Saturday, 3 December 2016

Labor needs to re-think

Federal education minister Simon Birmingham has admitted that some wealthy private schools are over-funded and could lose money once funding reforms are implemented. Vision courtesy ABC.
Asked whether funding should be redistributed from wealthy to low-income schools, Ms Plibersek said: "People find it a compelling thing to talk about but I think it misses the point entirely. 

There is no compelling case to cut funding to "over-funded" private schools and redistribute the money to disadvantaged schools, Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, Ms Plibersek it was "absolutely the right decision" for the Gillard
Federal education minister Simon Birmingham has admitted that some wealthy private schools are over-funded and could lose money once funding reforms are implemented. Vision courtesy ABC.
Asked whether funding should be redistributed from wealthy to low-income schools, Ms Plibersek said: "People find it a compelling thing to talk about but I think it misses the point entirely.  government to promise that no school would be worse off under the Gonski funding reforms - a commitment that a Gonski review panelist, Ken Boston, says blew out the cost of the reforms and entrenched inequalities between schools.

The Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, has said he has "deliberately" not made the same promise, leaving room to cut funding for some schools in a new funding deal from 2018 onwards. 

The Grattan Institute released a report this week calling for the federal government to freeze funding to schools classed as over-funded and redistribute the money to schools which are below their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) - the funding benchmark at the heart of the Gonski model.

"You're talking about a very small number of schools.

"If it fixed the problem of there not being enough money on the table from the federal government it would be a different matter but it is a drop in the bucket of the extra money required."

Labor went to the July election promising an extra $4.5 billion for school funding over two years. 

The Grattan Institute found that $215 million in excess funding flows to a small number of private schools each year - spending it described as "wasteful and inefficient". It recommended reducing the generous indexation rates for school funding locked into legislation by the Gillard government. 

Ms Plibersek, who took over as Labor's education spokeswoman after the July election, said: "I think it was 100 per cent the right decision for us to say no school will lose a dollar.

"If we get sucked into school against school, system against system, state against state, we will still be fighting about this in 10 years' time. 

"We are committed that all schools get appropriate funding and that means the poorest schools have the biggest increases in the fastest time."

A Fairfax Media analysis published earlier this year found some elite private schools are receiving up to $7 million a year in excess government funding. Schools such as Loreto Kirribilli, an elite all-girls school in Sydney, received 283 per cent of its funding requirement in 2014 while Melbourne Grammar received 144 per cent.

Ms Plibersek said Senator Birmingham's comments about inequities between states and school sectors were "diversion tactics" to distract from the fact he is not funding years five and six of Gonski.

"I'm not going to let him get away with that," she said.

Ms Plibersek said Labor supported measures to improve teacher training but this would only be effective with extra funding targeted at the neediest schools.

Earlier this year, Mr Boston, a former head of the NSW Education Department and a member of the Gonski Review panel, wrote: "The solution to Australia's education problem is not pouring more public money into education, but redistributing the existing funding strategically, to address the things that matter in the schools that need it.

"Far too much is spent in wealthy independent schools, where recurrent funding can be used to service loans on capital works, not necessarily to provide a better education, but to provide facilities to make the school more attractive than its other high-fee competitors." 

Plibersek is right. It is only a small group of schools and out of the entire education budget it is a fraction of the funding they allocate annually but itt is significant to very poor schools and it is a 'very bad look' . It is dispiriting for those of us in state education to see it happening but also hear a Labor education spokesperson saying what she says. It shouldn't be and it shouldn't happen. We are entering a time where IPA driven conservative government 

May Gibbs beloved Gumnut Babies have turned 100

Australian bush fairies first came to life in December 1916, when author May Gibbs penned her first book, Gumnut Babies. The book has become a cherished part of our history, featuring the escapades of the Gumnuts as they attended the races, the ballet and dancing balls in the beautiful Aussie bush.

Gibbs' exquisitely illustrated stories continue to delight children, parents and grandparents 100 years later.

