Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Jane Caro responds to Birmingham being 'embarrassed '

By Jane Caro from the New Daily

It is not of particular surprise to me that Australia is not doing as well as many other countries in international education rankings.

The tests that are currently causing panic among those for whom it is ideologically and/or politically useful to finger-wag about our ‘failing’ schools were conducted in 2014. That was the first year that the Gonski funding began flowing into schools – and only to some schools in some states, at that.

Prior to 2014 (since 2000, in fact), Australia’s school funding systems absurdly favoured already advantaged schools (most of which were private) and the already advantaged students they mostly teach. Most of the public money that flowed into those schools, frankly, was pissed up against their sandstone walls.

When you pour public money into schools that are already well-resourced (to the point of luxury in some cases), that already teach the kids we know are more likely to do well at school (kids from higher socio-economic backgrounds do better at school the world over) then that money just buys more of what the school already has – especially if, as so many of them do, they also charge high school fees.

These new resources – glamorous marketing tools though they may be – add nothing to the academic achievement of the kids.

That’s why many modestly resourced schools in high socio-economic areas achieve just as good academic outcomes for their students as the schools dripping with multimedia centres, Olympic swimming pools and multiple playing fields, up the road.

Had we been distributing the money we put into education over that decade-and-a-half in a more fiscally responsible way, we might have seen some closing of the gap between our best-performing students and our (very) long tail of underachievers.

Instead, we spent that money in ways that widened the gap and, as they say, after sowing the wind we are reaping the whirlwind. In 2014, Gonski – which does distribute public money according to need – had yet to take real effect.

However, if (fingers crossed) we continue to give the kids who can really benefit from it, more resources, extra programs and more teachers, it will be interesting to see what changes in the next round of four yearly comparisons.

But it is not just funding that is the problem. We have crowded the curriculum. Every time there is concern in society about just about anything you can name – childhood obesity, road safety, social media, financial literacy, sex education, water safety, violence against women etc – pundits declare that ‘it should be taught in schools’. Well, often it is and that means fragmentation of teaching hours and teacher focus.

The other stupid thing we have done is ramped up admin and accountability for teachers. We haven’t just crowded the curriculum for students – we’ve crowded teacher’s lives.

Teachers are under the pump as extra-curricular demands continue to rise. Photo: Getty
Teachers must now spend so much time filling in forms, creating portfolios, describing classroom activities, undertaking risk assessments, justifying their existence and worrying about reporting their ‘outcomes’ that they have little time and energy for doing what actually helps kids to learn – and that is making learning creative, unexpected and fun.

We have also made both students’ and teachers’ lives more of a misery with constant rounds of standardised testing. As Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg says, real learning only takes place in a fear-free environment. Constant testing makes both kids and teachers nervous.

Any time we create a process that makes a teacher decide not to do something new and interesting because of how onerous it will be to report on it, or because it won’t be specifically tested and measured, we damage student learning.

My advice on how to improve our results? Put public money into the schools that teach the kids who will actually benefit from added help and resources and remove it from those where it just adds bright shiny objects. Stop stuffing the curriculum full of this week’s moral panic and trust teachers to do their jobs.

There is an old saying I have always liked; the best thing a man can do for his children is love their mother. Well, the best thing a society can do for its students is trust its teachers.

Jane Caro is a social commentator, writer and lecturer and has published five books, including The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education.

Appalling rural data

From the Mitchell Institute 12 months ago.

Australia is yet to overcome the enormous challenge of providing quality education to those outside urban centres. While only 10 per cent of Australians live in rural and remote areas, this population is spread across a vast continent with one of the lowest population densities in the world.

The evidence shows there is a consistent link between where Australians live and their educational outcomes at all stages of education, with those living in rural and remote communities doing worse than students in urban areas. To date, many of the policies in place to address this have been ineffective.

Educational opportunity in Australia 2015 is one of the most comprehensive data studies of Australia’s education system. It examines young people’s progress on four key educational milestones, from the early years right through to young adulthood.

