Sunday, 31 May 2015

Big backflip from the big Unis

Another headache for Pyne
From today's Sydney Morning Herald

Deregulating university fees is not essential for Australia to have a sustainable and high quality university sector, according to the new chairman of peak body Universities Australia, Barney Glover. 

Professor Glover, who is the University of Western Sydney vice-chancellor, said the university funding debate must focus on the "compelling case" for increased government investment – not just requiring students to pay more for a degree.

In an interview with Fairfax Media marking his arrival at Universities Australia, he also queried the effectiveness of Labor's proposal to write off HECS debts for 100,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

Universities Australia, which represents Australia's 39 universities, has strongly supported the Abbott government's push to allow universities to set their own undergraduate fees while opposing proposed cuts to course funding. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has vowed to reintroduce legislation later this year following two previous Senate defeats. 

Professor Glover said the government is unlikely to pass higher education reform in this term. He is already thinking ahead to the next election, where higher education is set to be a key policy battleground.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

New display

Today I changed displays from The Fall of the House of Usher to Jewel of the Seven Stars. I also started work on our Winter Glen Park Gazette which is a four page community newsletter I've been preparing twice a year ( sometimes more often) for the 250 odd households in our local area. Our local post person delivers them for us and I deliver another 100 or so to new houses probably during the holidays. I'll start putting it up on the school's website this year. It includes stories about the school and what we are doing, community news, community announcements and positive stories about state education.I've finished most of it but I'll see if any parents want stories or advertisements added to it. 

This afternoon I'll complete my unit for The Jewel of the Seven Stars and when I finish reading The Turn of the Screw this weekend ( It is only a short novel and shouldn't take long) I'll add that to my gothic horror unit. ( I think The Woman in Black might be too scary for them but I do have a unit for it on TPT which has sold well. I'm patiently waiting for Woman in Black 2 to get released in Australia!) 

The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse finished up in Ballarat yesterday. It will be back and will hopefully be able to cross- examine Cardinal Pell. The IBAC inquiry plods along. Soon they will start looking into the Ultranet disaster. How many more heads will roll? The Fiskville inquiry should also reconvene soon. 
I wrote to the Regional Director about my concerns for staff and students from Fiskville Primary ( which was in operation from 1933-92) and suggested that DET get involved in the inquiry and that they contact ex students and staff to offer support. ( I'll post my letter late next week) He promised to follow it up with the Legal unit and get back to me.

Four more weeks this term. I've decided to finish off the gothic horror unit over the next fortnight and start a gothic mystery unit for the last 2 weeks using The Moonstone and Woman in White- I have a bit of reading to do, it's been years since I read those books. I might just focus on one of them.There are also reports to write before the winter holidays. next term the grade 5s will start with a unit on The Hobbit. Early years students will start on fables and the grade 2-3 kids will be finishing up the fairy tales/folk tales unit.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Congratulations and good luck for your 400th game Dustin Fletcher

Go Bombers


It was a wet morning in Ballarat but fined up nicely
As I left school today I spied a kookaburra at the back of the school eyeing off supper. He let me get quite close and zoomed off with a huge worm in his beak.

Below is a funny graphic about the IBAC inquiry from the Age Education Facebook page. 41 000 views! Thanks folks.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Paddington's looking for a good home

The grade 5s have been hard at work today writing their horror tales for our 'Gentleman's magazine'
Meanwhile the Grade1-3 kids finished their Paddingtons.

Education Ministers meet

Concern over funding cuts effecting NSW schools

Overcrowded and vulnerable public schools in north and western Sydney could be hit hardest by budget cuts over the next decade as the federal government strips up to $9.6 billion from NSW schools.

The news came as NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli pleaded with his colleagues in Canberra to commit to the final two years of Gonski funding. South Australian and Victoria Education ministers intend to take the fight up to the Federal Government on this issue. Education Ministers are meeting with Pyne today to thrash out important national issues in education.

The figures are based on the Coalition's commitment to tie funding to inflation rather than the former Labor government's plan to increase funding between 3 per cent and 4.7 per cent per year. 

Labor's acting education Federal spokesman, Mark Butler, said the cuts over the course of a decade would affect every student in the classroom.

"This new data shows the true impact of the government's savage school cuts; quite simply, the students who need the most help will be those hardest hit," he said. "By walking away from the Gonski reforms, vulnerable students will miss out on the resources they need to catch up, and risk falling further behind in their education."

Abbott loses the plot

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made an embarrassing blunder, ridiculing his own government's investment in technology education. 

During question time on Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten asked the Prime Minister whether he would support coding being taught in every primary and secondary school. 

"Let's just understand exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has asked," the Prime Minister said. "He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously?" 

The Abbott government has already invested $3.5 million in the coding across the curriculum package. While the program does not make coding compulsory, it will develop a suite of resources that support and promote best practice teaching across different year levels, including primary schools.  Science and business leaders have long called for coding to be taught formally in schools.

Mr Abbott quickly tried to backtrack, telling question time, "We are doing it Madam Speaker, we are doing it". 

On Thursday Mr Abbott further distanced himself from his remarks from the previous day. But the fact remains- he doesn't know his party's own education policy.

Ridsdale's selective memory

Ridsdale still protecting his ‘mates’?


The judge presiding over an inquiry into child sexual abuse says it is "incredible" that notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale cannot remember crucial details surrounding the Catholic Church's knowledge of his offending against numerous children in regional Victoria.Ridsdale, an 81-year-old former priest, is back in the witness box for a second day of hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat. He told the commission he could not remember many details about his past, including his time in New South Wales.At one stage, Justice Peter McClellan expressed incredulity Ridsdale could not remember details of his offending, or which members of the Catholic clergy may have known about his abusive nature. "Isn't it incredible?" Justice McClellan put to Ridsdale, after Ridsdale said he couldn't "remember anything about Mortlake" in western Victoria, where he abused many children. Justice McClellan also expressed frustration about Ridsdale's inability to recall discussions with Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who moved Ridsdale around Western Victoria. At one point, Ridsdale also appeared to backtrack on whether he was in fear of losing his priesthood. "It's not a case of thinking you could've been," Justice McClellan told Ridsdale.  "You would've been absolutely terrified the Bishop was going to throw you out of the church."Ridsdale replied: "I can only tell you what I remember." 

Justice McClellan also raised the possibility Ridsdale may have been coached in what to say in evidence, asking him repeatedly who had visited him in prison in recent months, including on the March 17. "You appreciate there'll be a record of people who've been to see you in jail, don't you?" Justice McClellan put to Ridsdale. Ridsdale said he made regular phone calls to his sisters and had been visited by Father John McKinnon, of a western Victorian parish. He also backtracked on evidence that it was his barrister who approached Cardinal George Pell to support him in court during the 1990s.  Yesterday, Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell may not have known the nature of the child abuse charges against him, he did not know exactly what Cardinal Pell was going to say in his support, and that it was insignificant anyway. He told the royal commission he barely knew Cardinal Pell.  But today he acknowledged, on the face of evidence put to him by counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC, that he had approached Pell himself. "It looks like I must've done that, yes," said Ridsdale.  Earlier, Ridsdale responded with, "I don't know ... I can't recall", when asked by Ms Furness if Cardinal Pell ever spoke to Ridsdale about his offending, or whether Ridsdale ever told him about his problems with children. Ridsdale also acknowledged at least three members of the clergy, including Bishop Mulkearns, knew of his prolific offending at Mortlake He was also been asked about evidence given by a young female victim of Ridsdale's at St Alipius Primary School in the 1970s. Ridsdale accepted the girl's evidence, that another priest walked in on them while Ridsdale was assaulting her. But he refused to say who it was - "Miss, I have no idea about the priests who were with me in Ballarat East." Ridsdale did say he could recall Cardinal Pell was at the parish at the time. "I have to accept that fact that George Pell was there but I don't remember any of the others," he said.  Ridsdale was also asked about his offending in New South Wales, after he was moved there from Victoria because he had "certain sexual problems". He told the commission he abused children at several locations, including in his "underground house" at White Cliffs.  The inquiry heard one family who had been visiting Ridsdale for decades in prison did not know he had abused their own son.Today 29th claims were made that there were more than 12 paedophile priests in Ballarat. The Bishop of Ballarat rejected that.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Police reports

Today the kids finished police reports about the awful crimes committed in the Rue Morgue. 
We also made alternative DVD covers and newspaper stories. ( Photos below)

Public Education Day

It's Public Education Day today - a day for teachers and principals to celebrate the important work that you do to ensure every child and young person can access high-quality public education. 


Invented in 1987, the Microsoft presentation software PowerPoint is on more than 1 billion computers around the world. It is estimated that more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given every day. But as PowerPoint conquered the world, critics have piled on. And justifiably so. Its slides are oversimplified, and bullet points omit the complexities of nearly any issue. The slides are designed to skip the learning process, which — when it works — involves dialogue, eye-to-eye contact and discussions. Of course PowerPoint has merits — it can help businesses with their sales pitches or let teachers introduce technology into the classroom. (Kids love PowerPoint)  But instead of being used as a means for a dynamic engagement, it has become a poor substitute for longer, well-thought-out briefings and technical reports. It has become a crutch.

Go to today’s Sydney Morning Herald to see a …….PowerPoint telling you why you should not use powerPoint!


Hair today….gone tomorrow

Victoria's anti-corruption commission has heard that sacked Education Department executive Nino Napoli asked for several thousand dollars for hair treatment to be transferred from a company run by his cousins. The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption (IBAC) inquiry is investigating the misuse of thousands of dollars of Victorian Education Department money. Luigi Squillacioti was a director of three companies allegedly used by Mr Napoli to divert departmental funds.  Testifying at the hearing today, Mr Squillacioti was asked about a payment he made for Mr Napoli for hair. The counsel assisting, Ian Hill QC asked him "if 'hair' was code for something else?" "He wears a toupee, you must realise that," Mr Squillacioti replied.

Regional restructure- they have to get it right this time!

The Department is reviewing the existing regional structure and support services. It has produced a consultation paper - Strengthening DET regional relationships and support - to obtain feedback on a series of proposals for changing the current situation.


The Napthine Government largely dismantled the regional support infrastructure for schools as part of its $600 million cuts to school education. An estimated 600 central and regional staff positions were removed over the period 2011-2014. This severely diminished the Department's capacity to support and assist schools and had a particular impact on the level of services for students with high needs.


The AEU State of Our Schools survey (2014) found that over 90 per cent of principals reported that regional support for schools had deteriorated over the previous year. ( no surprise there!)Principals voiced common concerns about the remoteness of regions and their lack of understanding of how schools operate and the work that they do and the demands and pressures placed on them


The regional consultation paper acknowledges that the present four regions and their support services are not meeting the identified needs of schools. It identifies "core areas of expertise" that the regions should provide for schools: partnership building and brokerage across sectors (including facilitation of school networks); school improvement and management; curriculum, assessment and pedagogy; school operations; well-being and engagement (particularly for students who are vulnerable, have disabilities or exhibit challenging behavior).

My response to the consultation was sent months ago and posted on this blog. My Network is also preparing a response.


Ridsdale faces his victims

One of Australia's most notorious paedophiles, Gerald Ridsdale, was unable to control his sexual desires while in the seminary, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse in Ballarat has heard. Ridsdale was read out a long list of his offences over the years, involving many victims. He also told senior counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, he could no longer recall being abused himself as a child, despite making statements to that effect in the 1990s. Ridsdale said statements he made in 1994, about being abused by members of the clergy, including a Christian Brother when he was 11 or 12 years old, would have been correct at the time. He told the commission he felt bound to become a priest because of family expectations, but had problems controlling his sexual urges from the beginning. But said he "didn't confess the sexual offending against children" because he did not want to lose his priesthood.

He was asked if the church should have notified authorities of his own offending over the years. He replied: "What I've done and the damage that I've done ... I'd say, definitely yes". Ridsdale was quizzed at length about whether or not people were warned about his offending tendencies as he was moved from school to school around western Victoria, in the 1960s and 70s. When asked by Ms Furness if anyone was notified at Mildura, when he was relocated there from Ballarat, he answered "I don't know".Ridsdale did say he was warned by clergy in Ballarat before being moved to Mildura, "if this happens again you'll be off to the missions".(NOT off to the police! What were they thinking?)Ridsdale recalled abusing choir boys in Mildura, and later at Swan Hill, when he was again moved on.  "Yes ... there would probably be another couple [of victims] there," he told Ms Furness. Ridsdale also said he had little to do with George (Pell). Today Cardinal Pell offered to appear before the inquiry. Lets hope they take him up on his offer and cross-examine him robustly.

ABC broadcast van outside the courts at Ballarat this afternoon.

Where will the funding and PD come from?

The best way to engage high school students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) is through teachers, and have called for a greater focus on professional learning. Making these subjects compulsory in year 11-12 as Minister Pyne and Professor Ian Chubb AC, Australia’s Chief Scientist want is simplistic and masks the true problems with teaching these subjects – funding and expertise.

Students in secondary school are disengaged with mathematics as currently taught. (There is a strong emphasis on text book learning and often the subjects are taught by unqualified teachers. In fact according to Education matters magazine 40% of high school maths teachers are not fully qualified to teach mathematics (which means that, with the buying power of wealthy schools, the problem is far worse in socio-economically deprived areas, where in many schools there is not a single qualified maths teacher on the staff). Forced participation will simply exacerbate the problem of teacher shortage. So called elite private schools will cope easily with this initiative but state schools (facing cuts and no Gonski funding for the last 2 years of the initiative will struggle. Maybe that’s the idea?)

As a first step, we need to support secondary teachers, putting money and resources into professional development to build their capacity to teach in an engaging way (using iPads instead of text books would be a start), opening up students’ minds to the power and the possibilities of mathematics.

Teachers are the great change agents in secondary school. Their influence on student interest and passion for specific subjects, including science, is well documented. Our teachers must remain relevant and able to reflect the nature and issues of our changing world in their teaching and ultimately increase student engagement in science. A greater focus must be given to providing routine teacher professional learning. I have seen that myself with my own children’s response to maths at secondary school. 

Professor Ian Chubb AC, Australia’s Chief Scientist, has backed Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s push for compulsory maths and science in Australia’s high schools.

Pyne will use Friday’s Education Council Meeting to push for mandatory STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects for all Year 11 and 12 students.

Children should not be pushed into subjects that they have no interest in in year 11 and 12. It is too important for them to be wasting their time on subjects that are irrelevant to their life goals. My daughter is doing 2 portfolio subjects and Japanese in year 12 and the workload is enormous. She is doing maths but opted out of science (She did year 11 Chemistry and her teacher was disappointed that she dropped it) but it was a matter of work load and she made a very mature decision in the end. 

Maybe climate science should be made compulsory in year 11 or 12? I wonder if Pyne would support that?


Possum Magic

I got to school early and made a cup of coffee this morning and I heard this commotion of the roof. I went out to have a look around and I saw a little possum sitting on the railing in front of the toilets. I took a few ( bad ) photos but when I moved closer it ran off ( I think into the old shelter shed) I took some photos ( I graduated from the Loch Ness Monster school of photography- grainy and blurry) but you'll have to use your imagination a bit.
The grade 6 kids created projects on orang-utans ( From Murders in the Rue Morgue) and police reports on the crimes. I started The Picture of Dorian Gray today. Grade 2 and 3 are working on their Paddingtons which are looking forlornly out of our windows.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Murders in the Rue Morgue

Today we finished reading the Murders in the Rue Morgue. I wonder if Poe ever saw an orangutan?
It was certainly an ingenious mystery and you can see how the character of Dupin inspired Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Below are photos of our 'conflict wheels' and my grade 2 and 3 playing Paddington on the Play Station 2.( an old console 'donated' by my kids) It is hard to find good child friendly console games nowadays so I'm glad we have lots of games we purchased for my kids when they were younger that we can use now in school.

Pyne wants compulsory maths and science in years 11-12

Maths or science would become compulsory for all year 11 and 12 students under a plan being pushed by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

It comes as concerns continue to be raised about a declining number of students studying maths and science during their final years of high school.

Mr Pyne will call for the changes at an Education Council Meeting with state education ministers on Friday, pointing out that Australia's performance in international testing is slipping.

Results from the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment tests showed that Australian students' achievements in maths and science have slumped over the past decade.

The global report card revealed that Australian students' rankings fell from 15th to 19th in mathematics and 10th to 16th in science.

The government estimates that up to 75 per cent of the areas with fastest-growing jobs will require science, technology, engineering or maths skills - otherwise known as STEM skills.

A briefing prepared for the meeting acknowledges there is a significant shortage of STEM trained teachers, particularly in rural areas.

It also said there was a significant gender disparity in students who participated in STEM in school, post-secondary education and in the workforce, with females underrepresented.

Studying maths and science is not compulsory for Year 11 and 12 students in Victoria, NSW and the ACT. Queensland and South Australian students must take one maths subject in their final years of school.

The plan from Mr Pyne comes as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has sought to promote his own science and maths plan that includes free access to certain university degrees and the introduction of computer coding in primary and secondary schools.

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has repeatedly called for better science education in schools.

But in a strategy presented to the government last year, Professor Chubb stopped short of recommending that science and maths be made compulsory for Year 11 and 12 students, saying there was "no point" if the subjects weren't attractive.

"In a world utterly reliant on science, most will need at least a reasonable level of scientific understanding. ( from the Sydney Morning Herald )

Monday, 25 May 2015

Water color painting

Using Edgar Allan Poe's work as inspiration we completed some water Color paintings today.
One shows the entrance to the House of Usher using perspective ( which we practiced last year) and the other also uses perspective to show a sinister night sky with a withered tree in the foreground. 

Napoli re-hired on 'merit'

A sacked Education Department official at the centre of a corruption inquiry was previously re-hired "on merit" while he allegedly ripped off state schools.

In 2010 top departmental official Nino Napoli took advantage of the 54/11 superannuation scheme, which lets public sector employees resign, use their retirement funds and then reapply for their old jobs.

Napoli was sacked by the Department last month and stands accused of running a $2.5 million fraud ring, which funnelled money away from state schools between 2007 and 2014.

A large amount of the money went to companies owned by Napoli's relatives.

While it is unclear whether an official complaint had been made about Napoli in 2010, there were concerns about his conduct within the department.

He was rehired "on merit" by a selection panel, and returned to his initial role as director of school resources.

Under department rules, members of selection panels who are aware of complaints have to remove themselves from the hiring process.

The 54-11 scheme is available to a dwindling number of staff who joined the public service before 1988 and is accessed just before their 55th birthday.( There have been principals and Regional staff also re-hired after 'retiring' on 54-11)

A public servant told the inquiry last week that Napoli had "no interest in doing things the right way". Jenny Zahara, who was brought in to curb a deficit of up to $90 million run up in the division overseen by Napoli, said the disgraced education official was not a competent financial manager.

Other senior education department officials who retired to take advantage of the scheme, and were then re-hired include former regional directors John Allman, Wayne Craig and assistant regional director Julie Baker.

Mr Allman was sacked last month after he admitted he destroyed documents because he had something to hide from the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.  

Meanwhile, Mr Craig, who was named in an IBAC hearing by a witness as part of a department "inner circle" that made "quizzical" decisions about the allocation of department funds, is still advising schools on professional practice.

Mr Craig was invited to speak to staff at Eltham High School on the school's curriculum day on Friday about professional practice, pedagogy and student learning.

Eltham High School principal Vincent Sicari said IBAC revelations about Mr Craig, who works for McREL Australia, did not give him "any reason for concern".

"As far as I'm concerned, he is deemed in this country innocent until proven guilty. This curriculum day was planned way before any of that [the hearings] was taking place."

When asked if it was inappropriate for Mr Craig to speak at the school in the wake of the IBAC revelations, his lawyers stated he "not been accused of any wrongdoing".

"Mr Craig did not control the allotment of funds either individually or as part of any informal group," his lawyer said.

The IBAC hearings have focused on a scheme which involved education department officials placing taxpayer funds into so-called "banker schools" and then using the money to pay for allegedly corrupt contracts, wine, meals and lavish Christmas parties.

Money given to banker schools was meant to be spent on programs for schools in their network.
The public hearings continue this week.
From The Age Facebook Education site.

Pell visits Ballarat!

George Pell was in Ballarat in March

Cardinal George Pell visited his old school in the Ballarat area, which came as a surprise to the CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council. (I took the photo of the ribbons attached to St Pats gates yesterday)

Cardinal George Pell visited Ballarat and a school at the centre of clergy abuse claims just weeks before the royal commission hearings began in the town.

The Cardinal is pictured walking the halls of St Patrick's College  with the school's headmaster John Crowley in the April edition of the school's magazine The Shamrock. 

The development comes as public pressure builds on Australia's most senior Catholic cleric to front the commission to answer  explosive claims that he bribed a victim to remain silent about a notorious paedophile priest.

Cardinal Pell and St Patrick's College headmaster John Crowley in the April edition of the school magazine The Shamrock.

The March 28 visit to the school coincided with a "short vacation to Australia" for Cardinal Pell, a former St Patrick's student, and involved talks of "an exciting new initiative" to promote excellence at the school, The Shamrock reported.

"Cardinal Pell has long been a strong and passionate advocate of St Patrick's College and remains close friends with many of his former classmates from his time as a student here," Mr Crowley told The Shamrock. 
"It was a great thrill to be able to escort his Eminence around the College grounds and witness the way he interacted with staff and students alike."

As Cardinal Pell toured new facilities and met students, the Ballarat hearings into sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy members, who were able to continue offending for years allegedly under the protection of senior church figures, was less than two months away.

It had been seven years since the cardinal last visited St Patrick's and although he has not yet been called to appear in the Ballarat hearing, victims of clergy abuse have argued he has an ethical obligation to appear.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was among those who called for Cardinal Pell to return to Australia to respond to the bribery allegations made against him last week in person.

From today's ABC online.


Poe's mysterious death

We have just started reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue. I have bought additional copies of the book and the grade 5s have been reading along. I created a giant Poe portrait with the titles of many of his stories and poems listed. Today we read about Poe's mysterious death and filled out 'death certificates' for him. Some thought it may have been rabies, murder or his alcoholism. We will finish the story tomorrow and complete work on Poe by the end of the week. 
Our student teachers, Belle and Stacey completed follow-up tasks to their veggie planting last week. Next week they'll do some cooking. I finished reading Jewel of the Seven Stars on the weekend and will work on it this week. I need to hunt out my copy of The Turn of the Screw and hopefully read that. j have a DVD of the 'Innocents' somewhere. 

Medical students bullied

For those of us old enough to remember the 'Doctor in Charge' TV programs in the early 70s the notion of young doctors being tormented and bullied by omnipotent senior surgeons is nothing new. But that was a TV show forty years ago. Apparently it is still happening and worse.

Medical students bullied

Medical students are being bullied, harassed and belittled in Australian hospitals but they do not report the culprits for fear it will jeopardise their careers, new research suggests. There are also concerns that some doctors' use of fear and humiliation to teach medicine is contributing to high rates of anxiety, depression and burnout among students and undermining patient safety. A recent qualitative study of 18 medical students' experiences of bullying in Victorian hospitals found most had seen it or experienced it themselves.Some students believed it had caused clinical anxiety.There was also a culture of fear, humiliation and "tough love" in teaching. One student spoke of "ring of fire" tests of emotional strength and will power."You know your years as a junior doctor are supposed to be hell," one participant said.Another student described holding a patient's heart during a surgical procedure while a cardiologist fired impossible questions at her. Meanwhile, an anaesthetist was silently mouthing the answers in the background because he had seen the ritual before."The stakes were so high and she (the medical student) was so terrified," Ms Lambert said. "Students talk a lot about this sort of intellectual humiliation." In 2013, a beyondblue survey of 1800 medical students found 52 per cent were emotionally exhausted and burnt out; 7.5 per cent had anxiety; 9 per cent had high levels of psychological distress; 8 per cent had a current diagnosis of depression; and about one in five had considered suicide in the previous year .For all categories, these were much higher rates than the general population. A detailed story on these matters will go to air on Four Corners tonight.

Lifting the lid


Melbourne's 'prestigious' private school Scotch College has admitted for the first time that students were abused on school grounds.( Geelong Grammar has come out today 26/05/15 with a similar letter asking past students to speak up.) In a letter emailed to former students, Scotch said the school had received a handful of abuse claims, all of which had been resolved. The school said it took abuse allegations seriously and encouraged any victims to come forward. The school said it had offered compensation and a sincere apology to the ex-students involved and that no more cases were pending. Most cases relate to one teacher who worked at the school in the 1950s and 60s and has since died. For a long time private schools and privately run institutions have adopted a culture of secrecy, silence and cover-up . The current royal commission has compelled some (Xavier College was another to ‘come out’ recently) to face the truth of their past and acknowledge past horrific failures. Hopefully past students will be able to step forward and bring these matters ‘into the light.’

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Fighting extremists in our schools

A new federal government plan will see the fight against extremism taught directly to students and teachers in school classrooms. 

Government officials, Islamic leaders and counter-terror experts are working together to create lessons in how to identify potential jihadists.

The 'jihadi-watch' system could potentially be added to Australian schools curriculum, according to Murdoch newspapers.

It comes amid reports that Oliver Bridgeman, who only left high school last year, is attempting to return to Australia having flown to Syria to fight with a terror group affiliated to al-Qaeda. 

If the proposal was put in place, students and teachers would learn how certain changes in behaviour can be signs of extremism, including decreasing social interaction and disagreements with others based on ideological beliefs.

The number of Australians who have travelled to the Middle East to fight with ISIS and other extremists groups continues to increase, with Queensland teenager Oliver Bridgeman the latest to join. 

The problem is that many of these teens become 'radicalised' at home, via the Internet over as little as a three week period! It also opens up the possibility of students 'getting even' with their peers by dobbing them in. 

Read more: 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Water color painting

Today we finished the first of our water color paintings ( refer below) as well as their 'crypt floorplan' and the grade 2-3 kids finished off their Paddington suitcases. The kids are also taking home their Hairy Harry's (below) today.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Darrel Fraser under the microscope at IBAC

From the Age Facebook page- Former Victorian Education department deputy secretary Darrell Fraser tried to choke a former department executive director who blew the whistle on "unethical practices", the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was told.

Dr Stephen Brown, former executive director of literacy and numeracy and pegged as future department secretary, told the County Court on Wednesday that he instigated an internal audit of the banker school system, and left his job in 2010, after suspecting department officials were inappropriately using public school funds.

Dr Brown told IBAC he was invited to join Mr Fraser for lunch after announcing his departure to patch up their deteriorating relationship. 

They met at a hotel opposite St Andrews Place where Mr Fraser "launched out of his chair and tried to grab me by my throat," Dr Brown said. 

"So I grabbed his hand and pushed him away and said don't ever do that again."

Dr Brown raised his concerns with the department's head of audit in 2010, in relation to "completely unethical practice by a number of people in leadership at the time", and said he witnessed "constant behaviour that was inappropriate ... verging on bullying".

An "inner circle" comprising former regional director Ron Lake, former regional director Wayne Craig and sacked regional director John Allman, would meet to form an "agenda" before fortnightly meetings with other directors, Dr Brown said. 

Decisions made by the trio on the allocation of department funds at the meetings left "a number of us quizzical," said Dr Brown, who is now chief executive of the Queensland Education Leadership Institute.

He was also concerned that an administrative officer, who kept evidence of the banker school transactions locked in a draw, would regularly drive Mr Fraser to and from home, to regional events, and to lunch.

The employee also travelled with Mr Fraser to the US, which Dr Brown thought was "questionable".

Dr Brown described a severe lack of transparency and accountability around the banker school system. 

Department officials would go "bidding" for school funds at Treasury , after transferring excess government funds into banker schools to show they had spent their share. This would ensure that their budget was not slashed the following year, he said.

Another witness, the department's finance manager of the South-East region, Wayne Carmody, said he was aware that a $1 million school grant was given to Gus Napoli, who is the brother of Mr Napoli, and on leave from his role as principal of John Faulkner College. The school allegedly receiving the grant was not named.

Mr Carmody poured more than $36,000 into a non-banker school, Sale College, at Mr Napoli's request in 2010.

Of that fund, $26,400 was paid in allegedly false invoices addressed to companies owned by Mr Napoli's relatives, while department funds were also spent on expensive food and accommodation through the school. 

After learning of the IBAC investigation, Mr Napoli sent Mr Carmody brochures of department programs last year, with post-it notes backdated to years prior, in a bid to link the invoice paid by the school to the program.

The banker school system is now under investigation by IBAC, due to claims that more than $2.5 million of public funds were siphoned through banker schools to companies owned by the department's sacked financial officer Nino Napoli.

Forty Thousand Views!

Today we finished off work on The Fall of the House of Usher and I started reading The Pit and the Pendulum. We finished Y Charts, Acrostic poems and floor plans for the Usher family crypt. We also finished Usher family coat of arms on shields today and have a bit of work to finish tomorrow. The grade 2-3 kids started work on Paddington this week. This afternoon we started some painting for Poe books which should turn out well. As well as reading the Picture of Dorian Gray after this unit I've decided to read another gothic horror tale, Bram Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars. I'll read my battered old copy of it over the weekend.
( Hooray 40 000 views! thanks folks!)

Roald Dahl quiz from the Guardian

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Labor prevaricates

The underwhelming opposition leader and Shadow Treasurer (Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen) have responded to the 'election?' budget without committing to Gonski funding. Bowen's responded that that Labor was likely to pledge to increase health and education funding above the Coalition’s proposed levels, but the specifics would depend on talks with the states and territories “about their needs, going forward”.

“Health and education will be better off under a Labor government – no question about that,” he said.

“We will have a credible funding plan for health and education, but it would be irresponsible of me before going through and continuing that consultation program to go further than saying health and education will be better off under us.”

At the 2013 election, Labor committed to the full six years of funding to phase in the Gonski school reforms, the majority of which would be delivered in the final two years. The Coalition committed only to the first four years.

Bowen said Gonski “runs through our DNA” because the needs-based system would improve opportunity for children regardless of their background “so you can expect our commitment to the Gonski ethos to run very heavily through our policy development and our policy announcements”.

Wrote too soon....

I just found this floor plan from this site:
It looks quite good. I like how it includes the crypt.( This site was blocked by our filter at school)

Pop-up cards for Poe

Today we read 'A Cask of Amontillado' and tomorrow I'll start 'The Pit and the Pendulum'. 
Below is my effort at a coat of arms for the Usher family. ( The Latin quote says 'Family of the damned')
The kids will have there's finished tomorrow. They completed their pop-up cards and wrote some great  paragraphs to go with their pictures. We will write short 'horror stories' for our 1840s 'Gentleman's Magazine' next week. I wrote mine today. Below is our Vincent Price paper dolls and timelines. We might have a go at drawing floor plans of the house. I can't find any online, I'm surprised no one has drawn one before.

Found this on Tumblr

Timelines for the Fall of the House of Usher and Y Charts for the crypt scene.

Pyne on the nose in SA

Our Prime Minister is playing duplicitous games with Victorian infrastructure money and the Education Minister has said that the Premier of South Australia and his Treasurer are acting like a bikie gang!

S.A. Premier Jay Weatherill said he "made no apologies" for standing up for SA, and if that had caused "hurt feelings" among the Liberals, "so be it". He responded to Mr Pyne's comments by saying the Education Minister's federal seat of Sturt would be targeted by the State Government. "Here's how it works," Mr Weatherill said. "We're going to target Christopher Pyne in the next Federal Election and we're going to take his seat off him”. "And we're going to target every other one of those Liberal marginal seat MPs, because they have been pathetic in standing up and fighting for SA. "That will concentrate their minds and they might find their voice. All of a sudden you might start to see a few things happen here in SA. It is starting to feel a bit like they’re leaning towards a very early election.

Day 2 of the Child Abuse Royal Commission in Ballarat

Only day two! (Go to the Daily Mail site for a harrowing story about rampant sexual abuse at St Alipius School )

Read ABC online for some harrowing testimony with a lot more to come:

The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse will decide whether Cardinal George Pell ignored a victim's claim that a now-convicted sex offender was abusing children at St Patrick's College in Ballarat. A student of St Patrick's College approached then-Father Pell about the abuse by Brother Edward Dowlan in 1974. Father Pell replied "don't be ridiculous" and left the room. Most of the victims before the Royal Commission have been abused by Brother Dowlan, who was sentenced in March over 34 charges of indecent assault and gross indecency for abusing young boys between 1971 and 1985. The student, Timothy Green, now 53, recounted the story to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday.

Cardinal Pell has previously said he does not recall the conversation.(I wouldn’t think that would be an easy conversation to forget) The Commission's Chair, Justice Peter McClellan, told Peter Gray, SC, lawyer for all of the church witnesses for the hearing, that he should expect that Cardinal Pell will be asked to make a statement on the matter.  Cardinal Pell, who is not listed as a witness, would provide a statement when asked to do so, Mr Gray replied. While the commissioners did not usually make findings about whether someone was abused, Justice McClellan said that Mr Green's claims were in a "wholly different category" because they dealt with the church's response to allegations of child abuse. "I just think it's necessary that you...and those instructing you understand that I anticipate that we'll be asked to make findings about what he has to say," he said. When Mr Green finished his testimony, Justice McClellan told Mr Gray this was his opportunity to cross-examine him about his recollection of his conversation with Cardinal Pell.

