Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students

NSW Govt reveals part of its Gonski spend


Sydney public schools will benefit from a $224 million New South Wales Government initiative that aims to improve the quality of teaching.

The program, dubbed Quality Teaching, Successful Students, was launched by the state’s Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and forms part of the funding promised to schools this year as a result of the NSW Gonski schools funding agreement.

It is currently being rolled-out across NSW and will enable more than 1,000 of the best teachers to mentor and coach other teachers.

Piccoli said the program will improve the skills of teachers and, in turn, improve learning opportunities for students.

“Experienced teachers have knowledge and skills that are even more valuable when they are shared with their colleagues,” he said.

The package enables selected teachers to:

  • Observe colleagues in their classrooms and demonstrate effective teaching strategies;
  • Monitor student performance data across the school to ensure teachers are focused on areas of need; and,
  • Collaborate with colleagues within their school and in other schools.

NSW Teachers Federation Deputy President Gary Zadkovich highlighted the importance of additional support being provided to primary schools.

“For many years the NSW Teachers Federation has been campaigning to achieve increased release time for executive teachers in primary schools so they have the opportunity to mentor and support teaching colleagues in enhancing teaching practice,” he told Education Matters magazine. “This is a welcome additional resource for primary schools and we believe it will greatly assist in further strengthening teaching and learning practice.

“This program will provide important support for teachers to engage in professional development, professional learning, to enhance teaching practice and improve student outcomes.

“It’s really important that teachers are provided with the time to work collegially in their workplace to enhance teaching practice. More time for teachers to collaborate, to share ideas, to support one another, to program cooperatively and develop more effective teaching and learning approaches is good for students and will overall enhance the quality of public education.

“This is also a very important example of the benefits of the Gonski schools funding system – $224 million of additional Gonski funding is going to greatly benefit public schools right across the state and this is yet another example of the importance of all governments around Australia committing to fully funding the Gonski model.”


Northern Beaches Christian School opens world-class education building


Sydney-based Northern Beaches Christian School (NBCS) is excited to announce the opening of its Manhattan building, an innovative approach to school design.

Designed by WMK Architecture, Manhattan is a world class, open learning and social space for both students and teachers. It is designed to help students discover and explore and to inspire them to take charge of their own learning, with expert guidance and support from the NBCS teachers.

“Our aim at NBCS is to make learning deep, engaging, relevant and fun,” Stephen Harris, NBCS Principal, said. “We wanted a building that will inspire our students by creating a wonderful learning environment and Manhattan is a fantastic addition to our school campus.”

The Manhattan building is designed to enable truly personal, authentic and customised teaching. There is clear evidence that well designed spaces have an immediate and positive impact on creative thinking, productivity and learning.

A vital element of the design, is the space known as the City which includes a café and a variety of connection spaces. This precinct is fast becoming the heart of the school community.

“We’ve designed an architecture of spaces, it’s not just buildings that define the heart of the school campus and lead the way for new innovative learning in Australia and worldwide,” Greg Barnett, Managing Director of WMK Architecture, said.

The building was completed on time, under budget and it meets very strict environmental and sustainability standards. Solar power provides the building’s energy needs during the day, rainwater is collected and all food waste is recycled.


Early uni places for Year 12s up for grabs in Victoria


Victorian-based La Trobe University has launched its annual Aspire Early Admissions Program that gives Year 12 students the opportunity to secure an early university place.

Now in its second year the Aspire program offers Australian high school leavers who volunteer and give back to their community the opportunity to secure their place at La Trobe before the completion of final exams.

In order to qualify applicants need to be a domestic Year 12 school leaver actively volunteering in the community. The level and length of their volunteering engagement, coupled with a school recommendation and minimum Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) grades, will form the basis of the assessment.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the program encourages volunteerism and education in Victoria, while supporting a diverse range of community organisations.

“At La Trobe, we are committed to making a positive difference to the world in which we live, and the Aspire program enables us to support the efforts of inspiring young people whose values and ambitions align with ours,” he said. “We want to encourage these community leaders of the future to come and study at La Trobe University.”

Stacey Cockram, who started at La Trobe this year under the Aspire program, has been a Surf Life Saving volunteer for five years and managed to successfully balance her studies with community work throughout her high school years.

“Receiving an offer from La Trobe to pursue a Bachelor of Outdoor Education, before ATARs were released, was a memorable milestone in my life,” she said. “I feel like it has really fast-tracked my career.”

Already in support of this unique program are the Country Fire Authority (CFA), St John Ambulance and the Duke of Edinburgh who are providing their secondary school student volunteers with priority access to the Aspire program.

Volunteers who have been committed to the CFA or St John Ambulance for a minimum of six months will automatically meet the community engagement requirement for the Aspire program. Duke of Edinburgh participants with a Bronze medal or above will also automatically qualify.

Martin Wells, Community Relations Manager and St John Ambulance Victoria, said the organisation is delighted to give its cadet volunteers an early university placement to reward them up-front for their selfless acts of providing First Aid in their community.

“Having already received significant interest from our cadets as they approach final year schooling, it is encouraging that they see value in this offer as much as we do,” he said. “It’s a real benefit to our cadets who work hard to be the difference in their community to have this opportunity with such a prestigious and well regarded institution as La Trobe University.”

Applications for Aspire are now open and if successful, students will receive an offer to study at La Trobe in September this year. For more information, students can visit the Aspire website and organisations interested in partnering with La Trobe can contact Melanie Edgar

Listening with intent – what your students can tell you about your practices

Often when delivering lessons teachers can be so caught up in the process that they forget to stop and try to perceive the learning’s impact from the eyes of their students and, writes Anthony Speranza, a teacher’s fundamental role should be to evaluate that impact on their students using a variety of sources, including with the assistance of students themselves.

Read more

Meet the Children’s eSafety Commissioner


The Federal Government’s recently-established Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner will play a key role in supporting Australian school students who experience serious cyberbullying and aim to help guide all students towards positive online experiences and interactions.

The Office was established under the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015, which took effect on July 1st, and is led by online safety expert Alastair MacGibbon who was appointed to the role of Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

“When I talk to people most of them are concerned in same way or another about the way in which their children are interacting with technology,” MacGibbon told Education Matters. “In particular they’re concerned about the effect of people mistreating each other with technology and the catastrophic impact that can have upon a child and the family.

“The significance [of the establishment of the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner] is that this is a recognition that we need to deal specifically with the issue of cyberbullying and the Act clearly gives us powers in relation to cyberbullying, but also equally importantly the Office carries on and builds upon the good work that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was doing in its Cybersmart education programs.

“I see my role as both, in a regulatory capacity dealing with certain types of behaviour online, but perhaps more importantly preventing problems from happening in the first place. Because that’s the only way children will be able to unlock and engage the full power of technology and they’ll only do that if they feel safe in doing so.”

Under the new arrangements, social media companies remain the first port of call for those under 18 who want cyberbullying material taken down. If the material is not removed within 48 hours, they can come to the Office to complain.

The Commissioner will operate a complaints system backed by the new legislation to get harmful cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child down quickly from large social media sites.

Under the laws the Commissioner has the power to issue a notice to a large social media service requiring it to remove cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child and he will also have the power to issue a notice to a person who has posted cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child, requiring the person to remove the material.

MacGibbon said although schools have been dealing with cyberbullying for a long time, and responsible schools have always acted, the Office provides a better tool to help schools continue those actions.

“We provide an avenue to escalate matters to hopefully assist children, and therefore schools, particularly when it comes to cyberbullying complaints,” he said. “We will be able to, once the child or trusted adult has complained to the social media service and it hasn’t been taken further, reach out to that social media service to take that material down. So we act as a safety net.

“Schools are often going to be the best organisation to deal with the matter because online bullying is probably manifesting itself in an offline way as well, but we also know the online bullying can be quite damaging and vicious, and can follow children around 24 hours a day, and that’s problematic for them.”

Along with the Office’s role as a support network and educator it has received $7.5 million funding over three years to assist schools in accessing accredited online safety programs as a voluntary certification program for online safety experts is slated for release later this year.

For online safety information and resources, or to make a complaint about cyberbullying material or illegal online content, visit


A fresh approach to childcare


Sherpa Kids is an international company which runs before and after school and vacation care activities with primary schools and other community facilities. We have some 100 local owners worldwide, looking after around 5,400 primary school-aged children every day, supporting over 100 schools.

Sherpa Kids’ activities include arts and crafts, music and drama, sport and games, cooking and technology. Many of them are based on specific themes, such as the circus, recycling, sporting events and space, and are tailored to fit in with the individual requirements of schools, their curriculums, children engagement and the surrounding environment.

Sherpa Kids aims to deliver a ‘fresh and vibrant’ approach to childcare – and to “give children such a great time that they do not want to go home!” In addition to offering a wide range of activities, it also capitalises on its international connections by, for example, encouraging Sherpa children from Adelaide in Australia to send postcards to children in County Cork, in Ireland, to learn about life on the other side of the world.

By using a franchise model, Sherpa Kids not only benefits from the local knowledge of the provider, it also contributes to the economic and employment prospects of local communities since all decision-making is done at local level by owners and franchisees are encouraged to source products locally.Contact us today on (08) 8354 4886.