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Choosing a school

21 April 2004, 11:53 AM in Public vs Private Education

There is an excellent article in The Age by Morag Fraser on how she & her husband chose schools for their children. The best way, she says, to determine the quality of a school is to actually go out there and have a look, talk to the teachers, the principal and others involved.

We had friends with children the same age. We talked (endlessly, it seemed), gathered as much local gossip as we could. That wasn't difficult, because everyone here has an opinion about the local schools.

Then we went to each school. We saw the principals, walked around, looked in classrooms, watched children in the schoolyards at lunchtime, looked at writing, drawing, paintings pinned to classroom walls, listened to teachers, and then went back to those in charge.

We were given detailed, honest information (no brochures or prospectuses). I don't remember the statistical exactitudes now but I do remember the openness and the professionalism of the teachers and principals involved and a strong sense that we could trust them.

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Funding differences between public and private schools

20 April 2004, 11:45 AM in Public vs Private Education

Just quickly, there's an article in the Australian today about Mark Harrison's somewhat radical idea of using vouchers to allow parents to choose where their kids go to school, similar to the United States system, rather than to funding going to the government and it directly funding schools. I don't really want to comment on that idea at the moment, as I don't have enough knowledge on the issue. It may have merit, but I also know that the voucher system in the US has it's detractors, and there may be better ways of doing it.

What did draw my attention was this paragraph:

In 2001-02, the latest year for which figures are available, private schools received $4870 in funding from the state and federal governments per student, while government schools received $8937 or 84per cent more.

While I can't exactly verify those numbers, the budget reports put out by the federal and state departments of education seem to support that statement. Public schools receive far more funding than private schools and the public system's funding has been going up, not down. So can we please stop the misleading comments coming from some places about how the federal government funds private schools more. That is true, but the funds from the state governments far out-weigh that. Also, it should be noted that in Australia it is the state, not federal government, who have the responsibility of running and funding schools.

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Battling school yard bullying

20 April 2004, 10:36 AM in Bullying

Today Tonight had an item on last night about a boy who's been to four different primary schools in the last six years due to the bullying he's been receiving. These have been both public schools and a Catholic primary school.

"I'm scared they're gonna attack me with sticks and hurt me," Beau said.

"They've locked me in garbage bins and rammed my head into the ground. Punched me in the ribs, kicked me in the stomach [and] broken my wrist."

This is appalling, and it has apparently gotten so bad now, the Department of Education has said that the Beau will be getting a support person with him to act as a bodyguard.

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Classroom technology in NSW schools

17 April 2004, 11:20 AM in Classroom Technology, Education Funding

As computing is my main teaching method, the IT facilities that are available in classrooms is an issue that's fairly important to me. As such, the current situation in most NSW schools, especially public schools is a bit worrying. I'm not all that familiar with other states, so they may be better or worse.

In Australia, education has generally been fairly slow to pick up on technology, which is a little strange because on a whole, Australians are quick to adopt technology - we love new gadgets! Education seems to be an exception to this rule however. A vast number of schools are working with computing technology that's close to a decade old: Windows 95 or 98 and various hardware, most of which is equally as old. Schools are trying to use software like AutoCAD, Corel Graphics Suite and Adobe PageMaker and the computers simply can't keep up. Either the programs take minutes to load, or they regularly crash and/or loose data due to the lack of memory and processing power in the computers. Not to mention that a lot of new software requires Windows XP, and most schools don't have it (or have limited numbers of it). Schools are able to get software at academic pricing and seem to be able to get good application software, but it seems to be the hardware that's letting everything down.

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ERIC Database and online education

14 April 2004, 14:55 PM in Web/Tech

The US Government has announced a US$34.6 million contract to upgrade the ERIC education database.

With the new ERIC, individuals will be able to go to one website to search a comprehensive database of journal articles and document abstracts and descriptions and, for the first time, directly access full text. The database will include as much free full text as possible, and links will be provided to commercial sources so that individuals can purchase journal articles and other full text immediately. The US Department of Education has awarded a five-year, $34.6 million contract to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) of Rockville, Md., along with its subcontractors, to develop and operate a new database system for the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

[via Education Network Australia]

This is great to hear. As student teachers, we use ERIC extensively through the licence that the UWS library has with the EBSCO database. This gives us access to thousands of full-text journal articles that can be accessed directly off the internet, through an extensive search function. ERIC even links back into the UWS library database to see if the journal or book exists in the library if the full-text of the article isn't available online. This tool has saved me hours of research work.

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Tassie oposition pledges smaller classes

13 April 2004, 12:14 PM in Current Affairs

The Tasmanian Opposition has said that it wants the state Labor Government to use some of it's expected $80 million budget surplus to fund smaller class sizes in Tasmanian public schools.

The Opposition's spokesman for education, Peter Gutwein, says the Liberal Party is committed to introducing a cap of 25 students for grades two through to six. He says while presently prep and grade one classes are capped at 25 students, his party would cap them at 20.
"When we announced our class size policy we costed it at around $13 million, so the money is there and all that we are asking for is for education to get its fair share."

If there will indeed be an $80 million surplus and if $13 million is what this scheme would cost, then it sounds like a good idea. Reducing class sizes is almost always a good idea.

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Sport to assist in Indigenous education

13 April 2004, 11:49 AM in Aboriginal Education

National junior vice-president of the Australian Labor Party, Warren Mundine has said that by funding sport in schools, more Aboriginal kids will want to go to, and stay in, school.

"Some of the things we're looking at is how to tie sport into academic achievement and education for Aboriginal kids," Mr Mundine said.

"One of the things we identified is why are there lots of Aboriginal kids out on the streets on the weekend and one of the reasons is the expense of sport now."

Top idea. If sport is what interests the kids, make school sport more available. Education will help break the poverty cycle that many of these kids find themselves in. If given opportunities and the ability to discover that they have potential, these kids will have a much better chance of not falling into the alcoholism and abusive situations that plague some communities.

The PM has said that the federal government has set aside more than $2 million for Indigenous education and training over the next four years. The question is who is going to administer this money, and what will it be spent on? As the appalling health and housing situations in central Australia demonstrate, just throwing around large sums of money does nothing. It needs to be directed towards where it will help the most and run by accountable people who actually care about the kids involved.

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How classroom relationship affected the students

10 April 2004, 12:21 PM in Current Affairs

More information about how Jeffrey Sinclair's relationship with student Nicki Shackle affected the students in his classes. Students who were in his class at the time have told The Daily Telegraph how the flirting during class and his subsequent removal disrupted their learning and damaged their marks.

"I graduated from Baulkham Hills High School in the class of 2001 – no thanks to Jeff Sinclair. He was my Extension English 1 and 2 teacher and when he was pulled out of the school, myself and the entire grade suffered as a result."

"We were mucked around for most of the year and we didn't get our teacher back. It was a very tough year for everyone."

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Affair teacher awarded compo for 'psychological injury'

6 April 2004, 8:50 AM in Current Affairs

'Affair' teacher's compo to spark law change

A teacher who was sacked for having an affair with a student was awarded almost $28,000 compensation for stress .... Jeff Sinclair was removed from the classroom of a Sydney high school in 2001 and given an administrative job after allegations he was having an affair with teenage student Nicki Shackle. He is 33 years her senior.

When I read about this, I was disgusted. It doesn't matter whether they had sex or not. A romantic relationship between a teacher and student, which neither of them deny, is unacceptable. As the department said, it breaches the trust that is essential between teacher and student.

It is no wonder to me that the profession of teaching is given such a bad rap when these types of events occur. How do we get parents to trust teachers when teachers have relationships with students (even if it’s not sexual) and not only get away with it, but are given compensation for psychological injury when they're disciplined for the relationship?

If the law does allow this kind of relationship to occur, it needs changing.

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SMS bullying

6 April 2004, 8:38 AM in Bullying, School Discipline

Ah, modern technology. Is it not wonderful? The way it enables all of us to do our everyday tasks that little bit easier

Schools are now having to implement rules for how to deal with SMS bullying, and also the issue of camera phones in toilets and change rooms.

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