Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Rural school issues paper

Today I've been up at school preparing an issues paper on rural school disadvantage for Jaala Pulford ( Agriculture Minister) I entitled it 'Rural Education- Action now'. I wrote about the implications for rural communities and Victoria in general if the disparity between opportunities and performance of students in rural Victoria compared to metropolitan Victoria isn't addressed. 
I stressed the fact that nothing was done over the last 4 years and that the initial and modest attempts to act were scrapped in 2010. To give Jaala an historical perspective I also included discussion papers that I prepared for previous Education Ministers. ( I will post this document on the school website next term. Below is Jaala's electoral office in Ballarat.) Thanks to Tim from her office who I talked to this afternoon.

Monday, 29 June 2015

IBAC- round one

The Education Department is cracking down on corruption in its ranks, and has vowed to overhaul its structure, culture and financial system in response to a damning corruption inquiry.

It comes as the state's corruption-fighting body announced that its investigation into serious corruption in the Education Department was far from over, with fresh information helping investigators "form a more complete picture".

It is expected that the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission will now turn its attention to the failed Ultranet IT project for schools, which was dumped in 2013 after costs blew out to $180 million.(Hopefully they will also take a close link at the regions, overseas travel and links to the 'education industry')

"This investigation is not over. So anyone with information or concerns can still contact us," IBAC Acting CEO John Lynch said.  

Department Secretary Gill Callister announced on Tuesday that the banker school model - which was used by corrupt officials to rort millions of dollars of education funds- would be abolished.

Ms Callister, who was giving evidence on the final day of IBAC's public hearings on Tuesday, said she would also tighten up rules for school grants to "ensure all public education funds are fully accounted for".

As part of the crackdown, executives will be rotated through the department to "break down unhealthy networks".

They will lose their jobs if they do not demonstrate integrity in their work.

Principals have already been hit with overseas travel bans, and will only be granted permission to travel interstate and overseas in "exceptional circumstances".( I'd like some more information about why this is necessary.)

Under new temporary travel restrictions, staff will only be allowed to travel overseas if they are accompanying students, representing ministers or the secretary, it has a "direct economic benefit to Victoria", or if the state's reputation is at risk.

As the fallout from the inquiry continues to reverberate through schools, Ms Callister promised tougher gift and hospitality rules.

"These actions send a very clear message - I will not tolerate corruption, misconduct or dishonest behaviour in this department," Ms Callister said.

The investigation has centred on the department's former finance manager, Nino Napoli, the alleged architect of a rort that diverted more than $2.5 million away from schools. The rort involved moving huge sums of money to so-called banker schools, where it could be misused without scrutiny.

The scam benefited Mr Napoli's relatives and former acting secretary Jeff Rosewarne. Some principals reaped the benefits of interest accrued on the banker school accounts.

The inquiry has claimed 11 scalps, with the department sacking three officials, including Mr Napoli, and suspending eight staff.

To prevent a similar rort recurring, the department said it would create a new integrity division that will investigate misconduct.

Training will also be increased for school business managers and school councils, while data analytics will be used more regularly to probe school finances. Procurement rules will be strengthened to cut red tape, provide better value to schools and improve spending oversight, Ms Callister said. 

Ms Callister has a huge task and has vowed to create a culture in the department where "integrity and accountability are the norm".

"I am determined to make sure public education funding is 100 per cent focused on improving outcomes for children." 

She said wide-ranging audits and reviews by the department - separate from IBAC's investigation - had uncovered "behaviours, cultures and practices that are clearly out of step with community expectations".

Education Minister James Merlino has asked the Public Sector Commissioner to oversee and scrutinise the department's actions.  

And what's more......


High cost of student transport

From the Age Education Facebook page

Disadvantaged Victorian school students are falling even further behind by skipping school because they can't afford myki top-ups and have no money to pay the fines incurred for riding without a valid travel card, according to a new study.

The joint project between Victoria University and the Sunshine Youth Legal Centre arrived at the findings after noticing more than half the centre's young clients were seeking help to pay for transport fines or applying for valid myki cards with pre-loaded funds.