Gibbs was born in 1877 and was drawing and painting throughout her childhood. She studied at in WA and in the UK, before settling in Sydney where she wrote and illustrated Gumnut babies - following up with her equally-treasured book Snugglepot & Cuddlepie in 1918.

When Gibbs died in 1969 she bequeathed 50 per cent of the copyright of all her works to Northcott and 50 per cent to Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Proceeds from the sale of May Gibbs products have supported thousands of Australian children with disabilities.

Author Caro Webster is a life member of Friends of Nutcote and a former member of the Board. She told The Huffington Post Australia Gumnut Babies has been significant in teaching children about the wonders of the Aussie bush.

"May Gibbs' brilliance lay in transforming the Australian bush -- that can sometimes seem a harsh place -- into a place of deep magic, full of sweet little creatures to whom children could readily relate. She made our bush a wondrous place and in so doing encouraged children to get outside, go exploring, spending time with mother nature and finding their place within it," Webster said.

"In my latest book I write about how, if we mix the practical with the magical, we can enthrall children, fire up their beautiful imaginations and, in so doing, foster creativity and a love of our environment. May Gibbs stories and illustrations continues to do this in spades."

"I think most Australian children have dreamed of being a gumnut baby or Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, have been terrified of the big bad Banksia Man and Mr Lizard, and hoped that maybe one day they'll find their own little magical creature in the bush. I can't look at a flowering eucalyptus without thinking of May Gibbs," Webster said.

HarperCollins Children's Books, Australia has released a new centenary edition of Gumnut Babies, redesigned to showcase Gibbs' original illustrations. The book also includes a bonus biography on the much-loved author and Illustrator.
"Every child has an innate capacity to imagine and experience wonder simply by observing their local and greater environment. May's stories fosters that imagination and gives children "permission" to dream about what might be. After all, doesn't everyone believe in magic?" Webster said.


Gingerbread houses are a deep-rooted part of our holiday tradition. They make an appearance everywhere in December, from your household all the way to The White House. And we have the Germans to thanks for it, but more specifically the Brothers Grimm. 

Yes, the story of a cannibalistic witch gave us our beloved gingerbread houses.

In 1812, the Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel was published, and with it the wonderful idea of creating a house out of cake and candy took off. We’re not saying that gingerbread houses weren’t constructed before this story ― some say they were built in Germany as early as the 16th century ― we’re saying that the publishing of this tale popularized the idea, and helped bring it over to the U.S

But before that, gingerbread got its start with the Crusades in the 11th century.

Gingerbread houses did not just appear out of nowhere in Germany. The idea of gingerbread was brought to western Europe from the eastern Mediterranean during the Crusades in the 11th century. While gingerbread’s exact origins are murky, it is known that ginger originates in Asia. And while it was introduced all across Europe, it was the Germans who really adopted it into 

The Germans turned gingerbread baking into an art with their lebkuchen cookies. The cookie is native to Nuremberg, where the bakers guard their recipe like a family treasure. The cookies were baked by local monks in the 14th century, and thanks to great local ingredients their reputation grew. The city recognized them by making an official League of Lebkuchen-Bakers in 1643, and has developed strict guidelines that ensure these cookies are still a sought after delicacy today.

The original gingerbread doesn’t resemble what we know and love today.

Originally, gingerbread was made with honey, ginger and breadcrumbs. Today, a basic gingerbread recipe includes molasses, a variety of spices (such as cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon ― and ginger, of course), flour and butter. But you can find almost as many variations to this recipe as you can find houses made out of the gingerbread itself.

Public schools need champions.

Excellent story from Justice Michael Kirby

Years ago, when we were feeling enthusiastic, my partner Johan and I used to walk past Vaucluse High School (VHS) for the exercise. The campus and classrooms looked familiar.

Utilitarian, but certainly not luxurious. Lacking the manicured lawns, swimming pools and building developments of private and religious schools, it nevertheless boasted a most precious resource. Outstanding students, staff and alumni.

