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Queensland introduces new mandatory annual performance reviews for teachers from 2015

 

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A new mandatory teacher performance review process will be introduced in Queensland public schools from the start of the 2015 school year.

Queensland’s Minister for Education, Training and Employment John-Paul Langbroek said it would make sure every school teacher is performing at their best.

“This new performance process will make a real difference to our children by focusing on the most important person in their classroom – the teacher,” Langbroek said in a statement.

“The Government and the union recognise that great teachers play a critical role in giving young Queenslanders the educational experience they deserve and preparing them for the future.”

Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) President Kevin Bates said the agreed process emphasised the collegial nature of teaching and recognised the complex nature of the profession, although he added that it was important to focus on a wide range of data sources – not just student achievement.

“That’s a critical difference for us in terms of the agreed process, that it doesn’t unfairly over-emphasise a particular data source, that it embraces a wide range of data sources, and teachers and principals cooperatively have developed an approach that will see those real-time issues built-in to whatever process is undertaken,” Bates told Education Matters magazine.

“What this process is about is recognising professionalism, respecting the role that teachers play and it will be a negotiated process between teachers and principals that will outline a set of goals for professional learning and practice that teachers will embrace over the course of 12 months.”

Bates said the mandatory performance review process will build on the existing teacher performance review framework that has been in place in Queensland’s public schools since September 2012, but that has not been applied appropriately, or even at all, at every school.

“We’re hoping it will lead to engagement in professional development, supported by the school or the employer and by teachers in their own right, which is something teachers already do to a very large extent, particularly in their own time at their own cost,” Bates said. “That’s fundamental because you can’t expect growth unless there’s opportunities for learning that are going to be provided for teachers in this process.”

Langbroek said the annual review process will have three distinct phases: reflection and goal setting, professional practice and learning, and feedback and review. Alignment with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers will provide benchmarks for the career stages to which teachers can aspire.

Aussie school achieves world-first International Certification

 

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Melbourne-based Mentone Girls’ Grammar has become the world’s first school to achieve International Certification through the Council of International Schools (CIS), headquartered in The Netherlands.

Mentone Girls’ Grammar was one of only 10 pilot schools chosen around the world to embark on the program that culminated in a CIS evaluation.

The school’s Principal, Mrs Fran Reddan, said the long journey originally started as a vision to be an Australian school with an international outlook that prepared global citizens, and it had already been doing work to bring the importance of being internationally-minded to the school community.

“What we wanted with the CIS [evaluation] was to really have a look at how we could measure whether we were developing global citizens and the degree to which the program in the school curriculum, and generally, was helping our students become international and intercultural,” Reddan told Education Matters magazine.

“The actual process took about nine or 10 months or so and the CIS provided us with a framework of reflection and analysis,” Reddan said. “We engaged our staff, our students, and the parents, along with hosting a serious of community workshops, and we finished with an intensive two-day evaluation from the CIS as part of this new accreditation process.

“One of the assets that really helped us achieve it was that we had a culture in the school of working in project teams, the staff really embraced the process and it was natural for us to set up projects to look at various aspects of our programs and curriculum as part of that assessment.”

Mentone Girls’ Grammar had already been providing opportunities for students internationally. The school strengthened its languages program by introducing Mandarin Chinese and extending its Japanese program from prep to year 12. It also established sister school partnerships formally with Japan and a relationship with a university in Japan, along with a sister school partnership with a Beijing girls’ school.

“We really challenged ourselves intellectually on committing to and developing a school-wide definition of global citizenship, and we’ve also developed some reporting against that for our school reports that look at how we measure those elements of that definition,” Reddan said. “We also have some really innovative curriculum mapping that we did to look at our existing curriculum, we have a deeper understanding of providing evidence of learning, a new system of recording processes, collaborative uses of ICT, and the staff, student and community engagement was really valuable.

“To learn that we were the first school to achieve International Certification, there was such a sense of community pride here, because people had worked very hard. It was challenging intellectually and it was challenging as a project management exercise. But in terms of school improvement and validation of what we’ve been working on strategically for quite a number of years, we feel that we’re on the right path, what we’re doing is important, that we’ve got an obligation to do it for students and we’re going to keep going. We’re very pleased, it was such an affirming process.”

The Council of International Schools (CIS) is now embarking on the second year of the pilot with a group of schools including, one in mainland China, working in partnership with an international school in Hong Kong, a bilingual (French/English) school in Toronto, some in the United States, others in Australia, one in England, and a bilingual (Spanish/English) school in Buenos Aires.

Providing optimum air quality for Asthma sufferers

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Asthma is a condition of the airways. People with Asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs that react to triggers, making it harder for them to breathe. Asthma can affect people of all ages and is particularly common amongst the younger generation. Did you know that asthma has doubled since the 1990s and is the leading cause of school absenteeism and hospital admittance for kids? Statistics show that one in six Australian children are currently diagnosed with this condition.

Schools strive to improve health and development outcomes for students and at Pacvac we do too! It is proven that using the correct commercial cleaning equipment to clean schools helps create a happier and healthier environment for all. From classrooms to canteens, Pacvac has specifically designed a range of cleaning equipment to help keep the air you breathe clean. We believe clean air equals happy people and healthy minds.

Now that’s a worthwhile investment!

How do you achieve this?

In essence, by providing optimum air quality. Cleanliness is one of the factors that go into good air quality, but one of the easiest for you to manage is carpet and floor cleaning. It is important that vacuum cleaners are fitted with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters meaning that at least 99.97% (at 0.3 Micron) of dust particles are retained; helping children with allergies or asthma breathe easier.

Pacvac’s products have been specially designed to promote optimum air quality and that is why Pacvac is the preferred supplier for vacuums to the education departments in Western Australia and Queensland. Want clean air in your school and even in your own home? Make Pacvac your Smarter, Cleaner, Healthier choice.

Visit www.pacvac.com for more information.

How do schools promote cybersafety?

 

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In the following extract from Beyond Cyberbullying – An essential guide to parenting in the digital age Michael Carr-Gregg says that all schools should have a holistic approach to cybersafety.

To be honest, up until the last decade, the education systems in Australia and in many western countries, with a few notable exceptions, have moved with the speed of mammalian evolution on the issues of school bullying and its cyber cousin. For many years the majority view (reminiscent of Tom Brown’s School Days) was that a little bit of schoolyard bullying was fine, probably made young people more resilient, and unless someone was in need of hospital treatment, it really wasn’t the school’s business.

As far as cyberbullying is concerned, the initial view was that if an incident occurred outside the school (most did), then it could not possibly fall under the school’s jurisdiction. With the help of a few high-profile media stories and some legal cases, this view has shifted, and now most schools have an acceptable use policy covering all online communications between students, parents and teachers that impact on the school community.

The official document deployed by the federal government is the National Safe Schools Framework, which is designed to help Australian schools develop effective student safety and wellbeing policies including cyberbullying. While this document promotes some worthy goals – ‘creating learning environments which are free from bullying, harassment, aggression and violence’, for instance – the truth is that there is no monitoring system and funding is not linked to implementation. This means that in some schools the document is still in its cellophane wrapper or, worse, relegated to the recycling bin.

The consensus among cybersafety experts is that all schools should have a holistic approach to the issue and should be able to tick several crucial boxes. If in doubt, it’d be worth asking your child’s school if they’re aware of the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s free and accredited Cybersafety Outreach Professional Development for educators program. Ask if they have done any of the following (as suggested by the ACMA):

1.  Establish a cybersafety team

Create a cybersafety committee with at least one member being a tech head (a.k.a. computer nerd) and others being experts in student welfare, staff management and curriculum development.

2.  Conduct a cybersafety audit

Figure out what the school currently does to support and encourage cybersafe behaviours.

3.  Identify issues

Consult with staff, students and parents to identify key cybersafety issues and determine whether current policies and proceduresadequatelyaddresstheseissues.

4.  Research cybersafety resources

Examine the available school-focused resources. eSmart, an Australian cybersafety and wellbeing initiative, is a good place to start.

5.  Draft and circulate a code of conduct

Draft a cybersafety code of conduct, including clear incident response flow charts, to ensure all staff and relevant parents are aware of how to deal with a breach of the code of conduct. Consult with staff, parents and, where appropriate, students on the draft code. Revise and redraft in line with feedback and consult again if necessary.

6.  Promote and share the code of conduct

Arrange for the code of conduct to be sent home for parents and children to read and sign together.

7.  Appoint a cybersafety contact person

Organise someone as a first point of contact for students, staff and parents if a cybersafety issue arises. They will be responsible for starting the agreed process for handling the cyberbullying and facilitate communication between the parties involved.

8.  Regularly review the code of conduct

Technology changes fast, so make sure the code of conduct reflects the latest usage.

9.  Integrate cybersafety into curriculum

Use the federal government’s Cybersmart teacher resources, plus any from the state government to integrate cybersafety into the curriculum

10. Educate parents

Provide cybersafety information to parents. (One fabulous idea would be to make this book available to the parent community!) The cybersafety contact person could host an internet safety awareness presentation for parents, directing parents to the following sites:

Cybersmart: Developed by the ACMA, Cybersmart provides activities, resources and practical advice to help kids, teens, teachers and parents safely enjoy the online world.

Bullying No Way: Bullying No Way is a free online resource that aims to create learning environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected and valued, and free from bullying, violence, harassment and discrimination.

Cybersafety Help Button: The Cybersafety Help Button is a new Australian government initiative designed to keep children and families safe online. It is a free web-based application giving young people the ability to talk about, report or learn about cybersafety issues by clicking on the button.

eSmart: Following a successful pilot (involving 164 government and non-government schools in urban, rural and remote regions around Australia), this cybersafety program (developed with the assistance of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation) is now being rolled out nationwide.

 

Planting the seeds of learning

 

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The kitchen gardens sprouting up in schools all over Australia offer a great opportunity to incorporate cooking and gardening activities across the entire school curriculum.

The not-for-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation provides a range of teaching resources that connect a variety of learning areas, including maths, English and science – for Years 3–6 students – to the kitchen and garden.

Schools who join the Foundation’s Kitchen Garden National Program receive an Implementation Manual, Kitchen Garden Program Syllabus and Tools for Teachers–an ongoing series ofcurriculum resource books.

They are also able to purchase Recipes for Literacy, which includes 12 recipes laid out in a step-by-step process with clear photographs. These recipes are ideal for all students and provide the additional support required by reluctant readers and students with literacy special needs.

The Tools for Teachers series and Recipes for Literacy are also available for purchase by schools not running the Program, but who have a kitchen garden and are interested in incorporating it into students’ learning.

Kitchen Garden Foundation Curriculum Officer Bev Laing, author of Tools for Teachers which is now into its fourth set, says the books were designed to support learning with curriculum-linked exercises in food science, agriculture, cultural and environmental studies.

“Children learn fundamental maths skills and practise literacy in the kitchen and garden without noticing it, mainly because they’re having so much fun,” Laing said.

“The books draw on our 10 years of experience and link activities explicitly to learning areas in ways that are hands-on, engaging and suitable for all learning styles.

“Ask a kid to weigh their tomato harvest, tally it up and check last year’s figure – that’s maths, but to them it’s more about the challenge, having fun and the tomato tart that results.”

The Foundation has also created a curriculum matrix, listing every activity in the Tools for Teachers series against the relevant Learning Areas and Strands of the Australian Curriculum. The matrix is available as a free download from the Foundation website.

TheStephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Programis open to all schools with a primary curriculum and runs in over 500 schools around Australia, teaching more than 70,000 students the joys of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal food.

The Program aims to reach 800 schools, which is 10 per cent of all Australian primary schools, by the end of next year.

Schools wanting to join theProgram can complete an online form and contribute $660 to the cost of four days of training for one or two teachers. The cost of this training has been heavily subsidised by the Australian Government.

The two training sessions for teachers, each two full days, are held six months apart and are available in all Australian states and territories, in metropolitan and regional areas.

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