Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students

Digital Transformation Agency not consulted over NAPLAN online

The Education Department has reportedly not consulted with the Federal Fovernment’s digital services agency after its online NAPLAN program experienced technical glitches this year.

Fairfax Media reported that Digital Transformation Agency representatives told senators in an estimates hearing on Tuesday their agency weren’t contacted about fixing the project to shift student literacy and numeracy tests online after the states and territories pulled out of it in April.

Recently, Victorian, Western Australian and ACT governments announced they would withdraw from a trial of the online NAPLAN technology, after South Australia and Queensland withdrew it earlier in the year.

DTA official Nerida O’Loughlin said the program was an Education Department matter and that responsibility for IT projects remained with government agencies implementing them.

Labor senator Jenny McAllister said Education’s failure to involve the agency raised questions about its role.

“We’ve been talking about this for successive estimates and it has struck me that the role clarity about what the organisation is trying to accomplish has been a little deficient,” she said.

Power failures, freezing, browser issues and broken internet connections were just of the issues in the initial trials of the online NAPLAN tests, according to a report by principals.

The online test will be gradually introduced over a three-year period.

FROM OUR PARTNERS: Play time vs class time

What does the word ‘learn’ really mean? We often hear it, but the real meaning is not so obvious. Traditionally, we think of reading, writing and working with numbers. While all are fundamental, the other side of the learning equation is often overlooked – the value of recess and play at school.

Increasing or decreasing play time at schools is a discussion that has become increasingly popular amongst educators throughout the globe.

Recess is more than just a free break for kids to have fun and unwind. The scheduled, unstructured play time allows provides children to develop necessary life skills – cognitive, social, language, emotional and physical skills. Whether playing on the school playground, playing football or even chatting with class mates, research suggests that this recess time helps children behave and perform academically better in class and develop skills that can’t be taught in the formal classroom setting. According to “The State of Play”i 2009 survey by Gallup for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; ‘Principals overwhelmingly believe recess has a positive impact not only on the development of students’ social skills, but also on achievement and learning in the classroom’.

Over the past couple of decades, many schools in the United States have cut down recess time for their students. Some schools, however, believe that this is doing more harm than good to student’s education and have introduced a day schedule that has up to four separate outside breaks per day. Some of these schools are working under the direction of a new program, called LiiNK project and are implementing steps to improve their education quality through health. The program plans to strengthen the school system through; “higher expectations of social responsibility; more time to be playful and creative in order to learn more effectively when in the classroom; fewer standardised tests; and less time in a classroom setting (although no less rigor of content), which will create more passion in students to learn and less burnout as a result of too much time in school.” ii

Eagle Elementary School, in the city of Fort Worth, USA, reports an interesting result after giving students four 15-minute recess breaks a day. Initially, concerns were raised about fitting all learning content into the class time, however this became achievable with kids being more attentive. First grade teachers Donna McBride and Caty Wells say they’ve seen a transformation in their kids – “they’re less distracted, they make more eye contact, and they tattle less”.iii

This example shows us another reason why play is so important for children at schools. With the rising tide of the technology it is becoming more important that we provide school students with the correct play facilities to ensure they get adequate exercise and play. Play areas are a perfect location at school to provide a safe and supervised area for children to play.

adventure+ has been creating play equipment for the education sector and public spaces for over 30 years. Need advice on a play project? Contact a consultant on 1300 237 587 or visit

Boys answer questions

Victoria needs 50 new schools by 2021: report

Victoria’s increasing population means the state will require dozens of new government schools over the next four years, an auditor-general report has found.

The report into managing school infrastructure found another 50 schools are needed by 2021, as the population of school-aged children is projected to increase by around 90,000.

The report noted that the Department of Education and Training (DET) had made “considerable progress” since audits in 2008 and 2013 to improve its long-term strategic planning, but further significant reforms was necessary.

It also illustrated that despite the fact 60 per cent of school buildings are less than 30 years old, their maintenance was sub-par.

“Weaknesses remain in how DET holds schools accountable for their role in managing school assets,” it said.

“As a result, schools will continue to postpone much-needed repairs and struggle to maintain their assets effectively.”

Victoria’s Education Minister, James Merlino, told Fairfax Media work was already underway and 56 new schools were in the pipeline.

“The auditor-general is right to point out this demand, it’s extraordinary growth,” he said.

“Enrolment pressure is very real, and that’s why we need to build new schools, upgrade existing schools and that’s what we’re doing.”

Mr Merlino said of those new schools, 10 were opened this year and another 11 would start operating next year.

“We’ll also be making additional announcements in next year’s budget and in the budget after that if we’re re-elected.

“Our capital program now is a massive $2.5 billion, and it needs to be. Right across Victoria, in the inner city, in our growth suburbs, in regional cities, we need to find that capacity.”

