P&C Northern Sydney Region
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ENews – excerpt from 18/12/2011 end-of-year edition
“Local Schools, Local Decisions”
Following the four consultation meetings conducted by School Education Director Dean White around Northern Sydney Region in September/October, we had Dean attend our Term 4 Regional P&C meeting for further discussions and an update. As a result, the following resolution was adopted:
“That the Northern Sydney Regional Council of P&C Associations supports, in principle, greater school based decision making and authority because of its potential to enable schools to better fulfil their prime purpose, ie to best meet the individual and collective needs of students, by responding more flexibly to local and individual needs.
To achieve this, and to ensure future sustainability, best practice processes and adequate funding need to be put in place that will support schools to make more local decisions within a supportive departmental framework. Important items include staffing mix, staff selection and school organisation.
Schools need more authority to adapt what they do and how they do it to meet the needs of all their students”.
To date, we have been at the consultation stage, with the Department now working on options for further consideration. Having said that, it would seem unlikely that a full local autonomy model, with a relatively independent “Board” at each local school or group of schools will be considered seriously because of the cost, difficulties in finding skilled community people to participate on an ongoing basis, and issues with maintaining uniformly high quality of outcomes.
It is more likely that the scheme adopted will feature limited autonomy, such as schools being able to reconfigure teaching and support positions within a less restrictive framework than at present; schools having more freedom in recruitment of staff; and schools being free to choose other service providers if centrally provided services such as cleaning, maintenance and IT support are not meeting contracted service levels or local requirements.
The role of your P&C Association in local school decision making is important, and it is worthwhile to keep in touch with your local state MP during this process.
Other reforms and initiatives
Below is just a far-from-comprehensive selection of the many initiatives on the wing in education. Parents need to be providing input to governments and the profession – so, if you can, take the time to have a look … …
We are in an era of great opportunity and considerable change in education, driven by changing community expectations, the possibilities emerging from technological change, and the change in the way children are learning. Undoubtedly reforms and initiatives (such as “Local Schools, Local Decisions”) should form part of a grander, long term strategy which takes into account the full “system” – government policy and national goals, curriculum, delivery of education in schools, employees and centrally, the needs of the children. Federal and state governments have been working on an Education Reform Agenda, the Federal Government version of which is summarised at www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/Pages/Education_reform_agenda.aspx . The agenda is driven by a need for the Australian economy and our society to meet the challenges of the future … and also the wholly altruistic objective of providing every one of our children with the very best education. The goals are articulated in the “Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians”, a joint effort by state and Federal Ministers of Education.
To whet your appetite, here is an Excerpt from the preamble of the Melbourne Declaration …..
“In the 21st century Australia’s capacity to provide a high quality of life for all will depend on the ability to compete in the global economy on knowledge and innovation. Education equips young people with the knowledge, understanding, skills and values to take advantage of opportunity and to face the challenges of this era with confidence.
Schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and wellbeing of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion. Schools share this responsibility with students, parents, carers, families, the community, business and other education and training providers.
In recognition of this collective responsibility, this declaration, in contrast to earlier declarations on schooling, has a broader frame and sets out educational goals for young Australians”.
In addition to “Local Schools, Local Decisions”, some of the other reforms and initiatives that will have an impact include:
David Gonski’s Report is due for public release at the beginning of the 2012 school year, and should be with the Federal Government about now. According to the SMH (11 December, 2011), Federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett is quoted as saying: “Australia needs a ''game-changing approach'' to the way schools are funded because the system is ''letting down some of our kids'' - particularly in public schools”. If your P&C has issues with a lack of funding at your school, it is still worth writing to your local MP, or a Senator – but be quick. Here is an interesting comment from a parent attending one of the above consultation sessions: “It would appear that parents in Northern Sydney are actually disadvantaging their children by paying their fees and participating in P&C fundraising activities. The department and the government need to stop discriminating on the basis of socioeconomic advantage and start providing resources like science labs and grants to support talented learners to best meet their learning potential.” Presumably this comment was driven, in part, by the fact that not one single high school in Northern Sydney Region received a new, or properly refurbished, science laboratory. Many science facilities in our Regional high schools have not been touched in decades, are outdated and shambolic, and are well below community expectations.
The development of the first comprehensive Australian Curriculum has been, and will continue to be into the future, a massive and complex undertaking. It is a worthwhile effort, as this initiative will have long term benefits, including proving consistency in standards and quality at a national level. However, the Curriculum (and in NSW the accompanying detailed syllabuses) is somewhat of a reconfiguration of the excellent documents that we have had in the past in NSW. With emerging technologies and new teaching methods, it will soon be possible to personalize learning so that children work at the level of their capability, rather than predominantly at the level dictated by their age. This system, until about now in our history, has been the only practical way to provide mass education. However, the drawbacks are that many children get left behind never to recover, and some are just not challenged by (for them) the slow pace of the learning. The new school leaving age of 17 means that students who previously left at Year 10 will now need to be engaged by an educational experience in Year 11, and this is a major challenge for schools and curriculum developers.
Videos by Sir Ken Robinson on changing the education paradigm are worth watching and very thought provoking:
Federal and state governments have been co-operating on National Professional Standards for Teachers for some time now. http://www.deewr.gov.au/schooling/pages/professionalstandardsforteachers.aspx
In NSW, the NSW Institute of Teachers www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/about-us oversees the system of accreditation and recognition of a teacher's professional capacity against professional standards. Its charter extends to a range of activities to advance the status and standing of the teaching profession. This includes a process for the profession to influence the quality of teacher training and continuing professional development. There is a current debate on the need for Universities providing teacher training to change or upgrade courses to meet emerging contemporary requirements.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has recently been established to provide national leadership for Commonwealth, state and territory governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership.
Have a look at the AITSL site – particularly a short video “What makes great teachers and school leaders?” www.aitsl.edu.au/professional-learning/professional-learning.html
Government strategies involve both lifting the capacity of teachers, and also turning that improved capacity into improved performance in terms of outcomes for students.
