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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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National literacy and numeracy testing to proceed

National literacy and numeracy testing for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will begin in 2008, following agreement between Australian education ministers to work together on the national tests, reporting scales and how the tests will be implemented. See MCEETYA information statement. See also media release, 7 July 2006 by the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop.

National approaches for Year 12 curriculum and assessment considered

A meeting of Australian education ministers has agreed to continue to work on the feasibility of greater consistency of reporting on senior secondary results. A working party will examine the possibility of a suitable quality assurance mechanism. See information statement issued by MCEETYA after its 20th Meeting, 6-7 July 2006. The Australian Government Minister of Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, has criticised State and Territory ministers for refusing to participate in the Advisory Committee for a national study to compare the content, curriculum and standards of selected Year 12 subjects across Australia. The ACER study, to examine curriculum content and standards in English (including English Literature), Australian History, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, is expected to report by the end of 2006. See Ministerial media release, 7 July 2006.

Ministers plan new initiatives for Indigenous education

Australian education ministers have agreed on a series of recommendations on Indigenous education, from early childhood to transition to training, employment and higher education. The recommendations are contained in the paper Australian Directions in Indigenous Education 2005–2008. They include school–community partnerships in schools with significant Indigenous student populations; development of professional learning programs for school leaders and teachers to help improve outcomes for Indigenous students; and strategies to retain and attract quality principals and teachers to schools in Indigenous communities. The ministers agreed to examine the implementation of two years pre-school education for Indigenous children. See information statement issued by MCEETYA after its 20th Meeting, 6–7 July 2006.

Changes to child access rights of separated parents

Separated parents may become more involved in joint parenting with the introduction of changes to family law across Australia on 1 July 2006. Associate Professor Tom Altobelli, a family law expert from the University of Western Sydney, has said that The Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 will empower courts to order that children spend either equal time with both parents, or 'substantial and significant time' with the non-custodial parent. See UWS media release, 29 June 2006.

Reducing class sizes rated number one priority by voters in Victorian opinion poll

Smaller class sizes have been rated as the first priority for Victorian voters according to an opinion poll carried out for the AEU Victorian branch. The poll showed strong public support for teachers on a range of issues.

Bishop calls for reinstatement of History

Australian Government Education Minister Julie Bishop has called for the reinstatement of History as a distinct discipline in the school syllabus. The Australian Government will offer to develop online course materials to furnish the new programs, in support of  a chronological narrative based on ‘dates and facts’, in distinction to a theme-based approach that characterises most current curricula in States and Territories. Ms Bishop has commissioned two papers from leading historians that will map the current status of Australian History in schools. The papers will prepare the ground for a summit involving historians, teachers, commentators and community representatives. The newspaper report also suggests that the Australian Government will consider making the teaching of Australian History a condition in its next schools funding agreement with the States. ‘Every school child should know when and why Captain James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, who was our first prime minister, why we were involved in two world wars and how federation came about.’ See report in The Australian, 5 July 2006. The call has been opposed by some State education ministers and by Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley. See report in The Australian, 6 July 2006. There have been varied reactions by parent groups (see The Age, 5 July 2006).

Five essential learning areas to be preserved in new Tasmanian curriculum

Tasmanian Education Minister David Bartlett has announced that the current revisions to the State's curriculum will leave intact the core structure of five essential learnings. See media release, 30 June 2006. The Australian Education Union in Tasmania has asked the Minister to wait for results of a teachers' survey on the essential learnings before presenting the proposed new system, to be known as Tasmania's Curriculum. See article in the Mercury, 5 July 2006.

Catholic parents' group opposes rankings within grades

Tasmanian Catholic Schools Parents and Friends Federation president, Bill Button, reports that parents do not support the ranking of students against their classroom peers. To receive Australian Government funding, all Australian schools are required to adopt a five-level grading system, such as A to E. In most States the student report must also rank students in the top, second, third or bottom quartile in their class. See report in The Mercury, 6 July 2006.

Indigenous perspectives for all Queensland State schools

An understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and perspectives is to be further integrated across Queensland State schools, under the State Government's new Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools initiative. There are more than 37,000 Indigenous students in Queensland government schools, 7.5 per cent of all government school students. See Media statement, 6 July 2006 by State Education Minister, Rod Welford. The announcement was made during NAIDOC Week 2006, 2–9 July.

Education ministers defer decision on national minimum school starting age

A meeting of Australian education ministers has deferred the introduction of a national minimum school starting age, pending further research into its educational and financial implications. See information statement issued by MCEETYA after its 20th Meeting, 6–7 July 2006. See also media releases from the Australian Government and South Australian Government, 7 July 2006. A report commissioned by the Victorian Government describes findings that lowering the school starting age will disadvantage younger children. The author, Melbourne researcher Kay Margetts, said younger students were less likely to have the cognitive, emotional and social skills to cope with learning in a school environment. 'We are starting to see parents deliberately holding their children back from school to give them an advantage and that creates equity issues, because some parents can't afford to hold their children back,' she has said. Dr Margetts also questioned the economic benefits of the proposed national minimum starting age of four and a half years. See article in The Age, 4 July 2006. In 2004, Australia's education ministers agreed to establish a uniform minimum starting age by 2010.  University

Cost of teaching degrees rises above HECS limit

Students are paying up to $6,600 a year in annual HECS fees for maths and science teaching degrees, despite an Australian Government promise to cap the cost at $3,920. The higher fees are occurring against the backdrop of a growing shortage of maths and science teachers in high schools and a declining number of students choosing to study engineering, technology and science at university. See article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 2006.

New Zealand primary students face drug tests

School trustees in New Zealand are calling for increased use of drugs testing to deal with primary students caught using, selling or possessing drugs. The move comes after 33 drug-related suspensions were recorded across Canterbury primary schools in 2005, more than three times the number recorded in 2004. See article from The Press, 7 July 2006 (on www.stuff.co.nz).

Capital works program in NSW schools

Almost $23 million is due to be spent on capital works and maintenance in schools across New South Wales. The projects will cover upgrades of toilet, electricity and canteen facilities; air cooling and lift installation; and carpet replacement and playground improvements. Ongoing funding will be provided for security patrols, video surveillance and other measures to protect existing school facilities. See media release, 3 July 2006.

Advocacy for language teachers

The MLTAV has developed an Advocacy section on its website. It provides a range of resources for use by teachers in promoting Languages Other Than English (LOTE) programs to principals, school curriculum committees and parents.

Class rankings now less popular in USA

In the USA there is a trend to drop the practice of ranking students within classes. The competition that results from the grading is thought to add unnecessarily to stress at a critical learning maturation point in students' lives. At many schools, class rankings at senior school level have traditionally been provided to universities and colleges for selection purposes. Over 80% of public schools still report rankings to universities and colleges, but the proportion of private schools that share their rankings is much lower. See article in Time, 10 July 2006.

National career development week planned for 2007

The 2007 National Career Development Week aims to encourage Australians to develop professional and career management skills. The Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA) will assist individuals, schools, TAFEs, universities, employers and agencies to develop resources and events relative to their communities.

More Australians undertaking training

Recently released ABS statistics show that 22% of 15–69-year-olds in Australia were enrolled in study and 37% had completed at least one work-related training course in the year ending May 2005. While the proportion of people undertaking training has increased between 1997 and 2005, total training hours have decreased over the same period. See media release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 29 May 2006.

Success for Boys: online applications now open

The Success for Boys Professional Learning Programme provides individual schools and school clusters with grants of around $10,000 per school to undertake a Professional Learning Programme on boys’ education. In Round II this year, 800 schools will be funded to implement this national Teacher Professional Learning Programme funded by the Department of Education, Science and Training and managed by Curriculum Corporation. The Success for Boys professional learning materials for teachers consist of five printed learning guides and an accompanying CD ROM with activity sheets, slides for group presentation and related resources and readings. These resources provide teachers with a core conceptual framework for approaching boys' education and additional modules on Boys and Literacy, Boys and ICT, Mentoring for Boys and Indigenous Boys. Applications for Round II funding in the 2007 school year are now open. Visit www.successforboys.edu.au for further information and to apply online. The Success for Boys Helpdesk is contactable via telephone on 03 9207 9600. Applications close 21 August 2006.