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PISA, NAPLAN reports add to worry over Australian education

Released in the first week of December, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report has highlighted issues in education outcomes for Australian students (tested at Year 9), adding to the weight of other benchmarking reports released recently. Read more

Grattan Institute school funding report

Grattan Institute’s funding plan sparks further debate

A recent article, posted on The Conversation and co-written by Peter Goss and Rachel Griffiths, presented the core concepts contained within the Grattan Institute’s latest report on school funding: ‘Circuit breaker: a new compact on school funding’.

The authors find that the schools funding system is leaving many students behind, while some schools remain overfunded. However, ‘lifting all schools to their target funding levels is extremely costly under the current model’.

The current system incorporates indexation rates that the report says are now too generous under current low rates of wage growth, and thereby reinforces disparities between the schools that need additional funding and those already over funded.

Instead, the Grattan Institute proposes three steps to ‘align’ funding by 2023:

  1. ‘Fix’ funding arrangements to set schools on a corrected funding course, while also reviewing the formula for determining needs-based targets
  2. Introduce transparency in funding arrangements with the creation of an independent body
  3. Find ways to ensure funding improves teaching and learning outcomes

This plan would require politicians to renege on Julia Gillard’s promise that no school would ‘lose a dollar’ under Gonski reforms, so that over-funded schools would lose money.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has voiced his support of the report, which he believes falls in line with the Government’s plans for education reform.

“The Turnbull Government is determined to establish a new schools funding deal post-2017 that will leverage evidence-based reforms to boost student outcomes and that will ensure need informs how our record level of funding is distributed,” Senator Birmingham said.

However, the concept hasn’t received support from the Independent Schools Council of Australia, with its Executive Director Colette Colman stating that the report didn’t ‘recognise the complexity of funding arrangements or acknowledge the diverse nature of independent schools’, according to the Financial Review.

Grattan Institute school funding report

Grattan Institute's funding plan sparks further debate

The Conversation and co-written by Peter Goss and Rachel Griffiths, presented the core concepts contained within the Grattan Institute’s latest report on school funding: ‘Circuit breaker: a new compact on school funding’. The authors find that the schools funding system is leaving many students behind, while some schools remain overfunded. However, ‘lifting all schools to their target funding levels is extremely costly under the current model’. The current system incorporates indexation rates that the report says are now too generous under current low rates of wage growth, and thereby reinforces disparities between the schools that need additional funding and those already over funded. Instead, the Grattan Institute proposes three steps to ‘align’ funding by 2023:

  1. ‘Fix’ funding arrangements to set schools on a corrected funding course, while also reviewing the formula for determining needs-based targets
  2. Introduce transparency in funding arrangements with the creation of an independent body
  3. Find ways to ensure funding improves teaching and learning outcomes
This plan would require politicians to renege on Julia Gillard’s promise that no school would ‘lose a dollar’ under Gonski reforms, so that over-funded schools would lose money. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has voiced his support of the report, which he believes falls in line with the Government’s plans for education reform. “The Turnbull Government is determined to establish a new schools funding deal post-2017 that will leverage evidence-based reforms to boost student outcomes and that will ensure need informs how our record level of funding is distributed,” Senator Birmingham said. However, the concept hasn’t received support from the Independent Schools Council of Australia, with its Executive Director Colette Colman stating that the report didn’t ‘recognise the complexity of funding arrangements or acknowledge the diverse nature of independent schools’, according to the Financial Review.]]>

Maths and pencil

Quality of Australian education falls behind Kazakhstan’s

Every four years, the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) ranks Year 4 student results from 49 countries and Year 8 results for 39 countries.

The recent report card from TIMSS shows Australia falling behind, with our results moving us from 18th place to 28th in Year 4 maths and from 12th to 17th in Year 8 maths and science.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham recently addressed the concern that countries like Kazakhstan have now surpassed us in four of the TIMSS categories.

“I don’t want to denigrate Kazakhstan, or indeed their artistic skills with movies like Borat,” Senator Birmingham said, according to ABC News.

“I think though Australia should be seeking to be amongst the best in the world and declines like this are unacceptable and that we need to be working hard to turn it around.”

Other nations currently ahead of Australia in the TIMSS results include the US, Singapore and England.

Naturally, the news has added fuel to the education funding debate, causing Senator Birmingham to call for unilateral support in improving education outcomes.

“What I am urging the Opposition — the Labor Party — and the states and territories to focus on is how we can best use what is a record and growing investment in Australian schools to get the best possible outcomes for the future rather than continuing a debate that pretends that money itself is the solution.”

Labor’s education spokesperson. Tanya Plibersek has taken the opportunity to highlight the need for the Gonski model to be implemented.

“The results are very concerning and they show exactly why we need to invest extra in our schools,” Ms Plibersek said.

“They show that kids from poorer families in poorer schools in remote and regional areas are doing worst of all.

Maths and pencil

Quality of Australian education falls behind Kazakhstan's

TIMSS) ranks Year 4 student results from 49 countries and Year 8 results for 39 countries. The recent report card from TIMSS shows Australia falling behind, with our results moving us from 18th place to 28th in Year 4 maths and from 12th to 17th in Year 8 maths and science. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham recently addressed the concern that countries like Kazakhstan have now surpassed us in four of the TIMSS categories. “I don’t want to denigrate Kazakhstan, or indeed their artistic skills with movies like Borat,” Senator Birmingham said, according to ABC News. “I think though Australia should be seeking to be amongst the best in the world and declines like this are unacceptable and that we need to be working hard to turn it around.” Other nations currently ahead of Australia in the TIMSS results include the US, Singapore and England. Naturally, the news has added fuel to the education funding debate, causing Senator Birmingham to call for unilateral support in improving education outcomes. “What I am urging the Opposition — the Labor Party — and the states and territories to focus on is how we can best use what is a record and growing investment in Australian schools to get the best possible outcomes for the future rather than continuing a debate that pretends that money itself is the solution.” Labor’s education spokesperson. Tanya Plibersek has taken the opportunity to highlight the need for the Gonski model to be implemented. “The results are very concerning and they show exactly why we need to invest extra in our schools,” Ms Plibersek said. “They show that kids from poorer families in poorer schools in remote and regional areas are doing worst of all.]]>

NT Learning Adventures, 2016

Trip report: 2016 Red Centre tour

Planning school camps and trips to remote locations can be among the most stressful tasks for educators, who must juggle logistics challenges, unfamiliar locations and the unpredictability associated with caring for young people.

That’s why familiarisation programs such as those offered by Tourism NT are so useful when it comes to making hard choices so much easier. By giving teachers the chance to experience all the things a given region has to offer, they can be confident their new school trip will be a success.

Ten teachers from Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra were lucky enough to visit Central Australia in July this year, witnessing the historic and cultural delights of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Watarrka National Park and all the iconic sights the region has to offer.

From Travancore School in Melbourne, Kate Tyndall found that her participation in each of the experiences on offer over the six-day trip gave her “a better indication of the outcomes, rather than reading about them online or in a brochure,” she said.

“Meeting the activity leaders has also given me more confidence in reaching out to them in the future to discuss potential school trips,” said Kate.

The educators were afforded a tour of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre, and were also given a guided tour of the extremely scenic Kings Canyon rim early in the trip. However, there were also visits to Alice Springs telegraph station, Earth Sanctuary, and Alice Springs Desert Park. Potential camp locations were scouted at Ooramina station before lunch at the Royal Flying Doctors Service HQ.

“Not only was it a great professional opportunity, but I also appreciated the ability to meet other teachers in a different setting, which gave us the ability to reflect and discuss school trips and planning,” Kate explained.

For David Sherwin from Fort Street High School in Sydney, the standout highlight was a heartwarming cultural experience.

I have so many fond memories from the trip, but camping overnight with Jungala Kriss and his family just outside of Standley Chasm was a real treat,” David said.

“I think it would also be unfair not to mention our visit to see Brolga at Kangaroo Sanctuary. His passion for animal welfare and the care of injured kangaroos was inspirational.”

In his capacity as a social sciences teacher, David found the opportunities to learn more about Indigenous culture and the traditional owners of the region a core aspect to the trip, providing him with the ideas and inspiration required to help him begin planning potential learning experiences for his students.

“As a teacher who educates students who have not been outside of an urban area, I believe it would by highly beneficial for them to see the ongoing close relationship that Central Australia’s Indigenous people have with the land,” explained David.

“Many students in an urban school understand the disadvantages faced by our Indigenous people but do not get to see the spiritual connection they have to the land.”

Of course, teachers are humans as well, and the key to a truly memorable experience for most people are memorable dining experiences. To this end, the group was treated at every meal, with special mentions going to a self-cooked BBQ at Outback Pioneer on their first night in the Red Centre, and the three-course Mbantua dinner with Bob Taylor on Day Five.

“Getting to know new friends while eating great food as the sun sets on a stunning backdrop – it doesn’t get much better than this,” said Kate.

While the latest group to experience the Tourism NT’s Central Australian teachers’ famil reflect on their experience, some of those who went on the first famil in 2014 have already gone on to take students back on camping experiences. One such teacher, Lisa-Marie O’Connor from Viewbank College in Victoria, recently returned from her school’s first Central Australia camp in over 15 years, where she led a group of Year 9 students. The feedback her students gave provides a real insight into the education benefits on offer in Australia’s Red Centre.

“I really liked visiting the Lilla Aboriginal Community because I have been to some other Aboriginal Communities and I felt very privileged to get to know a central community’s culture, beliefs and way of life. It was beautiful to see Australia and the land around me in their eyes.”

“My favourite experience on camp would have to be The Valley of the Winds. After a hectic couple of days at camp, it was relaxing to sit in the middle of nature and reflect on ourselves and our experiences.”

For Lisa-Marie, the importance of the assistance offered in the famil is summarised in her message of thanks for the team at Tourism NT:
“I just wanted to express to you my gratitude. I truly believe that without this familiarisation trip it would have been very difficult to plan a camp of this magnitude and in this location (We had a total of 130 students and 15 staff attend our 2016 camp). I also believe that you have to not just speak to the people involved or read about it but really experience what the students will be experiencing and this was only possibly by being a part of this familiarisation trip.”

NT Learning Adventures are currently looking for the next round of educators to join them on next year’s famil. Find out more here.

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