Su Robertson, Director of Clinical Programs at the VU College of Law and Justice, says she encounters many vulnerable children and young adults - already facing myriad problems - were deliberately missing school because they don't have enough money to pay for public transport.

The Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, said she would review the study and ask Public Transport Victoria for its advice on the recommendations.

"Public transport plays a key role in social inclusion, particularly for young people," Ms Allan said.

"Current concession fares significantly reduce the cost of travelling for students, but we recognise that, for the most disadvantaged, even a small fare can have a big impact."

Currently, students who are over 16 years of age must apply for a concession card to receive a discount on fares.

The fine for travelling without a valid myki ticket for under-18s is $74 with no discounts available for on-the-spot payments.

Ms Robertson called for a rethink of public transport charges for school children, citing the United Kingdom as a model to replicate, where all children travelling to and from school by public transport did so for free.

She went as far to call the matter a "human rights issue."

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Cleaning up the TAFE mess

From today's Age

A group of unscrupulous training providers selling substandard courses will have their contracts terminated under a state government crackdown, after revelations of serious misconduct and non-compliance across the sector.

Minister for Training and Skills Steve Herbert will pump $9 million into the Education Department to start a sector-wide audit blitz, with a core group of training providers with "known performance issues" topping the government's hit list.

Nearly 10 per cent of providers were found to have high levels of risk in a damning government-commissioned review of Victoria's vocational education and training system, to be released on Monday.

Serious problems with the quality of training and delivery, rorting, exploitative marketing practices and lax auditing that has allowed misconduct to fester were uncovered in the report, by Deloitte.The Opposition ( who previously attempted to dismantle TAFE) are in denial about the seriousness of this matter of course.....which is why they are now in opposition.

Extracts from the old Register

Sadly I didn't find any original old photos prior to the 1960s but I did find the tattered old Register ( started in 1908, I'm not sure where the one from 1870 went?) and I found a few Cartledges in there. I took some copies and will mail them off.

Email received from an ex-student's family member

I have just discovered the website for your school and got so excited when I realized  that the 1936 class photo you have online appears to be identical to a very bad photocopy given to me many years ago by one of my Aunts.  I have been told that the little girl standing in the back row, on the left, in the dark jumper with the stripes, is my mother Ivy Jean Cartledge. Her sister Annetta June is the little girl kneeling in front of her. Having misplaced the letter that my Aunt sent me, I cannot be certain, but think there may also be one of her brothers in the photo as well. My grandparents lived in Glen Park until the late 1940’s in a quaint little cottage on a corner block, that I am told, still stands today. My Aunt told me how my Nan used to walk into Ballarat once a week to do the shopping, and then she’d walk back home again carrying it all!  I am fairly certain that at least 9 of their 11 children attended the school between the years of around 1927/28 and the late 1940’s when the family then moved into Ballarat.
I know it is really cheeky of me, but, is there any chance that I could obtain a larger copy of the image you have online? 
Warmest wishes,
Lyn Wilkinson.

I'll pop up to school and have a look for Lyn but sadly we don't have many original historic photos and certainly from that far back. I'll see what we have got but I scanned bad photocopies taken when there was a 'back to' in the early 1990s. Pity they didn't have a scanner back then.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

TAFE dilemma in NSW

From a story in the Sydney Morning Herald

The NSW Baird government's overhaul of TAFE was supposed to make the venerable institution modernise by competing with private training colleges.

Instead, school leavers have voted with their feet following fee hikes, dropping out of any vocational training in droves.

TAFE  registered 22,000 fewer enrolments for the most useful, nationally recognised trade qualifications, or Certificate III courses, this year.

The 10 TAFE colleges had to compete for student enrolments (and government funding) with 330 private training colleges by cutting teachers and classes.

But the Budget papers show many of these missing TAFE students didn't go private when the new training market "Smart and Skilled" started on January 1.

There are 30,000 fewer students enrolled in government-funded vocational training of any sort in NSW this year. It appears these teens are sitting at home instead.

This is bad news for youth unemployment rates, and a NSW economy facing a shortage of tradespeople.

Raising fees by more than $500 for 40 per cent of TAFE students is a stumbling block.

Hiking them by thousands of dollars excludes students from low-income households, with a natural aversion to taking on debt such as the Commonwealth's VET Fee loan scheme. The scheme doesn't cover Certificate III courses anyway.

Deterring mature-aged students from retraining in another field by removing government subsidies for a second TAFE course, removes a pipeline of potential workers in skills shortage areas.

Tightening eligibility for fee exemptions for the disabled and Indigenous students leads to drop outs.

Claims disabled students wouldn't be disadvantaged have proven false, with the Budget papers showing 2400 fewer disabled students enrolled in vocational training, and 1900 fewer Indigenous enrolments.

Conservative government's were warned that this would happen yet they continue to do it. Similar disturbing data came out of Victoria and the new government has a job on its hands to rectify the mess that was made and apparently continues to be made in NSW.

Auditor General to probe private school use of taxpayers funds

Private schools in Victoria face a sweeping investigation into their finances, with the auditor-general raising concerns there is not enough accountability in the way taxpayer funds are being spent.

Four months after the Andrews government introduced new laws giving greater funding certainty to non-government schools, Auditor-General John Doyle has launched a probe into whether state grants are being used "economically, efficiently, and effectively" in the Catholic and independent systems.

Recently the Auditor General:
❑ Revealed the government is unlikely to provide him with long-awaited "follow-the-dollar powers" until after he completes his audit of the East West Link, which may mean a second audit is required once the legislation is in place to ensure Victorians get "the full story" about the controversial road proposal.

❑ Criticised the education department for poor record keeping, the growing gap between city and country schools and consistently failing to follow many of the recommendations he has made in previous reports.(Still nothing is being done about this)

❑  Warned resources were becoming stretched in his office, given the number of audits under way and the growing focus on government spending on infrastructure and information communications technology, but the government had rejected a request for additional funding in the May state budget.

The review of state grants to non-government schools is likely to be tabled by the end of the year. Mr Doyle said more than $650 million in recurrent funding was provided to the private system each year, but how the money was used was not routinely examined by the education department.

"There is quite limited accountability coming back the other way as to what the money was used for, how it was used, and whether it was effective," he told The Sunday Age today

The Auditor-General's latest annual report points out that six private schools closed in 2012-13 after experiencing financial difficulties, finding it put "additional pressure on the government school system to accommodate these students and placed these students at a considerable disadvantage".

He said given non-government schools were receiving public funds, the parliament had a right to know how it was being spent.( hear hear!)

Mr Doyle's comments come six months after the Andrews government faced a backlash ( and rightly so ) over new laws guaranteeing private schools would consistently receive at least 25 per cent of the funding given to public schools.

While the government defended the changes, teachers, parents and education officials accused Labor of betraying the principles of the Gonski funding reforms, which recommended a "sector-blind" system in which funding is allocated to students based on need.

Asked about the audit, Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said the review "presents us with an opportunity to show we are already subject to the highest levels of accountability in the country and that we fully comply with our funding agreements with both the Commonwealth and state governments".(Yeah sure....tell that to those who sent their kids to Mowbray, Acacia College, St.Anthony's and others interstate who have closed under a cloud over the last few years.Pity the commonwealth Auditor General doesn't do the same.)

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively

Teaching ideas for the award winning The Ghost of Thomas Kempe.
Features loads of teaching ideas, printables and samples of student work. Great book and great value at $3.00.
Go to TPT to download: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Ghost-of-Thomas-Kempe-1925780


Finally we've finished our Gothic Horror unit and I'm ready to put my Edgar Allan Poe (Tales of Terror) unit on TPT. This unit not only includes a Blooms literature unit plan for three of Poe's greatest tales (The Murder in the ru Morgue, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum) but also contains teaching ideas for Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, Bram Stoker's The Jewel of the Seven Stars and also Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This TPT download (for a mere $5.00) is 125 pages of great teaching ideas, loads of easy to use printables, photos of student work samples (like everything I put on TPT it has been used by me in a classroom and works. If it doesn't work I don't include it or don't post it) and lots of higher order thinking and creative ideas.

Go to TPT to download: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Tales-of-Terror-Gothic-Horror-unit-featuring-Edgar-Allan-Poe-1925747

Gonski story on tonight's 7:30 Report

TLThe Gonski education reforms were supposed to make sure every child had an equal start regardless of where they lived or their family circumstances. The last Federal Labor government promised it, but didn't say where all the money would come from to pay for it. And the current government promised funds only for the first four years, leading some to believe the Gonski idea was dead. 

The education debate surfaced again thanks to the release of a discussion paper on education funding and Labor's inability to say if it's still committed to spending the big dollars on it. 

The New South Wales Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, who's implemented the Gonski model, says it is working. Now, he, Gonski panel members, principals and the Education Union are calling on both sides of politics to recommit to Gonski before the next federal election. 

Interesting story from the Canberra Times by Mem Fox on school funding

Also refer to this story in the Hobart Mercury

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Gonski's view

David Gonski has been interviewed recently on ABC 24s One to One program
Here is an extract from that program:
The Gonski report concluded that school funding must be shifted towards a needs-based funding model, which his review estimated would require an additional $5 billion of Commonwealth revenue per year to sustain. The current Federal Government has disowned the commitments made under Gonski's plan, but he denies he feels bitter about the decision. "I don't feel bitter at all," he said. "I feel — in my opinion — that we put out a very good document. "Some may disagree, but I don't hear many people say it was a bad document."
Mr Gonski said although the review was a "wonderful" thing to write, he cautioned against a view that presupposes such reviews are prescriptive or dogmatic. "It was — if you like — a concept," he said. "I think we did our job within the terms of our reference." With the benefit of hindsight, would he have changed the content of the report? "I've thought long and hard — were there mistakes that we made?" he said. "It's very easy to say other people made mistakes. "It's much harder to diagnose a mistake you've made yourself. "I think a clever person, and really, a good business person, would have said 'give them the cake-mix, but don't give them the egg'.  "Because basically, they may be more interested in working it out and going out to get there [themselves] — to make the cake — than if you just put it on their plate."
In the latest saga in the education-funding debate, a Government discussion paper floated the idea of making wealthy parents pay to send their children to public school.  The proposal was quickly rejected by the Government. In his trademark dulcet style, Mr Gonski agreed. "Excluding or potentially discouraging children of wealthier people from public or government schools I don't think is the comprehensive-type approach that I would encourage," he said. "I'd love to see government schools filled with all manner of people. "We want to encourage people to have choice."And their choice is that the government will provide an education which hopefully — if you follow the suggestions that we put up — will be very good."

Last day of term

We had a busy last day of term finishing off work from this week including our 'Ghost at Bly' painting and my grade 3 student finished his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea tasks. We watched a version of The Ghost of Thomas Kempe on YouTube which the kids thought was pretty accurate compared to the book.
The postie also collected our Glen Park Gazettes to distribute to the locals next week.( I'll also need to do some distributing) Ballarat Lawns and Gardens came and mowed this morning and my new student teacher Jessica rang up and we organised a time for her to visit over the break. I have a few jobs to do over the break including updating eSmart and finishing a gothic mystery unit for the Moonstone and The Woman in White.

Eating pizza for lunch in free dress.
After lunch we collated our finished school work from semester one and put it all away in our portfolios.
Freshly mowed lawn.
Reports also go home tonight. I slipped in a little treat for them - a movie ticket each for the holidays.
Below is my grade 3 boys comic book cover.

Finished pyramids

The grade 5s finished off their pyramids this morning and they also completed some mini-mummy hands to include inside the pyramid.( Glitter everywhere of course- I hate glitter!)
We also finished 'scratch pictures' of headless ghosts ( inspired by the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn. 
They are transparent scratch pictures which act like stained glass windows. They turned out well.
Tomorrow is the last day of term. 
We have work to finish and pizza for lunch!

Ballarat on the way to work this morning.(Winterlude taking shape. Note to Ballarat Base Hospital- Prepare a sprains and breaks ward for the next few weeks!)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Wrapping our mummy hands

Today we started wrapping out mummy hands. We used strips of plaster linen. They look good but we'll know for sure tomorrow when they dry.
We also finished our ghost projects and wrote newspaper advertisements for a governess for Flora and Miles at Bly. ( They needed to be level-headed, firm and not susceptible to seeing ghosts.)
They also wrote responses to the advertisement as if they were interested in the job. We tried writing using ink pens. ( Hopefully they'll be better at it when they visit Sovereign Hill next term.)

Grade 2-3 finished work on The Swineherd today when they made the bird rattle ( below) and tomorrow we'll start on the Bearslayer.

My grade 3 student also finished his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea diorama. ( Side view before he closed it up.)

43 000 views Hooray!
Chilly winter days and decorations as part of Ballarat's 'winterlude'

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Muffin Madness

Coming to the end of our major unit on nursery rhymes we read The Muffin Man today and made muffins.
Note the spoonfuls of mixture they had in secret!

One of my grade ones is working on money in maths so I brought my coin collection along for him to explore.

Ghost photo frames finished.

My grade 3 boy making his 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' diorama.
He has been watching some episodes of the old show and completing comprehension activities. He will make a puzzle or comprehension task for an episode of his choosing for the other kids to try. 

More Kookaburra pictures below

IBAC resumes

$2 million for tea money.

Impotent DET auditors From today’s Age

Education Department senior auditor Neil Loveless said the 2010 review into so-called "banker" schools that distributed funds to other schools recommended the funding system be replaced immediately. In one instance $3 million was transferred into one school's "tea money" account, Mr Loveless said. "It was not an appropriate place to put the money," he said. "Once it hit the schools it was just lost to us in terms of what was going on." Mr Loveless told the hearing he also conducted a separate review of former department deputy secretary Darrell Fraser's corporate credit card. At one point Mr Fraser was allegedly spending $12,000 a month on some expenses that were "dubious", Mr Loveless said. "There was a lot of socialising, a lot of meals, a lot of alcohol." He said one of Mr Fraser's "subordinates" would use his corporate credit card and Mr Fraser would then sign off on the expenses. A review of former acting secretary Jeff Rosewarne's credit card use also found he had used his work card to buy jewellery that he then had to repay. 

Mr Loveless said if school principals and business managers wanted to collude to hide their financial practices from him they had been able to do so. "The culture and the system that was in place was all against us," he said. Mr Loveless said there was also "chaos" in the international travel programs for school staff. He said it was unclear how schools benefited from all the overseas travel by staff. (Yikes! That could be an interesting path for the inquiry to take?) Mr Loveless said online resources were available to schools to examine the success of high-performing countries such as Finland. "The first thing a lot of our principals want to do is jump on a plane and go to Helsinki."


Oh dear....time for a reader audit

From today’s Age
Schools teach all kinds of literacies nowadays: cultural literacy, digital literacy and, oh yes, diet literacy.
Just ask Perth mother Caitlin Roper who was shocked last week when she discovered a book called Mum's Diet being used in her five-year-old daughter's pre-primary class. The school reader is as bad as it sounds, jam-packed with weight obsession, crash dieting and body shaming.
"While I suspect it's supposed to be a positive message, it had some really distorted messages on food and eating," says Roper.
Mum's Diet, which was written by renowned New Zealand children's author Joy Cowley, is about a mother who thinks she's fat, so she puts herself - and her children - on a diet of tomatoes and lettuce for one day and parsley and carrots for the next.
Roper, who works with Collective Shout, an organisation fighting the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in the media and advertising, says that she didn't want her daughter to learn about "fat talk" from a school reader.
"I make a point to have conversations with my kids about healthy behaviours: how healthy bodies can come in different shapes and sizes, that we eat good foods to fuel our bodies and we exercise because it makes our bodies strong and healthy. But even as small children, they are being exposed to toxic messages about eating and their bodies."
And if modelling extreme dieting isn't bad enough, Mum's Diet is also a primer in how to develop inter-generational disordered eating. Mum forces her kids to join her in the starvation diet, which prompts them to closet-eat when they go to their father's house.
And, understanding guy that he is, the father mocks the mother in front of the kids for her perpetual yo-yo dieting. Unable to sustain her tomato, lettuce, parsley and carrot diet, the mother eventually caves and starts binge-eating doughnuts.
Not only does the book normalise women's obsession with body weight - and how "funny" it is for men to ridicule them - it also trains children in the language of fat chat. For example:
"Every morning, Mum got on the scales.
"'I'm still too fat!' she would cry.
"And we would always say, 'No, you're not, Mum. You're just right.'"
Lydia Turner, co-founder and psychologist from BodyMatters Australasia, says that young children often take messages in books literally. This is particularly the case within an educational setting, where books carry the weight of authority and trust.
"Mum's Diet reinforces body shaming and fear towards food. The mother character teaches readers that their self-worth can be summed up by a number on the scale - a dangerous idea," Turner says.
When Caitlin Roper spoke to her daughter's teacher about Mum's Diet, the teacher was similarly horrified by the book's content and agreed to get rid of it.
"The teacher was great," Roper says. "She even asked, 'How did this get published?'"
Mum's Diet was published by Sunshine Books in 1987 and it's not the first time the book has sparked controversy. In response to an article last year, the Victorian Department of Education instructed schools in Victoria to remove the title from their collections.(I must have missed that memo?) Other states would do well to follow this example.
"I'd really like for schools to be withdrawing these outdated books and to be proactive about sending positive messages about healthy behaviours," says Roper.
I’m not sure if we have this book here at Glen Park or not, we certainly have Sunshine books and books by Joy Cowley.
Mmmmmm (Better have an audit over the holidays)

You can't leave Ken Boston out of it

From the Sydney Morning Herald

An architect of the Gonski school reforms has slammed a proposal, contained in a leaked government discussion paper, for the federal government to abdicate funding for public schools as "completely foreign" to the equity principles underpinning the Gonski funding model.

Ken Boston, a member of the Gonski Review panel and a former head of the NSW education department, said he strongly opposed the proposal for state governments to fund public schools while the federal government assumes sole responsibility for independent schools. "This would be the antithesis of Gonski," Dr Boston said, referring to the review's model of a needs-based funding model which applies equally across all school sectors.  "The idea should be ruled out completely - it is completely foreign to the Gonski formula."

Dr Boston said he saw merit in exploring the green paper's first proposal: making the states and territories fully responsible for schools. This would increase clarity and could be implemented in accordance with Gonski principles, he said.  The paper's fourth option - handing over full funding responsibility to the Commonwealth - would pose "major constitutional difficulties and go against 200 years of Australian history", he said. Dr Boston said universal access to free public schooling must be maintained.

Option four makes explicit the prospect of public school fees for high-income families by saying: "The states and territories would have the option to 'top-up' funding to government schools, if they wished to do so, to ensure all public school students, regardless of the ability of families to make a contribution, were able to attend for free."

On the flip side: A former adviser to Mr Abbott, Terry Barnes, said means-testing for public education was a good idea that should not be ruled out by "reform shy" politicians. Mr Barnes was the architect of the dumped $7 fee for GP visits. There’s a surprise – need I say more?

What public education is all about

From the AIM Network

If anyone had any lingering doubts about Christopher Pyne was completely unsuited to be Minister for Education, unlikely I know, I present irrefutable proof.

Christopher Pyne, who is not only suggesting that the Federal government completely withdraw from public school funding, but that parents who can afford to do so should pay fees. I cannot put it better than John Birmingham from the Brisbane Times: “And then the laughing stopped and the grins froze in place and everyone realised this jabbering toff from Adelaide was serious. Serious enough to float a proposal that the federal government stop paying anything towards state school education, while maintaining billions of dollars in funding to the elite private schools that so many members of this government went to, and which so many of them send their own children to now. Serious enough to float the idea of a punitive charge on any class traitors who dared send their own children to the local state school rather than enriching the coffers of a Churchie or a Knox Grammar.

Could there be a policy more transparently designed to sort millions of school-aged children and their families into a privileged elite, and a much greater mass of the poor, benighted and put upon? Other than using hot irons to brand the foreheads of the poor with the mark of their shame, I can't think of one.” The King’s School in Parramatta charges senior students about $31,000 a year ($53,000 if boarding) plus a host of extras like a $3,600 family admission fee and $300 a term bus charge and $1700 a year lunch fee and $275 a term technology fee and a $250 registration fee.In 2014 federal government funding for The King’s School increased by $176,824 to $5,818,862.  This figure, from the federal Education Department, does not include the state government's funding for private schools, typically about a third of the federal figure.

As Stewart Riddle points out at the Conversation; “A two-tiered system of schooling will have devastating effects on our social fabric, widening an already too large and persistent equity gap.Since the New South Wales Public Schools Act 1866, legislation has enshrined compulsory, secular and universal access to public schooling. This is not something that should be taken lightly, nor should it be cast aside with a spurious argument that it is not the responsibility of the federal government. Providing universal access to high-quality education that is publicly provided is something we are all collectively responsible for. Public schooling should not be seen as a safety net, providing limited education for those who cannot afford to go to a private school. Instead, it needs to be celebrated as being one of the most important foundations for a healthy democracy. Access to education provides enormous benefitsto individuals and societies – increasing health, prosperity, social cohesion and political awareness – while also reducing welfare dependency, crime and incarceration rates.”

Well said.

Means test? What means test?

It took a while. Too long I think, and let’s face it, they leaked it! For Abbott and Pyne to disown their means-tested public education system pipe-dream……But it has left open the door for the states and territories to impose fees, depending on a review of how the Australian federation can work better.

"The Australian Government does not and will not support a means test for public education, full stop, end of story," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the parliament…..eventually and I dare say reluctantly. 

However, if the states and territories want to charge fees for public schools, that is a matter for them, he said. (there’s always a catch with this ‘tricky’ politician.)

A discussion paper sent to states and territories as part of the federation white paper process has suggested four options for simplifying responsibility for school funding.  One is for the Commonwealth to take over funding for all schools. Federal funding would go to schools based on student need and the ability of families to make a contribution. In effect, schools with richer students will get less money.

It will then be left to the states and territories to top up funding so wealthy students can still attend public school for free, the paper prepared by the Prime Minister's department states.  It notes that many public schools already ask for voluntary contributions from parents.(Refer to previous posts about the amount of money schools in Victoria need through fundraising and voluntary fees to just keep going)

Education Minister Christopher Pyne says the Commonwealth has no intention of being responsible for charging public school fees. "We have no plans, no policy and no support for hiking fees for public school children, whether their parents are wealthy or not,"NO…he’ll just make it so hard for them they might have too! (Surely Abbott speak and Pyne speak can be deciphered by people now?) 

However, earlier on Monday Abbott said it is good that some states and territories are thinking creatively about how they can fund their operations.  "We don't have any role at all," he told reporters.  The Commonwealth will give states and territories $15.7 billion for schools in 2015-16, more than a third of which is for public schools.

Labor says the discussion paper reveals a secret plan for a schools tax.  "This is an appalling piece of public policy which Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne need to walk away from immediately," Education Spokesman Mark Butler told reporters at Parliament House.  Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says his state will not cop any means testing and he will tell the prime minister as much at a leaders retreat in July.  ACT Education Minister Joy Burch also vowed to fight any moves to charge for public education.

Another option canvassed in the discussion paper is for the Commonwealth to withdraw from school funding altogether, leaving the states with a $15 billion annual shortfall. It also suggests the states can become wholly responsible for public school funding while the Commonwealth only gives money to private institutions.(oh they’d love that!)

That would leave the states $2 billion short each year. The final option suggests tweaking the status quo with both levels of government continuing to fund both school sectors, but the Commonwealth interfering less by ending programs such as school chaplains or support for children with autism.

The full discussion paper is expected to be released later in 2015.(after an early election?)

Monday, 22 June 2015

Last week of term

Today the grade 5s finished their Pyramid re-tells for The Jewel of the Seven Stars. They also started their 'mummy's hands'. The grade 2-3 started their rose prints using capsicums.
Painting/ drawing for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe.

Using the glue gun to make a 3-D leaf to print.

Ghost photo frames.These worked really well.
Another lovely rainbow this afternoon

Great! Abbott clarifies matters.....sort of

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out supporting a controversial proposal to means-test free public education only hours after praising it as "creative thinking". Earlier on Education Minister Christopher Pyne dismissed the proposal, contained in a leaked discussion paper developed by the Prime Minister's department, as a "balloon that's been floated" and said he did not support it. Both Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne left open supporting other radical ideas in the paper, including ending all Commonwealth funding for public schools. Asked about the issue during question time on Monday afternoon, Mr Abbott said: "Let me say this, the Australian government does not and will not support a means test for public education, full stop, ends of story. If the states and territories want to change wealthy parents fees for public schools, that is a matter for them. Charging wealthy parents for their children to attend public schools is not this government's policy." Earlier on Monday, the Prime Minister praised the idea as "creative thinking" and refused to rule it out!

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews described the idea of making wealthy parents pay for state schools as "appalling", saying: "Victorians will not cop this." 

The usual suspects bobbed up to support it: Liberal MP Andrew Laming (One of Abbott’s previous detractors) backed the proposal, saying it was incongruous that 18-year old university students have to pay fees but the wealthy families of 17-year old school children do not. "Should high-income earners be paying to attend a state education facility? My view is firmly yes," Dr Laming said. "Ultimately the product has a value and that value should be reflected by those who have the ability to pay."John Roskam, executive director of free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, supported the idea and said it ought to be debated. "Many people, such as myself, have long argued that wealthy parents should make a contribution to government school education," he said. "The idea that education is free is a misnomer."  Requiring wealthy parents to pay school fees would produce "parents with a stronger, better stake in government school education". (Umm Claptrap!)

The fact is, they'd love to introduce this policy. In fact Abbott saying 'This is not our policy' is not the same as saying ' I totally repudiate the his official paper' Tony Abbott’s education green paper recommends ending universal access to education in Australia.The official paper, currently being considered by the Liberals, includes plans to charge compulsory government fees to parents who send their kids to public schools and even suggests ending Federal funding for public schools altogether.Cutting federal funding to public schools and introducing compulsory government school fees for public school students is the biggest attack on public education by a federal government ever. If Abbott goes ahead with these changes they would end universal access to education in Australia. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

And by lunchtime....

States react

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino has been briefed on the proposals and hit out at the suggestion of means-testing. Victoria's always happy to participate in reforms of the federation, but universal free public education is non-negotiable," Mr Merlino said.

"This process should not allow the Commonwealth to walk away from its obligation under the Gonski agreement. "If it does, Victorian schools will be about a billion dollars worse off."

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones said the proposed changes would be extreme and kill the Gonski school reforms. "I don't think any Queenslander wants that and certainly no-one that I've spoken to has said they'd like to see increases to fees and means-testing of public education," she said. "I think fundamentally it's part of our Australian values, that every child in our country deserves access to good quality education."

Abbott continues to duck around the issue and  far-right wing ideologues say a ‘service fee’ for wealthy parents is acceptable (while Pyne himself and Hockey have said no-is that dissention in the ranks?) 

I expect Abbott and Pyne's cost shifting exercise which will seriously disadvantage 2 000 000 state school students to continue for a day or 2 at least. I'll keep you posted.

meanwhile a lovely sunrise over the playground equipment this morning

And a lovely winter day at the gardens on Sunday.