Thursday, 13 December 2018

Independent schools left stewing

The Morrison government has rejected Victoria’s offer of a one-year school funding deal as independent schools prepare for the possibility of no federal funding next month.

As the standoff over school funding continues, Independent Schools Victoria has advised some of its members to speak to their bank about taking out extra loans to meet the potential shortfall.

The current school funding agreement expires on December 31 and Victoria is refusing to sign the five-year Gonski 2.0 deal put forward by the Morrison.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino met with his federal counterpart Dan Tehan in Melbourne on Tuesday but the pair failed to resolve the impasse over school funding, setting the scene for a fiery Education Council meeting on Friday.

Mr Merlino said Victoria wouldn’t be bullied into signing a "dud" multi-year deal which “unfairly funds public school students 

"Scott Morrison has already recklessly rejected this proposal. This proves he is willing to hold kids to ransom to force through his unfair education deal," Mr Merlino said.

“If Scott Morrison decides to withhold funding, then the responsibility for any impacts on schools rests solely and utterly with him."

Mr Tehan said Victoria was the only state that had no signed up to his deal for record school funding.

"Victoria is asking for a special deal that puts in jeopardy everything we have negotiated in good faith with every other state and territory," Mr Tehan told The Age.

"Rather than continuing to leak to the media my hope is that Daniel Andrews will come to his senses and reach an agreement that provides schools in his state with record funding and guarantees important reforms to lift outcomes."

Victorian independent and Catholic schools are concerned funding could stop flowing to them next year unless a new deal is struck this month.

While state schools receive the bulk of their public funding from the state government, independent and Catholic schools receive the bulk of their public funding from the federal government.

Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green has written to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews urging him to resolve the uncertainty, saying the situation was creating "growing and well-founded anxiety" among schools.

"Some schools, with insufficient cashflow to meet their January expenses without this payment, might now need to speak to a financial institution about creating or extending an overdraft and/or bridging finance," she said.

She said if an immediate resolution wasn't reached, the Andrews government should provide 100 per cent of their 2019 grant payments to independent schools in January, instead of the 25 per cent they were due to receive.

"This would go some way towards easing the immediate pressure many will face," she explained.

Mr Merlino will write to the independent and Catholic sectors to inform them there's nothing stopping them from receiving federal funding, regardless of whether an agreement is in place.

But the Morrison government has received legal advice that contradicts this. Its advice states that federal payments to Victorian schools can’t continue unless an agreement is in place.

The Labor party is already considering how it might campaign on the funding debacle in marginal seats in the lead-up to the federal election.

If the federal government withholds money from Victorian schools, the ALP will roll out ads highlighting the issue.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Victorian school funding.

Federal Labor has promised to backdate any school funding withheld from Victorian students if it wins the federal election.

As the stoush over school funding intensifies, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek has written to Premier Daniel Andrews to assure him funding for Victorian schools would increase under a federal Labor government.

"Unlike the Morrison Liberal government, I would not hold school funding for students across public, Catholic and independent schools to ransom," she wrote in a letter on Tuesday.

It is looking increasingly unlikely that Victoria will sign up to a long-term school funding agreement with the federal government before the May federal election.

Mr Morrison says he's received legal advice that says the Commonwealth cannot make payments to Victorian schools without a signed national school reform agreement.

He's accused the Victorian government of using “non-state school parents and students as hostages” by holding out on an agreement.

Catholic and independent schools are also concerned they could miss out on vital funding unless an agreement is signed this month.

But Mr Andrews says his advice confirms that money should not stop flowing to any Victorian school, regardless of whether an agreement is in place.

The deadline to reach a school funding agreement passed on Friday, putting federal funding for the 2019 school year into limbo.

Ms Plibersek said if Victoria did not reach an agreement with the Commonwealth before the federal election, a Labor government would ensure the funding was paid and backdated to the start of the 2019 school year.

