The 2007 National Benchmark Results for Reading, Writing and Numeracy (National Report on Schooling in Australia Preliminary Paper) have been published by MCEETYA, the council of Australian education ministers. The results show a decline in the number of students achieving basic numeracy benchmarks as they move through school. While 93 per cent of Year 3 students achieved national numeracy benchmarks during testing last year, the figure for Year 5 was 89 per cent and for Year 7 it was just over 80 per cent. However, the report also shows stronger performances by Indigenous students in literacy and numeracy. See article in The Age, 2 September 2008, media release by Queensland Minister for Education Rod Welford, 4 September 2008, and report on Western Australian results by ABC News, 2 September 2008.
On 1 September 2008 Australian Government Minister of Education Julia Gillard delivered a wide-ranging address to the Independent Schools Council of Australia's Parliamentary Forum. The address covered the topics of school funding, school accountability, teacher recruitment and the Government's support for a range of literacy and numeracy initiatives. See transcript of her speech. See also article on financial reporting by schools in The Australian, 1 September 2008; commentary on school funding and computers by Kenneth Davidson in The Age, 4 September 2008; and other news items on this page.
The Australian Government is to extend its $625.8 million package of incentives to lift the number of maths and science students and graduates taking up positions as primary school teachers. The Government will extend financial incentives to students taking up university maths courses and to graduates who take jobs in their field, including teaching. See media release by Australian Government Minister of Education Julia Gillard, 31 August 2008. The Australian Government has also announced a pilot project to develop the capacity of teachers to guide primary students' learning in numeracy. The pilot will take place in the Broken Hill cluster of schools in western New South Wales. See interview with Julia Gillard, 1 September 2008.
The Tasmanian Government’s Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap literacy initiative will be extended as a result of an extra $4 million in Australian Government funding. See media release by Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett and transcript of joint press conference by Mr Bartlett and Australian Government Minister of Education Julia Gillard, both 29 August 2008.
This week the media has widely discussed the Australian Government's praise of New York City's policies on school accountability. The policies allow the city's education system to terminate the employment of principals and teachers at poorly performing schools, and to shut down the schools themselves, while staff at strongly performing schools receive pay rises. See interview with Australian Government Minister of Education Julia Gillard, 1 September 2008; interview with Joel Klein, New York City School Chancellor, on the ABC's Sunday Profile program, 28 August 2008; report on ABC News, 30 August 2008; and commentary by Mike Williss in Online Opinion, 3 September 2008. For more general comment about the influence of US and British education policies on the Australian Government, see article in The Australian, 2 September 2008.
A proposal under consideration by the Australian Government would introduce provisional licensing for all new child-care centres, which would be required to demonstrate committments to childhood development and suitable staffing practices. Parliamentary Secretary for Child Care Maxine McKew has also described her intention to increase the number of child-care workers with better qualifications and to replace the eight different state and territory rules with national standards. See article in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September 2008.
Adam Savage, a presenter on the USA's MythBusters television series, has discussed a range of issues in school science in a podcast and related article on the website of Popular Mechanics journal. The topics include how to make science engaging; the defence of scientific method in the face of strong and widespread attacks on Darwinian evolutionary theory; teacher pay; assessment and accountability; and the need for hands-on work and the 'celebration of mistakes' in science classes.
A new curriculum for three- to seven-year-olds has been implemented in Wales, aiming to enhance creativity, knowledge, skills and understanding in the early years of a child’s life. The pilots, which used a staff-to-pupil ratio of 1:8 for children aged three to five and 1:15 for pupils aged six and seven, were successful. However, limited funding has made these ratios difficult to implement. See article in Wales Online, 1 September 2008.
Victorian Premier John Brumby has announced a new education blueprint involving a number of reforms. Businesses will be encouraged to provide funding and mentoring to schools, teachers wishing to leave the profession will be offered departure packages, and high-performing recent graduates from various professions will be encouraged to take teaching positions. See article in The Age and report on ABC News, both 2 September 2008, and commentary in The Australian, 3 September 2008.
Education based on the Montessori approach will be offered at a Queensland public school for the first time in 2009. At Grovely State School in Brisbane one multi-age class or stream based on this method will be offered from the start of the next school year. See Minister for Education and Training Rod Welford's media release, 27 August 2008.
Public school teachers in New South Wales are continuing industrial action in support of a campaign over pay and the State Government's policy on staffing transfers. See announcement by the New South Wales Teachers Federation, article in The Australian and report on ABC News, all 2 September 2008.