Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Labor plans

A Shorten Labor Govt will invest $30 million to establish a National Principals Academy.

Training will be available to current and aspiring school principals, as well as other school leaders.

Every school should have the resources to teach every child. No child should be turned away from their local school because the school feels it cannot provide adequately for the needs of that child.

Labor will increase funding for students with disability by $300 million.

Our commitment is in addition to the disability loading included as part of needs based school funding.

Schools to choose if they want a secular social worker (instead of a chaplain) under Labor

An additional $3.3 billion will be invested in public schools in the first three school years alone and public school parents can already look at the estimates for their school on our website: fairgoforschools.com.au #fairgoforschools 

“Under the government’s formula, all private schools will reach or exceed their fair funding level, but no public school ever will.” - @tanya_plibersek today at NPC

Labor will deliver an extra $14bn for public schools - every child in every school will be better off under Labor.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

....and then there’s this

Dozens of Sydney independent schools in line to have their funding reduced will instead receive bonus payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars this year from the federal government's private school funding package.

Oakhill College will receive almost $500,000, while St Scholastica's, Loreto Kirribilli and St Aloysius College will all get more than $350,000 in so-called low growth payments, according to figures released under Freedom of Information.

Under the needs-based funding reforms, over-paid independent schools should have their funding brought down to the Schooling Resource Standard benchmark over the next 10 years, and under-funded public schools should have their funding increased.

Lack of funding

Four out of five public school principals feel they lack the resources to properly educate students with disabilities, an Australian Education Union survey has found, raising fresh concerns about school funding.

The new figures from the AEU's latest survey of 7800 members reveal that 88 per cent of principals are redirecting funds from other areas of the school budget to help cater for children with disabilities.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Donnelly is an idiot

Dr Kevin Donnelly on school curriculums: We can’t teach Romeo and Juliet because it privileges heteronormativity.
It is identity politics on steroids, it is destroying what is most valuable to literature. 

What a moron!

Thursday, 7 February 2019


Victorian state school teachers and employees have received more than $112 million for workplace injuries over the past five years, with staff claiming for electric shocks, poisonings and parasites.

Mental health injuries made up almost 50 per cent of all WorkSafe claims by cost – or $52 million.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Stealing from the poor

Public schools stand to miss out on billions in funding thanks to special clauses in the long-term deals struck between the commonwealth and the states.

Last year the commonwealth struck long-term education funding agreements with every state and territory except Victoria, locking in place the amount of money to be spent on public and private schools.

But a new analysis of the agreements claims a special clause could cost government schools as much as $19bn between 2018 and 2027 by allowing states and territories to include funding for things like building maintenance in their overall contribution to the public sector.

In 2017 the former education minister, Simon Birmingham, passed his Gonski 2.0 reforms, which required states to lift their overall funding to public schools to at least 75% of what’s known as the School Resourcing Standard by 2023.

The SRS is the Gonski review’s needs-based formula for measuring how much government funding each school is entitled to.

When the SRS was first developed it explicitly excluded items such as the cost of capital, depreciation, transport costs and umbrella services, such as each state’s board of studies.

But in September Guardian Australia revealedthat state and territory governments were planning to use the commonwealth’s deal with the private and independent school sectors to push back against the way its funding commitments for public schools were calculated.

And the long-term bilateral agreements struck between the commonwealth and every state and territory except Victoria late last year show the original definition of the SRS has been railroaded to allow states and territories to include “extra expenditure items” as up to 4% of their total SRS.

It means that every state and territory bar the ACT is able to partially count expenditure explicitly excluded from the original definition of the School Resourcing Standard as part of their overall education budget.

Each state’s agreement is different, meaning they’re able to claim different expenditure as part of the deal.

In New South Wales, for example, the state’s education standards authority and capital depreciation costs are able to be partially taken into account in its SRS calculation.

Rob Stokes, the state’s education minister, said it “does not impact on the $6.4bn in additional funding for NSW government schools”.

“Unlike some states, NSW will only include expenditure that directly relates to public education in this 4%, including NESA (the proportion that serves public schools) and capital depreciation,” he said. “This funding is real additional money and will be delivered in full.”

In Western Australia, direct school transport, capital depreciation, kindergarten expenditure and all regulatory funding associated with the state’s school curriculum authority can be included in the 4% SRS allowance.

The Australian Capital Territory is the only state or territory which does not include the 4% exemption in its bilateral agreement with the commonwealth.

According to a new analysis by Cobbold, the “additional” expenditure items could cost public schools $19bn in the decade after the agreement if the states and territories claim the full 4% exemption.

