' to say Captain Cook 'discovered' Australia and is more appropriate to use words like invasion, colonisation or occupation
'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were in Australia long before Captain Cook arrived; hence it was impossible for Cook to be the first person to 'discover' Australia,' the guidelines state.
'Australia was not settled peacefully, it was invaded, occupied and colonised. Describing the arrival of the Europeans as a 'settlement' attempts to view Australian history from the shores of England rather than the shores of Australia.'
Guidelines also suggest is it inappropriate to say Aboriginals have lived here for 40,000 years because it 'puts a limit on the occupation of Australia'. It is more appropriate to say 'since the beginning of the Dreaming'
It also claims a line commonly referred to in history books stating that Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth were the first men to cross the Blue Mountains in NSW is inappropriate.
'Aboriginal men, women and children had crossed the Blue Mountains for thousands of years before European explorers,' the guidelines read:'Statements such as this deny the Indigenous history of Australia, and are examples of the White Australia frame of reference that totally excludes Indigenous Australia.'
The guidelines also advise it is more appropriate to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as an Indigenous Australian or an Aboriginal person instead of an Aboriginal or Aborigine.
The teaching toolkit is understood to be based on similar guidelines at universities across Australia.

It is amazing what you can dig up on the holidays....
I actually have my old primary school Australian history book. It is called  'Discovery of Australia' by Rex and Thea Rienits and published in 1969.... and its full of nonsense about aborigines

I love this bit about Cook: 'As Cook and some of his people attempted to land they were opposed by two natives who threw stones and spears, until they were peppered in small shot and sent running for cover. In the next few days Cook and others explored the bay , they often saw natives, but all attempts to win their friendship failed.'.....I'm not surprised after peppering them with shot! The point is, even back then they recognised that the land wasn't 'empty' and that they were opposed!

And of course the Murdoch media have jumped all over this to peddle their own divisive agenda. ( Let's crank up Howard's despicable 'History Wars' for the election....)
Below is their contribution......ugh!
This tripe is actually their front page news and more inside ( see below!)

In fact the  Daily Telegraph’s scoop – that the University of NSW is “controversially” instructing teachers to refer to the “settlement” of Australia as an “invasion” – is based on a teaching resource produced two decades ago which was auspiced by the Howard government.

Entitled, Teaching the Teachers: Indigenous Australian Studies for Primary Pre-Service Teacher Education, and released in 1996 the teaching guide was the culmination of more than two years consultation and research, and produced by UNSW in cooperation with the federally-funded Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.SOME SCOOP!

Students bringing guns to US schools

On March 16, an 11-year-old child in Queens, New York, found a loaded .380-caliber handgun under his grandfather’s bed and brought it to his elementary school. The following day, another Queens boy was arrested after brandishing a loaded .38-caliber revolver in a high school stairwell. The next week in neighboring Brooklyn, a middle school student was arrested after administrators found an unloaded 9mm handgun and two magazines in his backpack. 

The three incidents were among the latest examples of a trend steadilyplaying out across the country: With three quarters of the academic year complete — from late August, when many districts started classes, to March 15, when many concluded the third report card period — there were at least 185 incidents in which elementary, middle, and high school students were caught with guns on school grounds. That figure, culled from news databases, is an update to The Trace’s reporting in January, which found 135 such incidents in the first five months of the school year.

From Moms Demand Action

Gap between rural and metro students widens

I'm not sure when DET will be able to work this one out? It's seems to be impossible from them to understand that rural students are falling behind their metropolitan peers!
There is nothing new about this data ( refer many previous posts) this is just another one to confirm what those of us in rural education have been saying and what DETs own data has been saying for over a decade!
This story is from the ABC.
A report has found the progress of many students in regional and rural areas is up to two years slower than that of inner city students between Year 3 and Year 9.

The report, called Widening Gaps: what NAPLAN tells us about student progress, by independent think tank the Grattan Institute, found students from low socio-economic areas started behind and made less progress in school.

