Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students
  •      

Tasmania builds case to close 17 primary schools

EM-Website-1

A report released by Tasmanian Auditor-General Mike Blake has identified 17 public primary schools where a strong case existed for closure to be considered.

Blake examined a number of factors including enrolment numbers, NAPLAN results, location and availability of alternative schools in compiling the list, and insisted that no conclusions were reached on any single factor.

In the report Blake noted there was no evidence that small schools were disadvantaged in terms of educational performance, however, he pointed out that Tasmanian public primary schools were more costly per student compared to the Australian average and the Tasmanian Government could save potentially $433,000 per year for each school closed.

However, Tasmanian Minister for Education and Training, Jeremy Rockliff, said no school will be forced to close.

“We fought very hard against the attempt by the previous Labor-Green Government to forcibly close schools, and we remain categorically opposed to forced closures,” he said in a statement.

“In many instances schools are the lifeblood of regional communities, and we firmly believe it is up to local communities to determine their future, not have it imposed from on high against their wishes.”

Compulsory STEM ‘masks the real problem’

Two leading educators have told Education Matters that the key to engaging high school students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) is through teachers, and have called for a greater focus on professional learning. Read more

Goal! Register for Sporting Schools

EM-Website-3

Sporting Schools is all about fostering a lifelong interest in sport among Australian primary-aged children.

By getting your primary school involved in Sporting Schools you will help to provide your students with the opportunity to access sport-based activities before, during or after school.

The key purpose of the programme is to encourage more children to do more sport-based activities, and empower schools to help them to do that.

As a sporting school you can:

  • Help your students foster healthy and active living habits;
  • Support health and physical education outcomes in the school curriculum;
  • Access nationally-endorsed sports products and certified coaches;
  • Access a range of training and development material to support teachers to deliver sport-based programmes; and,
  • Design programmes that create important links between your school, sport and your local community.

The aim is to bring sport and schools together to provide a supportive partnership, encouraging participation in sport by over 850,000 children.

Sporting Schools funding will enable the delivery of high quality and inclusive sport activities and games, before, during and after school hours. This will offer flexibility to suit the needs of schools and students across Australia. The focus is about participation and enjoyment, or more simply “skills not drills”.

All Sporting Schools programmes will be endorsed by national sporting organisations (NSOs) and all coaches will be certified. Funding is also available for other forms of innovative programme delivery.

As of this month, schools can apply for funding on the Sporting Schools website, with the programme starting in July 2015. Support for developing your application, online resources and information about local coaches will also be provided.

Once your school is registered and it has met the eligibility criteria your school can get annual funding to provide up to three terms of sport-based activity for children.

Go to the funding section of the website at www.sportingschools.gov.au/funding to find out more about the grants.

In addition, the other benefits of registering includes access to a range of resources through the website including a webportal that enables schools to locate and communicate directly with trained community coaches or coaching providers in your area. In areas where community coaches are unavailable or limited, your teachers can register as a coach to deliver sessions (provided they meet the minimum Sporting Schools coach registration requirements). Teachers can also access coaching plans and tools to help them plan and run sport-based activities outside of Sporting Schools sessions.

As a Sporting School you can:

  • Help your students foster healthy and active living habits;
  • Support health and physical education outcomes in the school curriculum;
  • Access nationally-endorsed sports products and certified coaches;
  • Access a range of training and development material to support teachers to deliver sport-based programmes; and,
  • Design programmes that create important links between your school, sport and your local community.

You will also have the chance to engage with more than 30 national sporting organisations (NSOs) that are partnered with the programme. Students can participate in a broad range of sports including:

Registering your school is an easy process:

  • Select the “register” icon at the top of the website at www.sportingschools.gov.au;
  • Sign up as a Sporting Schools individual member and activate your account via the email link sent to you;
  • Select ‘Register a School’ and enter your school details;
  • Agree to the terms and conditions and submit the form;
  • A registration team has been established with staff available to assist you with your application;
  • Schools, coaches and sporting organisations will be encouraged to create a profile page on the Sporting Schools website – this will help to create connections in local communities; and,
  • Contact the registration team via the ‘Get in Touch’ form in the footer of the website.

From term 3, 2015, all primary schools will be invited to participate in Sporting Schools. Over time, there will be opportunities for secondary schools to be involved. Secondary schools keen to be a part of Sporting Schools can register their interest on the ‘Stay Connected’ section of the Sporting Schools website to ensure they receive the most up-to-date information on how to access the programme. If you would like to know more about Sporting Schools jump onto the website – www.sportingschools.gov.au or email us directly at info@sportingschools.gov.au

Sporting Schools staff will assist you in getting the maximum benefit from the programme.

 

 

Providing quality uniform solutions

Midford

 

Midford is a company with a proud history of providing quality uniform solutions tailored to the individual needs of schools across Australia. Midford school wear is designed to be both good looking and hard wearing.

Generations of Australians have grown up wearing and trusting the Midford brand. Every Midford garment is rigorously tested and made to the highest Australian standards. We have continually improved, refined and re-designed our uniforms, incorporating innovations to improve comfort and durability.

At Midford, we understand what an important statement a well tailored uniform makes about your school. Our experienced team will work closely with your school to provide you with a uniform that your students are proud to wear.

A Midford retail solution

Midford established the retail arm of the business after numerous requests for assistance with customised uniforms. We built an infrastructure specifically designed to manage uniform shop operations within a school campus environment.

Midford will;

  • Purchase current uniform stock;
  • Manage staff;
  • Upgrade your uniform shop;
  • Create an online order platform;
  • Assist in the design of academic and sport uniforms; and,
  • Guarantee an income to the school.

We are proud of our commitment to providing a professional and reliable service to schools and colleges across Australia. Today, Midford operates school shops on behalf of schools in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia in both urban and rural areas.

It is our quality, attention to detail and commercial expertise that makes the relationship with Midford a reliable and profitable option for these schools.

St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, New South Wales

“Our uniform has always been very important to the image of our college. In terms of our dealings with Midford they have been absolutely first class, the service they provide, the way the uniform is presented and the quality of the uniform they provide for our boys.

They certainly do an outstanding job.”

Bro. Anthony Boyd

Deputy Headmaster

 

Ivanhoe Grammar School, Ivanhoe & Mernda, Victoria

“We at Ivanhoe Grammar School have been delighted with the relationship we’ve built over the years with Midford. From their ability to design and produce to specification, to the manner in which they deal with our parents on a retail level. Midford have always been reliable, approachable and professional. We value our association with Midford and look forward to continuing the partnership for many years to come.”

Leyton Miles

Business Manager

 

St Michael’s Collegiate School, Hobart, Tasmania

“The quality of Midford uniforms, the standard of their retail operation and the service they provide to our students and parents, compliments our school’s image and values. The Midford team has become an integral part of the St Michael’s Collegiate community.”

Robyn Kronenberg

Principal

 

 

Improving teacher education

EM-Website-2

National President of the Australian College of Educators and Chair of Teacher Education and Director of Learning and Teaching at the University of Melbourne, Stephen Dinham, speaks exclusively with Education Matters magazine about the Federal Government’s Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers.

How important is it for the Federal Government to focus on improving teacher graduates?  Is it the right direction for improving student outcomes?

You’ve got to start with teacher education.  Teacher education, both pre-service and in services, is one of the biggest leavers we’ve got to improve teaching and learning.  So, we have to get teacher education right.  International measures of student achievement for Australia has shown some steady declines over recent years.  But also the equity gap is becoming wider as well.  It’s most important for a whole range of reasons, including the individual students and society as a whole, that we get teacher education right, so that every young person has got the opportunity to have a quality education.

The Government has highlighted in its report that the accreditation of Teacher Education Courses should be improved. How can they be improved?

We have nationally consistent standards for that, but in my view, and I’ve been involved in accrediting courses for a long period of time, the standard is too low, it’s a very low bar, and we need to do more.  The report emphasises this, we need to do more to ensure that these courses are of the right quality.  That they are informed by evidence.  That the right people are teaching them.  That the in school experience is appropriate.  That at the end of the day, these courses can demonstrate that they are having a positive impact on teaching and learning.

The report also recommended that all Graduate teachers should be teachers of literacy. How do you feel about that aspect?

Every subject involves literacy.  So for every teacher, every day is using literacy and therefore every teacher obviously needs to have a high standard of literacy themselves, and to be able to move literacy forward in their students in their respective subjects that they teach.

What we really need in the teaching of literacy, is a lot of support for teachers.  Particularly support that is strongly evidence-based.  Literacy is an area where there’s been a lot of conjecture about different approaches and strategies and so on.  We need to sort that out, and we need to give all teachers really good support in literacy.

Literacy’s fundamental.  It’s the currency of learning.  What we find with many kids, is when they get to the early years of high school, their learning really stalls, and in some cases goes backwards.  One of the key factors there is the fact that they haven’t got the literacy tools that they need to take them any further because the literacy demands on them in high school just become too great.

So literacy is every teachers business and we need really good across the board evidence-based approaches to literacy.

Would the test proposed to ensure education students are in the top 30% in literacy and numeracy be key to things moving forward in this area?

We need bright teachers.  That doesn’t guarantee they’re going to be a good teacher, but it’s a very good place to start.  We’ve let our entry standard, in some cases, go down too low, although it’s quite variable.  If you look at countries like Germany, I’ve just come back from three months working in Germany, they have a strong state-wide system of examinations for people going into teaching, at the start of their course.

At the moment, this proposal is for the end of the course.  I don’t agree with that.  I’d like to see something up front.  Of a fairly high standard.  Those people who pass, fine.  Those people who may be get within an acceptable distance from a pass, whatever a pass is determined to be, they could bridge that gap during the course.  But I do think we’ve got to be very, very serious about the standard of the people going into teaching courses.

Unfortunately the whole thing has been deregulated.  Undergraduate places and government-funded places have been uncapped.  So universities have been greatly increasing the number of teachers in their training.  There’s been new entrances to teacher education from some of the private colleges and so forth. We need proper workforce planning and this is where the report, I think, needs to go further.

That includes, for example, not just saying to any university, ‘you can train as many teachers as you like’, but to actually allocate places.  Because we’ve got a situation at the moment where we have an oversupply of primary teachers, yet significant shortages in Maths and Science, Languages teachers, in particularly in secondary schools.  So we need to be targeting our resources to where those area of shortages are.

On the other hand, I think it’s somewhat reprehensible to allow people to train for an occupation when they’re not going to get to practice it.  Certainly a lot of principals tell me they’re noticing a widening gap in the quality of people from some of these different providers, including some of the new ones.  They will only hire, in some cases, if they’ve got a choice, from certain universities.

So, we’ve really got to address the issue of the quality of who’s going into education.  I think the report was right, not to focus on ATARs.  Because there’s problems with ATARs.  For example, a third of people who go into teaching go in with an ATAR.  As well as that, many people who are going into teaching are doing a career change.  Average age, in many cases, 27, 28.  The ATAR they got nine or 10 years ago, is probably not relevant.

But the other problem with ATARs too is, the published ATARs often don’t bear scrutiny, because there are various bonus schemes, pop up schemes, and so on, that actually enable people to get in with very low ATARs, or in fact no ATARs at all.

We need to move away from ATARs.  We need to look at proper allocation of places to universities based upon the demonstrated quality of their courses and proper upfront and exit examinations.  I mentioned Germany, there’s a state examination at the beginning of their training, and there’s a state examination at the end of it.  At the moment, we’re talking about some sort of thing at the end, but when you think about that, it could be well too late.  I mean, if someone were to fail that after doing their university training of four to five years, they’ve wasted a fair bit of time and we’ve waisted a fair bit of money training them.

Is there a need for more practical experience in teacher education?

It’s not quantity, it’s quality. One of the things that the reports often do, is say so many days of this and that, but this report hasn’t said that.  But some of the progress standards that have come out federally, had nominated numbers of days.  It’s not the number of days, it’s the quality of experience, it’s the quality of the relationship between the university and the schools where it’s candidates are being placed.

Now, the report comes out and mentions this, and quite rightly so.  Not only do teacher education courses have to have a strong evidence base, but there has to be the use of the evidence of what we know about what’s effective in terms of university-school partnerships.  And what’s the most effective way to train people.  So yes, we need to increase the amount of time in schools, but it’s also the quality of what happens in those schools.

At Melbourne University, for example, we have our people going into schools two days a week very early in their program.  So they get a lot of time in schools.  But it isn’t just the time in school that counts, it’s the quality of experience.  So we try and support them as much as we can, with special positions we provide, called Clinical Specialists and Teaching Fellows.  We try to provide as much support and connection as we can between ourselves and mentor teachers.  So it isn’t just a matter of quantity, it is also quality.

What are your feelings about moving teaching to a Graduate Degree?

Well I work in a Graduate Education school and we don’t take undergraduates.  But, I’ve been involved in teacher education for a long time and it dawned on me very early in my career in teacher education, that taking people straight from school, training them as teachers and sending them back to school, often in the same area that they’ve come from, is not a good thing to do.

The profession as a whole has been steadily moving towards Graduate entry.  There are more and more Masters at Teaching, for example, Post Graduate qualifications.  Including in areas like Early Childhood and Primary, I mean, we have an Early Childhood entry program.  We take in people, with a great range of experience.  We’ve had corporate lawyers, we’ve had pharmacists, and we’ve had people who’ve been journalists, all sorts of people, coming in.

Now, these are people at the age of 27, 28, on average, who’ve made a mature decision to become a teacher.  They’ve done other things, they’ve had other life experiences.  They bring great personal resources to a school.  Someone who comes in that’s an Environmental Scientist, for example, who’s coming from media and communications, as well as being a regular teacher, they’re bringing a lot of very, very useful skills that are transferable to the school setting.

I think, in an ideal world, I’d say, it should all be Graduate entry, but I’m realistic.  I think over time we will move more and more towards that.