Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students

30 per cent of WA principals assaulted in 2014

The Western Australian Primary Principals’ Association (WAPPA) has called on the Government to introduce legislation that would see mandatory jail sentences for anyone who assaults a school principal or deputy.

The association’s President, Stephen Breen, cited data in an interview with ABC News, which shows that primary school principals and deputies were eight times more likely to be assaulted than a member of the public.

According to Breen, assaults are “happening in schools every day”.

“If you look at the state stats, it basically says that we have eight assaults in schools every day.

“A lot of them involve children attacking staff and we deal with that, but a lot of them involve members of the community coming into the school.”

ABC reports that as many as 30 per cent of school principals and deputies were assaulted in 2014 alone.

In the hope of creating a strong deterrence, Breen has called for members of WAPPA to be added to a list of public officers covered under section 297 and 318 of the state Criminal Code – a code that stipulates jail terms in the case of assault – which is usually reserved for police , ambulance and custodial officers.

“The data is shocking, absolutely shocking,” Breen said. “We had something like, in our system in 2015, 1,606 assaults on staff.”

Exam room.

Queensland to welcome ATAR in education overhaul

Queensland’s new budget was reveal this week, and with it details regarding how the state plans to transition from its outdated Overall Positions (OP) system to the more widely used ATAR.

25 per cent of the State Government’s budget is to be allocated to education, with $24 million over the 2016-17 financial year going towards the assessment transition.

Forward estimates reveal $72.4 million is expected to be spent on delivering the new system, which will become available for students entering Year 11 in 2018.

“New senior assessment arrangements will combine the advantages of school-based assessment developed and marked by classroom teachers, with external assessment set and marked by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority,” Education Minister Kate Jones told Brisbane Times.

An additional $102 million has also been slated for enhancing school support and administrative staff over the next four years.

“The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring state schools are equipped with high quality admin and support staff so that principals and teachers can focus on maximising student learning outcomes,” Jones said.

“Changes in salary classifications for business service managers, administrative officers and others school support staff will be implemented from 2017 to better reflect the range of their responsibilities in contemporary schools.”

Diversity issues in computer science classes.

Want to address diversity in tech? Encourage girls to study computer science

Abutting the debate around STEM skills, questions regarding diversity in Australia’s tech sector have also been raised, with just one quarter of IT graduates and 10 per cent of engineering graduates being women.

According to the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda: ‘we need a concerted, national effort to overcome the cultural, institutional and organisational factors that discourage girls and women from studying STEM’.

Part of its ongoing research for Digital Careers, CSIRO has found that the diversity in tech issue begins at school, where there’s a marked lack of girls studying computer science at both primary and secondary levels.

Led by Dr Jason Zagami from Griffith University, the research has been published under the title: Female participation in school computing: reversing the trend, which attempts to identify some of the key reasons why girls aren’t getting involved.

The report found that computer science has not yet reached the same level of integration into schools as compulsory subjects like mathematics and general science.

In particular, the study suggests that maintaining girls’ interest in computing is critical through Years 7-8, as this is where female participation starts to decline significantly.

Dr Karsten Schulz, Manager for Digital Careers, explains that addressing parent preconceptions, exposure to positive role models and developing programs specifically for girls are all methods for maintaining their interest in the subject.

“Hearing from successful females working in the field and being exposed to the different career options available in the industry will help young girls to consider computing subjects and professions,” Dr Schulz says.

The report also suggests schools introduce code clubs for girls in early years, before social pressure begins to rise.

Digital Careers is a Government-backed education industry collaboration that combines research, primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.

Fail card from Shutterstock.

Ever-lowering ATAR scores for new student teachers

Latest figures show more students with ATARs under 50 are being admitted to teaching degrees, raising questions about minimum entry standards from the Australian Education Union (AEU).

The rate of entrants with ATARs under 50 has nearly doubled since 2013, rising from 7.2 per cent to 14.3 per cent, which the AEU says indicates a failure by the Coalition to introduce means of addressing falling standards or an oversupply of graduates.

