The New Zealand Minister for Education Trevor Mallard has announced a new project aimed at bringing school networks up to Ministry standards. The $11 million of funding will help around 300 small schools to establish computer networks. A survey of schools conducted in 2004 revealed that small schools face disproportionate costs in building computer networks. This initiative will help teachers and students in small schools access a wider range of resources, such as digital learning and other rich multi-media materials. See Ministerial announcement 9 September 2005.
Victoria’s Minister for Education Services Jacinta Allan has announced that every Government school will receive funding under the Language Support Program, to help students in need of language assistance in a classroom setting. An analysis of the previous program revealed inequitable funding between schools. Students with severe language disorders will receive individual funding in recognition of their greater needs. The new program, to start in the 2006 school year, is being supported by a suite of teacher professional development to encourage best practice and a network of 140 effective full-time (EFT) speech pathologists and another 500 EFT professionals across the state. See Ministerial media statement 9 September 2005.
The Queensland Government has released details of the first ‘destination’ survey of Queensland's Year 12 school leavers. The survey of nearly 24,000 young Queenslanders shows that more than 93 per cent of students who completed Year 12 last year are learning and/or earning. More than two thirds of all Year 12 school leavers (67.5 per cent) are studying – either at university or a TAFE college. Another 26 per cent are working either full time or part time. Over 30 per cent are undertaking vocational education, with 16 per cent of young people in apprenticeships. Victoria is the only other state that conducts a destination survey. See media release by Minister for Education and Arts, Rod Welford, 12 September 2005.
The Reach initiative being supported by the South Australian Government will train teachers to motivate students and encourage their leadership skills. Two full-day workshops will be held to train Year 9 and 10 teachers and youth-related professionals in techniques for connecting with and inspiring young people. In February next year, there will be two full-day student workshops designed to inspire students to recognise their leadership potential. School workshops will then be held, aiming to empower students by provoking positive and critical thinking. The program will provide teacher participants with a package of materials that they can take back to their classrooms and share with other colleagues. See Ministerial media statement 13 September 2005.
In Britain, up to 50,000 final year 'A-level' secondary students will be invited to take part in a trial of a new university admissions test. To establish the best way to identify the most promising candidates for higher education, the five-year study will compare academic results in students' final years of secondary school to performance in a tertiary admission test like the Scholastic Aptitude Test used in the USA. Another test to identify talent in potential undergraduates, Unitest, is currently being trialled in 25 schools in England. See report on BBC News 19 September 2005. See also report that SAT scores in the USA are 'perfectly correlated' to family wealth, in Times Online 20 September 2005.
The head of a prominent independent school in England has said the country's education system is 'in a total mess'. Dr David Hempsall said that the national curriculum was harming children's development, and that pupils' exam results were 'massaged' every year to make standards appear better. Dr Hempsall said government targets were artificial constructs which had no relevance to teaching professionals and did not help to raise standards. An excessive focus on literacy and numeracy meant that 11-year-olds lacked access to creative subjects such as art and music. See report on BBC News 20 September 2005.
As part its industrial relations changes, the Australian Government is to remove regulatory barriers to the employment of apprentices and trainees. New laws will set minimum wage rates for school-based apprentices and trainees nationally, prior to a wider review of training wages which will aim to encourage more school-based and part-time apprenticeships. See report in The Australian 21 September 2005. See also 'PM overhauls trainee pay to boost skills' in The Australian Financial Review 21 September 2005 (fee-based access).
The Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO) invites parents and educators to attend its upcoming national conference, titled The next decade – what will it be like?. Speakers will address issues relating to the whole child, such as resilience, wellbeing, values, community and enriching the curriculum. The conference will take place in Chifley-on-Northbourne in Canberra from 17–19 October 2005.
Cardinal George Pell has argued against the influence of critical literacy in the school curriculum of some States. See 'Pell's text message' in The Australian 22 September 2005 and 'Pell warns on curtailing unions' in The Age 22 September 2005. His remarks follow other recent challenges to critical literacy teaching by a range of politicians and senior media figures (see earlier report). In the same speech Cardinal Pell has defended the teaching of intelligent design in Australian schools (see earlier statement by Brendan Nelson and commentary on intellegent design in the New Scientist).
Victorian private schools are spending up to $200,000 per year on marketing activities, according to the results of an investigation by The Age newspaper. The investigation also found that some State schools are spending up to $15,000 per year on marketing. Victorian Education Minister Lynne Kosky has warned against any promotional activities that become 'more like marketing any sort of product, rather than education', and has called on schools to disclose marketing costs to parents. The Association of Independent Schools of Victoria has defended private schools' right to determine their marketing practices. See report in The Age 22 September 2005.
Scotland's regional government, the Scottish Executive, has announced additional funding for schools in the most deprived areas after new research has pointed to a link between poverty and poor qualifications. Absentee rates are high in deprived areas, and 11 per cent of pupils leave school without qualifications compared with a 3 per cent average in other Scottish locations. Out of developing countries, Scotland has the fifth highest youth population not involved in education, employment or training. See report in The Guardian, 21 September 2005.
The Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) is inviting applications for grants for 2006 National Science Week. Applications will be accepted until 5 pm AEST Friday 28 October 2005. Grants will apply to projects which highlight the importance of science and innovation, involve the general public and are conducted during National Science Week 2006.