Mercedes College in Adelaide is trialling an online mentoring program for students in remote areas of South Australia. The program, which also involves the School of the Air, Port Augusta and the Technology School of the Future, connects remote students to volunteer tutors through a webcam. See article ‘Unique link to teacher online’ by Nigel Austin in The Advertiser, Adelaide, 23 May 2006, p 28. See also related article ‘Just call for the answer’ by Jill Pengelley in The Advertiser, 23 May 2006, p 4. The article outlines a new online tutoring service that is under trial in South Australia. The service enables Year 4–12 students to contact tutors in other parts of the country with homework questions.
The Australian Government has announced that it will spend $10 million in the coming financial year to help establish a secondary college in the Tiwi Islands for Indigenous students. The college, to be run and partly funded by the local community, is intended to operate as a boarding school from 2010. See article in Koori Mail, 24 May 2006, p 10.
The 2006 State of Our Schools Survey was conducted by the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union in March. The survey asked government school principals to comment on a range of matters affecting their schools and on educational issues more broadly. Results suggest that 75 per cent of schools need a major upgrade in facilities, with basics such as classrooms and toilet blocks topping the list of priorities. The annual survey also indicated that 68 per cent of principals lack sufficient and appropriate resources to ensure quality programs are delivered in their school. Principals reported that many schools are also increasingly relying on local fundraising to balance the books.
A ‘flying squad’ of literacy experts is to be set up in Victoria to deal with reading, writing and numeracy problems in high need government schools, according to the report ‘Squads to swoop on student woes’ in the Herald Sun, 23 May 2006, p 12. The newspaper says that the program will be announced in the forthcoming state budget, will run over four years and will focus on the early years of primary school.
The number of overseas students at independent and Catholic schools has fallen by 7.5 per cent this year, according to figures compiled by the Department of Education, Science and Training cited in an article in The Australian Financial Review, 28 April 2006 (fee-based access). The fall is blamed on rises in the Australian dollar and education costs.
More students from rural and remote Western Australia will be able to study at public schools in Perth due to extensions at Rotary Residential College in East Victoria Park. Rotary College provides a ‘home away from home’ for 95 country students who can now study specialist courses such as aviation, languages, performing arts, fashion design, marine studies and sport. See media release, 24 May 2006 by Education and Training Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Education is sponsoring a National Gifted and Talented Conference, to be held in Wellington in August. There are three strands to the conference: professional development for teachers, counsellors, psychologists, researchers and professionals; support for parents and whanau; and strengthening communities of practice. See article in The New Zealand Education Gazette, 8 May 2006.
In Victoria the Australian Education Union has criticised what it describes as 'the continued incapacity' of the Victorian Institute of Teachers (VIT) 'to be an advocate of the profession'. The union argues that the VIT has failed to involve teachers adequately in issues such as the development of professional standards, and that the process of moving from provisional to full registration, admininisted by the VIT, has added significantly to teachers' workloads. See article by Chee Chee Leung in The Age: Education, 22 May 2006.
A study in the USA has found that females have a ‘big advantage’ over males in the performance of timed tasks, particularly at primary and secondary school levels. The study involved more than 8,000 people aged 2–90 living across the country. Australian commentator Ian Lillico, a research assistant at Griffith University, says that Australian teachers are ‘increasingly aware of these issues’ and encourage girls and boys to work together on tasks because the girls tend to ‘organise’ the boys. See article by Margaret Cook in The Age: Education, 22 May 2006.
Queensland’s Education Minister, Rod Welford, has announced that the State Government will not proceed with proposed amendments to religious education provisions in the Education Bill currently before the State Parliament (see media release 22 May 2006). The Courier Mail describes the government as having ‘bowed to pressure from conservative Christian groups’ (see ‘Backflip to end holy war’, 23 May 2006 pp 1, 4 and ‘Unholy challenge’, 24 May 2006 p 12). Australian Government Education Minister Julie Bishop had also opposed the changes (see media release, 22 May 2006). The proposals would not have altered current arrangements under which children are automatically included in religious education classes unless parents opt out. The proposed reforms would however have allowed humanists and a wider range of minority religious groups to run classes, including classes on secular ethics. The current provisions allow for classes to be run by a range of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist groups. The president of the Humanist Society of Queensland, Zelda Bailey, has declared that the current arrangements discriminate against non-religious people and has vowed to continue to press for ‘equal rights’. See also the report in The Australian, 23 May 2006. Meanwhile, the Toowoomba Chronicle (23 May 2006, p 5) reports complaints that students in RE classes at Middle Ridge State School are being taught notions of male superiority and that salvation requires belief in the Christian god. See also abstract in this edition of Curriculum Leadership.
The New South Wales Government is offering Higher School Certificate students school-based apprenticeships one day per week in ten trade schools. The Teachers’ Federation has opposed the plan, arguing that the move threatens to deny academic opportunities to participating students, but business leaders have supported the government. See article by Bruce McDougall in Daily Telegraph, 23 May 2006, p 12 (fee-based access).