Comment

Indigenous education needs urgent attention

BETH BLACKWOOD

19 April 2017

As AHISA’s National Chair, Karen Spiller, has already written, for many Indigenous students in outer regional to very remote areas, the academic achievement gap is better described as a chasm. A dramatic word, but the situation warrants it, particularly when it appears Australia is in danger of losing a sense of urgency when it comes to creating educational opportunities for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

This morning, the Fairfax press reported AHISA’s proposal for full federal funding for Indigenous students attending campuses established by metropolitan independent schools as an attempt to ‘cash in’ on federal funding for Indigenous students.

Anyone familiar with the intricacies of federal general recurrent grants for students attending independent schools, or who understands the cost of education provision in regional and remote Indigenous communities, would immediately recognise the flaws in Fairfax’s argument. Those not so familiar can catch up on the details of AHISA’s proposal in its pre-Budget submission to Treasury.

In brief, AHISA proposes greater flexibility in federal funding models for non-government schools to ensure support for innovative on-country educational provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. We give examples of successful ventures between AHISA members’ schools and Indigenous communities and suggest that allowing established independent schools to create campuses for Indigenous students – bypassing the need to register a new school – is one option to fast track closure of the achievement gap in regional areas.

I find it extraordinary that when proven benefits to Indigenous students are weighed in the balance against an opportunity to run a beat up story critical of independent schools, it is misinformation which wins.

One glance at the NAPLAN results below should be enough to convince journalists that Australia cannot afford the luxury of meaningless reporting just for the sake of generating clicks on a headline about ‘private schools’. Fairfax would do far better to lend its weight to re-generating a sense of urgency about closing the achievement gap.

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Policy speculation is not the same as policy debate

BETH BLACKWOOD

27 March 2017

It is just six short months since I wrote about the failure of facts to influence reporting and commentary about schools funding in the mainstream media. Perhaps in a post-truth world, infected by fake news, an appeal for more rigorous public policy debate or even a little truth to leaven what passes for debate in the media is no longer relevant. Public trust in the media is plummeting, so does it really matter anymore what gets aired or published, if people don’t believe it anyway?

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Good news and bad in NAPLAN 2016 report

KAREN SPILLER

23 December 2016

If there is one clear lesson to be learned from international tests such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS, it is that Australia is condemning too many of its young people to underachievement at school. Read more

When facts fail

BETH BLACKWOOD

28 September 2016

As negotiations begin over revisions to the federal schools funding model, media reporting and public debate are off and running on the same old, well-worn lines.

The right of all students to receive at least some public funding for their school education has to be fought for over and over again; the place of non-government schools in the Australian education landscape is always under siege. And the first to fall in every skirmish are facts – trampled and crushed into non-existence by ideological positioning, political expediency or deliberate misinformation campaigns.

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Public blaming and policy making

BETH BLACKWOOD

15 July 2016

This article was published by The Educator on 18 July 2016.

In a recent post, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Texas, Mark Hlavacik, writes that ‘the recent history of education reform in the United States can be understood as a contest between competing acts of blame’:

Arguments for education reform begin by blaming someone or something for the real or invented failures of […] schools.

Hlavacik also points out the paradox that ‘although the targets of blame are said to be at fault, they are simultaneously accorded difference-making agency’.

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Making a difference

KAREN SPILLER

14 June 2016

Last week the Productivity Commission released its analysis of the relative achievement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in NAPLAN at Year 3 and 5 levels. One finding in particular stood out:

For Indigenous students, the evidence suggests that a culture of high expectations in schools; strong student-teacher, and community, relationships; and support for culture are also particularly important — all underpinned by strong school leadership.

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Children’s access to online pornography demands multiple responses

BETH BLACKWOOD

27 May 2016

A version of this article appeared in Australian Teacher Magazine, June 2016 issue.

Exposure of children to online pornography – whether by accident or design – is of increasing concern to the community and was the subject of a recent federal parliamentary inquiry.

To help inform that inquiry, AHISA surveyed its members on how school leaders perceive the issue, its effect on schools and how schools are responding.

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Innovative schools for the innovation nation

KAREN SPILLER

16 May 2016

The release by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) of its policy document, ‘Five challenges in Australian school education’, successfully captured the imagination of the media. Press headlines ranged from the relatively mild ‘Aussie students going backwards’ to the more emotive ‘Schools crisis needs national action plan’ and ‘What is the problem with Australian schools?’ through to the sweeping announcement, ‘The decline and fall of Australian education’.

Schools bashing is fast becoming an Australian national sport as we draw closer to the federal election.

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