"Typically, we know in Australia that the level of parents' education in regional areas and remote areas on average is not as high as in the big cities," Mr Goss said.

"We know that the occupations [in rural and remote areas] are more limited and there can be higher levels of unemployment.

"We know that some regional and remote towns are doing it really tough, and living in a stressful environment where there isn't necessarily a strong culture of going to school every day [which] really adds up and affects learning."

                                   Disadvantaged students are 2 years behind

The report analysed data from students who had completed all four years of NAPLAN testing in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and tracked their progress.

What the report revealed about student progress was troubling: students in disadvantaged schools made around two years less progress between Year 3 and Year 9 than similarly capable students in high advantage schools.

Ross Higgins, principal of Aldridge State High School in Maryborough, Queensland, explained that access to opportunities and activities was what could put metropolitan students ahead of regional or remote students.

We should never, ever think that just because these kids come from these low socio-economic places or a rural place, that they don't have the ability or the skill set to do wonderful things.
Ross Higgins, Aldridge State High School principal
"If you look at a place like Brisbane, there's a number of readily available activities that kids can be exposed to that can turn the lights on, that can really get them hooked in to learning," Mr Higgins said.

"Yet in a lot of the regional places you have to make a great effort, and sometimes financial sacrifice, to access those [activities]."

Mr Higgins, who has taught in regional and rural schools in Queensland's Wide Bay and in remote schools in Cape York said providing these engagement opportunities to country kids was not always possible.

"We do have some of the technological links nowadays where you can do some of the virtual tours, and that is a good back up plan if you cant get there physically," he said.

"But it doesn't actually do the same as if you are physically there at South Bank touching and engaging."

He said that from his experience of teaching in rural and remote areas, the report did have validity.

"I am certainly aware that the status of our rural and regional places is declining as the challenges of agriculture are enhanced," Mr Higgins said.

"The disposable income [for] families to support learning and extra curricular activities is no longer there and that does add to the challenge of being in a regional and rural area".

                                          Report recommends increased funding

The report recommended that government funding to schools should be used to level the playing field between advantaged and disadvantaged schools.
Mr Goss said it was vital as unfortunately, Australia's disadvantaged schools were going backwards.

"The sad truth is that according to some international research, Australia doesn't do as well as we did 10 years ago at helping those bright students from poor backgrounds reach their peaks," he said.

The report also found that the highest performing students from disadvantaged schools were up to two and half years behind the highest performing students at advantaged schools.

Policy makers wanting to support educationally disadvantaged students could do so by targeting them geographically, as regional and rural areas were most in need, the report suggested.

Mr Higgins says we should not underestimate the potential of regional and rural students.

"We should never, ever think that just because these kids come from these low socio-economic places or a rural place, that they don't have the ability or the skill set to do wonderful things," he said.

Monday, 28 March 2016

No Gonski reprieve

In an attempt to silence the states going into the next election, probably in July, the Federal Government will offer some money for hospitals ( to paper over their savage cuts) at the next COAG meeting but not Gonski funding.

The commonwealth has told the states it will not make an immediate offer on schools funding or match Labor’s promise to spend $4.5bn funding the final two years of the Gonski education plan in 2018 and 2019.

The decision opens the way for a fierce Labor attack during the imminent federal election campaign, but it is understood the commonwealth believes there is time to negotiate longer term changes to schools funding after the election.

Apparently they'll look at it after the election....yeah, right!

Bring on this election! We need some certainty.( But not the lies of the last election)

Holiday reading

Just finished reading Carrie's War and re-reading The Silver Sword.
I liked Carrie's War. Not sure if the kids will? ( I had a grade 6 a couple of years ago read and she said she liked it) There is a BBC serial from the 70s on YouTube they can watch on their iPads as we read it.( an advantage of a small school) I already have some creative writing and art ideas buzzing around which I'll work on next week.
The Silver Sword is an old favourite. I remember reading it myself in grade 6. 
I'll work on a two week unit for these books ( themes of war, evacuation, the plight of refugees, resilience and acceptance) to start around ANZAC Day.

