Sunday, 31 January 2016

New structure still short on detail

 I asked for some clarification and details about the new DET structure for this year and was sent this which basically doesn't tell me much at all. I guess I'll just have to wait until March.

In December, Secretary Gill Callister launched the new regional structure and operating model.

 

Our vision for the Education State is a system where every Victorian has the best learning and development experience, making our state a smarter, fairer, more prosperous place.

 

We know that regional and local expertise and support is critical to drive improved learning and development outcomes and ensure that learners move seamlessly through our education system.

 

As part of the vision of Victoria as the Education State, the Government committed to significantly increase resources in our regions. This commitment provided a fresh opportunity to review our existing regional structures and to redesign them to ensure that we are best placed to meet ongoing and future challenges.

 

Highlights from the new model include:

 

·         A focus on place – establishing 17 local areas within our four regions to ensure a deeper understanding of the characteristics, trends and issues of local communities

 

·         A focus on multi-disciplinary teams – enabling greater access to the expertise and knowledge of colleagues working in each local area to better support students and schools

 

·         A focus on partnerships – developing stronger partnerships with our sector and with other agencies and local organisations

 

·         A focus on analysis for better outcomes – using data to drive improved outcomes for learners and evaluate the impact of our new regional operating model

 

This new operating model will come into effect in March 2016.

 

Bringing our new regional operating model to life will require significant planning and preparation prior to commencement and beyond.

 

We are currently planning a series of dedicated communications with schools, service providers and other stakeholders; this is expected to occur in the coming weeks.


Hooray over 10000 views from Australia.


White silhouettes

We are currently reading Bush Bandits as a serial and we are up to the part where the crooks steal the baby koala. I thought this was a good opportunity to create some white silhouette pictures using gum trees like the type around school and as mentioned in the book for inspiration.
First we sketched realistic gum trees on thick white cover paper. 


On another pie of cover paper we created a series of layers for the background using a variety of media. ( I used different paper as well as wax crayons and oil pastels.


The tree was cut out and attached to the background using tabs made from polystyrene which is glued onto the tree and background to give it a 3D look.


The grade 6 kids also started work on their Australian megafauna PowerPoint.

Recollections about Cressy Primary School by Kate Nancarrow

My country primary school, No. 731, survived two world wars, a depression and two wildly destructive bushfires but it could not survive the fall in population that has beset many rural communities since the 1960s.
Every year a couple of country schools quietly close their doors in late December and don't reopen in early February. Cressy Primary School, my old school, closed in 2010. Since then, another eight country primary schools in Victoria have closed their doors and this year two more, Drummartin (north of Bendigo) and Piangil (near Mildura), did not reopen for the new school year. 
When country schools close, it's a door closing on both history and hope. Schools are a community connection point and, generally, are essential for wooing new families to a town.  

When country schools close, it's a door closing on both history and hope. Schools are a community connection point and, generally, are essential for wooing new families to a town. While the Department of Education and Training says closures are not necessarily permanent, in a town like Cressy, without public transport and tree-changer appeal, there is no obvious population surge that will force a reopening.
And there is something of an unspoken reproach in closure, as if the school was no good and the town was abandoned. But that was not my experience; I can't pretend I loved growing up in a tiny country town – and the demise of country towns is a demography study in itself – but I did love the school and what I learnt.