Mr Gray declined to ask questions: "Cardinal Pell, as Mr Green has already noted in his statement has a different recollection; Mr Green has acknowledged that and that no doubt will be what the Cardinal says." When he was about 12, Mr Green said he saw Father Pell at the change rooms of the Eureka Swimming Pool. Father Pell, who was a member of St Patrick's college's alumni, also said mass their occasionally at the time. While Father Pell would not have known his name, Mr Green believed he would have known he was a St Patrick's student, as he had once thanked him on behalf of the school at a function. Father Pell greeted Mr Green and his friends and as he started to change. "I was saying something like 'we've got to do something about what's going on at St Pat's," he said. "Father Pell said 'yes what do you mean?' I said Brother Dowlan is touching little boys. Father Pell said 'don't be ridiculous' and walked out," Mr Green said.As Father Pell did not ask further questions before dismissing him, "his reaction gave me the impression that he knew about Brother Dowlan but couldn't or wouldn't do anything about it".


IBAC ( Vin Virtue gives evidence)

A former Melbourne school principal with 40 years' experience signed off on numerous invoices he knew were false, an anti-corruption hearing is told.The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is currently investigating corrupt spending within the department. Vin Virtue was a former principal at two schools in the eastern suburbs. Norwood Secondary College and Parkwood Secondary College were so-called "banker schools" which distributed funds to other needy schools. Mr Virtue gave evidence that he signed off on numerous invoices that he knew were false, but told the commission he did not know the money was directed to companies owned by members of Nino Napoli's family. (Vin Virtue was a Kennet appointed Regional Director in the 90s for the Central Highlands Region. He was demoted when the Bracks Government came to power.)

Mr Napoli was sacked from the department in April after IBAC revealed his role in allegedly setting up the banker schools which siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars. The commission was shown three invoices for a training video with the same invoice number, the same date, but three different amounts - totalling more than $20,000 - that were paid through Mr Virtue's school, despite the fact the work was not done for his school. Mr Virtue testified that while the invoices were made out to Norwood Secondary College he understood he was making payments on behalf of other schools. He believed the authority came from head office and that head office staff were responsible for ensuring the work paid for was done. "I understand ... processes in town [head office] allowed for payments to be authorised ... and people in town were checking," he told the hearing. "These were transactional issues. "But counsel assisting the commission, Ian Hill QC, challenged Mr Virtue's actions. "This is hardly at the level of acceptability that the public would demand of a principal," Mr Hill said. "No, I don't believe that to be right. "Mr Virtue was asked about a conversation he had last year with Mr Napoli. In it, Mr Napoli told him about an investigation into a former deputy secretary of the department, Jeff Rosewarne, and expressed concern about the invoices that had been paid through Norwood Secondary School. "He [Nino Napoli] said 'there's trouble in town [head office]'," Mr Virtue told the commission. "I wasn't concerned. "Mr Rosewarne left the education department in 2011. The IBAC hearings have heard he allegedly used department funds for parties, lunches, travel and made other inappropriate claims.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Bullying in DET

From ABC online 
(Also read more at the Age website: )

IBAC heard today about bullying at Victoria's Education Department, with senior executives claiming expensive lunches and dinners that broke the rules, a corruption inquiry has heard.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is currently investigating corrupt spending within the department.

Gail Hart, who oversaw purchasing processes in the department from 2001 to 2010, gave the inquiry details of constant clashes with her boss, Jeff Rosewarne, over contracts and tenders.

She said one contract being pushed by Mr Rosewarne was with technology firm Oracle to roll out IT programs in schools across the state.

She objected to Oracle's proposal which included $1 million of 'in-kind' services, including labour.

Ms Hart told the commission she had not experienced anything like it in her 32-year career.

"I have never known a company to offer $1 million in kind," she said.

She told the commission it would be inappropriate because it would have given Oracle an unfair advantage in future contracts.

The project later became known as Ultranet, which has since been abandoned by the department because of a amongst other things, massive cost blowouts.

Ms Hart also spoke of excessive personal expense claims submitted by Mr Rosewarne and other senior executives for inappropriate spending, including expensive lunches and dinners for staff involving alcohol which broke department rules.

There were people in senior roles across the organisation who flouted the rules.
Gail Hart, Former Education Department employee
"There were people in senior roles across the organisation who flouted the rules," Ms Hart told the commission.

She testified that Darrell Fraser, a senior executive, was asked to repay expenses for 15 to 20 expensive lunches and dinners.

Ms Hart said one claim in particular stood out, when Mr Fraser claimed expenses for a lunch in 2005 with then education minister Lynne Kosky and her family in direct contravention of department rules.

Ms Hart told the commission that in 2003, Mr Rosewarne accused her of being too strict and too pedantic in dealing with purchase requests and asked her to be more flexible in approving purchases.

"As time went on he became more powerful... it became more evident that he could do whatever he wanted," she said.

Mr Rosewarne left the department in 2011 and recently resigned from the Catholic Education Office.

When Ms Hart took over the oversight role in 2001 she replaced Nino Napoli, who was sacked from the department in April after IBAC revealed his role in allegedly setting up so-called banker schools which siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars.

She was moved out of that role by Mr Rosewarne in 2009 and she retired in 2013.

Executive charged home furniture as school printing services

Two other witnesses gave evidence about the lengths Mr Rosewarne went to hide transactions worth tens of thousands of dollars through false invoices and hidden payments.

Small businessman Richard Bell told the IBAC hearings that he had supplied office furniture to Mr Rosewarne's home, but sent an invoice for printing services worth almost $5,000 to Moonee Ponds West Primary School.

Peter Foley of Caravan Music told the commission he was paid more than $13,500 for putting on Christmas parties for Mr Rosewarne in 2008 and 2009 at the Oakleigh Bowling Club.
He sent invoices to two separate primary schools for "event for management services".

After he was paid in 2009 he told the commission he then forwarded $2,100 to Mr Rosewarne's wife, Anne, for catering.

