Friday, 31 January 2014

Curriculum Changes

During the recent school holidays ( when else would you announce it) the Commonwealth Government has decided to review the new national Curriculum ( called AusVels here in Victoria )
Minister Pyne has announced a review to be undertaken by 2 of our new curriculum's staunchest critics.( Kevin Donnellly and Ken Whiltshire) Pyne has previously criticised the curriculum as being too pro-labor. Unlike his cuts to funding, this review was part of their election platform.
Pyne believes that the current curriculum doesn't recognise the 'legacy of western civilisation and important events in Australia's history such as ANZAC Day.' Based on these odd comments I wonder when Pyne last visited a state school! ( Pyne and Peter Costello believe that our school history should incorporate more about the influence of conservative policy in the development of modern Australian society, especially the influence of the Menzies government but probably not their woeful performance in wartime or their complicity in propping up British and later American imperialism in Asia?)
Donnelly was a former chief of staff for a Liberal party frontbencher and arch conservative, Kevin Andrews.Whiltshire is a critic of the current curriculum calling it patchy.
According to Pyne the 'electorate endorsed a review, parents want it, many educational experts and teachers desire it' ( I'm not sure who he has been talking too. Education experts have been vociferous in the criticism of him and his review and I haven't met a parent or teacher yet who desires anything more than to see our new curriculum get off the ground and not be politicised!)
Donnelly has written many books on curriculum which I haven't read ( I don't know anyone who has read them? One of his books 'Why Our Schools Are Failing' was commissioned by the right- wing Menzies research. Centre and Malcolm Turnbull wrote the forward) but I have read some of his newspaper opinion pieces. He strongly advocates for resources to be directed at teaching young people 'Australia's western heritage and the Judeo- Christian tradition.'
Donnelly has also written that "parents believe the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are decidedly unnatural" he questions that students ought to learn about these relationships at school. ( Even though homophobia has been identified as a major cause of child suicide)  He seems to suggest that only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach sex- education ( I pity the principal that would have to ensure that! It would make for interesting conversations when timetables are written)
He believes that standards in numeracy and literacy are in decline and that's only due to 'political correctness' and 'left wing academics, teacher unions and sympathetic governments.'
Donnelly and Pyne are ardent advocates of the 'stand and deliver' approach to teaching. it is a remarkably old fashioned approach to pedagogy. Ken Boston told ABC radio that Donnelly doesn't engage with reasoned argument or evidence.... His publications are regarded as specious nonsense.   ( damning criticism that I tend to agree with) Donnelly said at a recent press conference that 'Many of the people who I will be talking too are friends I've known many years' ( This comes from someone who persistently complains about the influence of the 'education establishment' in his writing.  It seems he has his own cronies to consult with) Boston went on to say that 'Pyne launched the review to divert attention from inequality of opportunity in the education system.'
The timing of this review is odd ( is it a distraction from huge funding cuts? ) It has the potential to cause significant disruption to schools (We have only just completed our AusVELS implementation policy and reported to parents using AusVELS  for the first time last year.) The 'two man band' review and the suggestion that changes could be implemented at the start of the 2015 year demonstrate a remarkable lack of understanding as to how curriculum changes are implemented, especially at VCE level.
The grubby circumstances surrounding the establishment of this review seriously undermines it's credibility ( appointing 2 members of the Liberal Party fan club) even before it begins.There has been a fair bit of back peddling by Pyne ( Did he think this wouldn't be noticed during school holidays?) and he has been at pains to say that Donnelly and Wiltshire have been specifically asked to ensure that the curriculum is diverse and balanced.

I was up at school this morning for 5 hours ( 13 children will require a lot more planning and preparation time) and prepared iPads and learning tasks for the first half of the week. Yesterday grade 4-6 children wrote their 'what I did on the holidays' story with a twist by writing them as newspaper front pages.( refer to the photo)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

First full day back

Today was the first full day back for all students.It was good to see the kids back and also the new children on their first full day of school. The foundation children worked on their 'First day of school'booklet- as much a keepsake as anything.It will be interesting for them to revisit it later in the year to hopefully see how much they've progressed. It was worth reminding my prep student last year how little she knew or was able to do at the start of the year and how much she could do at the end of the year. I've sat my grade 6 and 4 girls on a table by themselves as a treat this year. I think they'll enjoy the independence and the grade 6 girls in particular will love the opportunity to step up and show some leadership in the school.
Below and above are some photos of the three foundation children working on their first Day of School booklet and playing with some of our construction materials.