My children attended a primary school in an affluent inner-city area; it was well resourced, well located and well supported – yet parents always seemed to be moaning and wanting more. More of something, everything. By contrast, Cressy Primary had virtually nothing - or at least nothing out of the ordinary. No specialist teachers, no groovy parents, no fascinating excursions, no mind-blowing fundraisers, no extras at all, really. 
Yet I'm not convinced my children's schooling was better than mine.  
I was at Cressy Primary in the late 1960s, a lifetime ago, and some of the memories have faded but many of the people and passions I encountered there remain with me. 
Cressy had been founded by a Frenchman in the late 1830s,  and its school population had ebbed and flowed during its 130-year history but by the time I arrived in the mid-1960s enrolments had soared above 100. It was a population swollen by the baby boom then occurring around Australia but particularly by children from the postwar soldier settlement area at Barunah, near Shelford, who were bussed 20 kilometres to and from school.
This growing student body was taught in a pretty, four-classroom, weatherboard school set in large grounds. Composite grades were the norm, so I began my education in the same room as my brother who was, by then, in grade 1. We spent most of our primary schooling in the same classroom, as did many other families' siblings and cousins. Many of my classmates were the children and grandchildren of former students. 
As the school population grew, classes filled every nook and cranny – my grade 2 year was spent in a closed-off hallway with a portable blackboard. Miss Gaylard didn't seem to mind the setting and neither did we. 
Grade 3 was even better – every morning we had to walk a few hundred metres to a tiny, century-old former church which had been lent to the overcrowded school. There we were taught by Mr Millane who was a great teacher with a very short fuse. If students were talking while he wrote on the blackboard, he would spin around, duster in hand, and fire the chalk-filled missile at the usual suspects. 
It seems a bit over the top now but seemed perfectly normal then. He drilled us in the times tables and inspired us to try hard. I loved him.
Grade 4 we were in the hands of Mr Gnat who, like all the Cressy teachers before him and after him, used music every day. 
Country primary school teachers had to teach everything – maths, English, science and nature, health, history, geography, sport, art and music. And while there was a timetable, they seemed to manage it themselves. So, if music or exercise or a nature walk was needed to manage a group of scratchy kids, we would have it. All the tough stuff was done in the morning while we were fresh; all the relaxing stuff or outdoor stuff was in the afternoon. 
Strangely, of all the subjects and learning I ingested during seven years, it is the music I remember most. Music and song were used to calm us, excite us or to drill us in marching. Singing was used to develop and encourage our memories – "a frog went walking on a summer's day ahum, ahum" – and to teach us the discipline of music with recorder. I don't think a day went by without our grade singing, often in rounds. 
 Mr Gnat, a young teacher in his 20s, used music to introduce us to a world beyond sheep and wheat. He was, like us, stuck in the middle of nowhere but he taught us to sing Yellow Submarine and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – songs written by four young guys who were living a 60s life far beyond Cressy. I don't remember what Mr Gnat looked like, or what else he taught me, but I do remember singing about Desmond and Molly Jones. The lyrics of these songs remain in my memory bank. 
When I think of my children's primary school, I think of the land of plenty – of camps, excursions, incursions, projects, swimming lessons, and excitements aplenty – but music was always a rationed joy confined to a half hour here and there on a packed timetable. 
My education at Cressy seemed to be mostly maths, English and music – with a bit of paper clipping, french knitting and papier mache for art. The can-do teachers managed our behaviour and energy by jogs, jumps and exercises. We didn't do camps or excursions – except one smelly day at the Colac butter and cheese factories – and there was no regular inter-school sport, let alone after-school activities. 
We did, however, have an annual sports day and another grander version with other nearby schools. These days always ended with a marching competition – to Sousa's grand sounds  – for which we were drilled for weeks. 
Towards the end of my primary school years, Cressy Primary seemed to step up a notch. Local schools began "group day" which allowed all the tiny outlying schools – with six, eight or 10 students – to come to our school for "cultural enrichment". We were the "big smoke" for these kids.
These days generally involved a lot of group music and movement – mostly the Mexican hat dance and the Virginia Reel. I guess the school had music, loud speakers and lots of space...so the Virginia Reel it was. 
And we even had swimming lessons. A local farming family offered the school the use of a small, shallow lake on their farm so the students could learn to swim. The farmer kindly built two change rooms out of hay bales and we all went out there and swam in the shallow, muddy water. I got my 25-metre certificate by moving my arms, in an approximation of the Australian crawl,  while walking along the bottom. 
I suppose it sounds an inauspicious start to both swimming and learning but I well remember the joy of feeling I was on my way: the wonder of flashcards and the times tables, listening to Peter and the Wolf on hot summer days and everyone crowding in to watch the moon landing while my brother, who later became a scientist, tried to get all the non-interested kids (including me) to shoosh. 
The point is: it was enough. Cressy Primary is no more but it should be remembered for the joy of good teachers, the power of music and the truth that many things can make a good education, especially when children want.



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Saturday, 30 January 2016

BYOD Nightmare

Schoolbags can be stood on, dropped, thrown, ridden over on a bike, flung out a window. Set on fire. The possibilities are endless. Chances are these days there will be an ipad or tablet in the bag.

Like most, the kids at Donvale Primary School in Melbourne's sprawling east are all over their devices. There has been a boom in their use in schools, from the humblest state primary school to the loftiest private secondary college. With the boom has come a new set of rules and a whole lot of shattered screens.

The grade five and sixes at Donvale are on a 'parent purchase' scheme where ipads are compulsory and the school has an online portal to a chosen supplier. The supplier may or may not offer insurance.

The grade three and fours are on a BYOD scheme – 'Bring Your Own Device' – where they bring one in from home. Principal Lena Clark says if a family doesn't own one already they are often given to the child at the end of grade two or as Christmas presents. Insurance, once again, is left up the parents.


The school has strict rules about what the devices can be used for, but also how to treat them. "The kids can't take them outside, they have to leave them in secure areas while not in class. It teaches them to take ownership and responsibility."

Breakages occur. Tablets are fragile and schools are rowdy. This is where insurance comes in. If one child drops or breaks another child's ipad, the parents of the child who dropped it is liable. According to Steve Marks, Australia's only specialist insurer for school tablets, netbooks and laptops, schoolbags are often run over by mum or dad's car.

Grade 6 student Rose at Donvale Primary School. With the use of iPads has come a new set of rules and a whole lot of shattered screens.

"Mum or dad opens the boot, puts the schoolbags in the back, one falls out or is forgotten and then driven over. It's more common than you think."

Marks, from Wandong north of Melbourne, explains that most big private or Catholic schools provide devices including tablets to students as part of what their parents pay for. They get one for three years, then get another. If a tablet breaks the school pays the insurance excess and passes it on to parents. In BYOD schemes, common in state schools, everything is left to the parents. Costs for a broken screen repair would be between $100 and $200.