"Federal Labor is committed to fair and equitable funding for every Australian school and to delivering the resources and reforms necessary to ensure every child has the opportunity of a great education, no matter where they live or which school they attend," she wrote.

She said that by 2022, Labor would increase funding for state schools to 22.2 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard – the bedrock of the Gonski review which measures how much funding every school needs to support students.


A trial date has been set for August next year for a former Victorian education department boss charged with conspiring to steal millions of dollars from public schools.

Nino Napoli, his cousin Carlo Squillacioti, brother Robert Napoli and sister-in-law Dominica Napoli faced the County Court of Victoria on Friday.

Their appearance followed accusations that at least $1.9 million was channelled to Mr Napoli's family and associates between 2007 and 2014.

He is charged with multiple offences, including conspiracy to defraud, dealing with proceeds of crime, furnishing false documents, and perverting the course of justice following an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission investigation.

Taken a long time....and what about the others?????

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Secondary school enrolments on the rise.

Victorian secondary schools will need to accommodate an additional 48,000 students – a cohort larger than the entire Tasmanian secondary school system – in the next four years.

Experts say the surge in secondary school students has been spurred by the baby-bonus generation coming of age, interstate migration and a healthy economy.

New analysis by the Grattan Institute reveals that between 2018 to 2024, Victorian secondary schools will have to squeeze in an extra 10,900 students each year. This is roughly equivalent to seven large high schools of students.

Between 2007 and 2013, in comparison, there were 1600 extra students per year – or the population of one high school.

“Those students will then want further education or a job, and we’d better start getting ready for how we are going to support them all.”

The mini baby boom hit primary schools in 2011/12 and is now being felt in secondary schools, which are recruiting extra teachers, rolling out portables and staggering lunch times to ease the pressure.

The Andrews government promised ahead of the recent state election that it would build 100 new state schools to accommodate the growth.

Figures obtained from the Education Department show that 76,200 students are predicted to start year 7 at state, Catholic and independent schools next year, up from 65,363 students in 2014.

The growth is more pronounced at state schools, where year 7 enrolments have increased by 21 per cent since 2014. This is twice the rate of the growth of year 7 enrolments at non-government schools.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Fiddling the numbers in boarding schools

Finally the media ( ABC) start to look at some of these dodgy private school scholarships that make elite private schools LOOK LIKE they are inclusive of minorities. 

Cheyenne Maymuru is one of hundreds of young Aboriginal people who have left their communities to attend elite private schools in Australia's biggest cities, and while there are many success stories, others are left with broken dreams.

Key points:

After 10 years of awarding scholarships, there are calls to review the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation

A former student says she did not receive enough support and found the experience of boarding school "deeply distressing"

Academics are also questioning dropout rates, claiming they are much higher than those reported

As a teenager, Ms Maymuru was granted a scholarship with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF), but what started out as an exciting opportunity soon became an experience she described as "deeply distressing".

Her case is not an isolated one and after 10 years in operation and more than $160 million in funding, academics are calling for the AIEF to be reviewed and say the organisation is under-reporting the number of Indigenous students who drop out.

In 2012, Ms Maymuru started boarding at an elite school in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

She had hoped to join the Air Force and believed a private education at St Catherine's School would create better opportunities for her.

The school was a long way from where she grew up in Arnhem Land and the small town of Boreen Point in Queensland.

She was one of a few Indigenous students at the school and in the new environment, Ms Maymuru felt the weight of expectations.

"I wanted to make my parents proud of me, I wanted the school to be proud of me, I wanted to be proud of me. There was a lot riding on it," she said.

Not long after she started year 7, her father became seriously ill.

Speaking to the ABC, Ms Maymuru claimed she was worried about her dad at the time, got into trouble at school and was suspended. And she claimed the school asked her not to return.

"The reason I was suspended at first [was] I was smoking in the toilets in the boarding house," she said.

"That was kind of a 'screw you, I'm not doing this'. I was in a bad head space."