Academy scandal in the UK

Interesting story to come out of the U.K. Over night. What are academies? 
    Academy schools are state-funded schools in England which are directly funded by the Department for Education and independent of local authority control. The terms of the arrangements are set out in individual Academy Funding Agreements. Most academies are secondary schools. They receive additional support from 'investors' . They have their own curriculum.

This is most certainly the education system of the future here if the conservatives get their way.From PoliticalScrapbook

On Thursday afternoon, just as most people were getting ready for the long Easter weekend, the government quietly published the findings of an inquiry into a chain of Academy schools in Birmingham.

The story was an embarrassment because the Tories are planning to turn all primary and secondary schools into Academies, claiming this will raise standards.

But if the Birmingham investigation is any indication, it also illustrates what happens when schools face less scrutiny, as Academies do.

The investigation found that a Birmingham academy trust, which runs five secondary schools in the area, paid nearly £1.3 million to a business which then paid a “second salary” to one of its headteachers.

It revealed that the Trust made payments of £1.297 million over two years to a business called Nexus Schools Ltd, which itself sub-contracted another company called Liam Nolan Ltd, whose sole director is Liam Nolan.

Liam Nolan is also one of three executive headteachers at Perry Beeches The Academy Trust, and its Accounting Officer and Chief Executive.

A letter published yesterday stated:

there have been serious breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook including serious concerns about financial management, control and governance.

This letter and its annex consequently serve as a written notice to improve financial management and governance at the Trust.

The investigation also found, according to Schools Week:

– The trust had spent nearly £1.3m with Nexus over two years, “without a written contract or formal procurement”.

– Payments were not detailed in the trust’s 2013/14 financial statements.

– The trust’s chair of governors had “joint business interests” with a director of Nexus – which were not disclosed in a register of interests.

– The trust’s 2013/14 financial statements did not disclose the Nexus payments.

And yet, the Trust is due to open another free school next year.

Perry Beeches The Academy Trust had earlier been praised by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and David Cameron as model schools.

But it turned out that regulations from the Academies Financial Handbook, Charity Commission and academies accounting rules, and trustee guidelines had been broken. But the issue only came to light after a whistleblower made claims that Nolan had been receiving a second salary.

Tell us again Prime Minister how turning all schools to Academies will improve accountability?

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Finland ( Some perspectives on their education system)

