Monday, 27 August 2018


This year's NAPLAN tests are so flawed the results of 1 million students "should be discarded", according to two international experts who have issued scathing criticism of the national system.

US professors Les Perelman and Walt Haney, both renowned authorities on assessment, claim the results are of "very limited use" to parents, teachers and schools.

US professors Les Perelman and Walt Haney, both renowned authorities on assessment, claim the results are of "very limited use" to parents, teachers and schools.

The professors' findings are contained in a report commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation following the recent furore surrounding the comparability of online and pen-and-paper test results.

The Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (ACARA) assured schools its methods for scaling and equating test scores are statistically sound.

But Professor Haney, the former longtime head of the Centre for the Study of Testing at Boston College, said numerous studies had shown there were "enormous" differences between the two modes.

"There's no way that you can successfully equate the results for a large number of schools, much less for a large number of students, to take into account the well-documented effects of mode of administration on the results of the test," Professor Haney told the ABC.

"If the administration there is trying to claim that the results of the computer tests can be reasonably compared with the results of past tests, I would say that on the basis of research that I've done and that I know of, that is potentially very misleading.

"I would say that there may have been some naive people in the leadership of education administration in Australia who were simply not aware of what is traditionally required to reliably equate the results of different test administrations."


·         Two US professors say online and pen-and-paper tests cannot be compared

·         They say 2018 NAPLAN results are of "very limited use" and should be discarded

·         Sydney University expert says tests can be compared if the right scaling methods are used


Sunday, 26 August 2018

This government is more of the same.

STOP PRESS: a muppet called Dan Tehan is the new education minister.

A "fix" to the school funding wars will be unveiled by new Prime Minister Scott Morrison as one of his first acts to heal the political wounds that divided Coalition MPs and helped trigger the demise of Malcolm Turnbull.

Fairfax Media understands a proposal to address the concerns of the Catholic sector and guarantee interim funding for next year is very close to being finalised and is likely to proceed whether or not Education Minister Simon Birmingham remains in the role in Mr Morrison's new-look cabinet.

The policy would act on the recommendations of a recent review by businessman Michael Chaney which proposed a new method of evaluating a private school's socio-economic status using parents' income tax data.

The schism over school funding was a factor in some of the unrest leading to this week's upheaval. Liberal MP Tony Pasin, who supported Peter Dutton, told Fairfax Media on Saturday: "We need to resolve it as soon as practicable."

It is understood Senator Birmingham is keen to remain in the portfolio and will tell Mr Morrison he is best placed to quickly strike a deal with the various school sectors and sign agreements with the states - which were due to be finalised at an Education Council meeting in a few weeks.

He is also open to a change of role, and a new minister would have a clean slate with Catholic sector administrators in Victoria, who have waged a bitter and personal war against the South Australian. 

But the National Catholic Education Commission, whose negotiators met with Senator Birmingham as recently as Monday to nail down data related to the Chaney review, gave him the tick of approval.

"We've been working with him and we're going to continue working with him," said spokesman Jim Hanna on Saturday. "It's not about personalities. We just want to get the best outcome with whoever is the minister on the day."

Geoff Newcombe, chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, said Senator Birmingham had "shown great determination and integrity in trying to put in place a fair funding model that applies consistently to all non-government schools. We look forward to continuing to work with him on this important issue."

Christian Schools Australia, which earlier this month lobbied Mr Turnbull against a "special deal" for the Catholic sector, represents about 140 schools around Australia. About a third are Pentecostal, the church attended by Mr Morrison.

Its national executive officer Mark Spencer said he was "fairly happy" with Senator Birmingham's work on the Gonski 2.0 funding model. "He has played a straight bat," Mr Spencer said. "No one in the sector wants a massive change."

But keeping Senator Birmingham in the role would be a significant rebuke to conservatives MPs who fought for Peter Dutton's elevation this week. One backer said the school funding debate "really got out of control and started to really hurt us", and Senator Birmingham remaining as minister "won't necessarily be helpful".

Public school representatives were hesitant about a change in policy direction. Agreements set for discussion at September's meeting of education ministers are intended to lock in funding as well as commitments from the states to David Gonski's package of curriculum and teaching reforms.

But at least one state expected this week's chaos to upend or delay those talks. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino told Fairfax Media "a lot needs to change" if there was to be a deal this year.

"Simon Birmingham has spent the last few months focused on fighting with Catholic and independent schools rather than negotiating with states and territories," he said.


His cuts hurt Catholic schools, but it’s public schools that are hardest hit – they cop 85 per cent of the cuts.

Mr Morrison’s own colleagues have described the Liberals’ school funding policy as a “toxic” “omnishambles”, and a “festering sore”.

Australians will never forget that Scott Morrison was the Treasurer who cut $17 billion from schools to give the big banks a $17 billion tax handout.

Mr Morrison just can’t be trusted with education. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

DeVos insanity

WASHINGTON — The Education Department is considering whether to allow states to use federal funding to purchase guns for educators, according to multiple people with knowledge of the plan.

Such a move appears to be unprecedented, reversing a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons. And it would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns. As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms.

But the department is eyeing a program in federal education law, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, that makes no mention of prohibiting weapons purchases. That omission would allow the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use her discretion to approve any state or district plans to use grant funding for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action.

“The department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety,” said Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. “The secretary nor the department issues opinions on hypothetical scenarios.”

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Ardern leads and Birmingham fumbles

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave an impromptu speech in attempt to rally the support of teachers who were protesting outside Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

She wasn't scheduled to show up, but told the crowd of thousands that when she saw them streaming onto the grounds she "couldn't not" speak to them.

"You are all here because you are passionate about kids, and you know as we know that the education system has the power to overcome so many of the issues and challenges we face as the country," she said.

Ms Ardern told them that she was Minister for Children because her motivation in politics is kids, just as it was for teachers in their careers.

She asked them to work with the Government as they tried to move negotiations forward.

"The last speaker said we need radical change - yes; I guess the only point we would make is unfortunately, sometimes radical change takes time."

Monday, 13 August 2018


On the day it was revealed 1 in 7 university students in Australia are going without food, the Liberals just passed a law that will force lower income earners to pay back their student loans sooner. All while Malcolm Turnbull wants to give $17 billion to the big banks – his priorities are all wrong.

Saturday, 11 August 2018


I put an end to Homework at Glen Park PS twenty years ago! I told parents at the time to get their kids involved in a sport or do swimming or take music lessons etc. all I want The to do is allow their children some time to read, practice their tables and high frequency words.

Primary schools ditch homework for students in favour of play, reading and downtime

By Rebecca Carmody ABC

A small but potentially growing number of WA public schools are banning homework for primary students so they can spend more time relaxing, reading and playing.

At least four schools have introduced official "no homework" policies — all they ask of students is to read a little each night, preferably with their parents.

They argue homework is of no benefit to younger children and can even be detrimental because it gets in the way of important family and recreation time, which allows children to recharge their batteries after a busy day of learning at school.

It could be the start of a quiet revolution, with a number of other schools watching closely before taking the leap themselves.

Benefit of homework questioned

Bramfield Park Primary School, in the Perth suburb of Maddington, introduced its no homework policy last year, but it came with strings attached.

Principle Jayne Murray said the school wanted children reading or being read to every night, getting out and playing rather than being glued to a screen, and also getting a good night's sleep.

"They work really hard when they're here everyday. They're on task, they're really learning a lot, so we think after school is a time to do something else, not be on their screens but get outside and play.

"It's a stress for parents, it's a stress for teachers.

"Finding that time to sit down with your child is difficult if you're busy."

She said only a small number of parents requested homework for their children and the school directed them to online learning resources including ABC Reading Eggs and Mathletics, or encouraged them to get 

'We don't need our children to be busy'

Newly opened Southern Grove Primary School, in the south Perth suburb of Southern River, introduced its no homework policy this year.

Currently the school only has kindergarten and pre-primary students, but the policy will apply to Years K-6 next year.

Principal Rebecca Burns said the decision was research-driven and the school had decided to foster a love of reading instead.

"I would like them to be reading, I would like them to be cooking with their parents," she said.

"I would like them to be playing board games, I would like them to be outside doing some physical activity and sport, playing with their friends and also just having that down time.

"Somehow in society there's a need to keep our children so busy, and we actually don't need our children to be busy.

"We need them to be able to relax, have a break and just be themselves."

Other schools adopting a similar approach include Honeywood Primary School in the outlying Perth suburb of Wandi and Bletchley Park Primary School in Southern River, where homework was banned 11 years ago.

But after a recent review, Bletchley Park has approved limited homework, allowing spelling lists, times tables, and project work for the final term in Year 6, to better prepare students for high 

The great homework debate

The WA Education Department does not take sides in what can be a controversial debate.

It only requires schools to document their approach, taking into account the needs of students, their age and the context of the 

Departmental guidelines stipulate that homework should not require unreasonable levels of parent help, should not impinge on family, recreational or cultural time, should not be given as a form of punishment, and should be directly linked to learning.

WA Education Department principal advisor Doug Cook said a blanket approach to homework does not work.

"Every school has a different context," he said.

"If you look at the size of our state, from tiny little Wheatbelt schools with one teacher where kids go home from school and actually have work to do around a farm, extra tasks on top of that might make the home life difficult.

"We have remote schools, where some of the home lives aren't ideal, and setting tasks for kids to take home into an environment where they may not be able to do it sets them up for failure.

"Making a blanket rule for a state this size, with so many different contexts, would be short-sighted."

Good v bad homework

While the prospect of no homework is relished by some, not everyone is convinced.

Glenn Savage, a senior lecturer in education policy at the University of Western Australia, said there was a huge gulf between good homework and bad.

There was also a strong body of research showing students reaped the rewards of homework if it was thought out correctly.

"I think there are some problems with the blanket-ban approach to homework," Dr Savage said.

"What we should be doing is trying to inspire all teachers to understand what good homework practices look like, and then rolling that out across all schools and across all classrooms.

"You wouldn't want to go from Year 6 having no homework, having never heard of the concept, to suddenly going to high school in Year 7 and being given homework every night, and not know how to be an effective learner when it comes to that."

Taking children out of the rat race

Applied social psychologist and educator Helen Street welcomed the decision of some primary schools to ditch homework.

"I think it's fantastic," Dr Street said.

"We have to stop trying to think of education as this race. And the sooner we start, and the more we do, the quicker we'll get over the finish line.

"I think it's really important that primary schools encourage children to have as much free, self-determined, creative time as possible.

"Free time is not time out from learning, it's a really important part of learning.

"We need to think of the whole child and the whole of their learning, not simply about more and more academic structured work, which is actually diminishing creativity and diminishing autonomy.

"We're ending up with a lot of children leaving Year 12 feeling really disengaged and despondent."

HOORAY: 155000 views.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018


From the ABC

The NAPLAN results for more than 1 million children have been caught up in controversy as education heads raise the alarm that it may not be possible to compare scores across the country.


·         NAPLAN results delayed over concerns national data could be invalid

·         State and territory education heads have raised concerns results are not comparable

·         Parents and educators are waiting for results that are "sitting on the shelves"

The national assessment authority, ACARA, was due to publish a summary of the preliminary NAPLAN results of 1 million students today, but there is disagreement between some states and the authority over how scores should be publicly reported.

A confidential document seen by the ABC reveals ACARA has been canvassing options for how and when to report this year's results since June and the implications of each one, including the "reputational risk" to the national testing body, NAPLAN and My School data.

The ABC understands no agreement was reached and several state department heads questioned whether data was statistically comparable between the new online tests and the pen-and-paper version after seeing their students' test scores.

The education bosses will meet with ACARA in Canberra today to try and resolve the impasse.

Principals are now speaking out about the uncertainty, saying they are concerned the data will be delayed further.

"Parents are asking when the results are coming," said Julie Ross, the principal of Kogarah High School in Sydney's south. 

"I have to throw my hands up and say 'look I'm sorry, I can't tell you.' There's a lot of disquiet."

Below is an email I sent to the VCAA after finishing training! I got a call the other day and was told I could elect to do it pen and paper but everyone will be doing it online by 2020. I said that there was no point delaying the inevitable but it had to be sorted out so it was fair for small rural schools. I asked who do I complain too and was told I could contact ACARA abut they'd just send the complaint back to the VCAA.  I tweeted Callister and Merlino this morning about this but fat lot of good that will do. I'll raise it with the AEU at a PCA meeting I have this evening.

My name is Tony Shaw . I’m the principal of a one-teacher rural school. I have just completed a NAPLAN Online training session.

I have been administering NAPLAN every year (since it was LAP/AIM) and have always found it disruptive during the testing week and the co-ordinator process time consuming but  bearable. (in particular the security procedure is facile in my school setting) 

However the training I just completed is of genuine concern. Obviously nobody running NAPLAN has any understanding of the day to day operation of a one-teacher rural school because the process that was shown to us looks extremely convoluted and will cause considerable disruption for my school for much longer than three days!

I was particularly stunned by the stupid instruction that I had to create a separate email account as the NAPLAN Coordinator! (apparently I have to ‘invite ‘ myself to do something?) Small rural schools where one person has to do EVERYTHING should  have an abridged process to follow or be allowed to continue to use pen and paper. I now understand why one of my colleagues has refused to be involved in this.

I would appreciate a response to this email ASAP.


Thursday, 2 August 2018

Birmingham at it again

The Australian Education Union has accused the Turnbull government of using students as an “experiment”, after tender documents revealed a new government program could allow people without university degrees to teach in classrooms.

For the last federal budget the education minister, Simon Birmingham, announced a new “high-achieving teachers program” as a way of providing “new and diverse pathways into teaching”.

The program is essentially a spin-off of the existing Teach for Australia program, which has been running since 2009. Until now the $77m program has been run exclusively by Teach for Australia, but the government has opened the new high-achieving teachers program to bids from other private tenderers.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Catholics fighting doesn't get better than this.

Families are being warned of another damaging "funding war" over education that could lift fees and close services, in a new challenge to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to rule out a deal that could cost independent schools $1 billion over a decade.

Groups representing 650 independent schools across three states have fired off a blistering letter to Mr Turnbull demanding an urgent meeting to ensure he does not strike a “special deal” with Catholic schools to give them an unfair advantage.

The move heightens the political pressure over school funding as Liberal and Nationals MPs call for assistance for the Catholic sector, setting up a clash over any outcome that creates a new class of losers.

The federal government is struggling to contain the explosive pressures across the sector as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten promises $17 billion in higher funding to all schools, raising questions about the impact on public schools from any Coalition agreement with Catholic and independent groups.

Independent school associations in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia joined forces on Tuesday to write to Mr Turnbull calling for a meeting to ensure they did not lose out from a new funding formula. “We’re writing to alert you to the growing alarm among Independent schools caused by the disturbing signals emerging from public and political discussion about school funding,” they wrote.

Parents would react with “dismay and anger” if the government gave in to a political campaign by Catholic schools to extract a special deal, wrote Independent Schools of NSW chief Geoff Newcombe, Independent Schools Victoria chief Michelle Green and Independent Schools of South Australia Carolyn Grantskalns.

“We support more funding for all schools, regardless of sector, as long as there is a level playing field,” they said.

“This recent campaign, however, has used the rhetorical stereotypes of class warfare, impugned the integrity of staff in independent schools, and published ‘hit lists’ of selected independent schools.

“It would be a backward step if, as a result of this political pressure, we return to the funding wars, in which the stereotypes of ‘class warfare’ and ‘hit lists” re-emerge in practical form.”

The move counters a growing assertiveness from Catholic school authorities in the wake of the byelections last Saturday, where principals at three Catholic schools in the key electorate of Longman emailed parents on the eve of the byelection to influence their votes.

The email to Catholic school parents told them that Labor was offering $250 million more to the Catholic sector across the country over two years – signalling the likelihood of a similar campaign at the general election.

Catholic school authorities used a meeting with Education Minister Simon Birmingham on Tuesday to press for a resolution within weeks with a revised formula to increase their funding.

“It was a productive discussion, but it’s now crunch time for some key decisions to put these issues to bed,” said Dallas McInerney, the chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW.

“We’ll meet again within a fortnight to address the outstanding matters that need resolution.

“We’re trying to ensure the government has a fairer funding model in place for all schools.”

The growing dispute centres on a review of the school resourcing funding model by company director Michael Chaney and others, setting the framework for an attempted compromise with Catholic and independent schools.

Fairfax Media understands the independent school sector fears it could lose $1 billion over a decade under some proposals to help the Catholic sector, tilting the playing field in the competition over fees and services.

There are 1730 Catholic schools educating round 760,000 students across the country.

There are 1061 independent schools educating 604,000 students.

There are 6639 public schools with 2.52 million students across the country.

The letter from the independent schools associations was copied to school principals, clearing the ground for a campaign to warn parents about any loss in funding.

Some principals have already used newsletters and emails to alert parents to the funding problem, ready to match a political campaign from the Catholic sector in the wake of the Saturday byelections.

Government sources told Fairfax Media a resolution could take two months rather than be done in a matter of weeks, as speculated in the media on Monday.

In a serious political danger for Mr Turnbull and the Coalition, any concessions to Catholic or independent schools raise the risk of a more powerful campaign by Labor and the Australian Education Union to warn about funding cuts to government schools.

AEC president Correna Haythorpe said Mr Turnbull should restore $1.9 billion in funding for public education rather than strike special deals.

“Public schools were victims of savage funding cuts under Gonski 2.0, and they must have their funding restored before Mr Turnbull considers any further special funding deals for private schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

From the Age