Mr Merlino said finding the space for new schools was a major challenge.

“Obviously in the growth suburbs you can find greenfield sites to build new schools, but it’s a real challenge in the inner-city, and that’s why Victoria’s first vertical school will open, so with smaller parcels of land you need to go up,” he said.

Among the recommendations, the report said the department needed to clarify the role of school councils and principals in terms of asset planning and management, and how they can be held accountable.

It also said an investment strategy for school assets needed to be developed to best maintain those assets.

The auditor-general said the department had accepted the recommendations and developed an action plan to tackle them.

Brain neuroscience EduTECH

Are teenagers crazy?

Adolescence can be a tumultuous period of increased risk taking and addiction. Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horvath explains the science behind it all.

Read more


VR program aims to highlight dangers of binge drinking

A virtual reality game aiming to educate teenagers on the dangers of drinking and taking drugs will be rolled out to 20 independent Catholic schools across Queensland.

ABC News reported the game will involve students attending a virtual reality party, where they are asked to have a drink, deciding how many drinks they will have, and experiencing the repercussions.

Known as Blurred Minds, with the game titled Perfect Pour, the Griffith University project will first be trailed at St Mary’s Catholic School in Cairns.

Griffith University researcher Timo Dietrich described the scenario to ABC News as “a bit crazy”.

“And they can make decisions by attending a party in the virtual world.”

Almost two years in the making, the virtual reality game aims to teach teenagers about responsible drinking and drug taking.

St Mary’s physical education teacher Matt Rattray told ABC News it was a different approach to the subject for the school.

“Obviously they’re underage so we can’t use a lot of props or real aspects,” he said.

“So it’s a lot of using images and projecting onto a screen.”

Dr Dietrich and his team will take surveys with students after each trial class.

“So, we’re looking at changes across attitudinal measures, behavioural intentions,” he said.

“If we can get them to learn how to say no or decline a drink, that’s what I really want out of this.

“A big problem is pre-loading, so before kids even go to a party they end up meeting and actually start having drinks.

“One of the decisions that they have to make is do they actually want to choose a larger amount of drinking, and we highly discourage that through this adventure.

“So, what happens then [in the game] is that they actually pass out, so they don’t even make it to the party.”

Dr Dietrich said when it came to alcohol and drug education it was difficult to use “learning by doing” techniques.

“Because you can’t really give a 15-year-old students alcohol and say hey how does that feel?

“Here’s a virtual world that allows us to actually creates these experiences virtually and actually expose them to some of these cues and risk taking scenarios, without actually the negative consequences of the real-world setting.

“I think VR gives us a tremendous opportunity to really take education to a whole new level.

“So think about geography lesson where you could take people to a different country. It doesn’t just have to be a house party.”

Mr Rattray said the trial allowed students to get an understanding of the effects of what was classified as socially acceptable or harmless drugs.

“And how small amounts, or what those limits are and really understand how it impairs coordination and response to certain areas of the body,” he said.

“Students are technologically savvy and they like to be doing things where they are engaging and anything where they’re able to do, the learning always is amplified.”

Another of the students involved in the trial, Anneliese Powell, told ABC News what she was seeing while wearing the VR headset.

“There’s lights everywhere and like beer pong. Drunk people like on the floor, all passed out,” she said.

Anneliese made the decision to have three drinks.

“The vision becomes a bit distorted and its shaking a bit,” she said.

“[It’s showing] the dangers of drinking and what the effects they can have on you.”

Catholic school cuts could ‘work against govt’

The Catholic education sector has warned of a voter backlash after the Federal Government announced its latest funding model.

Under the proposed Gonski 2.0 funding, a patchwork of 27 agreements will be rolled into a single, needs-based model, meaning all non-government schools will be brought into line with the school resourcing standard within 10 years.

All Catholic schools will face a 10-year funding freeze as part of this, expected to leave them with less funding in 2027 than received in 2017.

The Federal Government’s new model is expected to inject an extra $18.6 billion into schools over the next decade.

The National Catholic Education Commission told ABC News the changes would result in funding cuts across its schools, and fees would rise as a result.

It has called on the Government to release further details and consult with the sector.

“Here is a policy that is alienating voters and I think that it will work against the Government,” Tim McDonald, National Catholic Education Commission West Australian director, told ABC News.

However, Grattan Institute School Education Program Director Pete Goss told ABC News the Government’s policy was trying to end the funding wars.

“The Catholic Schools are saying that under the current deal they are going to be worse off and that is probably correct, but the current deal was too generous for everybody,” he said.

“The Government is saying that Catholic schools will get more money.

“I think the Government is basically right, but I think there is one clear exception which is Catholic Schools in the ACT, which have been on an unusual deal for a while that has been very generous to them.”

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