From the LA Times
The Harvard education professor Howard Gardner once advised Americans, "Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States."
Following his recommendation, I enrolled my seven-year-old son in a primary school in Joensuu. Finland, which is about as far east as you can go in the European Union before you hit the guard towers of the Russian border.
OK, I wasn't just blindly following Gardner - I had a position as a lecturer at the University of Eastern Finland for a semester. But the point is that, for five months, my wife, my son and I experienced a stunningly stress-free, and stunningly good, school system. Finland has a history of producing the highest global test scores in the Western world, as well as a trophy case full of other recent No. 1 global rankings, including most literate nation.
In Finland, children don't receive formal academic training until the age of seven. Until then, many are in day care and learn through play, songs, games and conversation. Most children walk or bike to school, even the youngest. School hours are short and homework is generally light.
Unlike in the United States, where many schools are slashing recess, schoolchildren in Finland have a mandatory 15-minute outdoor free-play break every hour of every day. Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning. According to one Finnish maxim, "There is no bad weather. Only inadequate clothing."
One evening, I asked my son what he did for gym that day. "They sent us into the woods with a map and compass and we had to find our way out," he said.
Finland doesn't waste time or money on low-quality mass standardised testing. Instead, children are assessed every day, through direct observation, check-ins and quizzes by the highest-quality "personalised learning device" ever created - flesh-and-blood teachers.
In class, children are allowed to have fun, giggle and daydream from time to time. Finns put into practice the cultural mantras I heard over and over: "Let children be children," "The work of a child is to play," and "Children learn best through play."
The emotional climate of the typical classroom is warm, safe, respectful and highly supportive. There are no scripted lessons and no quasi-martial requirements to walk in straight lines or sit up straight. As one Chinese student-teacher studying in Finland marvelled to me, "In Chinese schools, you feel like you're in the military. Here, you feel like you're part of a really nice family." She is trying to figure out how she can stay in Finland permanently.
In Finland teachers are the most trusted and admired professionals next to doctors, in part because they are required to have a master's degree in education with specialisation in research and classroom practice.
"Our mission as adults is to protect our children from politicians," one Finnish childhood education professor told me. "We also have an ethical and moral responsibility to tell businesspeople to stay out of our building." In fact, any Finnish citizen is free to visit any school whenever they like, but her message was clear: Educators are the ultimate authorities on education, not bureaucrats, and not technology vendors.
Finland delivers on a national public scale highly qualified, highly respected and highly professionalised teachers who conduct personalised one-on-one instruction; manageable class sizes; a rich, developmentally correct curriculum; regular physical activity; little or no low-quality standardised tests and the toxic stress and wasted time and energy that accompanies them; daily assessments by teachers; and a classroom atmosphere of safety, collaboration, warmth and respect for children as cherished individuals.
One day last November, when the first snow came to my part of Finland, I heard a commotion outside my university faculty office window, which is close to the teacher training school's outdoor play area. I walked over to investigate.
The field was filled with children savouring the first taste of winter amid the pine trees.
"Do you hear that?" asked the recess monitor, a special education teacher wearing a yellow safety smock.
"That," she said proudly, "is the voice of happiness."
William Doyle is a 2015-2016 Fulbright scholar and a lecturer on media and education at the University of Eastern Finland.
@smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

And another story about the facts and fiction of education in Finland

1) Teachers in Finland are paid like doctors.
Fiction.  Starting salary for a teacher is not huge (around $40k-$50k), but when in a permanent contract they get paid for the summer, too. Doctors are paid more, but generally the salary gap between professionals is smaller in Finland. (Source)

2) Professional development is strongly emphasized in Finland and teachers are viewed as respected professionals.
Fact. This is a two-fold question. Professional growth is viewed necessary for teachers, but usually they have much independence in deciding about their PD.  Elementary teachers must have a M.Ed. with major in education and a minor in multi-disciplinary school subjects and another minor in a chosen subject. Teachers are part of the academia, and their professional opinion about learning is respected. Usually teaching is the chosen career, not a stepping stone to something else.

3) Teachers in Finland get a great deal of freedom to meet students’ needs: the national curriculum is very short and non-prescriptive.
Fact. The national curriculum includes the objectives and core contents for different school subjects, but schools and districts create their own curricula within the framework of the national core curriculum. Teachers get to decide how they help their students to reach the objectives. 

4) Students in Finland get more than one hour of recess a day.
Fact. The basic model in K-12 is to have 45 minutes of instruction/learning and then a 15 minute break. First and second grade students go to school for four hours per day and from that time they have 75 minutes of recess. During recess students go outside to play – and they are encouraged to be physically active.

5) There is no mandatory testing in Finland.
Fact. Teachers are trusted to provide assessments they see best benefit their students’ learning. Feedback of individual learning process is emphasized over standardized testing. (Source)

6) School doesn’t start for Finnish children until age 7.
Fact. The year before school starts is called pre-school, and it is free for all students but not mandatory for 6-year-olds. Students are not expected to learn how to read in pre-school. They are learning how to learn and how to take part in group activities.

