Voices, Visions and Vibes, a national English literacy teaching conference, will take place in the Northern Territory 8–11 July this year. The conference will discuss the visions shaping future English and Literacy teaching, and will feature high profile academics and authors such as Mem Fox and Gillian Rubenstein. The conference is a joint venture between the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) and the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA), with support from the Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages NT (ATESOL NT).
Following a successful pilot, a further ten schools are expected to join the National Sustainable Schools initiative this year. Sustainable Schools involves action-based and whole-school approaches to environmental and sustainability education, with measurable educational, environmental, social and economic outcomes. Upcoming workshops for school-based facilitators will be held in Alice Springs and Darwin.
Recent data from the Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre at the University of Western Sydney shows that divorced fathers are becoming more involved in raising children. The data shows that society is actually ahead of recent changes in child support and family law, which are designed to promote paternal involvement in children’s lives post-divorce. However, divorced fathers will require ongoing financial and social support in terms of childcare resources, more flexible work arrangements and possibly further legislation. See media release from the University of Western Sydney, 11 April 2006.
Victorian government schools are now able to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, which has recently been accredited by the Victorian Qualifications Authority as a senior secondary certificate of education. The two-year IB Diploma program is typically undertaken by Years 11 and 12 students. It offers a curriculum that includes English, a second language, mathematics, science, humanities and arts. Students must also complete 150 hours of community service, sports activities and a creative pursuit. Minister for Education and Training, Lynne Kosky, has said that the IB would be approved for use in schools only where she is satisfied that existing offerings would not be negatively impacted. See Ministerial media statement 18 April 2006.
A number of reforms to school education in Queensland are to be introduced through the Education (General Provisions) Bill 2006 currently before the State Parliament. One major change concerns religious education (RE). Currently state school students take part in RE classes unless they write to the school to opt out. Parents will now have to opt in to religious education classes. Groups with non-religious beliefs, such as humanists, will now be allowed to teach RE classes. See Ministerial media release 20 April 2006. A range of other changes are also being introduced. For both state and non-state schools the law provides for the introduction of a non-compulsory full-time preparatory year from 2007; an increase in the compulsory school starting age by six months from 2008; the new ‘learning and earning’ laws; exemptions from compulsory schooling to enable students to participate in apprenticeships and traineeships, or attend significant family occasions; increased penalties for parents who fail to ensure their children attend school a registration system for children who are educated at home; and a reporting framework to ensure parents receive critical information on both student and schools outcomes. For state schools only, the new law will introduce an admission framework including enrolment agreements between the school, parents and students; increased transparency about the grounds on which a student may be refused enrolment; the capacity for schools to charge for specialised programs (eg International Baccalaureate); and the capacity for schools to continue to ask for voluntary financial contributions from parents to supplement programs at the school. See Ministerial media release 21 April 2006.
The Hon. David Bartlett MP has been appointed Minister for Education in the Tasmanian Government. He replaces Paula Wreidt, who moves to the Ministry for Tourism, Arts and the Environment. See 'David's goliath school challenge', Hobart Mercury 15 April 2006.
The Northern Territory's Minister for Education Syd Stirling has flagged further changes in schooling. Staffing levels are to be set through a new needs-based formula instead of student-to-teacher ratios. The Accelerated Literacy package is likely to be expanded. The trial of earlier entry into the transition years will be expanded. Other changes will involve school councils, distance education, Indigenous students, and regional areas of the Territory, with revisions to be made to the Education Act. See 'Schools likely to face more reforms', Centralian Advocate 13 April 2006.
Nearly one in five year 12 students have considered suicide or cutting or burning themselves because of exam and homework pressures, according to psychologist Karen McGraw. Her Swinburne University study involved 941 Victorian final-year high school students. See report in the Sunday Age 16 April 2006.
Prime Minister John Howard has attacked the 'dumbing down' of the English syllabus in Australian schools, declaring it is falling victim to postmodernism and political correctness. See report in The Age 21 April 2006.