Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students
Thumb-sucking research from NZ

NZ researchers find nail-biting, thumb-sucking behaviour reduces allergy risk

A new study from the University of Otago, New Zealand, found kids who exhibit thumb-sucking or nail-biting behaviours could be less at risk of developing allergies later in life.

The findings are just one result from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study, a long-running data collection exercise that has followed the lives of 1,037 participants born in 1972 and 1973.

The paper, which appears in the August issue of the US-based journal, Pediatrics, suggests childhood exposure to microbial organisms via thumb-sucking and nail-biting could reduce the risk of developing allergies.

Parents of the participating children were asked to report their thumb-sucking and nail-biting behaviour at ages 5, 7, 9, and 11 years of age. Each of the participants was then checked at page 13 and 32 years old for ‘atopic sensitisation’, which is a positive result on a skin prick test to at least one common allergen.

Results show that the prevalence of sensitisation was lower among children who had sucked their thumbs or bit their nails by 38 percent, compared to those who didn’t at 49 percent. Children who were reported to both suck their thumbs and bite nails had an even lower risk of allergy at 31 percent.

Lead author of the study, Professor Bob Hancox said the exposure to microbes as a result of these behaviours may alter immune functions, resulting in the children becoming less prone to allergy.

“The findings support the “hygiene hypothesis”, which suggests that being exposed to microbes as a child reduces your risk of developing allergies,” he says.

At the same time, Professor Hancox and the other co-authors of the report stress that their findings aren’t grounds for encouraging children to acquire these habits, as it’s not clear as to the net health benefits of such behaviour.

Stephanie Lynch, a medical student who co-authored the study as a summer project, says “although thumb-suckers and nail-biters had fewer allergies on skin testing, we found no difference in their risk for developing allergic diseases such as asthma or hay fever”.

What does the new Victorian Curriculum mean for you?

This article has been provided courtesy of Jacaranda.

In September 2015, the Victorian Government announced the new Victorian Curriculum as a key pillar of its plan to become the ‘Education State’.

As many teachers will know, change in curriculum is not new in Victoria, and the state has long been at the forefront of innovation in curriculum development. A quick snapshot of the past two decades alone reveals a commitment to ongoing reform and to improving learning outcomes for students.

Here’s a summary of the major innovations:

1995: The Curriculum and Standards Framework (CSF) was first implemented in Victorian schools.
2000: The CFS was republished as the CSF II. The CSF described explicitly what Victorian students should know from years prep through to Year 10 in eight key learning areas.
2006: The CSF II was replaced by the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) which was built on the strong foundations of the CSF but also emphasised the interdisciplinary skills students needed to succeed in the world; skills such as how to relate to each other, how to understand the world and how to communicate ideas.
2013: The Australian Curriculum in Victoria (AusVELS) was implemented.
2015: The Victorian Government introduced the new Victorian Curriculum, which can be implemented from 2016 and must be implemented by 2017. The curriculum ‘is the common set of knowledge and skills required by students for life-long learning, social development and active and informed citizenship.’1

As with any curriculum change, there are differences will need to be factored in. While teachers in Victorian schools have proven themselves highly adept at incorporating practical and aspirational elements of each curriculum reform phase, managing the transition can be an overwhelming task. In particular, the 2017 Victorian Curriculum not only introduces several changes that apply across all learning areas, but a number of subject-specific changes as well.

Victorian Curriculum by Jacaranda.
Guide to the new Victorian Curriculum by Jacaranda.

The overall impact, therefore, will inevitably vary by subject. To find out what the 2017 Victorian Curriculum means for you, download Jacaranda’s fact sheet. There’s one for each learning area: Mathematics, Science, Humanities, English and Health and Physical Education. This definitive guide will provide:

      Summary of the key changes that all teachers must implement
      Description of the General Capabilities
      Outline of structural and content changes for each learning area
      Insights from our publishing team


We hope the fact sheet is a useful resource to help teachers gain confidence going into 2017. If you have any additional questions about what the curriculum changes mean for you, don’t hesitate to email us.

1. Source:

Renault's Master Bus arrives at outdoor adventure school in Gippsland

Outdoor adventure school masters Renault bus selection

Renault has begun sales of its fully imported 12-seater Master Bus to schools in Australia, with the School for Student Leadership’s Snowy River Campus in Gippsland, Victoria, taking delivery of two identical specification vehicles.

The buses will be used at the outdoor adventure school where Year 9 students spend up to 10 weeks at a time exploring pursuits such as surfing, hiking, kayaking and mountain biking, while learning self-reliance and leadership skills.

The school uses the buses to transport students to and from adventure locations within a 1-hour drive of the beachside location near Marlo, at the mouth of the Snowy River.
Principal Mark Reeves says the Renault Master Bus met all the School’s requirements from functional, economical and operational perspectives.

Renault Master Bus in Gippsland
A Renault Master Bus at the School for Student Leadership’s Gippsland campus.

“We were in the market to replace some older vehicles. The Renault Master Bus seemed to be exactly the right size. It is very spacious inside and it can be driven on a regular car license by all of my staff,” he says.

“Pricing was critical for us and the Master Bus comes fully equipped for our needs, at about $60,000. Annual servicing, teamed with service intervals of up to 30,000km are key benefits for us, as we only cover around 12,000km per year, so we should only need one annual visit to the dealership. Some other buses need a service every 10,000km or six months.

“Fuel economy looks to be good and the (six-speed) automated transmission suits the engine really well. The Master Bus is simple to drive, and as we have about 20 staff at each campus, and any of them could be called on to drive it, this is important. The staff like the fact that all the control buttons for the ventilation and sliding door are grouped logically on the dash, and they are easy to learn.

“The Master Bus does well on tarmac or dirt. We do a fair bit on dirt and the Bus is very stable. It has good road holding and steering. It feels safe and secure, and has excellent ABS. It leaves the old bus for dead.

“Prior to making a purchase decision we reviewed the market and I discussed the purchase with my staff. We saw the Renault as a quality European vehicle that would give us the flexibility we needed,” he says.

“There are some very handy features. Our bus came with an electric sliding side door and the students really love the USB chargers for their iPods and iPhones. Because we have patchy coverage for free-to-air radio, the kids bring their own music along.

“One of the biggest surprises was the aircraft-style cabin heater which runs down the length of the cabin. It’s a real winner,” Mark says.

“The students surf all year round, and so can get back into the bus quite cold. The heater warms them up quickly. The air conditioning is very effective, too,” he says.

The Master Bus has a twin air conditioning system, fitted within the cabin to prevent the damage that can afflict external roof-mounted systems. The AC is very effective and designed for Australian summer conditions.

“The seats are really comfy, there’s plenty of room inside, and with the front-wheel drive and low flat floor in the luggage area, and we can store all of the students’ 100-litre adventure packs. We also tow a trailer for the kayaks,” Mark says.

“The flat floor is also easy to sweep or mop out, given the students bring in mud and sand on their feet.

“When the students aren’t complaining about something it is a sign they are content, and so far the Master has passed muster with them,” Mark says.

“The experience the School for Student Leadership Snowy River campus is having with their new Master Buses is exactly what we planned for,” says Renault LCV Model Line Manager, Lyndon Healey, who led the programme to bring this high specification people-moving version of the Master range to Australia.

“We spent about 2 years consulting with a wide range of bus users, and determined that the combination of 12 seats, a large luggage area and strong heating and air conditioning systems would appeal to the market, and in particular with school users.

“The Master Bus is an exceptional value proposition as it comes very well specified as standard, and with a large selection of options, which may be individually specified or taken as an option pack.

“With our price, powerful and economical drivetrain, long service interval, Capped Price Servicing for the first 3 scheduled services of just $349, and our 3-year/200,000km factory warranty, the Master Bus provides an exceptional package for school bus buyers and plenty of peace-of-mind.

“Renault LCV has been the biggest selling light commercial brand in Europe for the past 18 years in a row, which underlines the faith buyers on the Continent have in our practicality, durability and aftersales service. And with a growing national network, currently comprising more than 50 dealers in Australia, we are closer to more Australians than ever before,” Lyndon says.

“If your educational facility is considering trading up to a newer, safer, more comfortable and better appointed vehicle, contact your nearest Renault dealer to find out more about the Master Bus.”

Full detail of the Renault Master Bus are also available on the Renault website.

About the School for Student Leadership

The School for Student Leadership is a Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) initiative offering a unique residential education experience for Year 9 students. The curriculum focuses on personal development and team learning projects sourced from students’ home regions. There are three campuses in iconic locations across Victoria. The Alpine School Campus is located at Dinner Plain in the Victorian Alps. Snowy River Campus is near the mouth of the Snowy River at Marlo in east Gippsland. The third site is adjacent to Mount Noorat near Camperdown in Victoria’s Western District, and is called Gnurad-Gundidj.

Funding public education

The Australia Institute: Education funding over tax cuts

Boosting public education delivers greater benefits to Australian living standards than company tax cuts, according to progressive think tank The Australia Institute (TAI).

A report released by the group last week reviewing OECD data found no relationship between company tax rates and general living standards.

On the other hand, there is a positive correlation between public education spending and living standards, it finds.

In his briefing notes on the report, Senior Research Fellow for TAI, David Richardson concludes that: “The data presented here clearly suggest that if there were a choice between funding company tax cuts or more education spending, governments would be well-advised to concentrate on the latter”.

The information arrived at a critical time during the final weeks of the Federal Election campaign, with the Turnbull Coalition focusing on promising tax cuts over Labor’s ongoing support for fully funding the Gonski education reforms.

SBS News reports Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the TAI report ‘blew Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s economic plan to pieces’.

“Wages are flat-lining and living standards are falling, and Mr Turnbull’s only solution is to give more taxpayer money to big business and the banks.

“Labor wants to invest in people, and the Liberals want to blow up the budget with a $50 billion giveaway to big business.”

In contrast, a spokesman for Treasurer Scott Morrison told the study had only “observed the obvious point that when countries have higher GDP they can spend more on education because their economy is growing”.

“This report does nothing to counter the overwhelming body of evidence, including the previous support of the Australian Labor Party, for the economic benefits of lower tax rates on business that enable them to invest and grow.

“If we have uncompetitive tax rates compared to our regional trading partners then investment will flow to those countries and not Australia. That will result in fewer jobs and lower standard of living.”

Melbourne Girls College Youth Parliament team

Mental health a real issue for youth

Melbourne Girls College students taking part in this year’s YMCA Youth Parliament have argued for improving Victorian students’ education in mental health.

The team of six Melbourne College students believe mental health deserves much greater prominence in the Victorian school curriculum and is a major issue for young people not currently being addressed.

Ms Dakotah Taylor debating in  Parliament. Photo: Lexie Huculak.The YMCA Youth Parliament takes place every year and invites young people to voice issues they are most passionate about.

More than 20 bills first tabled at Youth Parliament have gone on to influence state legislation.

Dakotah Taylor debating in Parliament.
Ms Dakotah Taylor debating in Parliament. Photo: Lexie Huculak.

The students are not alone in their concern. Mission Australia’s 2015 survey of Australian youth revealed almost 30 per cent of young people considered mental health to be a major issue affecting their lives.

Team member Dakotah Taylor said discussions about mental health needed to be more accessible to young people.

“We have to remove any stigma and negative connotations when it comes to this issue, we need to eradicate the fear of seeking help.’’

The students also call for psychologists to be placed in schools and compulsory mental health first-aid for Year 8 and 10 students.

Community information sessions, to ensure local support, were also part of the proposed bill.

Team member Catherine Butchart, said her team wanted to address the statistic that a quarter of Australians aged between 16 and 24 have experienced a mental health disorder in the past 12 months.

The bill also calls for the mental health education program to start with primary aged children.

Mount Waverley Secondary College teacher Stella Lumb supported efforts to increase attention to youth mental health.

“Mental health issues stem from various things,” she said. “One program is not enough to cover the diverse range of students who suffer from mental health issues.”

Mrs Lumb said that better support is necessary for students “to be accepted for who they are and be themselves.”

She believes that it is difficult for students to open up and talk about their problems with a psychologist they don’t know.

The Mental Health bill will now be passed to Minister for Youth Jenny Mikakos for consideration.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 1800 650 890 or at

Netania Lim is a Youth Press Gallery Journalist for YMCA. She is studying Laws(Hons)/Arts at Monash University. @NetaniaLim

Feature image: Melbourne Girls Grammar Youth Parliament team. Photo: Emily Greco.