7) High quality early childhood education is free in Finland.
Fact, and A Little of Both.  Pre-school (the year before school starts) belongs to formal education system, and is free. The same requirements that regulate the teaching of 6-year-olds in schools also are valid in daycare centers for 6-year-olds, and enrolling is parents’ choice, often depending on their employment. Every child has a subjective right for high quality early childhood education, but whether it is free depends on the income level of parents. ECE is heavily subsidized, so the highest monthly payment for childcare is 264 euros ($350) per child at a daycare center.

8) There are no private schools in Finland.
A Little of Both.  Finland has common legislation for both private (state subsidized) and public (city or state owned) schools.  Last year there were 85 private schools in Finland serving approximately 3% of the whole student population.

9) Parental involvement is required.
Fiction. Parents are encouraged to be involved in their children’s education, but it is not a requirement. Students are very independent, including getting to school and back home when the distance is less than 5 km (~3miles). They walk or ride a bike, or parents transport them.

10) There are no teacher’s unions in Finland, and that makes for a better education for students.
Fiction. In fact more that 95% of teachers belong to the teachers’ union (OAJ) which is a member of the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland (AKAVA). But, the relationship between schools, education policy makers and union is constructive. (Source)

11) Finnish children do better in school than American students simply because the poverty rate is so much lower.
Fiction. The poverty rate in Finland is certainly lower, but what makes the difference in education is equity combined with quality. Instead of highlighting individual performance and competition of students in Finland the focus is on schools’ ability to provide equally good education for different learners. Basic education is completely free including instruction, school materials, school meals, health care, dental care, special needs education and remedial teaching. One Finnish specialty is the free hot lunch served to everyone every day. Hungry students cannot learn well. (Source)

12) The Finnish way of teaching could never be replicated in the United States because our population is so much more heterogeneous.
A Little of Both. No educational system should ever be replicated in another culture as it is – just like no information should be accepted as it is, but must be assimilated and/or accommodated to become a perfect fit. The way of facilitating individual students’ learning by promoting cooperation and cognition with constructive practices could easily be replicated. (Source)

Nina Smith is a pedagogical consultant who helps teachers to thrive in their profession. She also mentors teachers pursuing their master’s degrees, and is a mother of four successful children. Originally Nina comes from Finland where she earned her M.Ed. and teaching credentials from the University of Jyvaskyla. Today Nina provides teachers with personalized tools that help them promote deep learning and create more effective and emotionally safe classrooms. To learn more about meaningful learning, please visit Notes From Nina.   

To contact Nina, please visit 

Saturday, 26 March 2016

JK Rowling's rejection letter

Yesterday the Guardian and others published some of JK Rowlings rejection letters from publishers for her adult crime novels that she submitted anonymously.

Rowling shared the painful rejection letter she received for her adult crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith - which said the book could never be commercially successful.

The author was turned down by several publishers when she submitted her manuscripts anonymously.

She has now disclosed the letter sent by Constable & Robinson, a noted crime imprint, which advised her to learn more about how to pitch and to consider joining a writing class.

"I regret we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we could not publish it with commercial success," it reads. "At the risk of 'teaching my grandmother to suck eggs', may I respectfully suggest the following."

The publisher went on to list tips and tricks to help a would-be author, including asking a helpful bookshop for advice on who would best represent their style of work, learning how to write an "alluring" 200-word blurb to sell it and picking up the Writers' Handbook.

Apologising for being unable to provide constructive criticism about the manuscript itself, it added: "A writer's group/writing course may help." It went on to wish her "every success in placing your work elsewhere".

Find the letter at the link below

Some famous rejection letters

"First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale?... Could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?"

Herman Melville's Moby Dick

"For your own sake, do not publish this book."

DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover

"You're welcome to Le Carre - he hasn't got any future."

John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

"We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."

Stephen King's Carrie

"If I may be frank, Mr Hemingway - you certainly are in your prose - I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man's man aren't you?"

Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises

"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

The Diary of Anne Frank

"What was needed, (someone might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs."

George Orwell's Animal Farm

"I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years."

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita