Thursday, 30 April 2015

Jules Verne

As promised my Jules Verne unit featuring (Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days)
Go to TPT (link below) to download this 100+ page unit for $5.00

More IBAC dirty linen

A former senior Education Department official is accused of urging his son to lie to investigators about doing work for a primary school for work he never completed, a corruption hearing has revealed.

The secretly recorded conversation was played today during a public hearing on alleged corruption in the school system.

The former official, Nino Napoli, has been sacked amid the investigation by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

The recordings captured Mr Napoli in his home coaching his son, Raffaele Napoli, about what to say to investigators.

Raffaele Napoli received payments of $120,000 between 2004 and 2011 from a company called On the Ball Personnel, which sent invoices to several schools. But Raffaele Napoli previously said his father controlled his bank account.

In one audio recording both Nino Napoli and former Essendon North Primary school principal Michael Giulieri can be heard attempting to coach Raffaele on what to say to investigators.

Mr Giulieri and Nino Napoli can be heard telling Raffaele to say that he met with Mr Giulieri to discuss work although those meetings never took place.

Raffaele Napoli told the hearing he had made it clear he didn't want to lie and that he was still angry with his father.

"What my dad was trying to portray was bullshit," he said.

In another recording Raffaele accuses his father of being "delusional" and tells him "don't get angry at me, dad, 'cause I've done nothing wrong".

Nino Napoli is accused of siphoning $2.5 million in public funds that went to him and his associates.

Mr Giulieri is still employed at another state primary school but is currently on leave for an unrelated matter. The Education Department has confirmed Mr Giulieri won't be returning to departmental work until the corruption allegations are investigated fully.

Nino Napoli's son Matthew also appeared as a witness today. He told the hearing he had worked at Maribyrnong Secondary College in the sports department in 2010. 


Plants sprouting

Our experiments are starting to 'do things' 
the Jamie Oliver greenhouses are working well and the Hairy Harry's are starting to sprout. the celery experiment didn't work. I've got some food coloring tonight So we can do it again. I don't think marbling ink works as well. the kids explored the school grounds to complete some 'investigating flowers'tasks.


We also finished up our Time Machine work today with missing persons posters, sequencing and 'What would you have taken into the future' task. we had some interesting conversations about what would work and what wouldn't. 

The Class Size debate rolls on

From the latest Education Matters Magazine

 Class size research has a protracted and controversial history, especially in the USA, England, and Australia. Is there evidence that pupils taught in smaller classes do better in academic and other non-cognitive outcomes than pupils in larger classes?

Many policymakers and political commentators suggest that funding isn’t the problem in Australian education. They claim that much of Australia’s increased expenditure on education in the last 20 to 30 years has been ‘wasted’ on efforts to reduce class sizes, arguing that this extra funding does not lead to better academic results.

Most of this policy advice and commentary relies heavily on Jensen’s report (2010) on Australian education and teacher quality. Jensen suggests that the majority of studies around the world have shown that class size reductions do not significantly improve student outcomes, and that the funds should have been redirected toward enhancing teacher quality. Although the results of individual studies are always questionable, a range of peer reviewed studies on the effects of small classes have now emerged, and they throw into doubt this advice.

In Australia commentators and politicians alike point to high performing systems such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, where large class sizes are the norm, as evidence that reducing class sizes is a futile exercise. But research indicates that students from Confucian heritage cultures are socialised in ways that make them amenable to work in large classes, so that management problems are minimal and teachers can focus on meaningful learning using whole-class methods. An educational system forms a working whole, each component interacting with all other components. Isolating any one component (such as class size) and transplanting it into a different system shows a deep misunderstanding of how educational systems work.

Reducing class size to increase student achievement is an approach that has been tried, debated, and analysed for many decades. The premise seems logical: with fewer students to teach, teachers should achieve better academic outcomes for all students. For those who choose private education for their children in Australia, it is often cited as a major consideration. However, for policymakers there are three major questions to answer with the adoption of any change or new program: how effective will the change be; how much will it cost; and what are the problems of implementation, including the support or opposition of the stakeholders – in this case principals, teachers and parents – and those who implement it.

An accurate determination of actual class sizes in Australia is problematic. Moreover, different States and territories collect data on class sizes at different times of the year; students and teachers come and go; and teaching groups change. Student-teacher ratios (STRs) are calculated by dividing the full-time equivalent students on a school’s roll by the full-time equivalent number of qualified teachers. STRs are different from class sizes because they also count teachers who are not at the ‘chalk-face’, such as library, welfare, careers teachers and principals. All the enrolled students are divided by all the teachers in the school, yet it should not be assumed that teachers entered into the ratio are teaching for all of the time. Past research has too often conflated STR with class size.

In 2010 Australia’s average public primary class size (not STR) was 23.2 – above the OECD average of 21.3 and EU average of 20. This compares to 15 in Korea; 17 in Germany and the Russian Federation; 19 in Finland; 20 in the UK, Poland and Luxembourg; and 26 in India (OECD 2013). Class sizes are also smaller in both the Independent and Catholic sectors in Australia.

Policy makers, politicians and media too often discuss data about class sizes and their impact on student learning without an evidence base, relying largely on second-hand research or anecdotes. Too frequently, advocates for particular positions select their evidence, conveniently ignoring research that raises questions about their favoured position.

Advocates for and against class-size reduction have engaged in or been accused of engaging in such cherry picking for as long as there has been research on this issue (Whitehurst and Chingos 2011, 3).

In a review of over 120 research papers from 1979 to 2013 I found only two authors who supported the notion that smaller class sizes do not produce better outcomes to justify the expenditure on them. Hanushek and Hoxby seem to stand alone in their findings that class size reduction has little or no impact on student academic outcomes – yet they are disproportionately referred to for evidence here in Australia. In a 2011 court case in the USA about school funding the Judge commented on Hanusheck’s evidence submitted to that trial:

Dr. Hanushek’s analysis that there is not much relationship in Colorado between spending and achievement contradicts testimony and documentary evidence from dozens of well-respected educators in the State, defies logics, and is statistically flawed… The data underlying Dr. Hanushek’s opinions [are] questionable or problematic and I found him to lack credibility.

Many esteemed education researchers have refuted the work of Hanushek and Hoxby. They point out that Hanushek (and Jensen) do not examine class size directly, but rather through a proxy measure intended to represent it (student-teacher ratio). While teacher quality (and the quality of teacher preparation) is at the heart of the effectiveness of almost any reform, conflating STR with class size reduction fails to focus on the mechanisms thought to be at work in smaller classes.

Hanushek has not responded well to such criticisms; rather, he has found reasons to quarrel with their details and to continue publishing reviews, based on methods that others find questionable, claiming that the level of school funding and the things those funds can buy, such as smaller classes, have few discernible effects. Political conservatives have extolled his conclusions, complimented his efforts, and asked him to testify in various forums where class-size issues are debated. And in return, Hanushek has embedded his conclusion about the lack of class-size effects in a broader endorsement of a conservative educational agenda.

The highly selective nature of the evidence supporting current policy advice to both state and federal ministers of education in Australia is based on flawed research. The class size debate should now be more about weighing up the cost-benefit of class size reductions (CSR), and how best to achieve the desired outcomes of improved academic achievement for all children, regardless of their background. Further analysis of the cost-benefit of targeted CSR is therefore essential.

Many creditable and peer reviewed research projects have concluded that:

  • The extra gains found for long-term attendance in small classes (in the early grades) continued to appear when students were returned to standard classes in the upper grades;
  • Extra gains associated with long-term attendance in small classes (in the early grades) appeared not only for tests of measured achievement, but also for other measures of success in education;
  • The greater gains experienced by students from groups that are traditionally disadvantaged in education were retained when those students were returned to standard classes;
  • When it is planned thoughtfully and funded adequately, long-term exposure to small classes in the early grades generates substantial advantages for students, and those extra gains are greater the longer students are exposed to those classes;
  • Extra gains from small classes in the early grades are larger when class size is reduced to fewer than 20 students; and,
  • Evidence for the possible advantages of small classes in the upper grades and high school is so far inconclusive.

Reducing class sizes or adding extra teachers requires a new approach to teaching – without adequate professional development, the innovative 21st century teaching spaces provided as part of the Building the Education Revolution can do more harm than good. As Hattie explains, the problem is that teachers in smaller classes are adopting the same teaching methods as in their previously larger classes. Many of the more powerful influences Hattie identifies clearly show that teachers would be even more effective with smaller classes.

Class size reduction and equity

It is evident that for certain groups of children (indigenous, low SES and culturally, linguistically and economically disenfranchised (CLED) students in the early years, and children with learning and behavioural difficulties), smaller class sizes and increased STRs are very beneficial. This holds for student learning outcomes, behavioural modification, and teacher satisfaction. As Lamb, Teese and Polesel have shown, with the increasing residualisation of public schools caused by the flight of cultural capital – itself a result of years of federal and state neglect and artificial choice programs promoting private schools – public schools have a larger proportion of problematic learners, disadvantaged and refugee families, and students at risk of school failure, but have larger class sizes than ever before in comparison with most private schools.

CSR is about equity – any policy debate must start with the basic inequality of schooling, and aim to ameliorate the damage that poverty, violence, inadequate child care and other factors do to our children’s learning outcomes. It must look at the strategies, pedagogies and practices that could mediate those differences, and ‘the investments that we are willing to make as a society to put success in reach of all children’ (Graue et al. 2005, 31).

If CSR is introduced in the current policy context of high-stakes testing, together with the inadequate funding highlighted by the Gonski Review, we can expect minimal achievement outcomes. Additional resources to support class size reduction acknowledge the deep-seated inequities at the core of Australian schooling, but would not be enough.

CSR is part of a system of reforms and problems that need to be considered in a coordinated manner, in relation to both the practice and research of schooling. It necessitates implementation that ‘connects the utilisation of the resources for class size reduction with all curricular, administrative, and institutional efforts that shape teaching and learning’ (Graue et al. 2005, 32).

Recommendations for policy change

The strongest hypothesis about why small classes work concerns students’ classroom behaviour. Evidence is mounting that students in small classes are more engaged in learning activities, and exhibit less disruptive behaviour.

The following policy recommendations and principles are therefore suggested:

  • Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. Any attempts to increase class sizes will harm student outcomes (Schanzenbach 2014);
  • The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s academic results in the short run, but also their long-term success at school and beyond. Money saved by not decreasing class sizes may result in substantial social and educational costs in the future (Schanzenbach 2014);
  • The impact of class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children;
  • While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall in closing the widening gap between the lowest and highest achievers, even in tight budgetary conditions;
  • Professional development for all staff involved will increase their knowledge of, and preparedness to use, techniques that are particularly suited to small class environments;
  • Targeting of specific classes and specific year levels for CSR;
  • Further research into the exact cost of targeted CSR for CLED communities and other disadvantaged learners; and,
  • Further research into the specific teacher pedagogies that are more appropriate for smaller classes.

Schools should look at ways to produce the class size effect by lowering class size specifically for certain periods of instruction in numeracy and literacy classes. If class size could be reduced just for these lessons, using a combination of redeployment of existing staff with the addition of special literacy and numeracy teachers, it would be theoretically possible to have small classes (average of 15 pupils) with a much lower additional cost. While this approach is used by some principals to deliver smaller class sizes in literacy and numeracy, it is not yet a general practice for disadvantaged groups and learners with higher needs. Targeted class size reductions combined with other proven methods of improving achievement would be a more cost-effective means of increasing student achievement.

about the USA, a researcher concludes:

Many of the individuals who are driving education policy in this country… sent their own children to abundantly financed private schools where class sizes were 16 or less, and yet continue to insist that resources, equitable funding, and class size don’t matter — when all the evidence points to the contrary(Haimson, 2009).

Might the same might be said of Australia?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Time Machine

We have just finished reading The Lost World ( apparently Conan Doyle wrote another story featuring the larger than life Professor Challenger which I'd love to get hold of) and we'll start work on that on Friday. Today we have been finishing work on The Time Machine.
I have a unit for The Time Machine (as part of a unit with The Invisible Man) and The Lost World on TPT.

Today the kids finished Y Charts based on the story and lift the flap pictures inspired by the 1960 ( and best) version of the book.

We also had a hunt around the school ground for fungi ( below) and moss.

Autumn seems to be nearly over here in Ballarat. I'll post photos when I can while it lasts.

PS- Just had 38000 views!!!

We all like a drop of wine but this is ridiculous

I was staggered to hear that John Allman has been implicated in the IBAC investigation to the extent where he is no longer working for DET. ( I had a bit to do with John in 2010 during the development of the 'doomed' Rural Education Framework. he spoke fondly about his own experiences teaching in the bush. ) 

Mr Allman, who was until today the department's director for south-east Victoria, told the inquiry he destroyed documents detailing financial transactions with the Silverton Primary School at Noble Park, and disposed of the ripped documents into a bin at a Bunnings store.

Mr Allman said he destroyed the documents after eight IBAC officers visited him with a warrant to search his home.

The story below was in the Age just prior to this being announced. Defrauding DET certainly is thirsty work.

The principal of the Chandler Park Primary School in Keysborough has been suspended after Victoria's anti-corruption commission revealed he authorised $30,000 worth of wine purchases from his wine merchant son on behalf of allegedly corrupt public servants.

The suspension of Peter Paul follows the Education Department's announcement this week that it had sacked Nino Napoli, a senior financial official responsible for overseeing $4 billion in funds, after the Independent Broad-based Anti Corruption Commission identified him as the central figure in an alleged multi-million-dollar corruption scandal.

Mr Napoli's friend and former Education Department acting secretary Jeff Rosewarne on Tuesday admitted he used the Chandler Park Primary School to purchase large amounts of wine on his behalf in order to hide it from others in the department and avoid media scrutiny through Freedom of Information laws.

Admitting that Mr Paul was also his friend, Mr Rosewarne was confronted with a series of allegedly false invoices showing that in November 2009 he had $7000 worth of Italian wines delivered at his home by Mr Paul's son, Matthew Paul, owner of Trembath & Taylor wine merchants.

Two dozen bottles of wine were also delivered to Mr Napoli's house at that time.

Mr Rosewarne said the wine was for official functions and that after storing it in his garage he took it to his Treasury Place office.

IBAC has uncovered Chandler Primary School as having paid nearly $30,000 to Trembath & Taylor between 2007 and 2014.

Mr Rosewarne said he requested that the primary school be reimbursed for the wine. But he could not say whether it actually had been reimbursed.

A department spokesman said this morning that Mr Paul had been suspended pending further investigation. The school is being led by his assistant principal.

Mr Rosewarne left the Education Department in 2011 and is employed by the Catholic Education Office. He is on leave from that job at present.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

800 Million Dollars!

Story from today's Age
I thought that the previous government had 'only' misappropriated $50 million of Gonski money to pay for teacher wage increases and other non Gonski payments. Apparently it was worse than first thought. Refer to the story below:

More than $800 million of state money earmarked for Victorian schools has disappeared into a black hole, the Andrews government has claimed.

A week before the state budget, Education Minister James Merlino has accused the former Coalition government of diverting $800 million of funding set aside under the Gonski school funding agreement for the 2016 and 2017 school years into prison beds and "their own priorities".

"When you have an immediate black hole of $800 million plus election commitments that we will deliver on, that's our first priority," Mr Merlino said. "Dealing with the mess of the former Liberal government is our first priority."

The government will announce on Tuesday that former premier Steve Bracks will head a review examining school funding.

The state opposition has previously strenuously denied short-changing state schools when in government.

Mr Merlino said finding the funds to fill the shortfall in the May 5 budget would be a challenge.

Asked if he was hosing down expectations for funding in the state budget for the final two years of the Gonski agreement, Mr Merlino said he did not want to "pre-empt the budget".

Mr Merlino said he was "absolutely committed to Gonski" but did not explicitly say he would fund the final two years of the agreement.

The government also did not provide any documents backing its claims of a school funding black hole.

The government, which pledged to make Victoria the "Education State" before the election, has suffered a backlash from the Australian Education Union and other public education advocates over school funding. They have been criticised over new laws that link private school funding to 25 per cent of that given to state schools and urged to commit to the final two years of the Gonski agreement.

He said that schools had not seen "one cent" of Gonski funding. That agreement was supposed to increase funding per student and provide additional support for those with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mr Merlino said the former state government had spent the the money "on their own priorities".

"They spent it on prison beds ... they certainly didn't spend it where it was intended and where they agreed to spend it, and that is in education," he said.

Earlier this year Opposition Leader Matthew Guy denied claims the Coalition had short-changed schools by $50 million in the 2014 and 2015 school years. "I'm very proud to say that when we departed office late last year the Coalition was putting more money into education than any other government in Victoria's history," he said in February.

Mr Bracks will examine how government funds are allocated and used. He will also investigate how the Student Resource Package, funding allocation per student for schools, is calculated and distributed.

It will also look at Commonwealth contributions to school funding and how to provide principals and school communities with "clarity and transparency" about funding.

The government said it had commissioned the review after its own investigation revealed a "black hole" of more than $800 million in missing state Gonski funding for the 2016 and 2017 school years. In February, Mr Merlino said the same investigation had unearthed a $53 million black hole in Gonski funding for the 2014 and 2015 school years.

Under the original six-year agreement signed by the former state and federal governments, Victoria committed to contributing $5.4 billion in Gonski money with the Commonwealth to pour in $6.8 billion.

Mr Bracks said the review would consult widely, and would look for a "way forward" so that schools could receive the full level of Gonski funding.

Although he had only received a preliminary briefing, Mr Bracks said the $800 million shortfall across the 2016 and 2017 school years could explain why schools felt they had not received additional funding.


Scholarships in elite private schools

The Australian Council for Educational Research has tracked the VCE outcomes of more than 2000 recipients of year 7 scholarships to independent schools and found, perhaps not surprisingly, that scholarship recipients are "the brightest of the bright".

ACER's analysis of the scholarship holders' VCE results from 2004 to 2013 showed they received a median score of 98.1 in their final years of school, putting them in the top 1.9 per cent of all students. 