The latter included the world famous film director, Peter Weir, Justice Stephen Rothman of the Supreme Court, politicians, businesspeople, sports champions and comedians.

However, the laughing stopped in 2006 when the school was closed at short notice. The land was sold for private development.

It is now clear that the only public high school on the peninsula cannot cope with the students or the parents who opt for public education.

How did this happen? Why was this excellent public high school closed down? Why was such an investment in our future exchanged for a one-off payment to the general revenue? What about the unvalued dividend on an excellent and available public high school?

I do not know which politicians and officials made this shortsighted decision, so quickly revealed as flawed. Or how long it will take to rebuild such a facility in an area with notoriously prohibitive land costs.

The biggest loss is not just that of an accessible school. It is the pressure that is exerted on parents to abandon public education and pay the costs of private and religious colleges.

As someone whose entire education was in public schools, I know how precious are the values that are taught in such schools — free, compulsory and secular. Attending Strathfield North Public School, Summer Hill OC class and Fort Street High in the 1940s and 50s, I had wonderful and dedicated teachers.

No discrimination against individuals or groups. Children of rich and poor parents mixing together and learning to respect each other.

No bullying of children because they are gay or have a different (or no) religion. This is an intangible price that has to be paid for the ill-considered decision to sell off VHS.

The sooner a new public high school is created on the peninsula, the better.

If I were a parent with school age children I would be as mad as hell about the situation we now find ourselves in. There should be accountability for this wrong.

Glancing through the latest issue of the newsletter of the barristers in Sydney, recording recent judicial appointments, I noted that three of the four most recent judges of our State attended public high schools: Turramurra High, Sir Joseph Banks High, Hurlstone Agricultural High School and Epping Boys’ High School.

Especially in an age of religious intolerance, the secular feature of public education is particularly precious. It protects diversity.

We should be strengthening this and not selling it off for momentary gain.

When I saw a promotional brochure for private and religious schools distributed with the Wentworth Courier, I wrote to the editor and urged inclusion in all such pamphlets of an information page containing contacts for all the public schools in the district. I still think this wold be a good idea.

Former judge Michael Kirby and his brother David Kirby QC, retired judge of the Supreme Court of NSW visit their old school.
However, there is now a big hole where previously Vaucluse High stood proudly. We need more people on all sides of politics who enjoyed the advantages of public education to speak up for the system that still educates two thirds of Australia’s citizens, increasing recently in primary schools.

The failure to implement David Gonski’s report on education funding, the recently admitted overfunding of many private and religious colleges and the underfunding of public schools calls out for change.

When 15 of the 20 members of the present Federal Cabinet were educated outside public schools, the likelihood of speedy change appears remote. The proportion on the other side of politics is only marginally better.

The Australian dreams of aspirational egalitarianism and advancement on merit are at stake here. When public education is underfunded and its schools closed or effectively made unavailable, the losses are ultimately borne by all citizens. That is why we must demand action. The right to universal public education is the precious right of every Australian citizen.

It needs to be quickly restored in the eastern suburbs where many of our country’s future leaders go to school.

*Michael Kirby was a Justice of the High Court 1996-2009.

FInishing the year with Dickens

Finishing off Sherlock Holmes short stories and Giant Under the Snow work this week.

Next week we will start a mini Dickens unit on David Copperfield, Bleak House and A Christmas Carol.
Below are some remarkable photos of Dickensian Britain.

I finished my Bleak House unit today. I already have a Christmas Carol and Dickens bundle on TPT. This is the last unit plan for me to develop this year. Next week I will put it and my Giant Under the Snow unit up on TPT. I will look at putting some of my work on TES over the holidays. Today ( Sunday) I went up to work and got On Demand testing up and running and we will be able to do some online testing for grade 3-6 this week.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Stop blaming teachers says the Guardian

I went up to work today ( Saturday) as usual and wrote up our reports. I must have done something wrong because they won't print. I'm sure Steve or Heather will work out what I did wrong. I also got, I hope some fun, activities organised for our new prep when she visits us on orientation day on Tuesday. Gina wants to make German Christmas biscuits this week so I stopped into Coles and picked up what she needs. The story below was in my Twitter feed today from the Guardian.