He says he gets more claims from schools in wealthier areas and fewer claims from schools in lower socio-economic regions. "I can't say exactly why but maybe they look after things better."

Kim Nickels, a grade six teacher at Port Melbourne primary school, says tablets bought by parents for their kids and then brought to school are "100 percent" better treated than those supplied by the schools. Her school has implemented BYOD tablet learning this year, where the devices are loaded with 56 apps to suit what is being taught, as well as a Facebook-style network called Edmodo which allows students to talk to teachers online.

The school's assistant principal Neil Scott says a written guideline on tablets was given to parents to sign. This covered appropriate use of the device as well as how to prevent damage: don't take it outside, store it in the school's cupboard and don't carry it around by hand. Carry it in your bag. Hopefully mum or dad doesn't run over the bag.


Glen Park Primary School does not have BYOD. All students have access to their own iPad, PC, DS , flip cameras and share iPods.


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Childhood immunisation update.

Tough new "no jab no play" laws could hurt children who have not been immunised due to family dysfunction, poverty, or poor access to medical support, experts warn.( I also wonder about isolated rural families? )
From January 1 this year, children who have not received the recommended vaccinations will not be allowed to enrol in childcare centres and kindergartens in Victoria.
Children who are not up to date with their immunisations will also no longer be eligible for subsidised childcare, and the family tax benefit part A .
Nearly 2 per cent of parents are registered as conscientious objectors, with another 8 per cent of children not immunised for other reasons, such as being born overseas, being from a disadvantaged background or being in out-of-home care.


Dr Margie Danchin, a paediatrician at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital who specialises in immunisation, said she had concerns that the new laws could penalise disadvantaged families.
"The biggest concern about this policy is that it doesn't actually target those who are disadvantaged or most vulnerable," she said.
"I am referring to out-of-home care children, children with child protection orders, refugee families, socially disadvantaged families, Indigenous children, children on concession cards ... these children and their families have serious access issues. Their parents may have the best of intentions to vaccinate them, but can't access medical providers, GPs, immunisation nurses to get a vaccine."
Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos, said the new laws were aimed at lifting the immunisation rate from 93 per cent to 95 per cent, ( which seems to be working) and that government was supporting disadvantaged families by offering a 16-week grace period for vulnerable children to bring their immunisations up to date.
"We recognise that there are some children whose families face difficulties accessing immunisations, for example families affected by bushfires or vulnerable children involved with child protection. 

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New megafauna extinction evidence

This story from the ABC comes at a great time as the grade 6 kids will be creating PowerPoint projects on Australian megafauna.More than 85 per cent of Australia's large mammals, birds and reptiles disappeared after people arrived. 
There has been a long-running debate over whether people caused the extinction of Australia's unique collection of large animals, also including a 7.5 meters monitor lizard called Megalania, a nearly rhinoceros-sized wombat called Diprotodon, large marsupial predators and 450 kilogram kangaroos.( a skeleton of a Diprotodon can be found at the Melbourne Museum) 


The Genyornis (Facts)

Lived 1.8 million to 40,000 years ago
Flightless bird, taller and heavier than the modern-day emu
Co-existed with humans for 15,000 years
Last of the large "thunder birds" local to Australia
Fossils found in Mt Gambier, SA and NSW. Footprints found in dunes on southern Victoria
Now the mystery behind the big bird's extinction may have been solved, after burnt eggshells revealed people may have been the culprits.

Scientists revealed burn patterns detected on eggshell fragments showed the first humans to arrive in Australia, about 50,000 years ago, gathered and cooked the big birds' eggs.

The practise wreaked havoc with its reproductive success.

The study is the first to provide direct evidence early humans preyed on the remarkable large animals that once thrived in Australia, but disappeared after people arrived, University of Colorado geological sciences Professor Gifford Miller said.

The Genyornis was the last of the family of giant birds called Dromornithids or "thunder birds", which included birds as tall as three metres and as heavy as 500 kilograms.

The birds are related to ducks, geese and swans.

Genyornis vanished about 47,500 years ago, Professor Miller said.

The researchers analysed burned Genyornis eggshell fragments — some only partially blackened 
The eggs were the size of a rockmelon, weighing about 1.5 kilograms.

"We conclude the only explanation is that humans harvested the giant eggs, built a fire and cooked them, which would not blacken them, then discarded the fragments in and around their fire as they ate the contents," Professor Miller said.

"Wild or natural fires could not produce such patterns.

"We have no direct evidence that humans hunted the adults, but loss of eggs certainly reduced reproductive success."

How did Australia's big animals die?

 More than 85 per cent of Australia's large mammals, birds and reptiles disappeared after people arrived.
More than 85 per cent of Australia's large mammals, birds and reptiles disappeared after people arrived.

Some experts blame human hunting, while others blame climate shifts, in particular continental drying from about 60,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Professor Miller said the new study — published in the journal Nature Communications — strengthened the case for human impact.

Genyornis populations declined and became extinct over a short period of time. The bird lived in the dry grasslands and woodlands of southern and eastern Australia.

Fossils have since been found in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, especially on the surface of the dry Lake Callabonna.