Key findings

  • The proportion of very remote students who meet the requirements at each milestone is between 19 and 48 percentage points lower than for the Australian population as a whole.

  • Students living further from cities are less likely to catch up once they are off track at a milestone.

  • Rural and remote students have reduced access to education services compared to metropolitan students. These students attend school less frequently, are less likely to go to university and are more likely to drop out if they enrol.

  • Remote students have less positive dispositions towards school on every measure (belonging, self-confidence, purpose and perseverance) than their regional and metropolitan peers.

  • Vocational education and training (VET) is an important pathway for regional and remote students, though very remote participation is low. Nearly one third of remote and outer regional students undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship.

  • Remote communities are home to one-quarter of Australia’s Indigenous population. As a consequence, the educational challenges faced in remote areas have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous Australians.  

Putting up the Christmas tree.

Christmas tree.

Craft tasks for The Giant Under the Mountain.

Dickens display.

Borat defeats Australia

There are a lot of things that Education Minister Simon Birmingham should be embarrassed about. One thing in particular are the lies that his party told about Gonski reform.

Birmingham says he is "embarrassed for Australia" that our maths and science results have fallen behind countries such as Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the latest international rankings.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, released on Tuesday, shows Australia dropping 10 spots in year 4 mathematics since 2011. Australia also fell five spots in year 8 maths and year 4 science.

Senator Birmingham said he agreed with educational researchers that the results are a "wake-up call" for Australia to re-examine what is being taught in schools.

As he prepares to meet with state counterparts in a fortnight to discuss the future of schools funding, Senator Birmingham said the results do not justify more money. (Of course not….I bet it’s the fault of those teachers!)

"The conversation should be about how we will use record funding far more effectively in the future to get better outcomes for our children," he said.

Birmingham said governments should focus on increasing the number of maths and science specialists in schools and rewarding high-performing teachers.

As part of school funding negotiations, the government has proposed a new literacy and numeracy test for year 1 students so that struggling students can receive extra support. 

Senator Birmingham said all students should also be required to study maths or science in year 12.

The results show Australia fell from 18th to 28th out of 49 countries in year 4 mathematics. We also fell from 12th to 17th in year 8 maths and from 12th to 17th in year 8 science while remaining steady at 25th place in year 4 science. 

Kazakhstan, which has a GDP per capita of $US10,546 ($A14,100) compared to Australia's $US54,718 ($A73,174), placed significantly below Australia in maths and science in 2011 but now outperforms us. (It would be interesting to see how testing is undertaken in Kazakhstan?) 

The tests were conducted in 2014 – the first year the Gonski school funding reforms were supposed to be rolled out.

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the results showed Australia's maths and science performance had been flatlining for decades.

"This is exactly the reason why Labor supports a better needs-based funding system," she said.

She said the results showed great disparities between high and low income students and between students in the cities and regional areas. This is why it is important to roll out the Gonski school funding deals, which target funding increases at disadvantage, she said.(The disadvantages in rural Australia are stark yet there is no indication that Birmingham will directly address that issue and as usual the National Party is nowhere to be seen when it comes to education!)

Only increased funding would allow schools to invest in more specialist maths and science teaching, she said.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Giant Under the Snow.

Mini books, leather man and English countryside perspective picture for Giant Under the Snow.

Ballarat city putting up theirs Ferris wheel for Christmas.

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Giant Under the Snow 2

Today I made a sample of a 'leather man' from The Giant Under the Mountain.
I used wire as a frame and air drying 'paper magic' clay for the body. When it was finished, I painted it and added details with a marker and photographed in the garden as if it was chasing Jonk, Bill and Arf in the forest.

My daughter visited today and took some photos for her TPT shop. She also brought up lunch.
I went to the Courier office today to organise some newspaper advertising and we had our meeting in this cubicle. It looked a bit like a Dr Who set from the 70s. The kids would have loved it!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

High graduate attrition rates

A new study into teacher resilience highlights the attrition rate in the profession, with renewed calls for graduates to take jobs in rural areas.

