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VIC schools better prepared for bushfires

VIC schools better prepared for bushfires

Approximately 200 government schools in high-risk areas around Victoria will have their bushfire shelter areas audited and upgraded in the coming months under a $10 million state government program.

Under the program, upgrades to the fire shelter areas will include vegetation removal, gutter cleaning, and the installation of gutter guards, door and window fire shutters, water tanks and sprinklers.

Bushfire preparation audits have been completed at 51 high-priority schools with work underway to make sure they are ready for the first day of term one this year.

Forty more schools will have their shelters audited in February, with the final 109 school audits completed by June.

Acting Premier and Minister for Education James Merlino visited Billanook Primary School in the Dandenong Ranges this week to inspect its bushfire shelter area, which will be audited and upgraded as part of the program.

“We’re making sure Victorian students living in high bushfire risk areas are safer at school with these vital bushfire safety upgrades,” he said in a statement.

“Every Victorian government school has a place to shelter from bushfires as a last resort, and this program will make sure the shelters at 200 schools in the highest fire risk areas are even safer.”

These bushfire safety upgrades – combined with the newly funded school emergency SMS service and existing school emergency plans like closing on Code Red days and off-site evacuation protocols – mean students in Victoria’s high bushfire risk areas are safer at school.

The 200 schools receiving bushfire safety upgrades are at http://www.schoolbuildings.vic.gov.au/Pages/Bushfire-Risk-and-Readiness.aspx.

 

Vaxcards

Vaxcards: Playing cards that encourage immunisations

A Melbourne doctor and friend have turned to crowdfunding in order to generate interest in a card game that teaches kids about vaccinations.

The card game, Vaxcards, works along very similar lines to other popular games of its type, using bright cartoon illustrations and a simple set of rules in the hope of encouraging kids to use them in the playground.

Each of the cards represents a different type of contagion, such as Schistosomiasis, Pertussis, Tetanus and Leishmaniasis, in the form of quirky characters.

Dr Daniel Epstein and Adam Zemski came up with the idea when considering how to make the concept of immunisation more appearing to schoolchildren.

“The game mechanics are based on symptoms and statistics from the real diseases, so this hame has huge appeal for science teachers as well when teaching students about the human body and its immune system,” Dr Epstein said.

The concept is currently being run as a startup business, allowing the pair to produce and distribute the cards as it scales up. They are specifically designed to be affordable, at $20 for all five available decks.

“We’re also offering discounted print-and-play PDF files and a free starter deck via our website, which gets players started with the first 10 cards.

“Down the track we hope to use funding to further translate the game into several languages and distribute alongside vaccination programs to places and people that need education and reward for vaccination the most,” Dr Epstein explained.

You can find out more about Vaxcards and how to play via their website.

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.