And the same expenditure cannot be used to count against the state’s contribution to private schools.

“Only public schools are being defrauded by this sleight of hand in the bilateral agreements,” Cobbold writes in his analysis.

“The allowance for state governments to substitute other expenditures for actual increases in recurrent funding as defined for the SRS does not apply to private schools. Yet, private schools benefit from capital funding by state governments, school transport funding and regulatory and standards authorities funded by the states.”

Published on Thursday, Cobbold’s analysis shows public schools could be short-changed to the tune of $60bn over the decade to 2027.

Cobbold estimates that if the deals remain in place until 2027, it could mean a “cumulative” loss of $41bn for the public sector.

“Public schools are being defrauded by school funding agreements finalised at the end of last year between the commonwealth and the state and territory governments,” Cobbold writes in the paper.

“Public schools in all states except the ACT will only ever be funded at 95% of their School Resourcing Standard at best, and likely less.

“In contrast, private schools in all states except the Northern Territory are guaranteed funding at 100% or more of their SRS by 2023.

“The agreements are heavily biased against public schools and in favour of private schools.”

Monday, 4 February 2019

Morrison short changes our schools

Fewer public schools will reach full funding within the next five years as a result of the latest bilateral deals, while almost all private schools will get their share or more, an analysis by the Australian Education Union has found.

After the new round of agreements between states and the Commonwealth late last year, just over 1per cent of public schools - those in the ACT - will be fully funded to the Schooling Resource Standard benchmark (SRS) by 2023.

That would be about 12 per cent fewer than predicted two years ago, the union's analysis found.

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said the states were left struggling to meet expensive targets because federal government refused to contribute any more than 20 per cent to the cost of running state schools.


“The impact of the Morrison government’s public school funding cuts is far worse than we thought when the school funding legislation was passed in 2017,” Ms Haythorpe said.

However, a spokesman for Education Minister Dan Tehan said the federal government was providing more than $300 billion for all schools.

When funding reform laws passed in 2017, about 13 per cent of public schools - those run by Western Australia and the ACT - were expected to reach 100 per cent of the SRS by the end of the five-year agreement.

But under the latest round of bilateral agreements signed at the end of last year, Western Australia would not meet its target as soon as originally predicted, the AEU said, meaning only the ACT is expected to reach its full share of the SRS by 2023.

The AEU will launch a new campaign on school funding on Monday, targeting marginal electorates around Australia before the federal election, expected in May.

Ms Haythorpe called on the federal government to use the April 2 budget to boost public school funding. “[Prime Minister Scott] Morrison has made it clear that public schools are not a priority for his government. Public schools deserve better treatment than this.”

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Our government's priorities

Australian Federal Government spending in 2014-15:

🏫 Public schools: $5.2bn

💰 Being the only country in the world that sends tax refunds to shareholders who haven’t paid any tax: $5.9bn

Friday, 1 February 2019

Pressure on Prins. Nothing changes

The Principal Workload and Time Use Study, which was prepared by Deloitte on behalf of the NSW Department of Education, was released late last year. The study was prompted by emerging evidence suggesting that the NSW government school community was increasingly concerned about principal workload.

Keep reading or scroll down to hear some personal stories from our community about the positive impact of principals.

The findings will probably not come as a surprise to anyone working in schools. Here are a few key statistics:

  • Based on observations, principals on average undertook 45 activities during a school day, with 28 of these activities being unique.
  • 75% of principals reported their workload is ‘difficult to achieve’ or ‘not at all achievable’.
  • 77% of principals reported their workload is ‘difficult to sustain’ or ‘not at all sustainable’.
  • Principal time is spent as: 30% on leading teaching and learning, 9% on developing self and others, 6% on leading improvement, innovation and change, 40% on leading the management of the school, 11% on engaging and working with the community, and 3% on other activities.

In this context, the following stories seem even more extraordinary. I’m sure many of you have seen the story of Krystal Stanley, the dynamic Principal of a small outback school in Queensland driving her students to school. However this is far from an isolated case of principals going the extra mile for their community.

When School Stream asked for stories about school principals who made a difference in the lives of their school community, we were overwhelmed by the response. Here are a few examples that highlight the significant impact of principals in the lives of students, business managers and parents.

From a six-year old Primary School Student in Melbourne’s North West:

“After my mum died the school principal drove me to school every day for six months”.

From a Business Manager in the Goldfields region of Victoria:

“Great school principals recognise their best assets – not funding nor buildings and grounds, but their people. I worked in a run-down 1800’s school with peeling walls, terrible facilities and jaded staff BUT with a Principal of vision, commitment and energy who galvanised those who shared his passion and left behind those who didn’t (in spite of his efforts to bring them on the journey.) The school became a state leader in curriculum and renewed facilities. The Principal was a true communicator.”

From the parent of a child at school in the Brisbane:

“Our school Principal is always in the playground at drop off and pick up time. Every single day. It might not sound that profound, but knowing I can talk to him if I have any issues is such a relief. And somehow, he remembers everybody’s name.”

If the stories we heard are any indication, it would seem an inclination towards going above and beyond is not uncommon among school principals, wherever they may be based.

It’s a busy time of year for schools and we hope Principals, Teachers, Business Managers, Administration teams and all those who keep schools thriving are looking toward a relaxing and restorative summer holiday. You deserve it.

Here’s the link to the study.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Morrison’s snide deal

PM Scott Morrison’s private school deal = $4.1 billion windfall for Catholic schools over next decade +$263 million extra fed funds  for independent schools while the PM has cut $14 billion from public schools. Where are your priorities Morrison? With religious schools!!

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Entitled arsehole has a whinge in the SMH

On top of school fees of more than $27,000 a year, Joseph Craven is preparing to pay thousands in additional costs for uniforms, extra-curricular activities, camps and excursions as his son Max, 12, gets ready to go back to school.

Mr Craven said those extra costs could add up to as much $5000 at Reddam House, a private school in Sydney's east, and require a lot of planning and a few sacrifices to carve out of the family budget.

"We took [Max] out of public school at the end of year 5 because we weren't happy with it and it was a big change, it was the equivalent of taking a $30,000 pay cut in salary," Mr Craven said.

The latest ASG Planning for Education Index, conducted with Monash University and released on Wednesday, reveals that Sydney is the most expensive city in Australia for an independent education.

The index estimates over a 13-year period the cost of an independent education for a child starting school in Sydney in 2019 is $461,999 - more than 50 per cent above the national average of $298,689. School fees easily accounted for the most expensive component, followed by the musical equipment (around $465 a year), excursions ($554 a year) and devices ($996 a year).

The cost of a government education in Sydney over 13 years is $66,470, making it more affordable than in Brisbane and in Melbourne, and 3.3 per cent below the national average. The cost of a Catholic education in Sydney over the same period is $114,531 - almost 10 per cent less than the national average.

Mr Craven said school costs still added up to about $1000 when his son was in a public school. ( That would be bullshit!)

Parents in all school sectors are facing the cost of new uniforms, shoes, books and activity fees as term one begins this week.

Jack Stevens, chief executive of education finance provider Edstart, said the cost of extras has gone up steadily alongside fees, as under-resourced public schools shift technology and other costs to parents and private schools begin to make voluntary levies compulsory.

"Most public schools have a bring-your-own-device program where you've got to buy a laptop or phone upfront and excursions or outdoor programs can also be big one-off costs," Mr Stevens said.

He also said that both extra costs and fees, which are more than $38,200 for year 12 students at Sydney's most expensive private school SCEGGS Darlinghurst this year, are likely to keep going up.

"I don't think there's going to be any particular change in that, it's just a way of life for schools," Mr Stevens said.

"But a lot of families will tend to avoid thinking about fees and costs and how they're going to manage it when a little bit of pre-planning can help a lot, especially coming into peak periods when there are multiple kids overlapping in high school."

Mr Craven said planning ahead for both the one-off expenses and fees has made things easier but the cost of schooling has meant sacrifices for his family.

"A lot of schools let you break fees up quarterly but it's still a big chunk of change to fit in over monthly bills," Mr Craven said.

He said his wife went back to working full time and they considered moving away from Clovelly.

"We don't really go on holidays anymore, that's more of a personal problem," Mr Craven said.

"When it's your kids, you've got to do what you've got to do.

"We also know we have a decision to make about whether we go public or private in a year's time when [our daughter Indi] goes to school next year."

Mr Craven said he is looking at local primary schools but will likely send Indi, 3, to Reddam House as well once she gets to year 5.

"She's in the early learning school at Reddam and loves it and knows that her brother's there too, and we love the school," he said.

( I couldn't care less!)

Adoption experts want rethink on how schools are assessed

Adoption UK and leading education experts are urging a real rethink in how schools are assessed, to reflect the experiences of adopted children

A new report published by the charity today, ‘Top of the Class’ recommends that schools should be held to account for the way they support their most vulnerable students and that school leaders need help to make fundamental changes.