The study of 160 primary and secondary school teachers, published in the Australian Journal of Education, found that teachers with "lower levels of resilience" were more likely to want to leave teaching.

Up to half of all newly graduated Australian teachers leave the profession within five years.

Judy Crowe, president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary School Principals (VASSP), said that in the past young graduates would commence their careers in a country school but these days were "seeking the ideal job in the ideal location from day one".

"Young teachers are often not prepared to go where the jobs are," she told 774 ABC Melbourne's Jon Faine.

"Often there are vacancies in rural areas but the young people don't tend to want to go to those to commence their careers."

She said teaching in a country school could help provide new teachers with the skills and confidence to deal with a broader range of circumstances as they progressed their careers.

"Schools do differ and sometimes there are opportunities in country schools that you can't get in city schools," she said.

Oversupply leading to lack of job security

Ms Crowe said there was currently an oversupply of teaching graduates.

"We are training many more teachers than schools are able to absorb at the moment," she said.

"Teachers might get one contract but the opportunity for them to get ongoing work is more limited."

She said often these short-term contracts were the result of teachers going on maternity leave.

"I think that's true, in lots of different occupations, that people don't necessarily have the job security that existed in the past."

Teachers split on cause of attrition

Teachers contacting 774 ABC Melbourne were split on what caused young graduates to leave the profession.

One teacher messaged to say she worked nine-and-a-half hours a day before doing more work at home.

"[I] deal with very rude behaviour on a daily basis from a majority of students which sometimes turns violent (at primary school!). It is indeed a very thankless job."
Talkback caller Rupert, however, said blaming students for teacher attrition was "rubbish".

He supported calls for graduates to spend time teaching in rural areas, having moved from Melbourne to teach in Victoria's Wimmera region.

"Going out into the country and teaching there for three years was an unbelievably formative experience."

He said it was important that graduates "get out of their bubble and go and experience schools and communities outside of where they grew up".

Three weeks left

Lovely spring day today.
Big book corner pre-Christmas tree installation !

Three new units!

 I have just added 3 products to TPT. Hyperlinks to TPT below:
Sherlock Holmes

Blooms Taxonomy literature unit for The Hound of the Baskervilles. Includes graphic organisers, writing ideas, reading activities, craft ideas and more. Also includes teaching ideas for some of Doyle's best short stories including the Speckled Band and Silver Blaze...ALSO a bonus teaching ideas plan for The Sign of Four.

 Fairy Tale Craft


Fun and easy to create fairy tale craft activities for The Princess and the Pea, Beauty and the Beast and Hansel and Gretel.

 Alice in Wonderland

Blooms taxonomy literature plan unit for Alice in Wonderland. Graphic organisers, reading/writing ideas, craft ideas and lots more. Ideal for grade 3-4.


Saturday, 26 November 2016


George Bernard Shaw ( no relation) said that golf was a good walk spoilt. I feel the same about Springfest! I couldn't be bothered going all the way around! Too crowded and dusty. I do like to see the old cars normally on display but they only had a fraction of what they normally have. A few photos below.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Sore feet

I was busy this morning letterboxing 250 school newsletters and discovered a typo!!!!! ( And I had it checked by 2 other people!) oh well, not the end of the world!
I noticed some pretty rugged tree clearing while on my trek. 

Photo below of my bag of newsletters and pens.
Alleys of Ballarat #6
I love the door that leads to nowhere!

Apparently the world according to Americans?

Meanwhile....this week in Australian politics
It doesn't include the antics of Senator Brandis.

Thursday, 24 November 2016


My grade 3 girl finished her Alice in Wonderland unit today.

Railway mania ( including dragons)
Princess and the Pea next week.

Weather unit continued and finishing off Sherlock Holmes and our plaster strip ghosts.

HOORAY- 90000 views!!!!