The commission also heard details of how the banker schools worked via Vincent Virtue, the former principal of Parkwood Secondary School and Norwood Secondary School.
Both schools were used by Mr Napoli to make payments to businesses run by members of his family.

Ex Regional Director Vin Virtue gives evidence

The commission revealed evidence that during his time at Norwood Secondary School, from January 2007 to when he retired in March 2014, Mr Virtue approved payments worth almost $61,000 based on false invoices for printing, video presentations, administrative staff and other services that were never provided to his school.

The companies supplying the invoices were run by relatives of Mr Napoli.

Mr Virtue was asked why Mr Napoli followed him when he moved from Parkwood to Norwood in 2007.

"My only explanation is that at the time I understood why he (Nino Napoli) was making the payments through the school," he said.

"You were compliant and not asking any questions," counsel assisting Ian Hill, QC, said to Mr Virtue.

"I don't know," Mr Virtue replied.

The commission expects to hear evidence from Mr Napoli sometime in the coming weeks.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Poe continued

We read The Tell Tall Heart this morning but spent time finishing off our House of Usher tasks. It is a gloomy, misty day today, perfect for reading Edgar Allan Poe. 
This morning the kids finished their Vincent Price paper doll( I found it on Tumblr) and their coffins and House of Usher model ( I bought them from a craft store and they painted them and added cellophane- flames , smoke and a zig zag crack. We also added a LED tea light for the inside.)
We also opened our flower presses. They worked very well.
I also took a photo of our garden bed that is ready for the winter. 

Royal Commission starts

A notorious paedophile priest abused every boy at a regional Victorian school between the age of 10 and 16, the child sex abuse inquiry has heard.The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is holding long-awaited public hearings in Ballarat to examine historical abuse suffered by children at a number of schools in the regional centre, at the hands of Catholic clergy and other members of the Church. Some of Australia's most notorious abusers were part of a paedophile ring operating in and around Ballarat for years, including Gerald Ridsdale, Robert Best and Edward Dowlan. In her opening address, Senior Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness SC, outlined the extent of Ridsdale's offending. She said the inquiry would hear evidence of Ridsdale's time at the Mortlake parish during the early 1980s, including comments from the priest who took over from Ridsdale. "Father Dennehy told the Catholic church's insurance investigator that he thought every male child between the ages of 10 years and 16 years, who were at the school, had been molested by Ridsdale," she said. Ms Furness said Ridsdale was a "prolific offender" during his time at Mortlake. "There will be evidence that his behaviour around boys was no secret," she said.

Ballarat was one of the most horrific sites of abuse and it was revealed that in 1971 all male teachers and the chaplain at the St Alipius primary school were molesting children. Ms Furness said the royal commission would also hear from a survivor who had a photograph of his grade four class at St Alipius in the 1970s. She said he would tell the hearing, of the 33 boys pictured, 12 had committed suicide. In his opening address, inquiry chairman Justice Peter McClellan urged those attending the hearing to remember the victims and survivors. "The evidence in the first stage of this hearing will include the personal stories of a number of survivors," Justice McClellan said. "That evidence will describe the gross violations of individuals by ordained members of the Catholic Church. "As you are aware, the royal commission has revealed many shocking stories of the betrayal of children.  "As we listen to the evidence in this hearing we should all reflect on the impact for those who have suffered in the Ballarat region, and the thousands of others who have suffered throughout Australia."

Justice McClellan said the inquiry would also hear from perpetrators but not directly about the circumstances of their offending. "That has already been dealt with by the courts," Justice McClellan said of Ridsdale's crimes.  "However, the evidence has an important part to play in the royal commission coming to understand both the way ordained members of the Catholic Church became abusers and how the Church responded to allegations of their abuse." Ridsdale will give evidence, possibly next week, via video link from prison. The hearing will also consider why Ridsdale was able to move around to so many locations in Victoria, without being reported to police. He offended and re-offended in Horsham, Inglewood, Camperdown, Ballarat North, Mildura, Swan Hill, Warrnambool, Ballarat East, Apollo Bay, Edenhope, Melbourne and Mortlake. Ridsdale is serving an eight-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 30 child sex offences in 2014. It is the fourth time he has been jailed after three previous stints in prison for more than 100 other offences. "I appreciate that the evidence of perpetrators may be confronting for some people, in particular survivors," Justice McClellan said. "However, without the evidence of perpetrators the true story of the response of the Church in Ballarat may never be completely revealed. "I am aware that there may be different and strongly held views about the conduct of ordained people and the appropriateness of the response of leaders in the Church in the Ballarat Diocese. "Many want this hearing. There are others who doubt the need for a public hearing. Some may not want the story told. "Unless the truth is revealed and known publicly then [the] prospect of effective healing for survivors and institutions is diminished."

Today's hearing is packed with survivors and their supporters and a spill over court was set up in an adjacent building to cope with demand. Justice McClellan said support would be on hand for survivors as the hearing progressed. The Catholic Church also warned of a gruelling few weeks of evidence.  Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird released a statement urging people across the region to support one another throughout the hearing. He will also give evidence, as will Brother Peter Clinch, the Province Leader of the Christian Brothers Oceania Province. Former Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who is accused of moving perpetrators and destroying documents to avoid detection, is not on the witness list. He did not appear before the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse, citing ill health. Ms Furness said 17 abuse victims would give evidence and the commission would also hear from a psychiatrist about the post-traumatic effects of child abuse on survivors. Some victims will give evidence anonymously, under a pseudonym. "Many witnesses are expected to say that they were reluctant to disclose their abuse to anyone," Ms Furness said. "They are expected to give reasons such as feelings of shame, guilt, disgust, fear of punishment, fear of judgment and a belief that they would be disbelieved."

The hearing continues.