The Senate Select Committee held a public hearing in Melbourne last week with representatives across private education, including the Catholic schooling sector.
For more details click HERE
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Stay Smart Online Week 2018 survey
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In an exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review, Education Minister Dan Tehan said there had been some "incredibly important discussions" at the September meeting of the Education Council in Adelaide in relation to National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy.At the time, the Financial Review reported the critics of NAPLAN - which include not only Labor states Queensland and Victoria but also Coalition-held NSW- appeared to have the upper hand in trying to do away with the test In his interview late last week Mr Tehan said the Education Council had made a lot of progress in putting in place a Unique Student Identifier (USI). This is a number that would be given to every student which would allow teachers and education departments to track their progress wherever they went to school and regardless of how many times they crossed state boundaries, etc The USI would allow a record of students' progress over twelve months.
"So what were seeking to do is, we have NAPLAN. Important But also we have now an ability to build further on NAPLAN through the reforms we agreed in Adelaide."I think that has been under-sold and I don't think people quite understand the importance of that next step because that will give teachers, schools and parents the ability to be able to map how their student is progressing.
And as we know, not all students will progress equally, but what you'll be able to ensure is that every student is getting a 12-month progression.""I see it as building on NAPLAN," he said. "I think it is something we need to strongly develop. And to get the support of all education ministers in Adelaide to move down that path was an incredibly important development and something I think has been lost a little bit in the debate and discussion about NAPLAN itself."
Conflict on NAPLAN has been one of the obstacles to signing off on a new long-term funding agreement between the states and the Commonwealth which must be put in place by January 1 so money can be available for teachers' salaries and school utility bills.Mr Tehan told the Financial Review he was confident of getting the agreement signed by December 31, having had one-on-one discussions with all education ministers in the past 10 days and given "everyone wants to put the education of Australian children first".
"I remain confident that we will be able to get agreement And I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them to get agreement," he said.Critics have also argued the My School website works against NAPLAN by giving parents a tool to compare schools, when the test is meant to reveal individual performance only.
Some state ministers have said if My School was shut down it would remove many of the objections to the exam.Mr Tehan disagreed. "Parents want an ability to compare. We should never shy away from transparency, so my view is that is an important part of NAPLAN."
Since the September Education Council meeting, the federal government has removed another of the "barnacles" holding it back electorally by injecting $4.6 billion of additional funding into the Catholic and independent schools sector. Immediately this was announced the three biggest states pushed back saying they would not sign up to the National Agreement on School funding unless there was a deal that treated government schools equally.Mr Tehan said the Commonwealth was providing record funding to all government schools in every state.
"The rate of growth in our funding for public schools is higher than what it is for non-government schools. And one of the reasons why I was very keen to make sure we could also get an arrangement with Catholic and independent schools was that I wanted to make sure that, consistent with the growth in the government we also were going to see continued growth in the non-government sector."One of the special-funding features that especially angered the major states was a $1.2 billion allocation for nongovernment schools in drought affected regions. Despite this, Mr Tehan said the agreement was equitable and created affordable choice.
"As someone who comes from a rural electorate, my view is I want parents to be able to have that choice. So if s not something that is limited to capital cities. That is one of the reasons why I think what we've done is fair."The Financial Review pointed out that Professor John Halsey, who carried out the recent review into regional, rural and remote education, said 80 per cent of education in rural areas was done by government schools, which made it less explainable that so much money should be given to the Catholic and private sector.
"Not at all. Because the way that funding occurs is that the states and territories are the predominant funder... I want to make sure that when it comes to regional and rural schools we continue to put the money there and, as the predominant funder, state and territory governments need to be doing their fair share, like the Commonwealth is, as the predominant funder of nongovernment schools," Mr Tehan said.He said he was confident that at next year's federal election he would be able to face the electorate and say there is equality between government and Catholic schools.
On another conflict zone for the government controversy over the Ramsay Centre's proposed university course on Western Civilisation, the minister said he wanted to make sure freedom of speech remained an absolute priority.He said since coming to the portfolio he had left it to the Ramsay Centre and the universities to work the issues out In his own experience of doing two master's degrees, the ability of lecturers to speak their minds and for students to hear guest lecturers on a wide range of issues was an essential part the university experience.
He rejected the claim that one of his recent ideas of charging student protesters the cost of security at a demonstration itself compromised freedom of speech."I've got no issue with people who want to protest but where that protest deliberately seeks to go beyond peaceful protest to put a deliberate cost on those holding an event then that's a different level of protest.
To get the support of all education ministers was an incredibly important development.
From: Australian Financial Review, Australia by Robert Bolton15 Oct 2018
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On one hand, there are some legitimate concerns here: if our teachers cannot grasp basic concepts, how are they supposed to teach these ideas to impressionable young minds?But this problem isn't with who gets accepted to university; it's with what happens to them while they are there. After all, if more than ten per cent of potential teachers cannot pass the patronisingly low bar set by mandatory literacy tests (aimed at a year 9 level of aptitude), then how have they managed to make it through a tertiary degree?
In 2015, when this issue reared its head, Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven made the astute observation that: 'You can't select quality teachers by looking at a mark branded on their forehead when they are 17. What matters is how teachers come out of university, not how they go in.'The unspoken assertion of Craven is that universities will weed out those unsuitable for teaching, with the rest being tempered in the flame of higher education until they are sharp teaching implements. Unfortunately, this is not borne out by evidence.
In his brilliant paper, What Doesn't Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction, Professor John Hattie notes that 'teacher-education programs have among the lowest overall impact of all the influences on student achievement'. It is important to note this does not mean that teacher education programs do not have the potential to be transformative, just that they currently are not.Hattie goes on to note that the time where teachers learn the most about their craft is in the first year of full-time teaching. While it might be expected that hands-on experience leads to greater learning, the research also reveals that university courses woefully under-prepare new teachers for entering the classroom; most first-year teachers experience significant 'transition shock'.
"I was one of the lucky ones: when I got to my practicum, I discovered that I actually enjoyed teaching. Some made it through four years of a degree to find they did not."Hattie's conclusions mirror my own experiences. Even though I learned a hell of a lot, my first year of teaching was a haze of stress, confusion and burnout. Given these factors, it's understandable why teaching's attrition rate is so high.
In my own tertiary education, the topic of pedagogy was rarely broached in any useful way. Except in the occasional elective, my Bachelor of Education was highly theoretical and devoid of practical application. I came out of the first three years of that degree as someone who could have developed good educational policy, but would not have been able to teach.It wasn't until my final year, in light of going on our first placement, that the realities of the classroom were discussed. Even then, most of the discussion was how to translate curriculum into lesson and unit plans. Behaviour management, rapport-building, and public speaking skills were touched on in a cursory way at best. For the most part, we talked about content, not about teaching. I was one of the lucky ones: when I got to my practicum, I discovered that I actually enjoyed teaching. Some made it through four years of a degree to find they did not.
Teacher education programs need to be changed, but not with the application of yet more paternalistic literacy and numeracy tests or the overly-simplistic solution of stricter academic thresholds. Instead, universities must refocus on the practice of teaching, and help their students move into professional practice.There is also a broader cultural issue at work here. We must kill the idea that 'those who can't do, teach'. Though it is true for some, very few people I know became teachers because they failed to achieve their real calling. The pernicious attitude exemplified by this old adage is the reason why universities can be so lax with their entry requirements.
There is, however, a grain of truth in this statement; our society devalues teachers in a very literal sense. Teacher working conditions are poor, and while our starting pay-rate is good there is little room for it to grow. In a culture where the almighty dollar is the benchmark of success, you must truly view teaching as your vocation to choose it when you have other options.If we want to attract the highest calibre of candidates, we have to make the profession palatable. Obviously, a certain amount of passion is required in any job, but there is a middle ground between 'martyr' and 'just in it for the money'. Working conditions must be improved, politicians need to start listening to the needs of teachers, and parents and carers need to start trusting that teachers are professionals.
Thresholds at universities only help with the perception of quality, but do nothing to address the fact that high-achieving applicants are simply not drawn to the job.
From: Eureka Street 15 October, 2018
By: Tim Hutton is a high school teacher and occasional freelance writer. His ramblings can be found over at www.mrhutton.com.
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The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge [above], said all people should be considered equally for employment or enrolment."Once employed or enrolled, people within a Catholic school community are expected to adhere to the school's mission and values."
The religious freedom review recommends that a new bill go to Federal Parliament to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to codify how religious schools can discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.Although the federal Sex Discrimination Act already permits religious schools to discriminate in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy, the states and territories have differing approaches. Under the proposed amendment the religious school must have a publicly available policy, and in the case of students, their "best interests" must be its primary concern.
Archbishop Coleridge, who made a submission to the review on behalf of the Catholic Church, said "we have not sought concessions to discriminate against students or teachers based on their sexuality, gender identity or relationship status"."Catholic schools welcome staff and students from all backgrounds who are willing to accept the declared mission and values of the school community," he said.
Last year Trinity Catholic College in Lismore welcomed two transgender students and sent a letter to parents saying it was "essential as a Catholic community we offer our full support to these students".Professor Patrick Parkinson, the dean of law at the University of Queensland, wrote a submission to the religious freedom review on behalf of Freedom for Faith think tank, which was endorsed by prominent church groups including Hillsong, the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
"I don't know of anybody in the church community who wants to discriminate against gay or lesbian students," he said. "Discrimination of that kind in Christian schools is as rare as a Tasmanian tiger."Professor Parkinson said the biggest issue for faith-based organisations was their desire to be able to choose staff who adhered to their religious beliefs and practices, such as a Christian school being able to prefer a Christian teacher.
"This varies a lot from state to state and we need to clarify the position in national law," he said.Religious schools enjoy varying exceptions to discrimination law in all states and territories.
However, Professor Parkinson said they were under threat from a "growing body of opinion" that exceptions should not be allowed."There needs to be a fundamental freedom for faith-based organisations to be able to employ those who adhere to the values of the organisation. This is basic common sense."
The Australian Christian Lobby's managing director Martyn Iles said: "Just as political parties and other groups can discriminate in hiring and admitting members, so too should religious institutions which have a clear statement of belief."Father Tony Kerin, the episcopal vicar for life, marriage and family from the Archdiocese of Melbourne, said it was interesting that the religious freedom review report had taken so long to leak.
He said some in the community did not welcome the announcement of the review, seeing it as a concession to conservative segments of the government benches.
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