Ms. Correna Haythorpe, Federal President of the AEU, said the Government must impose minimum entry standards in order to maintain the future quality of Australia’s teaching body.

“Entry scores for teaching degrees have dropped steadily over the last decade, and are now significantly lower than for other courses.

“This is a far cry from successful school systems like Singapore which recruit teachers from the top 30 per cent of high school graduates,” she says.

Figures released by the Federal Education Department shows that 1062 students were admitted to teaching courses with ATARs under 50, up from 894 in 2015 and in 2016 over half of all teaching students admitted with an ATAR in 2016 had one of less than 70.

Ms. Haythorpe highlights the Government’s stated intention to put teacher quality ahead of funding, but as thus far failed to take meaningful steps in this direction.

“The Coalition wants to cut needs-based Gonski funding after 2017, and says they will focus on teacher quality ahead of resources. Yet they have failed to do anything to address this issue or limit the number of students entering teaching degrees.”

Science classroom from Shutterstock.

PM increases P-TECH funds for STEM performance

12 more schools around Australia will be included in a trial program known as Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), following an announcement of a futher $4.6 million in funds from the Coalition Government.

Read more

Mount Bundy's bull

Trip report: 2015 Top End tour

Teachers from around the country shared an experience combining the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the Northern Territory, including visits to a cattle station, a cultural cruise in Kakadu, as well as participating in an immersion program in Katherine.

Among those educators to join in on the experience was Megan Webster, from Galen Catholic College in Victoria. Megan explained that the trip offered “lots of educational benefits that would complement a range of subject areas”, and would “also assist with student personal development”.

“As an Indonesian and Humanities teacher, I have been able to discuss what I’ve learned about the live cattle trade with my students, following the visit to Mount Bundy Station near Darwin,” Megan said.

“Since returning from the trip, I taught my students how the Northern Territory (in particular Arnhem Land) has been linked to Indonesia for many, many years before white settlement – the students loved hearing about the similarities in language and culture.”

Coby Beames from the Torrens Valley Christian School found all of the experiences offered were amazing, saying “what a beautiful place the NT is”.

“The things that I liked most would be the Indigenous interactions we had with the various tour groups, cooking, site seeing, sharing stories, listening to culture and learning about a different way of life; such a precious gift,” she said.

It is this cultural element that is particularly expansive for both educators and students who experience the tour. At the centre of this experience lies the wisdom and stewardship of traditional owners, who play an integral role in preserving the integrity of the Territory’s National Parks such as Kakadu and Nitmiluk.

On top of the National Parks experience, educators also had the chance to get ‘up close and personal’ with the local wildlife at Crocodylus Park and Territory Wildlife Park.

In fact, Coby found that there were myriad opportunities to “link curriculum with the tours”.

“From History, Geography, Science, Language, Indigenous Culture, Civics and Citizenship, Religion to Home Economics, there was something for every class,” she said. “If I were to take a Middle School class on such a tour, I wouldn’t go past the Nitmiluk tour’s Footstep program. This is an all-inclusive Indigenous experience which would see the students immersed in culture in a meaningful way.”

Those who have attended say they continue to draw benefit from having developed new contacts in the Northern Territory and indicate they look forward to drawing on the expertise and experience of NT Learning Adventures for future educational trips.

“When my school is ready to organise a trip to the Northern Territory, I have a great understanding of what programs are on offer, suitable accommodation options and transport for students and staff,” Megan said. “Tourism NT’s ‘NT Learning Adventures program’ offers a variety of suitable education programs and can point you in the right direction of how it can be arranged”

“The 2015 NT famil tour was an amazing trip,” echoed Coby. “Tourism NT organised such a great itinerary and we experienced so many diverse activities in the five days. This is a trip not to be missed, I would go again in a heartbeat!”

Learn more about NT Learning Adventures.