But the results highlight the lack of clarity surrounding independent school scholarships, with few schools revealing how many scholarships are offered each year, at what rate – and who pays for them. 

To read the full story read the Age Education Facebook site.

Why did the mushroom go to the party? Because he was a Fungi!

Grade 2 and 3 students lifted off their fungi to check out their amazing spore patterns.
We had a set of grandparents visit the school today and they got a great personal tour by their granddaughter and seemed impressed.

IBAC update

After grilling Nino Napoli yesterday the IBAC inquiry turned toward the other star witness Mr Rosewarne

Mr Napoli stands accused of running a potential $2.5 million fraud ring to benefit his relatives and himself over seven years. The cash came from money meant to go to state schools. 

Emails show Mr Rosewarne was involved in contracts being awarded to companies owned by relatives of Mr Napoli, who is a registered tax agent.

Mr Rosewarne has denied any knowledge of Mr Napoli's family being paid large sums by schools and the department during his tenure as a top official, which ended in 2011. But Rosewarne has also been grilled about his own use of public funds.

Ian Hill, QC, on Tuesday morning produced documents showing how Mr Rosewarne spent more than $5000 on two coffee machines at Harvey Norman in 2009 by using a school credit card and bogus invoices prepared by his friend, former Brighton Primary School principal Gordon Pratt.

Mr Rosewarne said Mr Pratt offered to pay for the two machines. One machine was used in his office and another went to his home.

He said he chose not to use his corporate card to avoid others in the department knowing and creating a climate where "everyone would want one".

Mr Pratt was on Monday revealed as a participant in a false invoicing scam orchestrated by Mr Rosewarne in 2008 whereby Brighton Primary School paid $4600 invoice for "decor" to hide the cost of the party.

Mr Rosewarne said the coffee machines were returned to the school at a later date. He could not recall if the school was reimbursed for the cost of the machines.

IBAC also produced emails and invoices showing Mr Rosewarne hid the cost of furniture he claimed was for his home office by having a school provide an invoice to a furniture supply for "printing" services.

Mr Rosewarne admitted the owner of the furniture company was a longstanding friend of his, and also known to Mr Napoli.

The Moonee Ponds West Primary School was initially to have paid for Mr Rosewarne's furniture. But it did not do so after its principal, Tony Hill, left. So the invoice was sent to Chandler Park Primary School, which was led by a friend of Mr Rosewarne, Peter Paul. The school paid the invoice.

Mr Rosewarne admitted that no one in the department knew of or approved his purchase of home furniture until 2013, two years after he left. Mr Hill accused Mr Rosewarne of hiding his spending by "subterfuge".  

The hearing continues.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Flower pressing

Last week I popped into Stems Florist in Mair Street and they very kindly gave me a terrific bunch of flowers that we could use for pressing and dissecting.
below are photos of the kids at work

Our student teachers started today. Belle took the kids outside for some games between showers and they had a great time.
The grade 2 and 3 students also painted their porcelain pots and did a great job.

IBAC inquiry

The IBAC inquiry ( refer previous posts) starts today and the Age published this back ground story: 

Victoria's anti-corruption agency will on Monday outline explosive details of how millions of dollars meant to benefit students has been stolen or fraudulently misused by a ring of allegedly crooked senior public servants and school leaders.

In what will be one of the state's biggest public corruption hearings in decades, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission is expected to publicly question up to 60 past and present Education Department officials and school principals over the next two months.

If IBAC finds corrupt conduct, recommendations will be made for criminal charges to be laid against past and present senior officials and principals. Several former top public servants have engaged prominent criminal lawyers to represent them.

With the hearings beginning in the Country Court on Monday morning, Fairfax Media can reveal fresh probity concerns within the Victorian school sector emerged last week with allegations a principal at a Melbourne primary school has been caught inappropriately using school funds and rigging a school council election to oust his critics.


A formal complaint about the matter is understood to have been lodged with IBAC.

As revealed by Fairfax Media in December, the IBAC hearings will focus on a multimillion-dollar funding program called "banker schools", which was used to pay for unauthorised travel, car leases and alcohol instead of student programs.

This program involved senior bureaucrats placing huge sums of money with select schools on the basis the money would then be distributed to others schools nearby. A confidential 2011 audit found $28 million deposited in banker schools which it described as being part of a "shadow financial system".

Some of the money was later withdrawn by senior officials to be used for allegedly improper purposes and with no accountability.

Fairfax Media has been told by senior former department officials that a small circle of top public servants used an old-fashioned paper notebook to keep track of where money had been covertly placed.

It is understood some school principals were complicit in the program and that some schools not even known to the department as formal "banker schools" were also used to hide money.

Counsel assisting the IBAC Ian Hill, QC, is expected to today provide a broad outline of the commission's long-running investigation – codenamed Operation Ord – into alleged corruption within the Education Department and schools.

IBAC will ask witnesses to explain how schools were chosen to be part of the program, the circumstances under which principals and business managers were directed by senior bureaucrats to pay invoices for goods or services that did not benefit the school, and the generation of invoices.

The public hearings will also cover "the existence of any familial relationship or other personal or business connection between, on the one hand, businesses or entities (or their directors and officers) that issued or purported to issue the banker school invoices or supply goods or services", according to an IBAC statement last month.

The hearings will also deal with any attempts to cover-up the allegedly corrupt conduct.

Fairfax Media has identified three private companies which have received valuable contracts with the Education Department or schools in recent years whose directors are close friends with a senior department manager who is on extended leave.

The Education Department has sent a briefing to staff on the IBAC hearings and warned them on their obligation to comply with the commission's "confidentiality notice".

The department has tried to assure staff that just because they had received a summons from IBAC, they should not assume they suspected of corrupt behaviour.

But it also warned it may launch disciplinary action against individuals as a result of the inquiry.

By the afternoon they had some dirt ( very interesting and I think the tip of the iceberg) and printed this story:

Victorian secondary colleges and primary schools were allegedly involved in a corrupt scheme involving the diversion of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to companies or figures linked to senior education official Nino Napoli.

The claims were made on Monday morning as part of an opening statement by Ian Hill QC, the counsel assisting the first major public inquiry by the Independent Broad Based Anti Corruption Commission.

Mr Hill told the inquiry that between 2007 and 2014, more than $1.5 million in tax payer funds were shifted from accounts controlled by so-called 'banker schools' to companies controlled by relatives of Mr Napoli.

Mr Hill said the movement of the money involved "potentially improper and corrupt payments made out of public funds".


The primary schools named as having held accounts from which the money was improperly transferred include Chandler Park, Kings Park, Norwood and Moonee Ponds West.

The secondary schools allegedly involved included John Fawkner College and Sale College.

Mr Hill said Mr Napoli had allegedly directed the scheme, which involved the corrupt movement of at least $2.5 million to companies linked to his relatives. Payments were then allegedly made back to Mr Napoli by these companies.

IBAC investigators believe a far higher amount than $2.5 million may have been allegedly corruptly siphoned off by Mr Napoli and his associates.

"The state schools holding public money … paid out those monies on the presentation of invoices which in many cases were demonstrably false," Mr Hill said.

Since 1992, Mr Napoli was a high ranking departmental official and recently controlled a budget of $4 billion, or over a third of the entire departmental funding pool.

He was suspended during the IBAC probe - which began in late 2013 - and is understood to have been sacked in the last few days.

Mr Hill said that Mr Napoli had "unfettered discretion" to spend $7 million annually in departmental funds.

Mr Hill said there was evidence that some education officials, including department employees and principals, may be culpable in the corrupt scheme's operation.

Some may have turned a blind-eye or failed to ensure proper scrutiny and governance.

Mr Hill said the apparent operation of the corrupt scheme for many years revealed and "exceptional and concerning" failure within the education department that denied schools "scarce resources." 

The first witness to be called is former top department official Jeff Rosewarne. The hearings are expected to run for six weeks and call up to 60 witnesses.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

The future role of Regions

The Department of Education (DET Victoria) has asked teachers and principals to make a submissions and provide feedback on the possible roles and areas of expertise in our regional offices. They want to know how the department can revitalise its interactions with schools which desperately need revitalising.
They have created a consultation paper called 'Stregthening DET regional services and support' and have asked for submissions from education professionals.
Below is my submission.

Regional Services Consultation
T. Shaw April 2015


When I first started teaching in the Central Highlands Region in 1987 the Regional Office was regarded as a valuable resource for teachers. Consultants were freely available to support teachers and school programs and initiatives and the regional office itself had resources available for teachers to freely access. The election of the Kennett Government saw the dramatic downsizing of Regional Offices and the end to School Support Centres. School Charters and the Curriculum Standards Framework was introduced. Roles formerly performed by regional staff were devolved to schools. The notion of ‘self-governing schools was introduced. Schools were placed in clusters according to their geographical location and given the responsibility of managing support staff. Rivalries rather than co-operation and competitiveness between government schools were encouraged. Over 300 government schools were closed through the Quality Provision process.