Now 19, she believes the school and the scholarship foundation could have done more to support her at a vulnerable time.

Ms Maymuru claimed she was not offered counselling and she never heard from St Catherine's or AIEF again.

"I was very upset, I was crying, I needed help with mental health [support]," she said.

"Why get rid of somebody if you haven't tried to help them?

That's kind of a last resort."

Ms Maymuru said she was now happy working in health care in Arnhem Land, but she never successfully returned to school or completed her year 12 studies.

She is one of hundreds of Indigenous students who have attended prestigious schools across Australia with the help of the AIEF.

The AIEF pay a portion of the total cost, with the partner school, parents and other government payments also contributing to the cost of boarding and tuition.

As one of the major players in the Indigenous boarding sector, the AIEF has received a total of $164 million in funding since it began in 2008, $83 million of that coming from the Federal Government.

The not-for-profit organisation claims to be the most successful Indigenous education program in the country and part of that claim relates to how few AIEF students drop out.

What's going on with dropout rates?

In February, the AIEF said for the decade it had been in operation, less than 10 per cent of its students had dropped out.

But the AIEF's own figures do not support that claim.

The AIEF's published data shows:

1,045 students have been awarded a scholarship

490 have graduated

342 are continuing

213 have dropped out

That puts the dropout rate at 20 per cent, with a 46 per cent graduation rate.

Native American Fulbright scholar Victor Lopez-Carmen has analysed Indigenous scholarship programs around Australia. He called for the AIEF to be clearer in the way the organisation reported its numbers.

"I think it's an obligation of any organisation that deals with Indigenous youth to carefully and accurately represent [those] statistics," he said.

Mr Lopez-Carmen is now calling for an independent external review of AIEF.

"To my knowledge there has not been an independent review of AIEF and they're dealing with over $100 million in funding."

The AIEF disputed the need for an independent review and said hundreds of its graduates had gone on to succeed in a range of fields.

The organisation's deputy chief executive Renee Coffey said: "We have a number of students who have chosen to leave but overwhelmingly the vast majority are completing.

"Boarding school isn't for every child and that's Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

"It takes a lot of determination and resilience for a student to stay at the school, and that's not going to work for every child.

"No program has a 100 per cent success rate."

Do some dropouts 'disappear' from the data?

Mr Lopez-Carmen's key criticism of AIEF's reporting was that it did not include students who dropped out in their first year at boarding school.

"A lot of the youth who drop out in the first year apparently aren't considered," he said.

"So there [are] all these youth who dropped out, who have essentially disappeared and are not considered AIEF scholars."

Ms Coffey said students who left the school in their first year were not counted in dropout figures because they were not technically eligible for AIEF funding at that point.

The AIEF called this retrospective funding model "risk-sharing".

"It's kind of a multi-way partnership, so our scholarships start once that student finishes that first year then they are funded as one of our scholars," Ms Coffey said.

"In order to be eligible for AIEF funding they need to have completed one year of school and then we will pay for that first year onwards."

The AIEF helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families pay a portion of private boarding school fees and the schools and Abstudy also pick up some of the cost.

'Disappeared' dropouts may never return to school

Marnie O'Bryan, an honorary research fellow at the University of Melbourne, said students told her AIEF's funding model put additional pressure on them as they dealt with the culture shock of boarding school.

"It was traumatic for them," Dr O'Bryan said.

"[They said] they felt it was punitive, that somehow they felt that they were being coerced to remain at school when there were very good reasons why they should drop out of school."

What concerned Dr O'Bryan the most was her research that suggested many students who dropped out of scholarships never returned to the classroom.

She described these students as "some of the most educationally vulnerable in Australia".

"Young people who drop out of boarding school are at a very high risk of not re-engaging with their education when they return home," Dr O'Bryan said.

Despite thousands of Indigenous students in boarding programs, and the public funding that goes into scholarships, Dr O'Bryan said the Government was not tracking the outcomes of students who dropped out.

