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NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes shares priorities

New South Wales’ new Education Minister Rob Stokes has laid out his priorities for education in the state.

Mr Stokes told The Educator increasing schools’ capacity to accomodate students would be a priority, as the state’s population is expected to grow by 28 per cent over the next 20 years, with an additional 164,000 public school students in NSW by 2031.

“We need to increase our schools’ capacity to accommodate all those students. That will require new schools, as well as upgrades to increase the capacity of existing ones, and being smart and imaginative in our development solutions,” Mr Stokes said.

“Though a challenge, having more children in our state is a great thing – and providing greater school capacity is a top priority for me.”

Mr Stokes said he will be pushing for the Federal Government to deliver on $5 billion worth of new funding for NSW schools during ongoing negotiations between the federal, state and territory leaders.

“We have a signed agreement with the Commonwealth Government on the Gonski reforms, in which NSW schools stand to gain $5bn in new funding,” he said.

“The NSW Government led the nation in signing and implementing these reforms, and I will continue to do everything possible to ensure this commitment is met by the Federal Government.”

Mr Stokes thanked his predecessor, Adrian Piccoli, who he said did an “outstanding job” as Education Minister.

“It is my intention to build on his achievements, including reforms to improve student results, foster quality teaching and provide greater support to students and teachers,” he said.

“We also have a vast demographic challenge ahead of us in terms of the number of school-aged children in NSW.”

Study finds classroom discipline impacts academic performance

Better behaved students learn more and perform among the world’s best, researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney have found.

The researchers analysed results from the international measurement of student achievements, the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, concluding that classroom discipline could hold the key to improving academic performance.

“This study suggests that education investment alone is not sufficient to boost educational performance as well as global competitiveness,’’ the research found.

Researchers Chris Baumann and his Macquarie colleague Hana Krskova analysed PISA data to ascertain the impact of school discipline — students listening well in class, the noise level, teacher waiting time, class start times, and students working well — against the impact of increased education spending.

“When we contrasted school discipline and education investment on the effect of performance, it was roughly 88 per cent in comparison to 12 per cent for education investment,’’ Dr Baumann said.

“That’s not to say investment is not important; of course not. But it indicates the importance of school discipline. The way we actually run the school seems to have a massive effect on how the students perform.

“If you look at the East Asian model of education where the teacher enters the classroom, the students stand up and greet the teacher. What’s the cost? Zero. But you get everyone’s ­attention.’’

The results of the latest round of PISA data for 2015 found the performance of Australia’s 15-year-olds in maths, science and reading was in “absolute decline’’ and the nation was being outpaced by New Zealand, ­Estonia and Slovenia.

The Australian reported government spending on school education increased by $10 billion in real terms in the decade to 2013-14, with an extra $2bn in 2014-15.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is in the process of negotiating a new funding deal with the states and education sectors, with a view that the ­debate has focused too heavily on the amount of funding being delivered as opposed to maximising funds provided.

Interactive technology

Melbourne schools lay out Smart Schools vision

Melbourne schools are working to become “smart”, as a number of institutions innovate with the use of forward-looking subjects.

The Weekly Review reported that daily virtual reality experiences, deep space travel, artificial intelligence are just a few concepts that could become a reality over the next few decades – a future Melbourne’s independent schools are preparing for.

Referred to as “smart schools”, the concept encompasses those that not only educate, but innovate through the use of technology, preparing students for the future workforce.

Helen Carmody, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School principal told The Weekly Review smart schools are responding to rapid changes in science and technology occurring globally.

“Our students are graduating into a world with very different demands compared to the past, as a result of globalisation, technological development and the changing nature of work,” Ms Carmody said.

“Across the school, our programs are focused on developing key 21st-century skill-sets in our students, such as entrepreneurship, problem-solving, collaboration and innovation.

“Our students’ learning experiences build on the principles of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and the Maker Movement (the creating, tinkering and sharing of ideas).”

Ms Carmody said Korowa introduced new electives in mobile phone app development and computer game design this year.

At Camberwell Girls Grammar School, a similar approach has been implemented, with students participating in the Girls Invent program, which encourages students to be entrepreneurial while studying science, technology, engineering, art and maths.

Debbie Dunwoody, Principal of Camberwell Girls Grammar School, told The Weekly Review Girls Invent connects students to these subjects and allows them to think creatively and innovatively, with coding as a strong focus.

“The program really connects our students to all elements of STEAM and focuses them on design thinking. The girls work collaboratively to bring ideas to life. From concept to design and development, marketing to distribution and sales – Girls Invent is a program so relevant to their futures,” Ms Dunwoody said.

“Our partnerships with Xero and Telstra have seen Code Clubs formed at both the junior and senior school, with experts from each organisation running weekly coding workshops.”

Premium transport for the First XI

Buying a new Renault Master 12-seater Bus is a good way for school administrators and principals to encourage teachers to volunteer to escort pupils to off-site engagements.

The Renault Master Bus is based on the highly successful van of the same name and is very easy and comfortable to drive.

It’s very safe too, with the engine up front, not between the seats, meaning there’s a larger, safer crumple zone in front of the occupants.

And with dual airbags, a driver head and chest airbag, ABS and traction control, ESP and Grip-Xtend as well as a myriad of clever electronic aids, both passive and active safety systems give their all in the protection of those on board.

Renault Australia has specified the Bus with 12 seats so that there is plenty of legroom and shoulder room for growing kids, while behind the back row of four individual buckets seats there is a huge space for school bags or sports kit, or both. The uncompromising luggage space means teachers don’t necessarily need to tow a trailer when taking the bus away on a camping weekend, making life easier for all concerned. Plus a roof rack can carry up to 200 kilograms (including the rack).

An optional cargo barrier will be available complete with two metal shelves to allow the floor-to-ceiling space to be safely, yet fully loaded. Because the barrier sits behind the rear seats, a glazed panel in the roof provides the required third emergency exit and allows in plenty of light. All emergency exits are equipped with a hammer to break the glass in case of the need to evacuate in a rush.

Renault has priced the Master Bus from $59,990 (Manufacturer’s List Price, but less for ABN holders), making it exceptionally affordable. Renault running costs are reduced with up to 30,000 kilometres between scheduled servicing or once per year (unlike some that demand a day at the dealership after just 10,000 kilometres) and the first three scheduled services costs only $349 each. Renault protects its LCVs with a 3-year/200,000-kilometre-factory warranty, and this can be extended to five years, which is very handy for schools that don’t clock up big km on a regular basis.

Of course there are lap/sash seat belts for every seat as well as ISOFIX connections and tether strap hooks on two seats, just in case smaller tots are carried.

The air conditioning system has been designed to cope with Australian conditions, which means it can cool the cabin down very quickly even if the bus has been left in the sun for a while at a cricket or netball game. That means the engine doesn’t need to be left idling to run the A/C all the time, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Getting in and out is easy, too, with a powered step emerging from under the side sliding door aperture even for models with the manually activated door. An optional electrically powered side sliding door is controlled by the driver.

Should the driver attempt to drive off with the side door open an alarm sounds and the door automatically begins to close.

Teachers will love driving the Renault Master Bus because it is very quiet, with barely any engine noise reaching the cabin. The smooth automated gearbox makes very slick changes and the elevated driving position gives a commanding view over the road.

Despite being 6.2 metres long and almost 2.5 metres high and over two metres wide, the Master Bus doesn’t feel huge on the road, or even when parking, thanks to a standard reversing camera.

Smooth sides and flush glazing also help to reduce wind noise from reaching the cabin, making the Bus exceptionally pleasant on longer journeys, even on the freeway at cruising speeds.

The 2.3-litre single turbo diesel engine is also very light on fuel with around 10 or 11.0-litres per 100-kilometre consumption easily achievable, depending on load, topography and headwinds. With a 100-litre thank, that means a theoretical range of more than 1,000 kilometres per ll, helping to further drive down the cost of transporting the First XI.

“We have designed the Master Bus to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of school users in Australia,” says Lyndon Healey, Model Line Manager for Renault LCV.

“We have a bus that is easy to drive, efficient to run and affordable to service.

“It is comfortable to drive and to sit in as a passenger, and it is exceptionally spacious down the back, with particularly generous luggage space especially compared with typical rival vehicles.

“For schools looking for a smart, spacious and affordable solution to moving small groups of pupils or teachers around, the Master Bus fulfils their requirements perfectly,” he says.

“And if the 12-seat configuration doesn’t work for you, talk to us to see how we can devise a version to meet your exact needs. After all in Europe there are more than 380 different variants on the Master van theme, so there will be a solution that’s right for you,” Lyndon says.
 Find out more about the new Renault Master 12-seater Bus at

Big digital ideas in the Australian Curriculum

As the new director of education for Edutech and National Futureschools Expo, a fellow of Engineers Australia, and
 a former K-12 digitech and STEM/STEAM consultant, Dr Megan Vazey dives into the new Australian Curriculum (ac): Technologies (digital) to comment on the big ideas in store.

The AC DigiTECH curriculum asks students as young as kinder to dress up as superheroes and otherwise wear their cloaks as designers, engineers and entrepreneurs; imagining where computer science and digital technologies can take us. It invites learners big and small, regardless of background, to become keen observers of the infrastructure, gadgetry and interconnected communication networks that surround them, and to think about the data, algorithms, hardware, protocols, processes and systems required to truly benefit communities and businesses through managed change.

The great opportunity with digital technologies has always been one of communication between people, and with the physical world. Radical engineering innovations and the consequent changes in gadget size, computational speed, wireless access, data representation, batteries and physical sensing has made the milieu fascinatingly dynamic and interesting.

One generation ago and back in the 70s, it was nancially prohibitive to ring Coffs Harbour from Sydney, let alone Perth or New Zealand. We had no mobile phones, no high-resolution touch-screens, no SMSes, no Internet web pages, no MP3 or JPEG or YouTube or blogs, and no email. Augmented, virtual and mixed realities were unheard of, and drones weren’t even imagined, let alone driverless cars, personal robotics, sewable circuits and remote haptic sensing.
Our family got our rst black and white TV when I was about 8 years old, and a very basic colour hand-me-down TV when I was about 10. The family bought one shared VIC20 tape-based computer console that plugged into the TV screen when I was about 11. This was cutting-edge, computer-savvy stuff.

The new and revised Australian Curriculum now invites the mathematical, scientific and engineering imaginations of a diversity of learners from ages four and up of every demographic to grapple with the knowledge, understanding, processes and production skills to design, create, and manage digital projects ranging from embedded software at the physical computing level, all the way to databases and business information systems. At the very upper end, students can tour silicon valley, visit space camps and play with satellite communications, build their own computers, and design their own Internet of Things (IoT): real, virtual or augmented, with corresponding IT infrastructure.

Along this journey, big ideas in the curriculum include: “Systems, Data and Algorithms” introduced from Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2; “Digital Collaboration” introduced from Band/Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4); “Requirements Specification and User Interface/Experience Design” introduced from Band/ Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6); “Project Management” introduced from Band/Stage 4 (Years 7 and 8); and by Stage/Band 5 (Years 9 and 10): “Modularity and Object Orientation”.

Specialty Primary and K-10 English and Creative Arts educators should not be put off at this point, nor should HASS / HSIE and PDHPE teachers.
The great realities are that computing involves exceptionally accessible languages, and that design is a collaborative and physical art. As well, teamwork and entrepreneurial capability are vital to the digital design process, and creativity and innovation comes at the intersection of these diverse skills and subject disciplines.

Further, the powers of literacy, empathetic comprehension, and rational and reasoned argument are as essential to students of law and medicine, as they are to the background research, investigation and evaluation stages of the digital design process. Also, the ability to specify and draw design concepts with network diagrams, data ow diagrams,logical ow charts, and models requires 2D and even 3D spatial awareness, often calling upon signicant artistic communication talent.

Both the DigiTECH and the DesignTECH components of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies invite learners to think physically and computationally in an unplugged and abstract context; and separately plugged-in with student agency during the design process. At the end of the day, K-12 student capability in logically testing, re ning and showcasing work to persuade an audience of the relevance and impact of their designs will exercise and evidence a great variety of engineering and STEAM skill, even at Foundation (kindy) level.

We mustn’t underestimate the power of learners and learning at any age. While students and educators will nd themselves at various points on the journey, the end game is that learners can confidently use digital systems to ethically, safely and respectfully communicate data as information, and apply systems thinking to analyse, predict and shape system interactions that will positively and sustainably impact the lives of those around them.


Dr Megan Vazey is the Director of Education for Association and Communications Events, and the Lead Conference Producer for EduTECH and National FutureSchools Expo. Megan’s PhD is in Computing in big data, machine learning, data mining, arti cial intelligence, and decision support systems. Megan has worked and presented for a range of organisations and on numerous occasions in Australia and overseas. Megan is a Fellow of Engineers Australia.

From 2014-2016 Megan developed professional learning in computational thinking, making, coding, physical computing and STEM from K-12 for NSW schools; and project managed 49 AISNSW commonwealth funded STEM projects. Megan has been active on a range of STEM committees with ACARA, NSW BOSTES and the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, and in Education Research, most recently consulting to Parramatta Marist High in Innovation, PBL based STEM, and Digital Technologies, and also to the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). Megan was the founding AISNSW STEM consultant.
You can contact Megan on Twitter via @MeganVazey or email her through