The election of the Brack’s Government saw the expansion of the regions and the management of school support personnel was once again centralised at a regional level. Attempts were made to genuinely consult with principals and school communities and the widespread punitive closure of schools was stopped. My region was re-branded the Grampians Region and schools were aggregated into networks and given a Regional Network Leader (RNL). Their role was to foster co-operation between schools, to identify shared trends across the network (such as poor results in NAPLAN writing tests beyond year 3 and 5) and maximise support for affordable professional learning to address shared needs. A National Curriculum (AusVELS and a standardised student report system was adopted.)  

The election of the Bailleau/Napthine governments saw the merging of regions (from 9 to 4 incorporating urban and non-urban regions). There was a widespread reduction in services as these larger regions actually meant a reduction in support staff available to schools rather than an increase. The networks and RNLs were abandoned and schools were left to the own devises. Support for small and remote schools declined culminating in a scathing report by the Auditor General into the increasing gap between urban and rural educational opportunities and achievements for students in government schools (May 2013). Schools did adapt to the laisse fair approach to support and oversight from a regional level with many schools seeing it as an opportunity to grow and legitimise previously informal collegiate groups and shared interest networks to meet shared needs. The last four years has seen Gonski reforms stalled nationally, a flawed and failed performance and development regime mishandled, the abandoning of Ultranet,  TAFE emasculated and promised increases in funding ‘misappropriated’(In its final year 450 million of Gonski funding did not reach the schools that it was promised too). The government was perceived as a ‘do nothing’ government and the region I’m currently part of (South Western Victoria) has been mostly invisible and ineffective for the last four years. The Andrew’s Government was elected in 2014 with the promise to make Victoria the education state.


Regions need to be de-merged. Not necessarily to their former boundaries but they are not working at present and will not if they don’t become more relevant and approachable to their client schools. A region based in Footscray cannot and does not respond adequately to the needs of schools in Ballarat and Horsham.

The Region’s main role should be to manage and ensure the equal distribution of specialist services to schools. Children are presenting at mainstream government schools with disabilities and impairments which effect their learning and schools need the support of trained, experienced staff to support students with physical and emotional disabilities. It is also essential that rural and remote schools receive equal access to this essential support.

Regions have a responsibility to facilitate the engagement of principals and teachers in developing their understanding of modern trends and innovations in education. One significant impact of the merging of Grampians Region was that we lost access to the excellent locally managed and resourced Grampians Teacher Education Network (GTEN) which provided cost effective professional learning opportunities using local and ‘imported’ experts meeting the needs of teachers and principals in our region.

Regions have a role in addressing important issues effecting recognised cohorts of schools. Every data set used by the Auditor General in his report entitled ‘Access to Education for Rural Students’ May 2014, found that there is a persistent gap in achievement and outcomes between rural and metropolitan students’. This gap has existed for some time but was exacerbated over the last four years. As a region encompassing large sections of rural Victoria it would have been reasonable to expect some action to be taken to ‘close the gap’ but nothing was and is being done.

A transparent and accountable state education system is the benchmark for a diverse education system that aims to meet the educational needs of a prosperous Victoria. The system of checks and balances we have, helps to eliminate the excesses and hyperbole of the private education sector often more interested in manufactured tradition and status (Refer Mowbray College and others) than an equitable education for all. The region has a role in ensuring the accountability of principals and School Councils to guarantee that the needs of the student (as a member of a school community and as an individual) is the number one priority of every school. Regions should oversee a sustainable and respected performance and development culture and should actively promote our system in the same way the Catholic Education Office promotes there’s.


An effective Regional Office should not act simply as a cypher for Central Office or be so large that it is too slow to react to the needs of the schools in its care. I believe that our existing unwieldy regional structure should be dismantled and replaced with smaller regions. Those regions in rural Victoria need to be led by a dynamic executive that  has the imagination, organisational skills and enthusiasm to tackle the significant challenges facing rural schools and educators in 21st century Victoria. 
Unit download to TPT during the week
I know I promised my Jules Verne unit would be avaialable on TPT this weekend but with writing this submission and attending 2 ANZAC Day ceremonies yesterday and 3 hours up at work I haven't had the time. So I will finalise it and post it during the week.


Homeschool funding

From today's Age

The thousands of parents who homeschool their children should get financial incentives to cover their education costs, according to one of Victoria's new crossbenchers.

Democratic Labour Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins has urged the Andrews government to provide taxpayer-funded vouchers to help the growing number of homeschooling families pay for stationery, curriculum resources, computers and internet access.

Dr Carling-Jenkins, who educated her son for several years during primary school, told Fairfax Media that homeschooling effectively saves money for the state, but ends up being a financial burden for parents who often give up work to teach their children.