News that there we have slipped further behind in global rankings in maths and science in our schools has brought the usual responses from the usual suspects. The federal minister for education Simon Birmingham says that “he is embarrassed” at the “appalling results”.

He says this has nothing to do with funding but everything to do with “teacher quality”. That old chestnut. Nothing to do with class sizes either. Birmingham is on the record quoting research that says smaller class sizes don’t make a difference.

Let’s just put that one to bed once and for all.

Just because classes of 45 are manageable in other cultures doesn’t mean they are here. We are culturally very different to many of the countries on the rankings ladder. What can a teacher do in an Australian school do if a student tells them to “fuck off” or tosses a chair out the window or doesn’t do their homework? Nothing. Where is the support for such situations? In the principal’s office? The same principal who is so weighed down with the demands of the parents, the departments and the education bureaucracies that they are unable to get out of their office even if they want to?

When are we going to face up to the fact that we have got our priorities all wrong? When are we going to stop the blame game and take the steps that need to be taken to improve conditions in our schools for both teachers and students and, in doing so, inevitably raise standards?

Is it any wonder 30%-50% of new teachers drop out in the first five years of teaching? Is it because they have been badly trained or have poor skills? Or is it because they discover that teaching in contemporary Australian schools involves so much work outside the classroom that they never get to do what they are trained for? That is, teach.

Our obsession with accountability means that every spare moment of a teacher’s life is spent not preparing lessons or finding resources but satisfying the bureaucratic demands of the job. In other words filling in forms. Doing paperwork, most of which could be done by anyone.

Young teachers need mentors. We all know that. It’s not easy controlling a class of teenagers whose respect you have to earn. That’s right, earn. Our culture does everything but respect teachers. Why would anyone think our students would be any different?

We have very different disciplinary expectations to some of our “rivals” on educational ladder tables. We also have students with a range of special needs. They are not going to get where we want them to be on their own.

It’s astounding that we can’t make the link between the appalling social conditions endured by some of our communities and their educational results. People in living in abject poverty aren’t doing well in maths and science. Who’d have thought? Must be the teachers. People living is disadvantaged areas aren’t doing well at school? Blow me down. You know who to blame. People who have escaped war torn regions and for whom English is a second language are struggling in class. Really? Must be the fault of that young teacher trying to control a class of tearaways.

Here’s a simple suggestion to get the ball rolling: remove all but the most essential paperwork from teachers’ inboxes and give them the space to devote the time they need to prepare lessons for their classes. Provide them with the physical and emotional support they need in the way of mentors. And, sorry Mr Birmingham, in this country, keep class sizes manageable.

A conga line of politicians from both sides of the political divide have pointed to increased funding over the years as though this in itself is the panacea. As Gonski and now the Grattan Institute have pointed out, it’s not the money it’s how it is spent. By providing resources on a needs based formula we will go a long way to getting it right.

To start on the right foot with this we need to once and for all put an end to the tired old private v public debate that chews up way too much air time and is preventing the kinds of advances being made that we desperately need.

The government doesn’t even need to increase funding – it just needs to identify where it is most needed and, as Grattan’s Peter Goss says, make that transparent. Only a tiny fraction of private schools – 1% – are seriously over funded. That could be redressed with the stroke of a pen and most of those schools would accept the cuts because, surprise, surprise, they are teachers at heart and most teachers support Gonski’s recommendations. Then cap the next 2% of private schools that have adequate funding and increase on a needs-based formula for those private schools that are struggling. Similarly, cap funding to the better resourced public schools and reallocate that funding as needs be.

It really is time we took the politics out of this debate. On both sides. And stop looking for scapegoats. If we want to lift our rankings on global educational ladders we all have to contribute.

After all, in the end these are all our children.