Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students

What’s wrong with school chaplains?



What is wrong with having Chaplains in schools? As Liberal Senator Corey Bernardi recently said on the ABC program Q&A:

The ethos of our community, the guiding principles of our law, are based and built around Christianity. Now, you don’t have to be a Christian to recognise there are inherent benefits to that.

One thing that is common across all our states’ and territories’ education systems is their commitment to public schools being free, compulsory and secular. So what role is there for religiously trained people – chaplains – to be endorsed by the federal government as the only personnel that they will fund to provide advice and care to children from diverse cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds in need – to young people struggling with issues of sexual orientation and identity, with bullying or family violence, death and trauma?

Australia however is not and never was a Christian country as is claimed. From the beginning of human habitation through to White colonisation until today, Australia has been overtly secular. The first formal church service was held eight days after Phillip landed in Botany Bay on a Saturday. It was remarked then that there were more important things to do than hold a church service on Sunday, like starting a colony! The Australian Constitution prohibits the Federal Government making a particular religion a condition of employment:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. (Section 116)

The Chaplain program’s essential fault is its compulsory religiosity. As one commentator put it, “the assumption [is] that someone who isn’t religious can’t also be as caring and helpful. Why is the government making it compulsory to put a RELIGIOUS person in this position to get access to funding? The state and the church are supposed to be separated, so state schools will miss out on funding if they refuse to use a religious person as their counsellor/chaplain”.

Peter Garrigan, president of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, which represents the parent bodies of public schools, said the funding was money badly spent. “There is a strong need across the board to be supporting students with disabilities … and putting another $245 million into a chaplaincy program certainly isn’t providing the educational outcomes that we as parents would be expecting.”

The Australian Psychological Society described the decision as “appalling”. “There are no reasonable standards of quality of training for people who take on essentially counselling roles in the school situation,” spokesman and psychologist David Stokes said.

The former Minister of Education Peter Garrett, a devout Christian has changed his mind about Chaplains in schools:

The line between chaplains acting to support students in the provision of general pastoral care and proselytising was too easily crossed… The umbilical cord between churches with their mission to evangelise and chaplain providers who shared this same commitment required significant guideline changes to ensure chaplains did not overstep the mark.

Taxpayers’ money spent in education should employ the best people available to help students, not just the religious.The preferencing of the religious, over the non-religious, for no reason other than their religiousness, is unacceptable in government policy, particularly at a Commonwealth level. At the very least all schools should to given the choice employ non-religious counsellors or welfare workers under this program, not just those that cannot find a chaplain. The National Schools Chaplaincy Program breaches the spirit of the Australian Constitution. It undermines the separation of church and state.

Michelle Grattan concluded that “taxpayers’ money should go to a scheme to employ only those attached to a religion is discriminatory. Discriminatory against non-believers, for a start. And against government schools.”

There have been many complaints about the NSCP with over 40 percent of these substantiated, most relating to the performance of the chaplain. Concerns about chaplains preaching to students however are hard to verify. But the providers of Chaplains in schools are on the record as stating that their role is to:

Facilitate Christian activities on school campuses with voluntary student participation and connect students with local Christian churches with parents’/caregivers’ permission.

Or as Lawrence Kraus renowned theoretical physicist suggested that:

It seemed that they’re not supposed to proselytise. It’s like paying a quarter of a billion dollars to invite clowns into the schools and tell them not to be funny.

Scott Ryan, the parliamentary secretary to the education minister, said student welfare was “core” business for schools. What is the point of having a chaplaincy program, rather than a student welfare scheme, if workers were banned from preaching, proselytising and converting?

If that is the case then the Federal Government should be supporting the employment of fully-qualified and professional welfare officers, and psychologists and not well-meaning unqualified missionaries.

As a former teacher and principal, and now education researcher, I find it unbelievable that our taxes are being used to put religious (and overwhelmingly Christian) men and women into our mutli-cultural public schools to “help young students as they grow and struggle to find their place in life”. If parents opt to send their children to a public secular school then that is what they should get. This is the role for professionally-trained social and welfare workers accredited by the appropriate professional organisation and not a fundamentalist Church organisation like the Scripture Union and Access Ministries.

Dr David Zyngier is a senior lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Monash University, Australia.

High school students demonstrate passion towards gaining real work experience




A recently-held online competition has demonstrated that Victorian high school students are passionate about gaining access to work experience in order to take charge of their own career path.

Victoria University’s Work Experience of a Lifetime competition – open to Year 10 and 11 students across the state – saw creative entries from students vying to win a high-profile work placement and mentoring opportunity with some of Australia’s top companies, including Mushroom Group, Leo Burnett, Nova FM and Honda.

Launched in partnership with agency Leo Burnett Melbourne the initiative aimed to help open doors for high school students who often struggle to identify their career passion and gain meaningful work experience.

Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University, Professor Peter Dawkins, said that school students should have the same opportunities as university students when it came to work experience.

“The opportunities presented through this competition gives students invaluable insight into what it’s like to work in some of the most exciting local industries and then make an informed decision about what they want to study or do after school,” Dawkins said. “Most Year 10 and 11 students try to secure two weeks of work experience each year which means that, in any given year, there may be more than 60,000 kids undertaking in excess of 4 million hours of work experience.

“We believe it’s important to help ensure that every hour of this is well-spent and that participants get the real world experience they need to succeed in their future professional lives.”

One of the competition winners, Mike Schumann from Camberwell Grammar School, undertook a week-long placement in July at Honda to work in the marketing field. He said the experience has furthered his interest in pursuing a marketing career and also helped him understand what he would and wouldn’t enjoy about being a marketing professional.

“Work experience was fantastic, because not only did it give me the opportunity to work with those directly involved in marketing, but it gave me a chance to see the tasks which they do on a weekly basis and the work that is involved,” Schumann said. “As a result of work experience, I acquired a great understanding of the work ethic, but more importantly, the type of personality required in marketing to be able to negotiate with a range of people.

“I learned that in marketing you have to be able to work as a team, listen to each other, and be open to creative, fresh ideas.”

Professor Dawkins said the quality and quantity of competition entries received demonstrated that Victorian high school students are passionate about gaining access to real world experience and to help support this determination Victoria University will be looking to make the Work Experience of a Lifetime competition an annual offering.

Visual excellence and peace of mind



The new Hitachi Ultra Short Throw LCD Projectors are here, featuring class-leading performance and visual excellence thanks to a host of all-new features. What’s more, it comes with a class-leading three years’ on-site warranty*.

The new projectors have the capability to provide vivid, eye-popping images in bright classrooms and meeting rooms, bringing greater impact and better class engagement.

Because Hitachi’s image processing technology enhances high-definition video and graphics, beautiful and stimulating images can be presented with their impact intact, without losing the colour information of the original image. Projecting high-definition in rooms of all types from small classrooms and meeting spaces to lecture halls and large meeting rooms.

Bright rooms are no longer a problem

Bright rooms present no problem to image quality. When average projectors are used in bright rooms, the darker colours of an image deteriorate and images become unclear. But with Hitachi’s HIGH DYNAMIC CONTRAST RANGE (HDCR) feature, blurred images caused by ambient room lighting or outside light sources are corrected and an effect similar to increasing contrast occurs. The result is clear images even in bright rooms!

The ACCENTUALIZER feature makes images look more real by enhancing (1) Shade, (2) Sharpness and (3) Gloss, to make pictures as clear as images on a flat panel device. The effects of the three levels can be adjusted according to your surroundings so that the colours of the projected images match the true colours of the objects they represent.

Easy to use in any location

• Front use

In multifunction spaces, meeting rooms and other places where wall or ceiling mounting isn’t practical you can place the projector on a desk or on the floor to quickly and easily project an image of 60 to 80 (2m) inches.

• Wall mount use

The wall mount unit (HAS-WN03X) option ensures that the projector can be installed in exactly the right position. The entire unit slides horizontally, and fine adjustments can be made to each axis independently.

• Tabletop use

The optional tabletop use kit (TT-03) option allows the projector to be used vertically. You can project a 1.5m (60”) image down onto a table.

Ultra Short Throw, for ultra-close performance

The projectors feature Ultra Short Throw, for projecting a 2m (80 inches) image from a very close 51.7cm (20.4inches), onto a wall or screen. A very economical use of classroom space.

Reduced glare and shadows, for a better experience

Ultra Short Throw greatly reduces glare from the projector’s light source, making it easier for the teacher to see the class. The class also has a clearer view because the shadows from the teacher’s hands and body are minimised. The result is a better classroom experience for everyone!

Powered Focus and Perfect Fit

POWERED FOCUS and PERFECT FIT features let you adjust the four corners and four sides of the projected image quickly and easily, using the hand held remote control.

2 HDMI input

The projectors are equipped with two terminals for the widely used interface.

16W internal speaker

A speaker and microphone terminal allow you to make comfortably make presentations using content with sound, or using a microphone.

Versatile and adaptable networking features

Wireless capability is an option

Connect to a computer using the optional USB wireless adaptor.

Easy WLAN connection

Searches available wireless networks and displays the list of SSIDs when used in Infrastructure mode. You just select an ISDD connection from the list.

Convenient networking

Manage and control multiple projectors over your LAN with Centralised Reporting, Scheduling, Email Alerts, and My Image (Image Transfer).

Smart device control

Plugging the USB wireless adapter to the projector and using the dedicated free online application developed by Hitachi lets projectors be controlled from a tablet or smartphone.

Moderator control mode

Setting one computer from the multiple computers (up to 50) that are connected to the projector as the moderator (host), make it possible for the moderator to project from all the computers.

ECO features that save energy

Saver mode

• Reduces projector lamp brightness and energy consumption on static pictures.

• Can darken the screen temporarily, so a teacher can gain the attention of the class while they speak.

Intelligent ECO mode

Changes the brightness of the lamp according to the brightness of the image. When a darker image is projected, less energy is used, eliminating unnecessary energy consumption.

The A-Series Ultra Short Throw range. A projector for every class and every application.






Give your students the best learning experience – insist on Hitachi Ultra Short Throw projectors!


Enhancing children’s wellbeing


Good mental health is essential for learning and life. Growing evidence shows that children who are mentally healthy are better able to meet life’s challenges, are better learners, and have stronger relationships.

The good news is that most Australian children experience good mental health. Schools, parents and families can also take concrete, positive steps to help enhance children’s mental health, wellbeing and learning outcomes.

KidsMatter Primary is a national initiative for primary schools that focuses on building and sustaining children’s mental health and wellbeing. It is widely implemented across Australia, with more than 2000 schools currently part of the KidsMatter network.

“When we focus on the wellbeing of our kids we see great results not only in student behaviour, but also in their ability to learn at school,” says Jeremy Hurley, KidsMatter Primary National Director.

KidsMatter is a whole-school framework that can be adapted to local contexts and is shaped by principals, teachers and wider school communities.

“We focus on what we call a whole-school approach. If you set the foundations right in primary school, kids carry that with them into secondary school and throughout their lives,” Hurley says.

“If we teach kids the right foundation blocks – like how to be resilient, self-aware and empathetic – we set them up for life.”

KidsMatter covers four areas where primary schools can improve children’s health, and minimise risk factors. These four areas make up the training available through KidsMatter:

  1. Building a positive school community
  2. Social and emotional learning for students
  3. Working with parents and carers
  4. Helping children with mental health difficulties.

The professional learning in schools is spread across two to three years. During this time, KidsMatter provides a range of evidence-based strategies, resources and support to suit different schools’ needs.

KidsMatter Primary is a collaborative initiative between beyondblue, the Australian Psychological Society and Principals Australia Institute, with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and beyondblue.

Learn more about KidsMatter

If your school would like to find out more, start or continue its KidsMatter journey, events are held regularly throughout Australia.

Visit for more information.

Senate inquiry backs six years of Gonski funding

Prime Minister Tony Abbott must heed the recommendations of a Senate inquiry into schools funding which has backed the full six years of needs-based Gonski funding, the Australian Education Union (AEU) said.

AEU Deputy Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the findings of the inquiry reflected the views of thousands of teachers, students and principals who had made submissions calling for the Gonski funding to be delivered in full.

“The inquiry has made it clear that the Coalition’s plan to abandon Gonski will have a detrimental impact on students across Australia,” she said.

“As the inquiry’s report states: ‘Unless governments and schools can make long-term decisions and target those groups of students most in need, the gap between the disadvantaged and the advantaged in the Australian school system will increase.’”

“There needs to be a long term commitment to Gonski and the six years of funding needed to ensure every school has the resources to educate every student to a high level.

“The inquiry found what we have now under the Abbott Government is a mess: no commitment to the six years of funding or to work cooperatively with the states and territories, the abandonment of the Gonski model after four years and real cuts in funding every year after that totalling $30 billion over a decade.

“The Senate inquiry’s report said the Gonski Review and the needs-based funding it recommended was a “fundamental benchmark in the history of school funding in Australia” which demonstrated the link between education outcomes and investment in the school sector.

“The inquiry also called for a lift to funding for students with disability, and greater transparency in how schools funding is spent.

“Growing international evidence shows the importance of equity in achieving excellence across a system, yet Australia seems to be moving further away from this as the Abbott Government abandons Gonski agreements with the States,” Haythorpe said.

“The inquiry has also called on the Abbott Government to keep its abandoned promise to institute a ‘disability loading’ that recognises the true cost of educating students with disability from 2015, citing the urgent need among students with disability.

“Up to 100,000 children with disability may be missing out due to a lack of funding, and the Abbott Government has failed to honour its 2013 election promise to replace the temporary loading with a needs-based one,” Haythorpe said.

“This broken promise is causing ongoing pain to thousands of children with disability who are being denied the chance of a decent education.”

“The AEU supports the recommendation that the Commonwealth work to ensure state and territory governments that did not sign up to Gonski contribute towards the cost of getting all schools to a national resourcing standard.

“We also support the call for greater transparency about where school funding dollars go and are concerned that the Abbott Government is working to reduce accountability by changing the Australian Education Act,” Haythorpe said.

“Some state governments are clearly pocketing the Gonski funding and kids are missing out as a result.

“The Abbott Government must listen to the Senate, and the thousands of principals, parents, teachers and community members who have contributed to this inquiry, and commit to the full six years of needs-based Gonski funding.”

The importance of ongoing teacher learning

Those of us who work in providing opportunities for professional learning for teachers recognise the complexity involved in juggling the time and resources needed to meet systemic and contextual priorities. This is important work. International studies, such as those conducted by the OECD (2005; 2006; 2009a, b, c; 2013) consistently point to the role of ongoing teacher learning at all career stages in improving student learning outcomes. The significance of ongoing professional learning is highlighted in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]). These national standards articulate a shared understanding of what it means to be a quality teacher at different levels of experience and describe what teachers should know and do at different career stages. Standard Six, engage in professional learning, is specifically focused on the kinds of learning teachers are expected to engage in and demonstrate. The diversity of possible professional learning experiences is provided in the rich array of examples accompanying the standard six descriptors, ranging from formal professional learning experiences to individual reflective practice. Additional focus on the importance of professional learning is provided in AITSL’s Australian Charter for the Professional Learning for Teachers and School Leadership which states that “…effective professional learning is undertaken in supportive and collaborative school environments and most effective when it is relevant, collaborative and future focused”. The importance of access to professional learning is universally recognised but the challenge for teachers and school leaders is how best to engage in it. Issues typically include: balancing systemic and individual needs; navigating competing demands on teachers’ time; finite financial resources; teacher turnover; the availability of appropriate mentoring and support; even geography. The situation in many rural and regional contexts in Australia, for example, often means that simply accessing appropriate expertise or teaching relief to have time to participate in formal professional learning is a major difficulty.

So, how might we look at this differently?

Fullan (n. p.nos) argues that, as a profession, we need to radically rethink the notion of professional development proposing “…professional development as a term and as a strategy has run its course” and that the profession now needs a major shift in how teacher learning is both conceptualised and enacted. He emphasises that teacher professional learning (the term also used by AITSL) is a more appropriate term for several reasons. First, improvement in teacher capacity which impacts positively on student outcomes involves “learning to do the right things in the setting where you work” (Elmore, 2004, p. emphasis added). This is a critically important concept when we look at learner and school diversity across Australia. One size clearly cannot suit all. Second, Fullan argues, improvements in student learning depend on each and every teacher learning all the time: not just in defined workshop settings, or during concentrated periods of time away from the classroom. An effective teacher needs to be a reflective practitioner, a proficient researcher, an expert data analyst each and every day. However, for teachers to engage in deep, sustained professional learning experiences of this kind, they need mechanisms to de-privatise their practice and opportunities for sustained collaboration within the contexts of their everyday work. This is difficult to achieve as, even with the most willing of teachers, the way their work is structured militates against such practices. Elmore (2004) captures the dilemma nicely:

…there is almost no opportunity for teachers to engage in continuous and sustained learning about their practice in the settings in which they actually work, observing and being observed by their colleagues in their own classrooms and classrooms of other teachers in other schools confronting similar problems (p. 127).

The potential of collaborative peer review

International research into how to develop quality teachers reinforces Elmore’s comments and indicates that an alarming number of teachers receive little feedback or appraisal from peers or supervisors. Consequently, they may be less likely than others to engage in focused professional learning and continuously improve their practice (OECD, 2009a, p.9). These statistics are disheartening but also serve as a mandate to address the “radical rethink” in professional learning that Fullan (2007) argues is so desperately needed. Collaboration is a cornerstone of this reconceptualisation. Literature consistently points to the importance of collaboration in teacher and school improvement (Hargreaves & Fullan; Hattie, 2012). Collaborative peer review is one way in which this fundamental shift can be effected with multiple benefits both professional and practical.

From a professional perspective, collaborative peer review recognises and builds teachers’ “professional capital” (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012) which can so easily be eroded in a climate of performativity. It encourages teachers to work collectively. Connell (2009) argues that much of what happens in the daily life of a school involves the joint labour of the staff, and the staff’s collective relationship to the collective presence of the students:

…much of the learning that school pupils do results from the shared efforts of a group of staff, from interactive learning processes among the students, and (as the idea of the ‘hidden curriculum’ indicates) from the working of the institution around them (pp. 221-222).

Collaborative peer review also encourages and enables de-privatisation of practice. It sees teachers as leaders of their own learning rather than as compliant and disenfranchised subjects of systemic imperatives. And, in simple practical terms, it is sustainable and resource effective.


What is collaborative peer review?

Collaborative peer review is when a group of teachers collectively investigate and critique an aspect of teaching and learning that is of shared interest/importance in order to improve it. It shares elements of a participatory action research approach. Members of a collaborative peer review team may include combinations of less and more experienced teachers, managers and external experts. It can be used as part of an appraisal process, but its main purpose is to foster teacher learning which contributes to improved student learning outcomes. Three important principles underpin this type of peer review:

1.    The review must address an identified strategic priority at the school level;

2.    The artefacts of the review (e.g. comments from any classroom observations and peer feedback) are confidential to the reviewer/reviewee(s); and,

3.    There is an expectation that the teachers involved will make visible to colleagues and supervisors how their practice has been enhanced through the process of the review.

An example is provided below:

Example – Duration one school term

Scenario: A team of Early Childhood Teachers comprising a combination of very experienced and new teachers, a pre-service teacher on practicum and the school principal in a regional primary school, analyse their Grade 3 NAPLAN data and notice a disparity in the achievement of boys and girls in writing.


·         Members of the team analyse each other’s individual class data and discuss and critique different writing strategies used by teachers in the team and evaluate them against good practice literature and school data.

·         In the course of these discussions, a common theme is boys’ apparent self-perception as writers and how their parents perceive them as writers. Team members investigate current literature about good practice in developing boys’ literacy skills. As the school is a regional school, they arrange a Skype meeting with an expert adviser to discuss their concerns.

·         The team devises a simple survey instrument to use with students in their classes relating to students’ perceptions of themselves as writers. They implement the survey and collaboratively analyse the results.

·         The data is shared with the principal and the expert adviser.

·         A series of interventions is developed and implemented.

·         During the implementation period, teachers reflect on the efficacy of the intervention and collect data (boys’ writing samples and other writing assessment). Teachers share their ideas with members of the peer review team and observe each other’s work either in ‘real’ time or in the form of video clips of their lessons.

·         Teachers identify the strengths and areas for further improvement in their own and peers’ practice.

·         Student achievement data is collaboratively analysed at the end of the term. The simple survey is conducted again and data analysed.

·         The video clips that the team decide provide evidence of practice that improves student outcomes are shared with colleagues across the school and the team writes an easy-to-use resource for teachers to guide good practice in boys’ literacy. The team also provide a simple guide sheet of activities parents could use to support boys’ writing.


The AITSL Charter for Professional Learning states that teacher learning is most effective when it is relevant, collaborative and future focused. The sense of agency and mutual support experienced where teachers research and critique their own practice collectively and means that they are much more likely to commit to that learning and consequently their learning will have a much better impact on student outcomes. Such an approach helps to re-culture and de-privatise teachers’ practice and build a learning community. It promotes self-evaluation and has great value in promoting teacher self-efficacy. It also provides a practical and resource-effective way to tackle the complex issue of engaging in quality professional learning in context.

Dr Pauline Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at James Cook University. She joined JCU in 2006 after a long career in teaching and education administration in the UK, Africa and Australia. A winner of an ALTC award for outstanding contribution to student learning in 2008, and recipient of the ATEA Early Career Researcher Award in the same year, her research and teaching interests focus on access and equity, language and literacy and educational policy implementation. She has a particular interest in the First Year Experience at university and is leader of the JCU Academy of teaching and learning interest group in the First Year Experience. A passionate educator and advocate for the profession, she has been the elected secretary of the Australian Teacher Education Association since 2010. ATEA is the major professional association for teacher educators in Australia. The mission of the Australian Teacher Education Association is to promote:

  • The preservice and continuing education of teachers in all forms and contexts;
  • The teacher education as central in the educational enterprise of the nation; and,
  • Research on teacher education as a core endeavour.

 The Association enacts this mission through several key strategies, namely:

·         To foster improvement in initial teacher education;

·         To promote and support the teaching profession;

·         To form strong links with the individuals and organisations involved in educational change;

·         To improve the nature, quality and availability of professional development for teacher educators; and,

·         To promote and disseminate research, ideas and practices, innovation and evaluation in teacher education.

Please visit for more information.


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