"Homeschooling parents relieve the burden on the state, particularly when they're taking children with disabilities out of the school system," said the former social worker and academic, now one of five crossbenchers the government must court to pass legislation.
From today's Age

"It's becoming increasingly popular, yet there's no financial incentives and no financial support for parents. No parent complains about it, but that is one of the main reasons why children go back into school – when parents just can't sustain it. Some incentive towards education supplies would be extremely welcome."

Department of Education figures show that there were 3582 Victorian children being schooled at home last year, up from 2278 in 2009. All parents must register their child before they commence homeschooling and must cover the eight key learning areas taught in the classroom – including English, maths, and science – but have flexibility in how they deliver the curriculum.

In Victoria, the children who are currently taught at home represent about 0.4 per cent of the student population, yet the practice remains a divisive issue for parents and teachers.

Opponents of homeschooling cite concerns about the standard of education children receive without a qualified teacher; the lack of socialisation some children might face; and the potential for religious extremism to be imposed. Proponents say it gives children the chance to excel by catering to their individual needs, particularly if a child has a learning disability or is being bullied at school.

"Parents do it because they love their children and they know what's best for them." Dr Carling-Jenkins said. "My son had a different learning style and he just excelled with homeschooling as opposed to the stress that primary school put on him."

The DLP is one of four micro parties represented in state parliament, together with the Shooters and Fishers, the Sex Party and Vote 1 Local Jobs. All now have powerful positions in the upper house, where the Andrews government holds only 14 out of 40 seats. This means that in order to pass legislation without the Coalition's support, the government must secure at least another seven votes from the five Greens and five crossbenchers.

Dr Carling-Jenkins said she would continue to lobby Premier Daniel Andrews to give parents "a fair go".

The U.S. is the 'home of home schooling' Do they fund homeschool parents?

Bedtime reading

Parents have long been urged to read bedtime stories to their little ones to help them grow into voracious readers.

And now for the first time, scientists have found medical proof that the old advice really does work.

A study has found that reading to toddlers provides a 'meaningful, measurable' boost to their brain development. 

Professional bodies encourage parents to read to their children from birth to foster early learning and create connections in the brain that promote language development. But until now, direct evidence of the effects on the brain were never proven. 

Study author Dr John Hutton, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre in the US, said the pre-school years are 'critical' in brain development.

He added: 'We are excited to show, for the first time, that reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child's brain processes stories and may help predict reading success.

'Of particular importance are brain areas supporting mental imagery, helping the child 'see the story' beyond the pictures, affirming the invaluable role of imagination.' 

Dr Hutton and his colleagues studied 19 healthy children aged three to five, 37 per cent of whom were from low-income families.

Their parents answered questions on how often or not they read to their children, what variety of books they choose and how they chat and play with them.

The children then underwent MRI scans, which measured brain activity while they were listening to age-appropriate stories via headphones. 

The results showed that the children who were read to more often at home were advanced in areas of the brain supporting semantic processing – which is the ability to extract meaning from language. These areas are critical for speech and reading.

Dr Hutton said that even taking differences in household budget into account, the links between toddlers being read to at home and increased brain activity remained 'robust'. 

The results are due to be presented today at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego.

The findings could encourage parents to tackle Britain's reading crisis – a study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last September found that each year, 130,000 UK children leave school with a sub-standard reading level.

It also showed just 25 per cent of Britons with a degree scored highly in a literacy test, compared with 37 per cent in Japan and Finland and 36 per cent in Holland.

I wonder what Australia's data looks like?

Read more: 

Can you finish the literary quote quiz from BuzzFeed.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Standing or sitting?

Researchers have previously called for school desks to be banned to combat obesity.

Now a new study says getting rid of sitting desks could also help children pay more attention in class.

The research found that when students learned on their feet, they increased their focus by 12 per cent. 

This equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time, the study found.

The findings were based on a study of almost 300 children in second through fourth grade who were studied over the course of a school year.

Engagement was measured by actions like answering a question, raising a hand, or participating in active discussion and off-task behaviours like talking out of turn.

Standing desks, also known as stand-biased desks, are raised desks that have stools nearby, which let students sit or stand during class at their discretion.

Mark Benden, associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, originally became interested in the desks as a way to reduce childhood obesity.

Professor Benden's previous studies have shown the desks can help reduce obesity - with students at standing desks burning 15 per cent more calories than students at traditional desks.

Professor Benden says he wasn't surprised at the results of his latest study, given that previous research has shown that physical activity, even at low levels, may have beneficial effects on cognitive ability.

Read more: