Monday, 29 October 2018

What passes for an education policy

It was telling that there was no press conference or media release about the Coalition’s plans to reintroduce special religious instruction into Victorian state schools.

This was a pitch aimed at religious conservatives, who are having a growing influence on Victorian Liberal Party politics, so it made perfect sense to unveil it at an Australian Christian Lobby event.

Taking to the stage of Crossways Baptist Church for the pre-election event in Melbourne’s east on Saturday, Opposition leader Matthew Guy told the captivated audience he’d bring back religious instruction during class time because "it’s very important".

But while it was welcome news to the crowd who had gathered at one of Australia’s largest Baptist churches, it was perhaps not a message the Coalition wanted to promote more broadly.

You see, the 30-minute classes in Victorian state schools have been controversial for the most part of a decade.

The move to an opt-in system led to a 42 per cent decline in enrolments in the religion classes.

Trouble struck a few years later in 2014 when volunteers from Access Ministries, the main provider of Christian religious instruction, distributed "biblezines" to students which described homosexuality as a sin.

You won't be seeing it at Glen Park Primary while I'm Principal there!

Friday, 26 October 2018

Tunnel Books

This is a very easy how to guide for creating a 'tunnel book'. There are instructions, photos and templates. Even a knucklehead should be able to get their students making one of these using this. Stop moaning, Kids love it, download it and have a go. Its free!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Helping disadvantaged children

From the Conversation

What if we had an opportunity to double the size of the tourism industry, or to quadruple the size of the beef industry, or to boost the economy by more than any of the presently proposed tax switches?

What if we could do it while permanently improving the lives of disadvantaged young people?

We surely wouldn’t let it slip away.

Yet we do every day while we fail to address the gap in school achievement between between rural, regional and remote children and their city counterparts.

New estimates

In a report for UNSW Gonski Institute on Education launched on Monday, Jessie Zhang and I estimated the size of the gap. We also document its causes, and outline what the research in the United States and Europe tells us about ways to narrow it.

Over the past decade education research has undergone a transformation with the use of large-scale randomised controlled trials to determine what works.

It isn’t easy because correlations can be misleading. If, for instance, we discover that women who eat more fish during pregnancy tend to have children who perform better in primary school, we might be tempted to conclude its the Omega-3 fatty acids that do it.

It’s hard to work out what works

But women who eat a lot of fish tend to be wealthier. It might be that extra wealth – and the educational resources it affords – that are driving the better performance.

Who knows? Increasingly, the social scientists who construct randomised trials do. 

Using techniques from pharmaceutical and other trials they are getting good at zeroing in actual causes and ignoring mere correlations.

What works the most, according to the US studies, are high-dose-small-group tutoring, balanced incentives for students, managed professional development for teachers, smaller class sizes, and a culture of high expectations. 

Some of what works is as good as free

Some of these measures are expensive, some are almost free. 

All have been shown to have a high return in the US.

There are good reasons to believe they could be highly effective in rural, regional and remote Australia.

It would be worthwhile conducting our own randomised controlled trials in our own cultural and educational environment to be sure.

The prize is big

In our report we translate the differences in school achievement to the differences in human capital and eventually lifetime earnings. 

This puts the economic benefit of closing the urban-non urban gap at A$56 billion — about 3.3% of Gross Domestic Product.

Massive though that number is, it is both narrow and an underestimate. It focuses purely on how better skills can translate into better wages. 

It doesn’t consider how the benefits of better skills can spread and multiply throughout the economy. Nor does it consider the benefit of revitalising country towns, or the benefits of better physical and mental health.

Bigger than we can measure

Most of all, it doesn’t capture the truth that bridging this achievement gap would provide a world of expanded opportunities for millions of young Australians, and give them the chance to live out their full potential.

Bridging the urban non-urban achievement gap between is easier said than done, but the potential benefits from it to both the economy and the lives of Australians who would become more able to achieve their full potential are too big to ignore.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

It doesn't matter!!!!!

It turns out that the state where a student attends school has a greater impact on how they learn than the school's location, size or sector, according to a blunt assessment of state-by-state results released by the Grattan Institute. 

High-achieving students in Victorian secondary schools made three months less progress in numeracy than their peers in NSW.

But Victorian schools were the star performers when it came to supporting disadvantaged students, who made four months more progress than the national average from years 7 to 9.

“We need to continue to support disadvantaged students,” report co-author Peter Goss said. “We are doing a better job than other parts of the country.”

The report suggests Victoria and NSW should swap notes on how to accommodate students on the two ends of the spectrum.

It singles out Victoria’s early adoption of needs-based funding and its push to increase participation in early learning as key drivers behind the standout performance of its disadvantaged schools.

Meanwhile, NSW’s strong focus on policies for gifted and high-achieving students has lifted the performance of its advantaged schools, defined in the report as schools with a high socio-economic profile.

It argues this is a better measure of the value added by a school.

This measure is also the focus of the Gonski 2.0 review into school funding, which has a goal of delivering a year of improvement in results for every student every year.

The report also reveals that once a student’s socioeconomic circumstances are taken into account, there's little difference between state, independent and Catholic schools.

“Choosing by school sector isn’t going to help you much, if at all,” Dr Goss said.

On a national level, Australian students in low-achieving schools make only half the progress in numeracy from Year 7 to Year 9 as their peers in high-achieving schools, and 30 per cent less progress in reading.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said while he welcomed the report, it only covered data up until 2016, when the government's education state agenda kicked in.

"These reforms are clearly working," he said.

"2018 NAPLAN results show we are now leading the nation in the primary years, our Year 7 students were among the nation’s top performers and Victorian Year 9 students saw their results improve in four out of five testing areas.”

He said the government was working to lift results across the board and schools responded to the needs of all students, including those with higher abilities.

While the ACT is one of the country's star performers in NAPLAN achievement data, it's the worst performer when it comes to improvement.

"On a like-for-like basis, its students make two to three months less progress than the national average in both primary and secondary school," the report said.

And Northern Territory and Tasmanian schools, which are "perennially labelled as under-performers", achieve progress that is on par with similar interstate schools.

The cost of ignoring rural education

Travelling bush tutors and rewards for student effort could help close the $50 billion education gap between urban and regional areas, a new report has found.

The report, led by UNSW economics professor Richard Holden, found Australia would add up to $53 billion to its annual GDP if it invested in the education of kids in rural and regional areas.

The Economic Impact of Improving Regional, Rural and Remote Education in Australia, the first research to be released by the Gonski Institute for Education, said there would be a big return on modest investment in regional schooling.

"Compared to some proposals for regional development, the education gap is particularly large and offers a high return on investment," the report said. "[In comparison], proposals such as the recent 'inland rail project' may not even cover their costs."

Dr Holden used NAPLAN scores to measure the gap between urban and non-urban students. He then used comparable US data to calculate the resulting earnings gap, which added up to 3.3 per cent of GDP.

The head of the Gonski Institute, former National Party MP and education minister Adrian Piccoli, said the report was commissioned because it was difficult to get governments interested in regional and remote education.

"It's difficult to get decision-makers to understand the economic consequences of having this gap," he said.

"But actually, when you put a number on it, and then at the same time people talk all the time about regional development ... here is the great regional development opportunity."

A Liberal Government?

Last time we had a Liberal government in Victoria, they:
  • Cut more than $600 million from public schools
  • Cut literacy and numeracy coaches from schools
  • Broke their promise to make Victorian teachers the highest paid in the nation
  • Tried to introduce performance pay for school staff.
We can't allow Matthew Guy to pursue his anti-public education agenda.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Catholics give their (our) money to their rich schools

The former NSW education minister and ex-Nationals MP, Adrian Piccoli, has accused the Catholic Church of "hoodwinking and bullying" federal politicians into giving its schools more money, and warned his old party the deal left country schools short-changed.

In a letter to NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, Professor Piccoli urged his one-time colleagues to resist church pressure to sign off on the federal government's $4.6 billion private school funding deal.

NSW Catholic Schools rejected Dr Piccoli's comments as "offensive and unjustified" and offered to debate him on the issue in the Nationals' party room.

"While the Catholic Church has managed to hoodwink and bully the Commonwealth Government into offering this new deal, I urge you not to succumb to the same tactics," Dr Piccoli said in the letter, sent last week.

"The church is not as influential as its operators claim. Countless Catholic parishioners have lost faith in the church in the face of various scandals and as a result they don't listen to or trust the church to the same extent as in the past."

Dr Piccoli, who is now the director of the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of NSW, warned the church would give more money to rich city schools than needier schools in country electorates.

Spooky houses

Some of literatures most popular thrillers and mysteries are set in houses that could be characters in their own right. From the gothic decaying estates to the Art Deco clifftop mansions, these are my top ten thrillers that feature the houses that loom larger than life.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Manderley is probably the most famous of creepy houses. Who can forget the haunting first line of this classic thriller when the main character dreamt she was back there? Du Maurier writes about Manderley in such a vivid, descriptive way, it’s as much a main character as the protagonists. It’s an old gothic mansion that belongs to Maxim de Winter and his first wife, Rebecca. After the death of Rebecca, Maxim marries again and brings his new wife to Manderley. Everything is preserved as Rebecca had left it and before long, his new wife is haunted by the past and the secrets that are down every corridor and in every nook and cranny of Manderley.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Another gothic mansion, an 18th-century decaying house, this time called Hundreds Hall. The main character, Dr. Faraday, is obsessed with the house right from the beginning of the book, and one of his first memories is of going there as a child and taking a piece of the plaster from the walls. Years later he’s called there to see a patient who tells him she thinks the house is haunted. Dr. Faraday is skeptical and he inveigles himself into the family as he tries to uncover what’s really going on.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

The Cliff House is a 1930s art deco property that sits on a hill overlooking the sea in Cornwall in this haunting, atmospheric thriller. It has a swimming pool and is owned by the glamorous Davenports. The main character, Tamsyn, is a child when she first sees the house with her father. He loves the house as much as she does. When he later dies, she continues to go there as a way to still feel close to him. She begins to watch the new owners, the Davenports, through binoculars. But soon obsession takes over as Tamsyn realizes she’d do anything to live there herself. ‘

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Thornfield, Mr. Rochester’s mansion, is a cold, rambling place where the main character, Jane, feels instantly ill at ease. She can hear ghostly laughter and unexplained noises. The owner himself is troubled and rarely there. Empty rooms and long corridors all lend themselves to a spooky atmosphere. Is the house haunted? And what’s the secret in the attic? One of my all-time favorite books.

I Let You In by Lucy Clarke

In Lucy Clarke’s most recent thriller, the main character, Elle, is a writer who had the house built for her, overlooking the sea in Cornwall. While she’s away on a retreat, she decides to Airbnb her house for two weeks. But when she returns, the house doesn’t feel the same. It has a strange atmosphere; the last inhabitants’ presence still pervades. When creepy things start happening, Elle can’t work out what’s going on. The house is too new to be haunted, isn’t it? But then why does Elle feel so unnerved?

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This is a sad and chilling story about revenge and loss. The main character, Arthur Kipps, is sent to the remote Eel Marsh House as a junior solicitor to sort out the affairs of the woman who used to own it. But while there he continues to see a woman dressed in black, always in and around the house. Finally Arthur learns from the locals that she only appears before the death of a child.

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

The main character, Nora, is invited to a hen party in a contemporary glass house in the middle of the woods with five frenemies. Straight away, strange things start to happen; unexplained footprints in the snow, no reception on their phones, Ouija board playing. And then somebody is killed. But who is it? And which one of the friends is the killer? An Agatha Christie locked-room-style thriller, this is claustrophobic and scary, with secrets and lies waiting to bubble to the surface.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

One of my favorite ever thrillers set in a remote mansion. Ten strangers are lured to a rambling old house on a remote island off the coast of Devon for different reasons. They have nothing in common—or so they all think—and have been invited there by the enigmatic U.N. Owen. When they arrive, there is no sign of their host, just a housekeeper and a cook. Each guest is hiding a guilty secret and before long, someone is poisoned. The killer is among them and won’t stop until they are all dead. Atmospheric, sinister, and with one of the best twists ever.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is a short story by Henry James but the spooky house that jumps off the pages of this thriller/ghost story is no less impactful. When a young woman takes her first job as a governess for two beautiful, mysterious children at a large country estate, she starts to see things. Her job is to protect the children, so she speaks nothing of the evils she believes lurk in the corridors of this stately home. But the phantoms won’t leave her alone, coming closer, taunting her, scaring her. Then she realizes that it’s the children they want, not her. Is she losing her grip on reality or is the house she’s living and working in really haunted?

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

The house that features in B.A. Paris’s gripping thriller is a beautiful London townhouse and home to Jack and Grace Angel. They appear to have everything. Money, career, that beautiful house in one of the most illustrious parts of London. Yet Jack is really a monster, and behind that stunning townhouse fa├žade, Grace’s life is hell. She’s a prisoner in her own home and there is no escape, for Jack has thought of everything. He has even converted the basement so that it opens from the outside in. Will Grace ever be able to escape his clutches when everyone thinks he’s perfect? This is a story of psychological abuse at its most chilling.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Prirvate school failures

The market for school education can't possibly function unless customers are well informed. In turn, it beggars belief that some Christian schools demand both the right to discriminate against students and staff as well as the right to keep their discrimination secret.

Many private schools argue that it is not just the swimming pools and manicured lawns that justify their high fees, but the "values" they impart on their students.

But what are those values? How can parents who are in the market for different values make an informed choice if schools are not up-front about whom they choose to discriminate against and why?

Occasionally those who manage Australia's private schools are candid in revealing their values, such as in 2017 when the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, threatened to fire all teachers employed by the church who entered into a same-sex marriage. Too often though, information of this nature is kept hidden.

If a parent wants to send their child to a school that expels gay students, or if a school wants to position itself in the market as a "gay student-free school", then clear information about each school's policies must be made available.

Elite private schools are booming in terms of enrolments and their facilities. Scots College plans to spend $25.1 million upgrading its library to look like a Scottish castle. Cranbrook's $75 million redevelopment includes a new aquatic centre and drama theatre and St Catherine's $62.5 million redevelopment includes a new orchestra pit and ballet studio.

It's hard to see the long-run boost to Australia's productivity that might come from such investments. And it's even harder to see why the private school fees that fund these expensive hobbies are exempt from the GST.

Whether schools that can afford new orchestra pits deserve public funding is an important democratic consideration. So too is the question of whether private schools should be allowed to discriminate against their students and staff while receiving money from the taxpayer.

For decades governments and private schools have concealed these questions from the public but now, thanks to the Christian conservatives in the Coalition, the cat is out of the bag.

Back in 2004, The Australia Institute published a report entitled The Accountability of Private Schools to Public Values. The paper included survey results that showed 89 per cent of Australians were opposed to private schools having the right to expel gay students. Only 8 per cent supported the position.

But over the past 14 years the proportion of students going to private schools has risen dramatically, as has the public funding for those schools.

Despite the Howard government's rhetorical commitment to "mutual obligation", for 14 years there has been little political interest in obliging the private schools that receive vast amounts of public money to conform to public expectations regarding treatment of their students and staff.

The privatisation of Australian schools is another failed neoliberal policy experiment. Costs are up, quality is down, access to quality education is less equal and discrimination is still legal.

Luckily, regardless of whether Australians think schools are an essential service that should never have been privatised, or that market principles are the best way to run an education system, recent polls confirm most Australians want schools to stop discriminating.

Who says Australian politics is too tribal to get anything done these days? The values of Scott Morrison's alma mater, Sydney Boys High School, were encapsulated in their motto "with truth and courage". A little of both should lead to a big change.

Richard Denniss is the chief economist for The Australia Institute.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Labor commitment

Labor will seek to remove the exemption that allows a teacher or school staff member to be sacked or refused employment because of their sexuality. Will Scott Morrison and his government support Labor?

Saturday, 13 October 2018

New Literature unit

My latest literature unit on TPT :…/Tomi-Ungerer-Literatu…
Tomi Ungerer
This unit contains comprehension activities, art activities, graphic organisers, writing tasks etc for Tomi Ungerer books including; the Mellops, Adelaide, Rufus, Fog Island and The Three Robbers. This unit has been used successfully with prep-grade 1 but can also be used up to grade 4. includes photos of student work.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

This government is a disgrace

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited review into religious freedom.

However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and warns against any radical push to let businesses refuse goods and services such as a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The review was commissioned in the wake of last year’s same-sex marriage victory to appease conservative MPs who feared the change would restrict people’s ability to practise their religion freely.

Commonwealth law already contains some provisions to permit discrimination against gay students and teachers.

However the report said any further amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act should only apply to new enrolments. The school would also have to have a publicly available policy outlining its position, and should regard the best interests of the child as the “primary consideration of its conduct”.

The panel also agreed that faith-based schools should have some discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "Our government will consider the details and release our response after it has gone through a proper cabinet process."

"We will protect religious freedom, and get the balance right," he said. "Each proposal will be considered carefully and respectfully before any final decisions are taken."

The religious freedom review, which was handed to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in May, received more than 15,000 submissions.

The panel was chaired by Howard government attorney-general and 'tool', Philip Ruddock and included the Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, former Federal Court judge Annabelle Bennett, human rights lawyer and priest Frank Brennan and constitutional law professor Nicholas Aroney.

The review does not recommend any changes to the Marriage Act. Nor does it recommend a dedicated Religious Freedom Act - championed by several major Christian churches - which would have enshrined religious organisations’ exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

“Specifically protecting freedom of religion would be out of step with the treatment of other rights,” the report found.

However it did recommend the government amend the Racial Discrimination Act or create a new Religious Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief or lack thereof.

The panel said it had heard a broad range of concerns about people’s ability to “manifest their faith publicly without suffering discrimination”.

This included wearing religious symbols and dress at school or work, communicating views based on religious understandings, obtaining goods and services and engaging in public life without fear of discrimination.

The report also recommends federal legislation “to make it clear” that religious schools cannot be forced to lease their facilities for a same-sex marriage, as long as the refusal is made in the name of religious doctrine.

It said the states should abolish any laws that allowed for discrimination against teachers or students on this basis.

Religious schools already enjoy exemptions from discrimination laws when it comes to hiring teachers in all jurisdictions.

Some religious groups argued these exemptions should be retained while LGBTI groups - who told the panel of the stress and mental health pressure on teachers forced to hide their identity - called for them to be repealed.

“(An) example was given of an employee at a religious school who was employed despite being open about being same-sex attracted,” the report said. “Later, when the leadership of the school changed, that teacher was dismissed on the basis of his sexuality.”

Labor funding boost!

Today the Bill Shorten Labor opposition announced a major funding boost to public schools if it is elected to government next year.  

Labor’s announcement includes:
  • $14 billion extra for public schools over the next decade
  • $3.3 billion extra for public schools from 2020-2022.
And importantly, the ALP has said it will ditch the terrible 20% federal funding cap that the Morrison Government placed on public schools.

By 2022, Commonwealth funding in each state and territory will reach at least 22.2% of the Schooling Resource Standard. For Victoria, this means $804 million over three years from 2020-2022.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Big Brother!

While it might sound like a scene from a sci-fi movie, a small number of Victorian schools ( Including a private school in Ballarat) have been trialling scanners that sweep classrooms for students’ faces to ensure no one is missing.

But privacy concerns about the technology has promoted the education minister and Victoria’s inaugural Information Commissioner to sound the alarm.

Mr Merlino has ordered the Education Department to immediately assess the software and report back to him.

He’s also asked the Department to contact every state school to remind them that they must undertake a privacy impact assessment before considering the software.

Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel said the compromising of children's privacy appeared to outweigh the benefits of the technology.

"Do we want our children to feel like it’s normal to be constantly under surveillance?” he said.

“There are unique risks for biometrics, which can be used to identify people based on unchangeable personal characteristics. Unlike other categories of identifying information, such as a drivers licence, if biometric information is compromised it is generally not possible to get a new identifier."

But LoopLearn co-founder Zoe Milne said the technology saved teachers valuable time.

“We’ve found that schools report that the roll marking process can take away up to two and a half hours of lesson time from students every week,” she said. “Schools spend this teaching time, as well as additional time from administration staff, on roll marking because they have a duty to keep students safe.”

She said that the technology had been designed with “privacy at its core”, complied with all relevant legislation and deleted students’ faces once they had been identified.

“To our knowledge, we’ve gone through all the proper channels and are open to further conversations to ensure that all stakeholders are comfortable with the LoopLearn technology,” she said.

Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly common.

It’s used at airports, to unlock the latest iPhones and as part of China’s social credit system, which by 2020 will monitor the nation’s 1.4 billion citizens using surveillance cameras fitted with facial recognition.

In the US, the technology is being rolled out at schools fearful of shootings. One system allows security officers to respond to expelled students, sex offenders and disgruntled employees whose photos have been uploaded into a system.

A Ballarat Clarendon College student, who did not want to be named, said he didn’t like the idea of always being monitored.

“It has a Big Brother type of feeling to it,” he said.

But the school’s head of research, Greg Ashman, said the school had completed a thorough risk assessment and communicated its plans to the community.

He said if the trial was unsuccessful, the school would walk away from the technology.

Mr Ashman said the technology, which will be used in a handful of classrooms in coming weeks, would maximise the time teachers spent on instruction.

He said marking the roll could be cumbersome, particularly if students had left the class for a music lesson and then returned.

“There is no filming of what students are doing," Mr Ashman said.

"It is really just to check where they are.”

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Early childhood boost

Families will be promised a $1.75 billion funding boost in a dramatic Labor pledge to widen access to preschool, offering new subsidies to help children learn more at a younger age.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will guarantee access to subsidised preschool for around 700,000 children a year in a move that intensifies his policy fight on education ahead of the next election.

The Labor policy continues an existing federal package to subsidise preschool for four-year-olds, but it ramps up the funding to extend the scheme to three-year-olds in the name of lifting education results.

Australia currently comes 22/30 in the OECD for early childhood investment and we are falling further behind. An investment in early childhood is an investment in our economic future. Important announcements from Labor today.

Monday, 1 October 2018


The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has submitted plans for a super-tall apartment development on the site of the Polding Centre at the southern end of Sydney’s central business district.

WOW the Catholic Church has the money to fund this edifice, but still wants us to believe it can't fund its own schools."In 2008, the Secular Party of Australia made a submission to the federal government’s Review of Australia’s Future Tax System, They found that more than $20 billion in taxes remained uncollected from the nation’s religious organisations by state and federal governments."