The bones of a number of birds have been found in one place, suggesting they could have lived in flocks.

The Genyornis was believed to be depicted in ancient rock art after a red ochre painting was discovered at the centre of the Arnhem Land plateau in 2008.

The work — which at the time was believed to be Australia's oldest painting — depicted two emu-like birds with their necks outstretched.
Marsupial Lion

Marsupial lions were Australia's top mammalian predators, with meat-slicing teeth, razor-sharp claws and the ability to climb in caves where they reared their young communally, scientists have found.

The Flinders University research, published in Nature's Scientific Reports, reveals that the unique meat-eating mammals left thousands of claw marks on surfaces inside a limestone cave in south-western Australia.

The largest scratch marks in the caves could only have been made by adult lions," Associate Professor Prideaux said. Many of the smaller marks were made by juveniles: they have the same form as those of adults but do not match claw marks made by other known cave dwellers.

"Marsupial lions, like all marsupials, would have given birth to extremely underdeveloped young that could not be left alone until becoming at least partially weaned," he explained.

Caves provided a safe, climate-controlled environment for raising young. Among other things, the caves were defensible against carnivores such as thylacines, the Tasmanian doglike marsupials with stripes across their rumps.

Many of the Tight Entrance Cave claw marks were located on very steep surfaces up to three metres from the cave floor. "This was probably the quickest route to the exit hole in the cave roof," 


Baird hasn't learnt lessons from Victoria

In Victoria we have started rebuilding a TAFE system almost destroyed by a previous government which promoted some very shonky private providers ( Refer numerous previous posts) But in NSW ideology still supersedes best practice. This story is from the SMH

The Baird government will ramp up the privatisation of vocational training in schools, encouraging private training colleges to deliver Higher School Certificate subjects from next year.
A third of HSC students study a vocational training (VET) subject.
Until now, TAFE has dominated vocational teaching, with 24,000 school students undertaking a TAFE course that led to a HSC credential in 2014, according to the TAFE NSW annual report.

But the NSW Department of Education will put out a tender in April inviting private training colleges to bid for school courses in 10 areas, including business services, construction, environmental management, health services, tourism and hospitality and recreation services.
The organisations need to prove they own or lease premises to conduct the training externally to schools and have a lease for equipment, plus experience with 15- to 17-year-olds, the tender notice says.
Although private training organisations have been used by schools in limited circumstances, such as when there is no TAFE nearby, the NSW Secondary Principals Council says the new process will bring private colleges "to the fore".
"There will be many more private providers," said council president Lila Mularczyk.
"We need to make sure they are robust and credible providers and they have longevity and aren't a pop-up provider."
The move comes as the federal government sharpens its scrutiny of the scandal-plagued vocational college sector. The Turnbull government is conducting a public consultation into whether qualifications from private providers are "too easy" to obtain, amid complaints students are graduating without necessary skills.
NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said it was "too risky" to allow private VET providers into schools, describing them as "shoddy with poorly trained teachers".
"This is not something driven by educators, or in the best interests of children. It is driven by the obsession that market forces should apply to education," he said.
"Vocational training should be delivered by qualified teachers. We do not accept that private providers should be involved. The evidence is overwhelming that they are poorly regulated, they cost-cut and they have very poor completion rates."
School principals had been told the education department would work with the private providers through the process "to ensure robust delivery of the program and to ensure students obtain HSC quality", said Ms Mularczyk.
Schools had also been told there would be no additional cost, she said.
Companies selected by the department need to be registered with the Australian Skills Quality Authority, have undergone an initial audit and not have any sanctions.
A Board of Studies spokesman said schools would retain overall responsibility for monitoring HSC course delivery, and for the duty of care of students participating in external courses.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli's office declined to comment.
A department spokesman said: "TAFE NSW already competes with other providers to deliver VET, and this will continue under the new terms of procurement."
According to the Board of Studies, private providers delivered vocational training to 2482 school students in 2015.
This compares with 18,090 school students taking a TAFE course, and 43,970 students studying vocational subjects such as hospitality at the school itself.
The Teachers Federation said privatising VET subjects would ultimately cost schools more.
"The practice has been that you shield schools from the initial outlay, then at the stroke of a pen, say it can come out of the school budget," said Mr Mulheron.
Premier Mike Baird told 702 ABC this week that he was "not ideological" about the market reforms that are forcing TAFE to compete with private colleges for government funding.
"If there is a capacity for a private provider to provide a course in a way that is attractive to students, that delivers great outcomes in terms of employment – well why not?" he told radio host Wendy Harmer.
The NSW reforms come as multiple private training colleges have been deregistered and taken to court, after pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars in Commonwealth subsidies despite student completion rates as low as 5 per cent.


@smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

Helicopter Parents

Bizarre story in today's SMH

Private school teachers are being stalked to their homes during the weekend and harassed via email and SMS by helicopter parents anxious about their children's homework.
A Queensland University of Technology study of nearly 900 parents whose children attend an independent or Catholic school found those who tended to overparent had greater expectations that teachers would be responsible for their child completing homework. These expectations of teachers rose as the child moved through school.
"Teachers were seen as falling short in their actual responsibility in the higher grades," researcher Judith Locke
Ms Locke said overly involved parents could be too invested in their child's academic achievements, "which may result in excessive emotional reactions if the academic expectations are not fulfilled", and a tendency to blame the school for their child's failings.


Teachers increasingly report unreasonable homework expectations from parents. One father, on learning his son did not know what homework he had to complete that weekend, went to the apartment building where he knew the teacher lived. He rang every bell until he found the teacher on a Sunday afternoon and demanded the homework details for his son.
"It shows a real inability of the parent to accept the consequences for the child," Ms Locke said. "Instead, it was the teacher's responsibility to take time out of their weekend [and explain the homework]."
As children progressed through school, they should be taking more responsibility for their academic work, and the adults in their lives should be taking less, Ms Locke said. "That doesn't appear to be happening."
"In days of old, parents would say to the child 'why aren't you doing your homework'. Now they're much more likely to say to the school 'what are you doing about it?'" Ms Locke said.
Helicopter parents were less likely to approve the school giving consequences to students who had not completed their work.
To manage parental expectations, some schools have introduced "continuous reporting", where parents can log on to a website at any time to see tasks set, due dates, and the grades their children receive for assignments, rather than wait for the end-of-semester report to gauge their child's progress.
Independent Education Union acting secretary Gloria Taylor said parental scrutiny of teachers was escalating, spurred by the use of email and texts.
"People feel they can expect an instant response from a teacher if they contact them out of hours," she said. "They aren't very reasonable about that ... There is no doubt that those people expect teachers to be on call or do a lot of work that probably could be done at home."
Private schools said some parents had high expectations of the teachers and their child's academic achievement because of the fees they were paying.
"They're making a particular financial commitment; perhaps their expectations are unrealistic," Ms Taylor said. "The fact you are paying more doesn't necessarily mean you can put someone in a place they're not necessarily going to go."
Australian Primary Principals Association president Dennis Yarrington​ said children who took responsibility for their own homework learnt how to manage their time and workload and set priorities.
"These are all life skills parents want kids to learn," he said. "I know parents want to help their kids, but just stop and think 'am I teaching them to take responsibility for their learning?'."


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This is why I don't like homework and why an increasing number of teachers opt out of it. It is too often used to:
Give the impression that the school is 'old school style' tough on kids!
Cover large swaths of the curriculum that can't be covered in class time ( 'Do chapter 6 at home because we will start chapter 7 next week ....or after the holidays)
Create a selling point for some parents who think completing that page full of 'soldier sums' will give their child 'the edge'.
For all those parents who want homework there seems to be just as many who don't and chasing up overdue and 'lost' homework and dealing with parents who resent it is just as onerous.
I don't mind a 'holistic homework' that includes things like playing a board game with your family, making your bed, reading to a younger sibling, learning your tables or explaining to your parents a concept you learnt at school. Some kids like this but some don't . Few like regimented homework and I think the jury is still out on whether that makes kids better organised with their learning or not. I think liking school and enjoying what they do at school makes children enjoy learning and become life long learners. Five hours a week per subject of homework like a private school friend of my daughter had over the summer holidays doesn't make you a keener learner....in fact she hardly did any of it! I think it is better to focus on making school time a more worthwhile and happy experience. I think that makes children hungry to learn and do extra to achieve their goals.
As far as 'helicopter parents' I think we all have experiences with those whether it is state or private, pre-school, primary or secondary. 
Hooray 64000 views.

Friday, 29 January 2016

More Gonski fall out

Coalition Education Minister Birmingham admits that Gonski funding  is getting results but the decision to axe it has already been made.
He also apparently can't count!


Meanwhile Jay Weatherall seems to have gone a bit odd, first he wants a 15% GST  and now he turns on Gonski reform. Tony Burke however had this to say.....

A federal Labor frontbencher has dismissed South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill's attack on Labor's plan to fully fund Gonski as "drowning in ignorance".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced last week that a Labor government would fund the Gonski schools plan in full, but Mr Weatherill said his federal counterparts didn't have a "coherent" plan without a GST hike.

"It's a comment drowning in ignorance ... for the simple reason we have done what pretty much no opposition has done and that's announce our improvements to the budget bottom line well in advance of announcing any of the expenditure," opposition finance spokesman Tony Burke told Sky News on Sunday.



First Saturday back

Today is the first Saturday back at work this year. I find it better to do my paper work for DET and preparation for the next week on Saturday morning rather than after work. Today was a short visit. Just a quick clean of the toilets, update the kid's iPads and write the newsletter. I visited my wife's school on the way home and spent some time helping her move stuff around.Her students will be back at school on Monday.
Photo below is of her classroom and her 6 Traits of Writing display which you can buy from Paula's Place on TPT.


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Day 2

Day 2 of a very short week (two day working week would be great) 
Wayne came today and mowed for us and the lawns look great ( starting to turn green!)


Our new school bags.

We completed some of our concertina pictures again using calendar pictures.


To finish off today we started watching the new Blinky Bill DVD which was funny
Gonski

Feedback for the Opposition's Gonski Committment has been great. The usual suspects have lined up to say that it can't be funded but I guess that depends on your priorities.
The ALP commitment would see $1 billion in additional funding for Victorian schools in 2018 and 2019 (years five and six of the Gonski agreement), with even more funding for students with disabilities, and the reversal of the Turnbull Government's $10 billion cut to education funding over the next 10 years. These are resources our schools and staff need to support the education of every child.

In contrast, just after Christmas, the Turnbull Government's new education minister  reneged on a promise to deliver Gonski needs-based funding. The broken promise means that Victorian school funding will be cut after next year.

Educators know that additional needs-based funding is key to ensuring your students - no matter where they live, how much their parents earn, or if they have a learning difficulty or disability - are given the best opportunity to succeed at school. 

Labor's announcement is important - but now is the time for the Abbott/Turnbull government to step up to the plate, honour their promise and walk the walk!


Message to a school bully

When the rest of us were filling our Facebook posts with photographs of our little ones returning to school in their shiny new uniforms, Samantha* was feeling sick.

Her son is starting back today at a big Queensland state school he joined last year because of its special education unit.

Caleb* is on the autism spectrum, and that's made him easy prey for a small group of self-indulgent bullies that take turns in needling him to physically abusing him.

The name-calling is horrible: "retard", "you're gay", "hello Penis" or "f.... c...".

But it's the rock-throwing, being kicked in the testicles or shoved in the back as he walks by that breaks his spirit.

"Last year, it was every day," Samantha says. "I'd know immediately when I saw him each afternoon how bad it had been...he'd get into the car crying."'

One day a week, Samantha lets Caleb walk to McDonalds, as a step in the road to independence. She follows him, pays for his meal, but lets him sit with friends.

"I saw it. This girl arrives, doesn't buy anything, and makes trouble," she says. "On this occasion, she demanded he give her his food, before abusing him, and leaving."

Caleb's not the only victim; at this school the small group of attackers look to those who use the special education unit facility, knowing any contact is mis-matched.

But it's how the school - and our public schools in general - deals with bullying instances that has pushed Samantha to the limit.

Students have been suspended for mishandling Caleb, but that just leads to a cycle of new playground retribution.

Police have been called to instances outside the school gates, and an attempt to take an AVO out against a female attacker failed because she was under 18 years of age.

"There's got to be a better way," Samantha told me this week. She's tried writing to the parents of the school, through the principal, but that's met a dead end.

Her son, she keeps being told, has to "become more resilient".

So how would you deal with it? 

I'm not sure, and good luck to those parents whose afternoon chats are filed with toothless smiles and cheerful chatter of lunchtime adventures.

But in a community where so much money and education is being thrown at domestic violence and the dangers of a single punch - as it should be - we need to look inside the gates of the school ground.

Couldn't that be an early pointer to the violent behaviour that is filling our courts?

Samantha is at her wit's end; just hoping Caleb comes home later today wearing the smile he'll have dressing for school this morning.

"There is no duty of care in schools," she says. "The bullying links on school's websites are simply for show. My son has threatened to hurt himself. I have been racking my brain on what else we can do and realised maybe love will work. I do not want to bury my child. Please consider supporting us."

Samantha has prepared a note for her son's bullies, and contacted me because she didn't know how to pass it on. 

Here it is:

Dear bully,

Did you know that as a parent of a bullied child I am well aware that your life might be tough. Stuff at home might not be the best. I understand you are angry. There is no control or safety or maybe love in your life. 

Guess what. My bullied child can be a person who is an ally. Me as his parent will generously give you safe harbour. Our home is yours. 

Please also understand that the pain you are feeling you are passing on and sharing. You are 13. I bet you don't want to do that. But you don't know where to turn. Talk to me. I will not judge or condemn you. 

The choices we make at 13 will haunt us and I speak from experience. If you got to know my lovely quirky autistic son you would gain so much insight into his life. He is just like you. He wants love and to feel safe and to have friends. 

Dear bully. I will make a deal. I will not call you a bully if you will spend time with us and our loving family and know that we have enough love for you

I wish you peace and happiness 

From a loving Mum

My hope is that every single one of Caleb's bullies reads it.

Samantha and Caleb's names have been changed because of fears it will lead to an escalation of the bullying.

Information about the effects of bullying can be found on the Make Bullying History website.


@theage on Twitter | theageAustralia on Facebook

 

This is called science in some places

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

GONSKI COMMITTMENT

There is now a stark difference in Federal funding for state schools and for students with disabilities going into this year's election.

Story from today's Age

Labor will pump $4.5 billion into the nation's schools by fully funding the Gonski funding agreements it struck when last in office, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will say today in his first election-year policy announcement.

With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull soaring in the polls, Labor is attempting to shift the focus to education - one of the party's traditional strengths. 

When the Coalition came to power in 2013 it announced it would only fund the first four years of Labor's six-year school funding deals. State governments have lobbied hard against the reduction given the biggest increases in spending, around two thirds, were contained in years five and six.

Mr Shorten will announce on Thursday that Labor will honour the full six years of funding deals with NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania - giving the states funding certainty until 2020. 

The policy is expected to cost an extra $4.5 billion over school years 2018 and 2019, with the total package expected to cost $37.3 billion over the decade.

Agreements with the other states which did not sign on to Gonski would be negotiated if Labor wins government.

Labor will also provide $320 million in additional funding for students with disability for three years from 2017 while working with the states to fully implement a new disability loading.

The spending will be paid for through previously-announced increases in tobacco excise, tightening superannuation concessions, a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance and scrapping a new $1000 baby bonus for couples with a stay-at-home parent. 

By 2020, Labor wants to have 95 per cent of students completing Year 12 and by 2025, the party wants to return Australia to the top five countries in reading, maths and science.

"Australian schooling is going backwards internationally and this presents an immense threat to Australia's future economic and social prosperity," Mr Shorten said.

"Talk about innovation without a commitment to quality education is just talk. 

"As most mothers do, my mum drummed in the importance of education into me from a very young age.

"Every Australian child should have the same chance of succeeding at school as any other child in the country – no matter what their background, no matter where they live, and no matter what type of school they go to."

Former education minister Christopher Pyne said Labor had left the school funding system in a "shambles" when it came to office and the government had delivered a national model by providing $1.2 billion to Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

His successor, Simon Birmingham, told Fairfax Media the government will seek to negotiate new funding agreements with the states from 2018.

"I don't see much benefit for anyone if we dedicate two more years of funding just to create more uncertainty down the track," Senator Birmingham said.

"The previous [Labor] government's approach showed great largesse in tipping additional funding into the system, but they created a complicated model that lacks fairness and transparency.

"I want a school funding system that is genuinely needs-based and is targeting the money where it's most required."


Shorten followed this up with an email to schools:


I know you care about education and about ensuring every child in every school, no matter their background, gets the opportunities they deserve.

That’s why I wanted you to know about the huge announcement I’m about to make in just a few moments.

I’m about to go out and announce Labor’s Your Child. Our Future — our plan to put the needs of your child at the centre of school funding.

Our plan would represent the most significant improvement in school education in Australia for a generation. It’s a positive plan for every child in every school, no matter their background, to make sure they get the opportunities they deserve.

I’m proud to announce that this plan means a Shorten Labor Government would deliver the Gonski reforms on-time and in-full for our kids – reversing the Turnbull Government’s cuts.

I’ve spoken to so many teachers, students and parents over the last two years and they’ve been crying out for proper investment in our schools. Even you signed a petition calling for investment in our education system.

You and I know that Australia’s schools are falling behind. We must make it a priority now to invest in education for the future of our nation. 

That’s why I’m announcing our five part plan today: 

1.    Focus on every single child's needs

2.    More individual attention for students

3.    Better trained teachers - and more of them

4.    Better targeted resources and better equipped classrooms

5.    More support for students with special learning needs

Every school, every child — public, independent or catholic schools — will all benefit.

You’ve taken action before and now I’m asking if you can take action again. I need you to help me spread the news on Labor’s positive plan. Can you share my video announcing this positive plan for your kids and our future?

I honestly can’t think of anything more important a Government could do than invest in our kids.

So please share this around. Because talk about innovation without education is just that: talk. Every child, in every school across the country will have a part to play in our future economy.

Thanks for standing with me on this,

Bill

PS You can read more information about the detail of our positive five part plan for schools and implementing Gonski by clicking here.


Federal Labor today committed to delivering the vital last two years of Gonski funding.This is the funding for 2018-19. They already committed to this at their Federal Conference ( Refer previous post last year) But this is a welcome announcement Bill Shorten who said it was a critical investment in our children and the nation’s future.
It comes as plenty of evidence ( again refer previous posts) that where the funding is being delivered so far it is making a real difference for students and teachers.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he supports needs-based funding (but has adopted Tony Abbott’s position of scrapping Gonski after next year.) Turnbull seems to hold lots of positions on important issues but does nothing about them!
Under the Abbott/Turnbull policy no public school in the country will be funded according to student need and no school will get the vital last two years of funding in 2018 and 2019  – the time when the biggest increases are due to be delivered.This can and should become a big election issue. We should not allow ourselves to be lied about this again!

First day back for the kids

First day back for the kids today. They all arrived back safe and sound and probably a few centimetres taller. I caught up with most parents and they seemed to have a good break too.
We had a storm when they arrived but it had passed by recess time.



I didn't do the usual 'What did you do over the holidays?' Thing. We did complete an 'all about me' printable ( From Paula's Place) which is always fun to look back on at the end of the year.

We started some Australian Day puzzle tasks and some art. Today we make slide pictures using pictures from Victoria, Melbourne and Ballarat calendars. They turned out well.


Why libraries are important

From the Guardian
As someone who grew up in a home without books, no spare cash to buy them and no tradition of reading bedtime stories, my local library offered something unique and indispensable. It’s hard to think of anything that brought me more joy as a primary school-aged child than walking back from the Falls Road library in west Belfast with a bundle of books.