School Funding

When the Gonski funding model was released by the previous government, Glen Park was eligible for an extra $90 000 is Commonwealth funding ( modest compared to some schools but lavish for us) we planned to use that funding (over 6 years) to employ a 0.2 teacher ( one day a week) either to provide LOTE or another specialist subject or to provide extra support for our early years students. Sadly, a change of government means an 'adjustment' to Gonski ( refer previous posts from last year about the gymnastics Minister Pyne performed trying to squirm out of his pre-election Gonski promises) funding. As a result increased state government funding will barely cover rising costs.Glen Park's SRP (Student Resource Package) has only increased marginally even though our enrolments have grown since 2013.
The commonwealth government has guaranteed a funding increase for private schools but not state schools. The government has committed to a funding increase of only $2.8 billion over 4 years instead of $10.3 billion over 6 years as was the original proposal. A shortfall of a staggering $7.5 billion. It should be noted that the new government promised to enact the Gonski reforms prior to the last election. The government also said it would provide funding without strings which means that state governments will be free to decide whether to increase their funding for state schools, substitute federal funding for their own funding or simply cut their funding.
 Minister Pyne will claim that states should decide whether they spend their money or not.(it should be noted that the state government has already significantly cut funding to state schools) State schools and schools like Glen Park are the big losers between these 2 governments. The cost of education has increased, with fees for private education NOT falling as previous government ministers said they would.( Howard and Kemp) A child being educated at a private school in Melbourne from kindergarten to year 12 will cost $500 000! ( For a state school education over 13 years it will cost $63 000) It would be interesting to see what it costs to send a student to a private and state school in Ballarat. Even more interesting to see what it would cost to send a child to a big school compared to a small rural school. Mmmmmm!
UNESCO recently released a report called "global learning crisis" which showed that 84% of the poorest year 8 students are achieving minimum benchmarks in maths compared with 96%  of the richest students. Just two thirds of indigenous students achieved the minimum benchmark in year 8 maths. Equity is the problem we need to address. Courageous governments should be investing in programs for poorer and disadvantaged students. (countries like Poland, France, Slovakia and others have gone down this road and seen their Pisa data improve compared to the US, UK and Australia.) Victorian government schools saw increased funding by 20% between 2002-03 and 2011-12 but non-government schools saw their funding jump 45% while state schools got a 13% increase.
The funding issue for state schools is an issue that will not go away. ( a worry for the state government in an election year) It is the responsibility of all state school teachers and the parents of children educated in state schools to make sure that it doesn't.
Meanwhile back at Glen Park we had our Foundation students (Peps) at school today for tests. (the English and Mathematics Online Interviews) All students will be back tomorrow. Everything is prepared for them. this afternoon I updated our Emergency Management plan and sent it off to Melbourne.
Below is a photo of one of our dry paddocks next door and our main classroom. We are in for another heat wave for the rest of the week. (It wouldn't be a proper 'back to school' week without some 40+ degree days!)

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Doctor Dolittle unit plan

Find a link HERE to a free literature unit for Doctor Dolittle a unit I'll be using with my grade 4 students this term

Back in the saddle

I've actually been back in the saddle for quite awhile but Australia Day or not I've been back at school and in the office attending to the red tape required (apparently) to run our schools smoothly. Over the last few days I finished paper work for our new school council, completed our AIP ( Annual Implementation Plan) , attended a Regional directors meeting and updated our School improvement Plan.Tomorrow I'll be updating the student's iPads and my tech guy, Steve will pop in to fine tune our computer network and complete updates as required.
It has been a remarkably newsworthy school holidays with the Commonwealth Government funding cuts being 'digested' and now another review of our new national curriculum ( I'll comment on these matters in a future post) This year is also a state government election year so it will be interesting to see if the current government ( which has a wafer thin majority) chooses to placate state education teachers or pick a fight. I guess they'll approach it according to what they think plays best with the electorate.
Below is a photo of the potato field next door being watered and our lilly's which are in flower.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Regional Director's meeting

Regional Directors Briefing
Ballarat Lodge
Regional Overview

Matt Dunkley the Regional Director introduced new members of the regional office.
Matt showed us some data which gave us a sense of the character of South West Region: 1.3 billion Dollar budget for our region,
25% of the States population and a very young population.
Children with disabilities more than our share - half of the state.
399 schools with 233,365 students with 90,000 in private schools
Student absenteeism of 15.8 days per students with our region the worst.
NAPLAN: we are below in reading in year 3 and 5.
698 children in 'out of home care'
students with disabilities are at high levels
900 children who left before year 12, 78% of our students stayed to year 12 which is low statewide at 86%
96% of students who started VCE finished but results were low.
83% of high performing students went to university and 25% of low performers went to university.
Regional growth for 2013-14 is 2% above the state average. The growth gap will get wider.
new approach for capital infrastructure to be announced in April- May? Matt conceded that we are struggling to deal with the challenges above and regional growth especially in the designated growth areas.

Workforce Planning

Brian Wheeler and Geoff Fleet (They talked at our network conference last year) discussed issues we need to keep on top of -
Monitoring staff who are absent without leave
Census Day on 28th February ( enrolment numbers will reflect our SRP - student resource package at the and of term 1)
Annual Reports by 31st March
Before 1st March is the cut of date for informing staff in writing that they are not performing effectively. Progression is effective on the 1st May. New Performance and Development process will be out early March .The new process will be in place from May 1st.
Recruitment Online to be updated in term 2.
Teachers need to be registered with the VIT.(Same with ES staff with their.Working with Children check)
Performance and development process requires principals to plan a calendar of professional learning opportunities.
October 1st is the cut off date for staff on family leave staff contact schools about their intentions.
Remember that graduates are on probation and it is a big decision to give ongoing employment to probationary teachers.
New proposals regarding additional powers for principals to be announced throughout the year.
All employment now has to be attached to a vacancy.

Lisa Black ( Bastow Institute)

Lisa talked about Bastow's leadership and management programs.The department has a strategy for building the capacity, quality and supply of Victorian government school leaders. Lisa talked about getting Bastow out into rural areas using regional facilities and she wants feedback from us about our needs.
They have 41 courses and programs running currently and over 12 000 people have accessed their facilities. Lisa promoted a number of courses, in particular the 'Principal Preparation' program for aspiring principals and the 'Strategic Management for Principals' program for new principals
Bastow uses the Perkin's Harvard Learning model.
Evaluations from principals have been very positive - 92%
She also promoted workshops and polycom twilight sessions. ( One session in May for creative and productive use of technology looks promising. No talk about the cost involved in accessing Bastow courses or the added burden in small schools of having to pay for CRTs and travel to Melbourne.)

Preparing for the 2014 school year ( Jeff Cooper, Lesley Hubble and Steve Boyle)

New eduGate site promises to be a new one stop principal centric site.( Book marked that back at school. it is about time they did this)
New suspension and expulsion guidelines introduced. More information to come.
Enrolment capacity meetings scheduled for this region, this year, regarding enrolment ceilings.
Change in direction regarding capital which will be tied to school growth.
Lesley discussed emergency management plans ( Timely, given recent bushfires in our region)
Regional based school reviewer training to start this year.

This meeting more so than any other regional meeting was very brief( 2 hours, although still open to being hijacked by vested interests such as Bastow ) and very 'corporate'. the data was interesting but it could have been emailed to us. I heard the HR stuff last year and the 'proof of the pudding' for Bastow is always price, availability and relevance.

Friday, 17 January 2014

They Found a Cave

Find a link HERE for my new TPT Literature unit plan for They Found A Cave.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


I thought I wouldn't be writing on the blog for another week or so but as I've already been up at school 5 of the last 8 days, I may as well start up again for 2014 now.
After nearly 2 weeks of no school at all I've been back re-organising the classroom, developing new resources for our new prep/foundation students ( 3 this year) and today, cleaning up inside and out. There is a lot of admin to do prior to the start of any school year and this year is no different. I'll be starting on that next week. Next Thursday I'll be attending a Regional Director's Meeting in Ballarat ( the first time one has been held during the holidays. It will be interesting to see how many principals turn up) This term ( as I've done at the start of every year) we will start with an Australian theme. Last year we read The Riddle of the Trumpalar and completed a history unit on the early colonisation of Australia. This year we will be studying Australian Islands ( Norfolk Island, Torres Strait islands and King Island. We will also look at two of Australia's Island neighbours, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.) My first serial will be Nan Chauncy's They Found a Cave. ( I'll post my unit plan for this book on TPT over the weekend.)
Below are some photos I took at work today which shows how dry it is at school and in the surrounding paddocks.We have a heat wave at the moment (+40 degree days over the last 4 days)