Three-quarters of adopted children have suffered significant trauma in their birth families such as abuse and neglect, which can have a lasting impact on their ability to learn and their mental and physical health. They are significantly more likely than their peers to be excluded from school and to leave school with no qualifications. These children are the tip of the iceberg – up to half of all children in classrooms across the UK have had traumatic experiences such as family breakdown or parents with drug or alcohol problems and suffer similar barriers to learning.

Adoption UK’s Becky White, the report author and former teacher, said: “Many schools with stellar exam results do a very bad job for their most vulnerable pupils. No school should be rated outstanding unless it is outstanding for all its students. But in the current environment, it takes a very brave head teacher to invest as much in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and complex students as they do in chasing exam results.

In a UK survey of teachers for this report, 60% of respondents told Adoption UK there had been no relevant training on the needs of children who have experienced trauma in their school in the past three years. In England, eight out of ten ‘designated teachers’ who responded to the survey – a role with responsibility for looked after and previously looked after children – received no additional resources, either in terms of funding or time, to help them do this work.

Amongst the contributors to the report are Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union and Jarlath O’Brien, a teacher at a multi-academy trust.

Mr O’Brien said: “Over the course of 18 years as a teacher I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, how schools can hinder the chances of children who have experienced trauma. Supporting these children is a matter of education and support, not retribution and punishment.’

Ms Bousted said: “In some schools, pupils are valued almost wholly for their academic attainment. Children who have had a tough start in life, for whatever reason, find it more difficult to get into these schools, and if they do, soon find that their personal needs are not being met.”

The English schools examining body OFSTED published its new draft inspections framework last week, which is now under public consultation. OFSTED has acknowledged that the current obsession with exam results is bad news for the most disadvantaged children.

However, Adoption UK has some significant concerns about the new framework, including its approach to behaviour management.

Becky White said: “There are schools doing a wonderful job of making sure every child has an equal chance to fulfil their own potential, whatever that is. Some of the solutions are simple and affordable. But often what’s needed is wholesale reform of school policies, from foundational principles upwards. That takes courage, and schools inspectors and governments need to lead the way.”

Monday, 28 January 2019

The world of Trump

A Trump tweet this morning;
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

New enrolment rules kick in.

Victorian state schools are knocking back hundreds of frustrated families as controversial changes to enrolment rules start to bite.

From this year, schools are not entitled to extra portable classrooms if 50 per cent or more of their students do not live locally.

While the move is aimed at restricting the growth of larger schools, and encouraging families to attend their closest school, critics have accused the state government of winding back school choice.

Thomas Mitchell Primary School principal John Hurley said he’d been forced to turn away about 30 students this year due to the new rules.

“They have been pretty upset,” he said. “They don't understand why we have to do this. They say, ‘my neighbour goes to your school. How come they can go and we can’t?’”

Mr Hurley fears his Endeavour Hills school, which currently has 780 enrolments, will shrink dramatically if he continues turning away so many students.

“I have been a principal for a long time and parents have always had a choice as to which school suits their child best,” Mr Hurley said.

“That has always been strongly supported by the government. All of a sudden that is gone and we are told you can’t take kids from outside.”

While rejecting out-of-area families has been a long-running practice at zoned schools, the changes mean many non-zoned schools are now refusing enrolments on similar grounds.

About 230 schools were contacted by the Education Department in May and told they’d be impacted by the changes because at least half their enrolments were non-local.

It followed a 2017 auditor-general's report which revealed more than half of Victorian parents now avoid their neighbourhood school.

Berwick mother Andrea Albarenque is one of many parents frustrated by the changes.

She unsuccessfully tried to move her two children - Ethan,10, and Emma, 8 - from a Catholic school to Berwick Lodge Primary School.

After contacting the school, which is just a five-minute drive from her home, she was told her children couldn't attend due to the new rules.

While rejecting out-of-area families has been a long-running practice at zoned schools, the changes mean many non-zoned schools are now refusing enrolments on similar grounds.

About 230 schools were contacted by the Education Department in May and told they’d be impacted by the changes because at least half their enrolments were non-local.

It followed a 2017 auditor-general's report which revealed more than half of Victorian parents now avoid their neighbourhood school.

Berwick mother Andrea Albarenque is one of many parents frustrated by the changes.

She unsuccessfully tried to move her two children - Ethan,10, and Emma, 8 - from a Catholic school to Berwick Lodge Primary School.

After contacting the school, which is just a five-minute drive from her home, she was told her children couldn't attend due to the new rules.

“It’s heart-wrenching," she said. "At the end of the day parents will choose schools that are the best-suited to their child.”

She was attracted to the school because it didn’t have open-plan classrooms, which are too distracting for her son Ethan, who is on the autism spectrum. She was also impressed by the music and arts programs.

Her children are now attending another nearby state school and looking forward to the start of the school year.

“We didn't realise how difficult it would be to go to the local state school,” she said. “We are happy we now have a school but would have preferred it to be in the suburb we live in.”

Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek said he now had to be extremely careful about who he enrolled.

“We are at great risk of not getting another portable because well over 50 per cent of our children come from outside our neighbourhood boundary,” he said.

The school has knocked back 10 families so far.

“The parents have all been very upset and confused,” Mr Grossek said. “I had a woman in tears begging me to change the policy.”

Coburg High School principal Stewart Milner said the changes ensured a more even spread of students across schools.

“It is important that students go to their local school,” he said. “At the same time, parents deserve to have choice.”

He said he’d had to knock back 40 students this year to avoid a future situation where more than 50 per cent of enrolments were non-local.

Around 35 per cent of Coburg High School students currently live outside the school’s enrolment boundary.

He said Coburg High had become the school of choice for local families, with 220 year 7 students starting at the school next week.

Education Minister James Merlino said schools could accommodate non-local students if they had space for them.

“This is about common sense," he said. "It’s not fair on anybody if schools are taking kids outside of their area and then accommodating them by taking away vital outside play space.”

The opposition's education spokeswoman Cindy McLeish said parents should be given as much choice as possible when it came to their children’s education.

“Schools should also be allowed some flexibility,” she said.

( This is designed to support local schools, particularly small rural schools on the fringe of regional centres. As the principal of a one- teacher rural school I fully support this regulation. It also helps stop parents from shopping around as some do, looking for fads ( One school near me set itself up as a 'specialist autism' school without the qualified personnel to do so. Lasted a couple of years then the Principal moved on.)  I can think of lots of other schools profiting from fads such as robotics, specialist sport, leadership programs Etc. Many of these are meaningless, lack rigour, depend on staff expertise that might be 'gone tomorrow'. Parents need to invest their time, energy and sometimes money in their local schools. Get involved, get on school council and make a difference there. 

Check out The Age's new Education section in Monday's paper.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Get religion out of our state schools!

This semester's planned religious instruction classes ask 10-year-olds to act out a beheading.

Connect's Upper Primary C1 teaching resource, which is widely used in Queensland, describes how Grade 5 and 6 children will act out the David and Goliath tale including its gruesome ending.

Connect's Upper Primary C1 teaching resource is available from Christian Education Publications (CEP) on line, which recommends the C1 cycle for use in 2016. 

For the David and Goliath role play, the teacher sets up the classroom as a battlefield, selects students to act out the parts and provides a script. The teacher narrates the background of the story, as Goliath of the Philistines mocks and curses David by his gods.

"Then Goliath moved towards David, but David ran at him, grabbed a stone from his bag, and slung it at him. It hit Goliath right in the forehead. And Goliath fell on his face on the ground.

Ask David and Goliath to act out the scene.

Then David took Goliath's sword, killed him and cut off his head.

Ask David to act it out...You may need to verbally remind your students to be sensible. There are sure to be a few laughs as your student act out the scene, to keep students focused on the narrative.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they ran away. But the Israelites chased them and defeated them.

Ask the Philistines to head away and the Israelites to 'chase' them."

The moral of the story is that "through Jesus, David's descendant, God would save his people forever from their greatest enemies - sin, death and Satan".

With Jesus on your side you can vanquish even the most frightening enemies.

Many would question the relevance of such a message today, and whether 10-year-old children benefit from acting out scenes of horrifying violence.

Connect's syllabus uses a fundamentalist "sin and salvation" theme, which was developed by the evangelical Sydney Anglicans.

Children are sinners whose only hope of salvation is to accept the message of Jesus. They're asked to compare themselves to dirty towels which requiring cleansing of sin.

"Who is a sinner here in this classroom?" the teacher is prompted to ask in Lesson 4 Lower Primary B1.

Many parents may find this content disturbing. But what is most worrying is how such inappropriate content finds its way into State School classrooms.

Surprisingly, there's scant regulation of the curriculum. According to Godspace, another widely used teaching resource available in NSW and QLD, "the Government doesn't approve the curriculum, the churches do".

Further, most Queensland schools fail to provide parents with the requisite information on the content of classes. Parents are given vague motherhood statements such as this one, from Mountain Creek State School: "Jesus's teachings provide a positive moral framework for living and making healthy positive choices".

Alison Courtice, of Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools, has urged parents to ask their school principal if they genuinely think Connect's material is appropriate for state school classrooms.

The Department of Education and Training (DET) have been informed of these materials, but as yet there are no plans to suspend classes, or to hold an inquiry into their suitability.

Hugh Harris is a columnist, and board member of the Rationalist Society of Australia. SMH.

HOORAY 166000 views!

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

No supervision? But why was it needed just to be civilised?

The MAGA hat racists , in the form of students from a ....wait for it, private catholic school went on a arsehole rampage in Washington DC the other day and threatened a Native American elder attending an indigenous rally. The 'boys' were attending an anti abortion rally with their school. Yeah, let that sink in. An excursion ( field trip) to an anti abortion rally, from Kentucky. The far right led by fatuous air heads like Cassandra Fairbanks and others are going into melt down. Meanwhile my Twitter feed is full of videos now about how awful ( racist and sexist) these boys are. Not a teacher in sight. What were they doing? another that these fine upstanding catholic gentleman should have needed parental or teacher supervision....right? 

The latest Covington Catholic video from the Lincoln Memorial incident on Friday has surfaced where a white male student yells, "It's not rape if you enjoy it!"

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time"- Maya Angelou

W ell done Trump and the Catholic Church. ( check out some of the stories about this school and their all white staff and this diocese on Twitter. Disgusting.) 

From Ed News

A Kentucky Catholic school is facing a public outcry after young people later identified as students at the school were among a crowd that taunted a Native American man participating in the Indigenous Peoples March on Friday. 

A group of young people, most if not all of them boys, were filmed mocking and laughing at Nathan Phillips, a military veteran who holds an annual ceremony honoring Native American veterans at Arlington National Cemetery, according to the Associated Press. Indian Country Today identifies him as an elder with the Omaha people. In the video posted to YouTube, a crowd of boys and others surround Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial as he and others participate in the Indigenous Peoples March. While Phillips sings, at least a few students perform a Tomahawk chop, a gesture associated with a few sports teams that is also considered demeaning to Native Americans. 

During the video, which lasts for roughly three minutes and 45 seconds, no adults appear to defuse the situation, reprimand the children, or apologize to Phillips. Several people hold up cell phones and cameras to record the incident, and one woman in the crowd refers to others as acting like a mob. 

In a statement issued Sunday, Nick Sandmann, a Covington student who stood face to face with Phillips in perhaps the most widely-shared video, denied that he had meant to disrespect or mock Phillips. Sandmann said that a group of black men, identified in a video as Hebrew Israelites who were separate from the Indigenous Peoples March, shouted insults at people in the area, including the students. Sandmann said he tried to defuse the tension in the area by simply standing in front of Phillips, who later acknowledged that he had initially approached the boys.

"I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me," Sandmann said of his interaction with Phillips. "We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers."

Phillips later said that he, too, was trying to pacify the crowd by approaching the students and singing.

In a subsequent video, an upset Phillips said he heard several in the crowd chant, "Build that wall," although that chant from the boys wasn't audible in the videos posted Saturday that triggered the backlash. (Many people in the crowd wore "Make America Great Again" hats, the 2016 campaign slogan of President Donald Trump, who supports building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.)

Phillips said he wishes he could see the "mass of young men" work towards "making this country really great." 

And in a third video, Phillips urges the crowd, "Let's make America great. Let's do that," and another man with Phillips admonishes some in the crowd against how they acted. After an exchange about "stolen land" one young person responds to Phillips' group by saying, "And y'all stole it from the aboriginals. ... Land gets stolen. That's how it works. It's the way of the world." None of the videos show any physical altercations taking place.

At least a few young people in the crowd who mocked Phillips were subsequently identified as students at the all-boys Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky. A spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington said in a statement to the Cincinnati Enquirer that, "We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it."

In a subsequent Saturday statement, the spokeswoman, Laura Keener, told the Enquirer that, "We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person."

The Enquirer reported that the school's web site said students planned to be in Washington to attend the March for Life, a rally against abortion that took place the same day as the Indigenous Peoples March. 

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Suicide amongst indigenous youth

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found last month that indigenous children aged between five and 17 died from suicide-related deaths at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

This rate was 10.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 between 2013 and 2017, compared with 2 deaths by suicide per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children.

One in four people who took their own life before turning 18 were Aboriginal children.

A senate inquiry in December found that not only are services lacking in remote and rural areas of Australia, but culturally appropriate services were often not accessible.

Gerry Georgatos, who heads up the federal government’s indigenous critical response team, wrote in The Guardian that “suicides are predominantly borne of poverty and disparities”.

He described rural communities as being disparate from the rest of Australian society, where high incarceration rates infect communities, few complete schooling, employment is scant and “all hope is extinguished”.

He also said sexual abuse and self harm played a role in the suicides, with the recent spate of young girls taking their own lives being “notable”.

Earlier this month, indigenous health minister, Ken Wyatt, told NITV News the federal government will continue to invest $3.9 billion over the next three years (from 2018-22) in Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission regionally and culturally appropriate mental health and suicide prevention services, particularly in the Kimberley and the Pilbara regions.

The West Australian Government has advised that co-ordinators have been installed in every region of the state, alongside Aboriginal mental health programs.

These programs were introduced after a 2007 inquiry into 22 suicides across the Kimberley. The inquiry found the suicide rate was not due to mental illness such as “bipolar or schizophrenia” and that Aboriginal suicide was not for the most part attributable to individual mental illness.

It noted that the suicide rate, which had “doubled in five years”, was attributable to a governmental failure to respond to many reports.

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, SANE Helpline 1800 18 72 63 or Beyond blue 1300 22 4636.

Commercialising teaching ( Pearson and Bridge)

An Australian unionist is leading a global campaign against what he describes as the "Uberfication" of education.

While the Uber digital platform allows people without a taxi licence to ferry passengers, education corporations are providing scripted lessons on computer tablets that remove autonomy from teachers and their need for qualifications. Digital schools are also emerging to replace classroom teachers entirely.

Angelo Gavrielatos, a former head of the Australian Education Union and NSW Teachers' Federation, is campaigning against the commercialisation of education which he says is worth an estimated $5 trillion globally.

"Education is the last frontier. It is seen as a very lucrative industry which has yet to be fully capitalised," Gavrielatos says.

Gavrielatos heads the commercialisation campaign for Education International, a global federation of about 400 unions in more than 170 countries, representing 30 million teachers and education employees. Its headquarters are in Brussels.

Education International is targeting "educorporations" including Pearson and Bridge International Academies, a company listed in Delaware, US, that operates in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, India and Liberia. The World Bank and Pearson are supporters of Bridge International.

Gavrielatos said Bridge International provides educators with scripted lessons developed in the US loaded onto a tablet. He says the introduction of technology platforms compensates for not having qualified teachers "who literally read word for word from a tablet".

"This is Uberification of education and there are plans to scale it up in the global north," he says.

"These staff are not trained teachers. They are high school graduates who instruct kids for a fraction of the price that it costs to employ a qualified teacher. Instead they provide 'tablets'.

"All these tablets are connected to the mother ship so the company know where everyone is every minute of the day," he says. “Bad luck if a kid asks a question."

On March 16, 2018 the High Court of Uganda delivered a judgment which found Bridge International Academies was operating illegally.

Judge Lydia Mugambe said Bridge International's conduct in establishing "schools all over the country without any registration with any conformity to relevant government department speaks to a high level of reckless disregard of national institutions set up to ensure qualitative education in the country".

"This conundrum is wrong," she said. "That their children pass exams does not make it right."

In a column she wrote for daily news publication New Vision in early 2018, Uganda's First Lady and Minister of Education Janet K Musevini complained that more than 60 Bridge schools had opened without being licensed by her education ministry.

When Gavrielatos challenged a World Bank official about the bank's support of Bridge International, he says he was called "ideological".

"I responded it's the law ... it's the law," Gavrielatos says.

“This corporation has no regard for the national laws which require schools to be registered and therefore the observance of standards such as the employment of qualified teachers.

“They have no regard for national curriculum and they operate in facilities which one minister described as so lacking in hygiene that they put the health and safety of students at risk."

A spokeswoman for The World Bank had no knowledge of the conversation between its official and Gavrielatos. She told the Herald that the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, IFC, invested $US13.5 million in Bridge Academies because of its potential for bringing quality, low-cost basic education on a large scale to children living in poverty.

"There is some evidence that Bridge’s education programs and use of technology are effective, notably a strong performance by Bridge pupils on Kenya’s national secondary school exams," she says.

"Strong learning gains were also noted in the Liberia pilot in the Centre for Global Development’s evaluation and most recently in an evaluation of Bridge schools operating in Nigeria."

The spokeswoman says an independent evaluation of the Bridge Academies program in Kenya has been underway for nearly two years and early results are expected in 2019.

Bridge International's Uganda country director Morrison Rwakakamba says it is making "excellent progress with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and have a very positive dialogue with them around our schools".

"I'm delighted to confirm that the vast majority of our teachers are fully qualified having been through a two-year teacher training college. In addition, all our schools and materials in Uganda are meeting standards set by the government, and I expect to soon have confirmation of that from a new government inspection report.

"We are all looking forward at what is being achieved to help children in Uganda, we do not want to look back at past debates that are now resolved."

A spokesman for Bridge International told the Herald that its teachers in Uganda were teaching the national curriculum and were qualified to teach, "well trained and supported".

A spokeswoman for Pearson told the Herald that Bridge is increasingly working in partnership with governments to support their delivery of public education and low cost schooling for disadvantaged students. Pearson is an investor in Learn Capital which is a Silicon Valley venture fund that invests in Bridge International Academies.

The Pearson spokeswoman says it has a "small investment in Bridge" but is not directly involved in instruction or operating Bridge schools.

"Governments are increasingly recognising the value and potential of Bridge as an innovative, scalable way of delivering better outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged children in the world," the spokeswoman says.

"We have met with Education International and also offered to build a constructive dialogue with them and other concerned parties on numerous occasions."

Pearson is one of the biggest education companies worldwide. In Australia, it publishes textbooks and has contracts with six states and territories to print and distribute NAPLAN tests. It scans the tests, employs teachers to mark them and reports the test results. Its contracts with the NSW Education Standards Authority are reportedly worth more than $51 million.

Pearson was also contracted to develop the framework for the OECD's benchmark Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test for 2018.

Anna Hogan, from the University of Queensland, who co-authored a report for the NSW Teachers' Federation called Commercialisation in Australian public schooling, said school curriculum, lesson plans and teacher professional development have increasingly been outsourced to for-profit companies including Pearson and a large number of smaller operators. Some companies sell public schools software for data analysis of national tests including NAPLAN.

She says she is concerned that companies can run national and international tests as well as mark them and report on them and market materials on how to do well in them. She says the increased focus on NAPLAN and PISA provided questionable benefit to children, but had profited private companies.

"Public schools are using their limited budgets to source these external resources from companies that are making a profit off them. The taxpayer dollars are then funding commercial providers," she says.

Hogan says many teachers have raised concerns about the use of text book materials tailored to standardised tests.

She says her research found that teachers felt pressured to use iPads as part of the curriculum and other commercial resources that they would not have otherwise chosen to use.

"That's when commercialisation starts dictating what you teach in your school," she says.

"Commercialisation isn't necessarily the problem, it is the extent and pervasiveness of it, which can be. It is when a teachers' autonomy is removed over what they are doing in their classroom and it has become commercialised.

"External providers are now saying this resource will allow you to tick this box in the curriculum and you can move on. I think that's one of the concerns because we are looking at the deprofessionalisation of teachers."

Hogan says she fears the use of laptops with scripted lessons in Africa could lead "to the complete annihilation of what it means to be a teacher professional which is what the scary future of teacher becomes if it starts to become adaptive learning".

"Logging onto the computer and students are doing all their curriculum work on the computer and the algorithms are telling them what their weak areas are. The teachers are totally hands off and just facilitating," she says

Maurie Mulheron, head of the NSW Teachers’ Federation, says teachers are extremely concerned at the growing commercialisation of education in Australia.

“In early childhood, vocational and higher education, the for-profit industry dominates, leading to high costs [and] the loss of quality,” he says.

“In the school sector, huge ‘edu-businesses’ push narrow standardised testing agendas and occupy the curriculum and professional learning space left by the loss of positions in the public sector.”

Pearson Australia managing director David Barnett says its materials cover the curriculum and any references to NAPLAN preparation in some publications is being removed.

"It doesn't have NAPLAN material, it doesn't refer to NAPLAN questions. It simply helps the student learn content," he says.

"We are really concerned about the pressure that has arisen out of NAPLAN. We certainly think the tests should be well run, but we don't support the idea that the tests should be taught to ... or prepared for.

"If good teachers believe that they can be more effective by using our products, then great. We are a commercial organisation ... but it is a highly competitive industry which is an important check and balance in behaviour in any kind of industry."

A new American documentary called Backpack Full of Cash shows how children who attend "virtual" charter schools can now do all their schooling from home without the need for any physical interaction with teachers or other students. That includes dissecting a frog on their computer at home.

Gavrielatos fears this low-cost education option will take off because it can save governments the expense of paying teacher wages.Former ACTU president Sharan Burrow, who was re-elected in December as the head of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) for another four-year term is backing the Education International campaign. Burrow, who is also a former teacher and head of the Australian Education Union, says the use of computer tablets to read scripted lessons is not in the best interests of children. "If the future is about assisted support with technology, we’re in," she says.

From SMH