"It was consistent across all my research that young people who drop out of boarding school received no support from their scholarship organisations," she said.

"It was as if they had become a disappointment to the provider."

She said much more could be done to ensure boarding schools were culturally safe places.

"Some people talk about schools learning by 'trial and error', but of course that's a problem because the trial and error is happening on a young person's life," Dr O'Bryan said.

"I've never seen a young person drop out for no reason. It's not because they're lazy, it's not because they feel education offers them nothing."

Ms Maymuru's former school, St Catherine's, declined to comment on individual cases, but said it had made changes to the way it supported Indigenous girls in recent years, which included more support services.

"We are aware of the difficulties some Indigenous students could face and consequently are constantly striving to improve our practices and processes to make their journey a happy and successful one," the school said.

"In 2019 the role of Indigenous coordinator will be expanded to include all aspects of the Indigenous girls' wellbeing."

'I had someone that I could talk to'

The AIEF pointed to the hundreds of its successful graduates. Among them is Tanika Davis, who is undertaking postgraduate studies and works for an Aboriginal health service.

In 2010, when she moved from regional New South Wales to take up a scholarship at the prestigious Kincoppal Rose Bay school in Sydney, she was paired with a mentor.

Ms Davis said the whole experience changed her life.

"I hold AIEF quite close to my heart," she said.

"Why can't Aboriginal kids have that equal opportunity to go to one of the best schools in Sydney? When you talk about equality, I think education is paramount."

Ms Davis said she still kept in touch with her friends from the boarding house and her mentor.

"I clicked with my mentor, so I'm really fortunate that I had that someone that I could talk to — not just about school, but about life," she said.

Ms Maymuru said her time as an Indigenous boarder would have been easier if there was a greater focus on supporting Aboriginal people with culturally competent mentors.

"It would've been easier if I had someone to go to who actually understands what it's like to be Aboriginal," she said.

"I was wanting people to ask me if I needed help. I didn't know how to ask for help. I was 12 years old."

Friday, 23 November 2018

Mrs Garcia needs pencils and glue!

Our School Needs Paper and Pencils

Help me give my students h the materials they need to continue their learning: pencils, paper, and glue.

My Students

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I aim to help my students own the skills and confidence to realize their dreams.

I want them to dream big. The elementary school I work in has about 400 students, most of whom come from low income families of various backgrounds. I teach in a Spanish Bilingual Classroom where more than 90% of students are English Learners. Some of my students are also not proficient in Spanish. They often come into second grade with low reading and writing scores in Spanish and English. Many of the students are not yet independent thinkers and have difficulty articulating their thoughts both orally and in writing. Often they lack confidence to problem solve and defend their thinking in both languages. However, they are often intimidated by English. My goal is to show them all they can do in both languages. 

My Project

Our school just found out that due to our low enrollment we need to cut 168, 000 off our budget. We are losing our literacy specialist and spending all our extra money so that we do not lose a classroom teacher. That means that we do not have money for paper, pencils, glue, etc. 

I need to make sure my students continue to receive their homework packets and are able to do our word study sorts.

That means that I need paper to make homework packets for the whole year. We go through 21 glue sticks each month because I use words their way word sorts to differentiate my instruction for my students. I also use construction paper to make posters for our Reading and Writing Workshops, math, English Language Development and anything else that I need. I am asking for a few extra supplies so that I can share with our school. Thank you for helping us to keep educating the next generation.

This is in America and Teachers are expected to buy or beg for basic school supplies.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Funding Shame.

The ABC has today released a shocking report into school funding.  In many ways it is not a surprise to us, but it will be a wake-up call for many.  The report confirms what we have been saying: the school funding system is broken and grossly unequal.

85% of private schools get more public funding than public schools. We have one of the most unequal education systems in the world.

The report is available online by clicking here and a 3 minute summary video is available on our Facebook here. This report is a powerful resource