Having a library within walking distance of home was a way for a young girl from a poor background to access the same breadth of reading material as anyone else – at no expense. It stripped away at least some of the disadvantage that came with being from a low-income family. So every time I hear of another library closure – and there were more than 100 last year alone in Scotland, Wales and England, according to official figures – it hits a nerve. The loss of libraries is simply another surefire way to entrench inequality.

From providing books for people of all ages and backgrounds, to kids clubs and hubs for older people, to computer terminals that those with no access to the internet can use to find job vacancies, libraries are about as democratic and diverse as is possible to imagine. When properly funded and resourced they are educational and social anchors in communities everywhere. Yet, despite knowing all this, in the past five years the relentless funding constraints placed on local authorities have seen library budgets slashed by an astounding amount.

Over the course of the last parliament, cuts to services and closures amounted to a 16% reduction in library funding – a whopping £180m less than in 2010. As if that wasn’t enough, last month the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy questioned the long-term sustainability of council-run libraries after its latest calculations confirmed another £50m had been wiped from library budgets across England, Scotland and Wales in the previous 12 months.

The UK’s library service has for decades been one of its great, tangible symbols of social justice
Meanwhile, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Cilip) has warned that the billions of pounds of extra funding cuts for local authorities will mean another round of savage reductions in library services, and potentially a stark postcode lottery as councils in poorer areas feel they must jettison library services.

Cilip also pointed out (and this is something often missed when looking just at the numbers) that even where services are still running, many are hollowing out. Libraries are increasingly reliant on volunteers, for example. In fact, between 2009-10 and 2014-15 a quarter of all professional library posts (6,172) disappeared. In many libraries that have survived, book stocks are depleted, opening hours reduced and, in some cases, swipe card access used to save on staff costs.

There has also been a fall in library-run projects targeted at particular groups, including the most marginalised, according to a Cilip straw poll last year. Services designed for disabled people and other disadvantaged groups – the very people who benefit most from libraries – are at risk of further erosion.

Nick Poole, chief executive of Cilip, said libraries “have been seen as an easy target” but that cuts to frontline services are both misguided and short-sighted. “What we’ve got with regards to libraries is a systematic policy of neglect,” he said. Librarians and users have taken to the streets in protest against cuts, while Cilip has launched a campaign, My library by right, as well as a legal challenge to seek clarification of the government’s legal duty under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service. It has also launched a petition that has so far garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

To lose our libraries would be a national disaster – we must act to save them | Desmond Clarke
Nevertheless, libraries remain vulnerable. As the current financial year draws to a close, councils are finalising their budgets, an unenviable task in the current climate. The Department for Media, Culture and Sport insists libraries are modernising and new libraries are being built, for example, in Stafford and Camberwell. A spokeswoman told me that local authorities are repeatedly reminded of their statutory obligations. This is all well and good, but its easy to cherry pick. On the flip side Birmingham’s new multimillion pound flagship library announced last autumn that it would have to stop buying new books because of cuts. And is it really any wonder libraries are being sacrificed when councils are struggling to cover services such as social care?

There is so much more at stake than people not being able to take home some books. The UK’s library service has for decades been one of its great, tangible symbols of social justice and has adapted admirably to changing demand. It is something we should all stand up for, whether we use what’s on offer or not. I still have my first library card. What have we become if in the years ahead far fewer people are able to say the same thing?

By Mary O'Hara


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Special Library day

Libraries across the world unite - it's International #libraryshelfie Day
Remarkable 'banned books' interactive display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat.
I also cleaned all the library shelves today....
Mobile library ( USA circa 1920s)


Start of term 1

Got to school bright and early at 7:00 am today. It was a mild sunny morning.
We had about 10 ml of rain the other day and the zucchini and strawberries look good but I'm still worried about the tomatoes. We are supposed to have a lot of rain today so here's hoping. 
Heather came up to finish off the accounts. She is expecting a new grand child any minute! 
I went certifiably mad and decided to clean the window ( refer photo below) They turned out well.
Everything is ready for when the kids arrive. A two day week is a bit crazy so we will have a quiet couple of days just getting back into routine. I have a PST ( Pre Service Teacher ) starting next week so she popped in for a tour ( Melissa)
It's also good to see Queensland state education is back on course after the sterile Newman years.



Monday, 25 January 2016

Bean counters at it again

From Caitlin Rose
( All Caitlin and her mates want is to finish their education and the NT bean counters don't want that. Sign her petition here on Change.org: 
Tony - There's a petition trending on Change.org and we think you might be interested in signing it: 

I’m devastated. The NT government want to close my school which means young mums like me won’t finish their education. It doesn’t make sense.

I’m 18, live in Darwin and have a 4 month old bub. And for once in my life I actually look forward to go to school - the teachers are flexible, move at our pace and the best part is we can take our babies with us! There’s about 15 of us young mums in the class, we’re a community.

But we’ve just found out the education department plan to shut down my school to save money. They didn't even let us know before the new year and I’m meant to return for Year 12 in a week.

We all just want to be able to finish school – but that'll be impossible if they force us into another school. We can't afford costly full-time childcare!

I honestly don't think this is fair or the right thing to do, so please support us in saving our schooling program by signing our petition! Thanks everyone.

I Live in Watha wurrung country. Where do you live?