The big impact that the early years have on the ultimate capacity and well-being of an individual, and their ability to contribute to our society is well documented. Many of our kids don’t get a good start to life for a range of reasons. This cannot be addressed just by schools, but must be part of a broader government and community effort. The cost-benefit of wise expenditure in this area is overwhelmingly positive, and is an important plank in building and maintaining a civilised and equitable society.
An article in the SMH December 9, 2011 (“When the best start in life turns out to be an early start”) says in part: “Human capital - the skills and know-how of our people - is the biggest positive contributor to wellbeing after net national income. The index measures it through a combination of indicators that track learning and innovation. Indicators of early childhood matter to national wellbeing because research has established links between a lack of development of skills such as motivation and self-confidence in childhood and levels of criminal activity, teenage pregnancy and underachievement in education and employment later in life”.
The NSW Government has previously established 100 preschools on public school sites generally in low income areas. Whilst this initiative has had a positive impact, there are about 1,700 public schools providing K-6 services in NSW, so coverage is only about 6%. (There are NO government preschools in Northern Sydney). This has left very many low income families across the state without access. The NSW Government has announced that these 100 preschools will attract fees from next year, a decision that has met with some controversy and arguments for-and-against. However, there will be a safety net. See SMH September 7, 2001 at http://tinyurl.com/pandc-newspapers . See a list of government preschools at: www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/types/preschoollist.php
The National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education is endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and there is a Bilateral Agreement on Achieving Universal Access to Early Childhood Education agreed between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the New South Wales Government (and also other states).
Those agreements describe the program as follows:
“The universal access commitment is that by 2013, every child will have access to a preschool program in the 12 months prior to full-time schooling. The preschool program is to be delivered by a four year university qualified early childhood teacher, in accordance with a national early years learning framework, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year. It will be accessible across a diversity of settings, in a form that meets the needs of parents and in a manner that ensures cost does not present a barrier to access.” This last point about cost will have an impact on government budgets.
The new NSW Coalition Government has made some structural changes, including bringing school education and early childhood education under the one umbrella – the benefits are discussed above.
There have been structural changes at the “head office” level, in addition to the merger of education and communities. I expect that there will be more work done on reallocating budgets to higher priority activities, refocusing customer service approaches of the centralized service delivery areas, a reduction in red tape, and some reconfiguration at Regional level. Regional changes may involve a different number of Regions, and different arrangements for administrative and professional support. The changes will be measured, in the end, by effectiveness in the classrooms, and efficiency in meeting strategic goals.
End of year thanks
From the Regional P&C perspective, I’d like to thank our Regional Director Jane Simmons, our School Education Directors and our School Principals for their support of our activities throughout the year. Thanks are also due to the Regional support staff who provide professional development and administrative support to our schools.
I’m sure that local P&Cs have recognised the efforts and professionalism of our teachers and other school staff, and I’d just like to add thanks from the Regional P&C.
Personally, I’d like to thank all those P&C members who have contributed at Regional level throughout the year as committee members, as attendees at Regional P&C meetings, or who have provided input and feedback in other ways.
Finally, I hear that many schools had visits from their local State and Federal MP’s at end-of-year functions, and many of our schools had contact with their MPs during the year for attendance at functions or to assist with issues – so thanks to our MPs and their staff for their support of our public schools.
In the news … … …
Find links to stories associated with issues above at: http://tinyurl.com/pandc-newspapers eg search that page for “Gonski”
Convenor, Northern Sydney Regional Council of P&C Associations
Editorial – the new Australian Curriculum May, 2010
See also the following related item on League Tables and Accountability Options
The main problem with the development of the new Australian Curriculum is that it is being developed somewhat in vacuo by technical experts, and the result is “same old, same old”. Perhaps this is desired as a first stage to unify the current disparate jurisdictional systems.
The Curriculum is part of a “team” of inputs which should be designed to work together to optimise the final desired outcomes – in this case, these outcomes should be something like producing happy, confident, engaged kids who love learning, have a productive school life and receive the best possible education for each and every individual.
Technical experts, working in silos, sometimes optimize their part, but sub-optimise the whole. They are not always able to come up with a whole product that optimally meets market needs.
The Curriculum should be developed taking into account all business drivers, internal and external inputs and outcomes. These include:
S school organisation and teaching strategies;
S new national teaching standards;
S teacher education;
S teacher ongoing professional development;
S government policy and funding;
S service provider high level strategies;
S school and teacher performance evaluation and accountability;
S teacher union views;
S student achievement testing;
S individual student learning needs;
S the attributes of the students, parents, families and communities;
S community expectations;
S tertiary institution and employer needs;
S a democratic society’s needs for citizens who display appropriate values, are tolerant, productive and through a love of learning are flexible to meet the challenges of achanging world; and
S opportunities for better learning through new technology.
There is no evidence that this new curriculum has been developed using market research on the needs of the children and the broader society, or as part of the whole system of school education delivery.
The new Teaching Standards have similar problems.
In NSW, the current final product has served us reasonably well in the past, but, except for just recently, there has been a reluctance by the education industry to innovate and follow the needs of the market. Changes in the way children learn, driven by new technology and changes in society, have left the education community behind in some respects.
The new curriculum is still “one size fits all”. For example, this aspect is reinforced by statements such as “carefully paced” in the maths curriculum, which makes no reference to slow or fast learners and the ability of mathematical subject matter to cater for a range of learning styles, or the issue of students falling behind or not being challenged. Another way of looking at “carefully paced” is “lock step”. The tragedy is that, in maths, once a student falls behind, whether it be in kindergarten or later, it is almost impossible for them to catch up. They are then sentenced to a school life where every lesson in that subject is an ordeal. This makes life difficult for teachers who have to keep up with the curriculum for the whole class, and who have discipline and morale problems with many of the kids left behind.
What is needed is a system that teaches and assesses to the level of each child, much the same as happens with music students rising through levels of achievement. The system also needs to allow kids to learn through material that is relevant to them – not one-size-fits-all stuff.
This is clearly possible with modern technology and management techniques – but not under this new draft curriculum, and not until attitudes change.
The new curriculum is still very full of mandatory material. Certainly, the basics should be mandatory, but there needs to be a better method for ensuring that kids are productively employed every day in school, but not by the teacher slavishly following a curriculum full of “optional” material.
What is needed is a “Board” to oversee the strategic direction of school education initiatives and the production of all inputs to the school education system. The Board should include a range of skills and attitudes from outside the education community.
ENews 30 August, 2009
League Tables and Accountability Options – Ken Boston’s recent visit from the UK
Ken Boston was recently back in Australia from the UK doing a roadshow for the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) on the subject of national testing, school league tables and the broader issue of school accountability. Dr Boston is a former Director-General of the Department of Education and Training, and, until recently, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in the UK.
APPA had released a paper which Dr Boston described as supporting the principle of transparency in reporting, on the understanding that appropriate safeguards and protocols are put in place to ensure that the release of information about students and schools has a beneficial impact on primary education and that the potential negative effects have been nullified.
(Dr Boston’s paper, powerpoint presentation, and sound and video links can be found at a page on the APPA website – well worth a look).
In broad terms, Dr Boston said he is:
Although opposed to league tables, he said that it was very difficult to stop the media and others from putting together one single number that purported to represent a school’s performance, and using it to rank schools. The problem is that without a credible alternative method, people will default to using the quick and easy league table.
Many people in Australia, including educational practitioners and parents, are looking for more credible and better ways of assessing a school’s performance that matches the stated objectives of the school, and takes into account a range of factors, including the community in which the school operates. Many parents, in particular, want to be assured that their children’s school is being held accountable by a knowledgeable, independent “someone”, perhaps a regulator, who will keep the pressure on each school to do its very best in educating their children, and, as a last resort, take action if that school starts to slide, and prevent the school from falling below minimum standards.
In the general business world, when a company reports to its Board and shareholders, it reports on a range of factors, including past performance against financial, business growth, market positioning, corporate plan priorities and other factors important to the business. It may also report against factors which try to predict the health and future performance of the business by using such tools as input or process benchmarking, which assesses the quality of their decision making and implementation processes against best practice.
In the water industry, where I work, the major urban water utilities report against a comprehensive standard national set of performance indicators which cover the broad areas of Water Resources; Asset Data; Customers ; Environment; Pricing and Finance; and Public Health.
The utilities also use an Australian-developed process benchmarking tool which has now gone international to measure the effectiveness of each organisation’s processes against best practice and prioritise areas for improvement against each organisation’s specific business drivers.
According to the Herald, the Australian Parents Council, representing parents of non-government school children, has surveyed parents and found they generally rank school performance criteria in order of priority as follows:
Public schools in NSW, in their Annual School Reports also look at broader achievement areas than just performance in certain tests.
In England, Ken Boston talked about the Regulator Ofsted (the Office of Standards in Education). England has similar regulators for power, water, etc.
Of Ofsted, Dr Boston says:
“(When I worked in Australia) I had doubts about inspection, but after seven years working alongside Ofsted, I believe it is the most powerful and constructive force in school improvement in England today.
Its approach is from an educational child-centred perspective, not a political media centred perspective, as with the league tables.
It begins each inspection with the school’s own self-evaluation, which is along the lines of a school profile, although prepared in response to a tightly prescribed format.
It inspects on the basis of risk: many schools are inspected only at five year intervals, others on the basis of need.
It writes a report on each school, setting out the results the children achieved, the extent to which the school’s objectives are being met, the strengths and any weaknesses of the
school, and what needs to be done to address the weaknesses, where they exist. Where weaknesses do exist, Ofsted specifies a timeline - which is limited but adequate - and sets
a date for a further inspection.
The reports are both summative and diagnostic; clearly written; highly credible; above politics; they respect the uniqueness of each school; they are focussed entirely on the needs of children.
I have found strong support for Ofsted from most of the teaching profession, and did not expect to. There are sometimes grumbles about short notice being given of an inspection, and of the workload involved in preparing for it, but teachers generally seem to find great benefit from an intelligent, informed and independent appraisal of the school. Many head teachers bemoan the fact that they will have to wait several years for an Ofsted visit, when there are so many good things going on in the school that they would like Ofsted to authenticate publicly.
There are 22,500 maintained schools funded by government; 17,500 of them are primary schools. Currently 515 schools are receiving special support, through special
measures, and they are all schools which have been chronically and seriously failing for some years, and in which the kids have been getting a very poor deal”.
Dr Boston went on to say that he didn’t think the culture in Australia necessarily suited an approach such as the Ofsted regulatory approach – perhaps that was just a challenge to the educators in the room!!!
But Australia has had business regulators for government and other monopolies following a decision by the Coalition of Australian Governments in the early 1990’s to implement a National Competition Policy (NCP). Regulated industries include water, electricity, gas, and public transport, inculding taxis.
One of the principles of National Competition Policy is to separate regulatory functions from commercial (or doing) functions of the public monopoly.
In NSW, we have the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) which carries out this regulatory function. Compared to the UK regulators, IPART is very much less intrusive – preferring to require the regulated organisations to prove, through their own data and information gathering, that they are keeping prices down, meeting the legitimate needs of customers and stakeholders, and conducting a sustainable business which will remain healthy in the long term.
IPART sets prices and issues Operating Licences to the monopoly businesses. It conducts public enquiries where organisations and citizens can make submissions on either pricing or operating licence issues.
The advantage of a Regulator like IPART is that the general public has an assurance that government monopolies are being held accountable for their performance by an independent, external, expert body. IPART actually buys in expertise when examining the data and claims made by each organization under review.
The NSW DET has a directorate called EMSAD (Educational Measurement and School Accountability Directorate), which has been responsible for some innovative work in
annual school reports, testing programs and school accountability reporting. The work of EMSAD could easily be expanded to work with an IPART-style regulatory model. The Board of Studies also needs a regulator, as it does some service provision.
One of the questions asked of Ken Boston was by a school teacher who lamented the fact that politicians sometimes didn’t listen to the profession, and were even sometimes hostile. Dr Boston replied (and I hope I’m not verballing him here), is that often the profession put forward an oppositional or obstructionist stance when politicians or community put forward ideas to improve public education, or to make the professional more accountable.
The profession is best placed to lead its own reform, but it needs to be positive, open to scrutiny and willing to work in a constructive, problem solving mode.
Any parent knows that there are areas in the delivery of public education that need improving, and that sometimes kids in schools and in individual classes get a raw deal through sub-optimal delivery. As quoted above from Ken Boston’s presentation, there are over 500 schools in England that don’t give their kids a fair go. In Northern Sydney, there have been examples of schools that have closed because they have lost the confidence of their communities for that perceived reason.
In more recent times, Macquarie Boys' Technology High School has failed and was closed this year. The school is on a great site in Parramatta, and is just down the road from the thriving Macarthur Girls High School.
At the NSW P&C Federations recent Annual Conference, a motion against the use of league tables was passed.
As a body representing parents and the broader community, we have an opportunity to help build new and better accountability mechanisms which will encourage continuous improvement in all our public schools, and give the community ongoing confidence that our kids will get the best deal possible.
Northern Sydney Regional Council of P&C Associations
ENews 9 July, 2009
School League Tables
There has been quite a bit in the press lately about School League Tables – ie tables that rank schools according to some measure of performance.
Yesterday the Australian interviewed the President of Gordon West Public School (David Jordan, who is also Regional Vice President) and a number of other parents on the issue. Today there are three articles in the Australian on the issue, including the interview with parents. There are also some articles on the position of Premier Nathan Rees and Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell.
You can see that there are a range of views on this subject.
See the links at:
The issue of accountability is important for public schools, because when organizations aren’t accountable performance tends to slip, and the organizations tend to become a law unto themselves. This often translates to the interests of the organization and its employees being put above those of the customers (in our case the students) and other important stakeholders (the parents and Australian society).
The main arguments against league tables is that they are simplistic, and the publication of the information may be misleading or damage the esteem of the students in poorly performing schools – many of which are in lower socio-economic areas. Critics point to the outcomes of reporting systems in the US and the UK, saying that these systems haven’t worked.
They also point out that the simple measures for literacy and numeracy encourage teachers to teach to the tests, rather than providing a broader education, providing students with the ability to think for themselves and to become articulate life long independent learners.
Justine Ferrari, in the Australian (To make choices, parents need the facts) (9 July, 2009), argues that there are two types of measures needed:
· League tables to point to the schools that need fixing – particularly so that parents in lesser performing schools and the broader community know of the problem and can lobby the DET and government for improvements.
· A comparison of schools in peer groups - the "like school groups" proposed by the federal government, comparing schools with students of similar social backgrounds. She says “this is valuable for removing any excuse for low performance. Schools will no longer get away with low expectations for poor students if governments can point to similar schools with better results”.
Ferrari goes on to say:
“Parents are entitled to the information in simple league tables - it is, after all, public information. But in trying to ban them outright, the NSW Coalition - and the Greens, principals groups and teachers unions - have created a debate about the freedom of the press and raised concerns about what they are trying to hide.
It would be more productive to have a debate about school performance and educate the community about the limits of league tables”.
Maralyn Parker - Daily Telegraph 1 July, 2009 - (A curious alignment is political opportunism) points out that the infamous story about Mount Druitt High back in the nineties actually ventilated the severe problem that had been affecting the kids for years at the school, and led to far reaching changes. She describes the position of the teachers union and others on league tables as “scaremongering”, and says that, in a democracy, the best interests of the students, particularly those from disadvantages areas, are served by open disclosure.
Newspapers, of course, do have a vested interest in being able to access government information for their stories.
In my view, if League Tables or like-school comparisons aren’t the answer, then those in the educational community opposed to these measures need to come up with alternatives. Public education is too important to be left without effective and openly available performance information.
ENews 29 July, 2008
Religious Organizations in Schools
Over the last few days, stories have appeared in the media about the activities of the Hillsong Church. The Church is reported to have been running a program for teenage girls called “Shine” where the girls “learn a range of skills including how to put on make-up, do their hair and nails, and walk with books balanced on their heads” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Whilst Hillsong Church is quoted in the article as saying that “Shine” is non-religious and the volunteers who conduct the program do not evangelise, it is not clear to me what motivates the Church to run a make-up and grooming course if it is not to befriend possible new adherents, in the environment of trust engendered by the fact that they are in a trusted public school, with the aim of attracting them to their church.
Parents send their kids to public schools understanding that the education provided is secular, and that “Scripture” is the only denomination-based activity that they may encounter. Parents certainly don’t want their children to be exposed the risk of being recruited into a religion that doesn’t match their own beliefs. And they don’t want to be constantly on the look out for what many may regard as a danger in their own public school.
Whilst there are claims that parents are always asked to sign permission notes, it is not always easy for a busy parent to make the leap from associating a course in grooming for beauty to a religious recruitment exercise. It is not clear whether these permission notes actually highlight the fact that the provider of the course is the Hillsong Church, or whomever.
Similar problems can occur with the School Chaplain program set up by the former Federal Government, particularly if there is not explicit, well-publicised disclosure that the Chaplain, or whatever title that the Chaplain decides to take, is affiliated with a particular church.
By allowing such groups into the school, and allowing such close personal contact, the DET may even be setting itself up for legal action should a pupil be drawn into an organisation against the wishes of parents.
The NSW P&C Federation is generally against such activities, as reinforced at last weekend’s Annual Conference in Albury. P&C’s and school communities should carefully consider all the details and issues before agreeing to the entry of religious-based organisations into school life. These decisions should certainly not just be left to the Principal. I would be interested to hear of any relevant experiences in schools in our Region.
Links to the Sydney Morning Herald articles on this subject are at:
President, P&C Northern Sydney Region
ENews 5 February, 2008
Proposed Amendments to the Teacher Staffing Agreement
Principals will have the right to select the teachers they hire under a new staffing agreement for NSW public schools.
The Director-General of the Department of Education and Training wrote to staff yesterday - see a copy of the letter below my signature.
Links to newspaper articles – see http://members.optusnet.com.au/pandc-nsregion/news_articles.htm
my views on the changes.
The flip side of this is that there is an unnaturally low influx
of young teachers – teachers who bring an understanding of new technology
and new approaches to teaching to the work place mix. Meanwhile,
“unattractive” schools have a predominance of young teachers,
with a lack of experienced teachers as mentors. Fortunately, due to a recent
Regional initiative, schools in our Region are now getting a more healthy
flow of younger teachers.
Some of my colleagues in the State P&C have raised the legitimate issue of the needs of teachers. I think that our job is to advocate what is best for our kids. It is the role of the Teachers Federation to consider what impacts these new arrangements have on the staff, either individually or as a whole.
One of the issues raised was that of possible hardships in having to move around the State for promotion, etc. Many jobs involve people moving around, and some people actually like that - so again it is not our role in the P&C to second-guess or try to determine what individual teachers may like or choose to do. Some teachers don't have children; some teachers may be married to other teachers with no kids and would enjoy moving around the countryside together; and some teachers may be more flexible at certain times in their life, eg after their kids leave home.
The system described by the DG is flexible, and it gives teachers
and schools a range of choices - which in my mind is far better than the
current stultifying arrangements which encourage teachers to hang on to what
they have, no matter how professionally or personally unsatisfying. I think
these new arrangements will surprise the doubters - we will get quality
teachers in remote schools - much more so than now.
Another point is that both the Minister and the Director-General
come from the NSW Department of Commerce - a department that is used to
sending people on term assignments around the State. Generally, in this
environment, staff required to relocate are treated better than the current
bureaucratic approach applied by the DET. So we need to look more broadly at
what happens outside the DET to see that freeing up the system can be a lot
more satisfying for staff and provide greater benefits to other stakeholders.
President, P&C Northern Sydney Region
Next Regional Meeting: Monday, 31st March, 2008. Venue TBA.
ENews 28 October, 2007
In this ENews:
Next Regional P&C Meeting - this Monday
School Chaplains - 2007 Round Two Grants Announced
P&C Federation – Review of Operations
Teachers Pay - Editorial
New Web Site
In the News
· Next Regional P&C Meeting – THIS MONDAY
Time: 7.45 pm. Light refreshments from 7.15pm.
Date: Monday, 29th October, 2007
Venue: St Ives North Public School
87 Memorial Road St Ives
Our Guest Speaker is Nerida McCredie, who will demonstrate her innovative classroom.
· School Chaplains - 2007 Round Two Grants Announced
There were 256 schools successful in Round 2 – just announced. The issue of federally-funded School Chaplains has been contentious in many school communities in both the public and private sector. Many parents in the state school system, be they religious or not, would prefer the school to remain secular, and for faith matters to be dealt with through the family. There have been other issues raised, including the qualifications of the Chaplain, and their ability to provide professional counselling advice. Some schools, whilst holding these concerns, have nevertheless decided to apply for this additional resource.
I’ve heard from one school that the decision to apply for a Chaplain was taken without reference to the P&C. Without knowing the full circumstances, failure to consult with the school community on matters like this is not good practice, and is not in the spirit of the DET’s policy on community involvement as a way of improving our public education system.
A list of NSW schools is attached – and the list for all States is at
· P&C Federation – Review of Operations
The outcome of the review is reported at: http://www.pandc.org.au/ab_review.asp
· Teachers Pay - Editorial
There has been some recent media about a proposal by the outgoing president of the Business Council of Australia, Michael Chaney. Chaney says that top teachers should be paid up to $130,000 a year as part of a reform to lift the quality of schooling in Australia. He called for a renewed focus on teaching and learning and warned of an economic and social slide unless measures were taken to prevent a decline in education. The Herald also took the issue up in an editorial – “Apples for the best teachers”. See the links at:
The salary of classroom teachers at present covers a very small range – from about $50,000 to about $70,000. Whilst this is competitive for new graduates, it is well behind the general market for experienced professionals. This poor salary situation for teachers has been brought about in part by the reluctance of the profession to recognise that some teachers are better performers than others. Some teachers claim that it is not possible to fairly rank teachers on performance – and that collegiality will be destroyed – but the evidence from other industries, where there is a mix of professions and other classifications – does not support this contention. In the long term, the disparity in pay compared to other professions has the potential to hurt the quality of teaching in our schools. The situation will deteriorate over the next 10 years as the baby boomers, curently over-represented in the age-profile of the teaching population, retire.
There is good reason for the teaching profession to start talking seriously to business about their future – it is clear from the Business Council’s statements that they regard education as of the utmost importance to Australia’s future (and they aren’t Robinson Crusoe), and are talking about the need for several extra billion dollars to be injected into the industry. The education community should embrace this partucular opportunity with open arms.
There is a range of drivers that will force changes in the way schools are operated. These include the shortage of teachers mentioned above; the impact of technology; changes in the way students learn; changes in the nature of teachers themselves as the younger generation takes over; and general economic, environmental and social factors.
In response, the structure and staffing of schools, along with work and management practices, will need to change. I see a future where:
· The number of full-time equivalent staff is increased.
· There are fewer “qualified” teachers, but more “assistants” including:
o sub- and para-professionals, and non-teaching professionals
o TAFE teachers used on a time-flexible basis
o part-time tutors from industry: carpenters, fashion-designers, writers, lawyers, academics from universities, scientists, etc.
· A more personalised (student-focussed) product.
· Administrative staffing on a much more flexible basis to meet the business needs of the school, rather than the present formula-based approach.
This is more akin to a modern workplace in other professions and industries.
The Principal would be better trained in management disciplines, and would have greater autonomy than at present, but still within a DET framework.
There also needs to be changes to the curriculum as the demands on schools change. The present curriculum is claimed to be technically very good, and I have no reason to doubt this. But the fact is that the curriculum drives a lock-step approach which causes students to be left behind, and with no chance, in many cases, of catching up. It leads to boredom in other students if they are not challenged by the work. This contributes to the problem of disengaged students.
The nature of teaching will also need to change. There is presently a huge load on teachers in preparing lessons, etc which can be reduced much more by technology. We need teachers to be concentrating on the learning of our kids, rather than other aspects of the job as it is presently structured. The TaLE website http://www.tale.edu.au is an example of what is beginning to emerge in this realm – producing a menu of lesson ideas tied into a curriculum. The technology itself can be a load on teachers – but this is where other staff can help.
The structure of the DET as a service provider is also likely to come into question. Many state government service providers have been corporatised – still owned by the government, but removed just a little from the political process.
It probably goes without saying, but it would perhaps be best if the profession itself takes a strong lead.
· New Web Site
The NSW Institute of Teachers ‘Research Digest’ – a new publication specifically for accredited teachers. Edition 1 is out now.
The first four editions cover: Writing and Learning; Teaching numeracy; Managing student behaviour; and Using ICTs to enhance learning.
· In the News
Rudd promises money for school solar systems and rainwater tanks; Labor junks obesity policy; Business urges $130k per annum for best teachers; More Oz Lit in schools.
See links at
President, P&C Northern Sydney Region
ENews 24 September, 2007
In this E-News
· Review of Maintenance by the DET
· Review of the P&C Federation’s operations
· Dusseldorp Skills Forum DSF – Report: It’s crunch time re skilling for the future
· Federal Election – time to contact your local member
· World Teachers Day 5th October, 2007
Review of Maintenance by the DET
Maintenance is a matter close to the heart of many school communities.
The DET has decided to do a fundamental review of this activity. A central feature of the review is a workshop on October to be attended by a range of stakeholders, including myself as the P&C Federation’s Asset management representative, and another P&C Councillor Ray McDonald from the Central Coast.
If your school community has any beefs or views on how maintenance could be delivered better, please give me the feedback ASAP. Remember that the school holidays take up two weeks of the time between now and the workshop.
Review of the P&C Federation’s operations
At the last Annual Conference (July, 2007), a series of motions that I moved through Northern Beaches District Council on the subject of improving Federation’s performance were deferred without discussion by majority vote of the roughly ninety people present. I guess that the attendance at Annual Conference is a bit of a measure of the effectiveness of that event as a policy-making body, given that the State’s 2,200 schools could have sent 3 delegates each – a total possible attendance of 6,600 compared to ninety that were in the room at the time.
Although I was disappointed that Conference did not get to debate reform issues, I was pleased that the Federation’s Office-Bearers, in response to a motion that I moved at Council last year, commissioned their own comprehensive external review, and have begun to act on the findings.
The completed review was presented to the last Council Meeting on 15-16 September. There will be a communiqué from President Dianne Giblin in due course, but in the meantime our Regional P&C Publicity Officer Kos Psaltis has provided a short report at
Dusseldorp Skills Forum DSF
The DSF has released a compelling report which advocates the investment of more funds on education and skilling our workforce to take advantage of the opportunities of a thriving world economy. The report is called It's Crunch Time: raising youth engagement and attainment.
See these links (you’ll need to scroll down a little each time):
DSF It's Crunch Time: raising youth engagement and attainment http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion/leaders.htm
The not-so-clever country – Melbourne Age http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion/news_articles.htm
Also DSF’s MySpace Page http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion/leaders.htm
I hope that all school P&Cs are contacting their federal politicians and pointing out ways in which federal funding could improve things at your own school.
The popular Investing In our Schools program has now come to an end – and we in the P&C would like to see all the political parties support a continuation – but they need encouragement in the form of letters and emails.
Kevin Rudd has recently replied to emails sent by P&C Councillors and others in support of public education – I’ve attached a copy of the reply below. Also Shadow Education Minister Stephen Smith has made a recent speech to Parliament on the importance of education. There is support for spending more on education in principle, but nothing new that is particularly concrete. Write to these people about issues at your school!
Labor’s previous major promises are:
Early Childhood Education - a half a billion dollar program to give every four-year-old whose parents want it, the chance of 15 hours of education per week.
A $2.5 billion program to bring Trades Training Centres to both private and public secondary schools.
Needs and fairness based spending will apply to both public and private education sectors according to ALP policy, but well-off schools in the private sector will not be disadvantaged – ie they will still get more money than they can reasonably spend in some cases. Indeed, a strange interpretation of needs and fairness.
Contact details for MPs, Senators and Ministers can be found at:
Information on what the political parties are going to do re education can be found at:
World Teachers Day 5th October, 2007
President, P&C Northern Sydney Region
+61 2 9402 0274 | 0419 247 547
Letter from Kevin Rudd’s Office
Thank you for contacting me about schools' funding.
Improving the educational outcomes of all young Australians is crucial
both for the individual, and for Australia's continued economic
To do this requires lifting the amount of investment at all levels of
education. Stephen Smith, Shadow Minister for Education and Training,
and I have made it clear that we believe there needs to be a greater
level of Commonwealth investment in schools and schooling.
In particular, the Commonwealth has a primary obligation to adequately
and appropriately fund Government schools.
Federal Labor is committed to do this. That is why a Rudd Labor
Government will fund schools on the basis of need and fairness.
Our aspiration and intention is to increase the investment in schools
and schooling, both Government and Non-Government.
No funding will be cut to any school. Labor believes there needs to be a
greater investment in our schools. We are not interested in taking money
away from schools. That is why schools' funding under a Rudd Labor
Government will be based on the following key principles:
1. We believe a greater investment should be made at all levels of
education, including schools and schooling;
2. We will fund schools on the basis of need and fairness;
3. We will not cut funding to any school; and
4. We will not disturb the current Average Government School
Recurrent Costs (AGSRC) indexation arrangements for schools' funding.
Federal Labor is now developing its detailed schools' funding election
Federal Labor Leader
Member for Griffith
ENews 15 March, 2007
Investing In Our Schools Program Approved grants
There was an article in today’s SMH about the Investing In Our Schools Program – see the link at http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion/news_articles.htm
The article starts off with the line: “the Federal Government has broken a 2004 election promise to public schools by cutting the amount of money it offered them for computers, air-conditioning, classrooms and playgrounds”.
This statement is not strictly accurate.
In 2004 the Federal Government announced that it would spend $1billion over 4 years, and that $700million of the total would be allocated to Public Schools across Australia. This meant that each school would receive an AVERAGE of $100,000. However, the maximum that a school could receive in this competitive process was $150,000, and many schools received well over $100,000. This meant that many schools have received LESS THAN the average of $100,000.
The other thing that happened was that the Government brought the spending in the Program forward to meet the high demand, thus removing the final year, 2008, from the Program.
In fact, the money was almost depleted by this year 2007, so the Federal Government has now topped up the original $1billion by a further $181 million, covering private and government schools. Public schools share of the extra is $127m. This will allow the schools that have missed out so far to get a piece of the action. To ensure this, the Government has set the maximum grant for the coming 2007 Round at $100,000 – the original average.
I believe that the Government may have taken this decision so that there would not be any really unhappy campers in an election year, and that they will not renew the Program next year.
But there is still a lot of unmet demand for this program … so I suggest that each school P&C write to their local Federal MP, quote the Herald article, and point out the benefits to your school of yet more funding. Let them know how much you would value the program being extended for another three years. Also write to all NSW Senators. You can find the email and postal addresses of MP’s and Senators at
P&C Day was held for the first time on 7th March this year. I’d be interested in feedback on any activities undertaken by your P&C, or what you generally think of the initiative. Next year the date will be Wednesday, 5th March – and hopefully the event will grow year by year. Click on the link (top left hand side) at http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion to refresh your memories.
ENews 22 February, 2007
Performance Pay for Teachers
Articles on Federal Minister Julie Bishop’s plan to introduce performance pay for teachers have appeared in the press over the last two days. See links to articles.
This issue is part of the broader issue of the performance of schools in general. The two biggest influences for individual students once they are at school are the performance of the teacher, and the performance of the leadership of the school (see pages 10 & 11 of the P&C Journal, due in the schools late next week, or electronically at http://members.optushome.com.au/pandcj/journal ). Parents know that there is considerable variability in these two factors, both within schools and between schools. To be fair to all our kids, this gap needs to be closed, by bringing the lesser performers up closer to the best, and also continuously improving the best.
To its credit, the NSW DET and Government are pursuing a range of strategies aimed at raising the performance of our schools, and increasing the satisfaction of kids, teachers and parents. The Vinson Report and Alan Laughlin’s 2005 Futures Study (Report: “One Size Doesn’t Fit All”) have had considerable influence in highlighting the need for new strategies. These new strategies include their quality teaching initiatives, increased professional development and associated performance management initiatives, focus on improving leadership in schools, focus on problem areas such as “Middle Years”, increased interaction with the community, structural changes such as the introduction of the School Education Director role to better support Principals, the use of technology, and so on. The department is looking at personalized learning (ie more focus on meeting the individual needs of students, rather than “one-size-fits-all”), but this is still in its very early stages.
There is a need for considerable change in the general HR area. The teachers’ award needs updating and modernizing to reflect the fact that teachers are actually modern professionals. The cap on classroom teacher salaries after 10 years is a discouragement and symptomatic of old thinking. The transfer system for teachers needs a complete overhaul. Its undesirable elements include its tendency to encourage teachers to aim for “desirable” schools and stay in that school for the rest of their working lives – which for many teachers leads to dissatisfaction in their working life and a stunting of their professional growth. It also makes it difficult to supply experienced teachers in areas of most need. Principals need to have autonomy, within a framework, in designing staffing structures and appointing staff for both teaching and non-teaching staff within their school to allow them to best meet their local circumstances, and be more accountable for outcomes.
Some of the plusses and minuses of various performance pay systems have been canvassed in the newspaper articles referenced above. Some people also oppose performance pay for teachers because they have an inherent belief that all teachers are equal, but this is not reality.
A system of performance pay was introduced in England and Wales in 2000 as part of a broader strategy to improve public education. There is a digestible summary of the England / Wales experience (one page pdf) attached or available for download at
http://cep.lse.ac.uk/centrepiece/v10i2/marsden.pdf . See further links to UK web sites.
This system is said to have a specific focus on both the contribution of teachers’ performance to the achievements of their pupils and how they can be measured and linked to the overall targets set
for schools. It has resulted in some significant pay rises for teachers. The higher pay, according to teacher surveys, hasn’t done a lot for motivation, but the scheme has had a positive affect on goal-setting in schools and whole-of-school outcomes. A greater proportion of younger teachers than older teachers in the English system were said to think that the extended pay scales make it more worthwhile to stay in teaching.
Our Region will be running a “School of the Future night” on 30th April where we will be exploring what a future school might look like, and issues such as this will no doubt be canvassed. I will be writing to you soon with more information about this night, which I’m hoping will attract a good attendance.
Investing In Our Schools – Round 3 (2006)
Grants for schools in all States are today up on the web at the DEST site
School P&C Information
Many schools will already have had their AGM, and the rest will be holding theirs shortly.
Help us to provide a service to your P&C by filling in an Information Form (Word file). Please email the form back directly by reply email to
firstname.lastname@example.org so that we have it in electronic form.
President, P&C Northern Sydney
ENews 19 February, 2007
Labor Party Election announcement
Yesterday, as part of the election campaign, the Premier announced his Building Better Schools Policy.
In the State Budget for 2006/2007 announced last year, the Government’s capital expenditure budget was $486m for schools and $87m for TAFE, according to the information published at the time.
The Government’s new package is “more than” $2billion over 4 years for government schools. At the current year’s budget of $486m, the Government would be spending nearly $2billion anyway, or perhaps around $2.15bn if future inflation is allowed for. The announcement actually says that there is a total of $280million (average $70million per year) of new money – I’m keen to see the details.
For TAFE, the Government plans to spend $330m. On average, this is $82.5m per year, which is less than the $87m budgeted this year.
The Government is also building a number of new schools via Public Private Partnerships.
But it seems to be just slightly more than business as usual for the next four years as far as capital spending on existing NSW public schools goes – if you don’t think that is enough (and it isn’t!!!), write to your local member or the Premier – contact details http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion/MPs.htm .
Newspaper coverage: http://members.optushome.com.au/pandc-nsregion/news_articles.htm
The Herald is looking for information: “What state is your school in and what has been spent on it? Message your stories, pictures and videos to 0424 SMS SMH (+61 424 767 764) or email us.”
Use of the Department of Commerce as Project Manager
There is a copy of a Media Release from Brad Hazzard below. I followed up the list of items with him, one in particular that concerns me. Mr Hazzard says that some Principals have been threatened with having to take personal responsibility for problems if they use the Department of Commerce as project managers. At the moment, the DET uses Commerce exclusively, or almost exclusively, to manage projects funded by it – which is not a good commercial strategy. For Investing In Our Schools, and P&C funded projects, you are free to make your own arrangements. I’ve previously advised that the DET has issued Guidelines to Principals for IIOS – email me if you want a copy.
I’d like to get feedback from any school that has encountered problems with this issue.
Investing In Our Schools http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200702/s1850770.htm
Today, the Prime Minister will be announcing an additional $127 million for state schools across Australia. This new money will be added to the funds remaining from the previous budget (not too much was left), and will be targeted at schools that have received little or no money to date. (The limit for each school is said to have been reduced from $150k to $100k). The money will be allocated on an Australia-wide basis, not State-by-State as previously. There is clearly much more demand than this, but it may be that this is the last year of the Program – unless the political parties can be convinced otherwise by the weight of representations from P&C’s and individuals.
I’ll let you know more when the detail is announced.
Northern Sydney Health Promoting Schools Seeding Grant 2007
Applications close Friday 23 March 2007
Schools are invited to apply for a seeding grant of up to $1,000 using a whole of school approach to address physical, emotional or social health issues.
For example, your proposed project could address healthy eating, physical activity, injury prevention, asthma, communication with parents, etc.
More details and application forms:
P&C Day / P&C NSW Election Pack
There is information on these two items on the P&C Federation’s web site, or you can get to it via a demonstration page that I’ve set up at:
President, P&C Northern Sydney Region
Media Release: Brad Hazzard ….see bottom of ENews
· New Awards to Promote Science in Primary Schools
Science in schools has been in the news – mainly because of concerns that there is not enough of it!
Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Education, Science and Training, has announced that the Primary Pre-service Teacher Awards for Excellence in Science Education, valued at $2000 each, will be offered to exemplary student teachers in the final stages of their pre-service primary teacher courses in 2007. See http://www.dest.gov.au/Ministers/Media/Bishop/2007/02/b001070207.asp
You will also find another media release 7/02/07 on “Preparing children to succeed - Standards in our schools” http://www.dest.gov.au/Ministers/Media/Bishop/2007/02/b002070207.asp
FUNDRAISING INFORMATION DAY – Wednesday 21 February, 2007
TasteTesting is an Australian company specialising in testing new products for major food and beverage manufacturers.
Find out more about fundraising, details on how to fundraise by participating in taste tests, fundraising tips, fundraising ideas, and some advice from other groups.
Join us for an informative evening with canapés and drinks. Register for FREE at www.TasteTesting.org or call (02) 9873 8917.
Bottled Water Fundraiser - new idea.
H204K is water 4 kids – with a novel twist!
Twist the bottom off the bottle to find a free collectable (educational) toy – in a dry compartment separated from the beverage.
For a limited time only, we are offering selected schools within NSW, the opportunity to sell water for kids with FREE TOY, as a fundraising exercise.
You make a profit of $1.00 per bottle!!! RRP is $1.95.
As we have a 30 case maximum per school, at this special introductory price you had better be quick!!
Media Release: Brad Hazzard
SCHOOLS MAINTENANCE AND CAPITAL WORKS OVERHAUL - February 14, 2007
Public schools maintenance and capital works will be a target for overhaul under a NSW Liberal/Nationals Government to turn around appalling conditions in many Government schools.
“Maintenance and capital works in many Government schools is so poor that conditions are reminiscent of the third world,” Shadow Minister for School Education, Brad Hazzard said.
“Principals, parents and students are fed up to the back teeth with the appalling deterioration in our schools over the 12 years of Labor.”
“Almost every school I visit there is a backlog of hundreds of maintenance items yet staff and parents report that only two or three are done per year.”
“Under Labor some schools have received no major maintenance at all in 12 years.”
“Maintenance has become so spasmodic that uncompleted maintenance has turned schools into requiring major capital works renewal.”
“Millions are also wasted on ‘management fees’ after the Labor Government effectively forces principals to engage the Department of Commerce as the project manager.”
“Every principal is threatened with being personally responsible if something goes wrong with the work – this ensures principals use Government to manage the contract and allows Labor to cream off millions in management fees.”
“In Government the Coalition will:
· Re-introduce cyclic maintenance (every school to get minor maintenance in the third year and a major maintenance overhaul every seven years)
· Indemnify principals or their delegates who manage asset renewal in their school (removing the need for commerce to take management fees)
· Clear the $114 million backlog in maintenance over two years
· Create an Asset Register of building and capital items with a transparent prioritised system for renewal of capital works and
· Determine a list of priority ‘renewal required’ schools and extend the current public/private partnership model to accelerate rebuilding and release principals to concentrate on being educators.”
“Labor has brought public education facilities to crisis point and the Coalition will work with teachers, the federation and parents to ensure a new energy and enthusiasm for maintenance and renewal of our public schools.”
David Hope – President, Northern Sydney Regional Council of P&C Associations
Feedback via Contact Us, please.
Scroll down for more items ….
Religious organizations in schools
Teacher staffing arrangements
Review of the P&C Federation’s operations
Review of Maintenance by the DET
Use of the Department of Commerce as Project Manager
Investing In Our Schools (2)
Northern Sydney Health Promoting Schools Seeding Grant 2007
P&C Day / P&C NSW Election Pack
Media Release: Brad Hazzard
Investing In Our Schools
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