Archive for the ‘Education Policy’ Category

No Place for Ambulance Chasers at our Schools

April 23, 2012

Our children have been unfairly dealt with thanks to the rise in litigation. No longer are they able to climb on outdoor equipment, play ball games with balls made of anything more substantial than felt or even do cartwheels in the playground. Occupational Health and Safety in schools has gone from responsible to absolutely over the top! This not only causes great stress to Principals and staff but it clearly diminishes the few freedoms our children have been known to enjoy at school.

Why has there been such a significant upgrading of Occupational Health and Safety requirements in our schools? Perhaps this example explains it:

A 13-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl is being sued by a classmate over a tennis court mishap at one of Queensland’s top private schools in the latest blow to playground fun.

The legal claim, over a bruised eye, has raised concerns that “litigation-crazy” parents could threaten the future of school sport by forcing up insurance costs.

It may also force parents to take out third-party accident insurance for their children.

Several Queensland schools have already banned activities including tiggy, red rover and cartwheels because of injury fears.

The legal stoush has embroiled the daughters of a leading Gold Coast cardiologist and an architect, and the prestigious Somerset College.

Cardiologist Guy Wright-Smith said he was “gobsmacked” to receive the damages claim, addressed to his 13-year-old daughter Julia, at his rooms on Friday.

The claim alleges Julia had hit classmate Finley Enright-Burns in the eye with a tennis ball during a tennis lesson at the Mudgeeraba school last October. It alleges Julia was “smashing” balls back to Finley on the baseline when the incident happened.

Finley did not go to hospital but is alleged to have suffered an eye injury which needed medical treatment.

The claim, filed on behalf of Finley by her architect father Paul Burns, also names Somerset College and its Jay Deacon’s Tennis School as defendants.

“It’s bizarre … beyond belief,” Dr Wright-Smith told The Courier-Mail yesterday.

The claim says the tennis school failed to provide adequate supervision or protective eyewear and allowed Julia and Finley to stand too close together  and Julia to hit two balls at once.

Somerset College also breached its duty of care, the claim alleges.

Damages have not been specified but the Wright-Smiths are required to respond within 30 days.

“I couldn’t believe it when I opened this legal letter addressed to my 13-year-old daughter,”  Dr Wright-Smith said  yesterday

Police Handcuff a 6-Year Old Student

April 18, 2012

I wasn’t there so I should be careful not to be too critical, but I can’t help but wonder how calling the police on a 6-year old having a severe tantrum is the right way to go. I feel this drastic step is a very bad look for the school. It gives the message that all is not right at the place where parents trust that their child is safe and well cared for. When a 6-year old presents such a risk that police are required, it doesn’t say a great deal about the school’s capacity to deal with problem students, especially older ones.

Police in Georgia defended their decision Tuesday to handcuff and arrest a 6-year-old elementary student after the school called to report a juvenile had assaulted a principal and was damaging school property.

Milledgeville police said they were called to Creekside Elementary School on Friday for an unruly juvenile, who was allegedly throwing a tantrum.

According to their report, when the officer arrived, he observed kindergartner Salecia Johnson on the floor of the principal’s office screaming and crying.

The officer stated in the report that he noticed damage to school property and tried numerous times to calm the girl, who eventually “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me.”

“The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station,” said Chief Dray Swicord.

Despite the girl’s behavior, her family said police should not have been involved.

“I don’t think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department,” Johnson’s aunt, Candace Ruff, told CNN affiliate WMAZ.

The girl was released to Ruff after numerous attempts to reach her parents failed, the police report said.

Swicord said his department still has not heard from the girl’s mother or father.

But the parents have spoken to reporters.

“Call the police? Is that the first step?” Johnson’s mother, Constance Ruff, asked.

Johnson’s mother said she wondered if there was “any other kind of intervention” the school could have used to help her daughter.

“They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child,” said Salecia’s father, Earnest Johnson.

I also wonder why the school couldn’t have dealt with this in-house, or at least call a family member before resorting to getting the police involved.

Having said that, I feel that the parents should have declined interviews and resisted finger-pointing, and instead focussed on the behaviour of their child. That child needs to know that her behaviour was unacceptable and dangerous. By focussing on the school’s handling of the incident, the parents seem to be sending the message that this behaviour was somehow excusable.

I am also quite comfortable with the police’s handling of the situation. Once called, they have every right to use handcuff should they deem it necessary to subdue the child.

There are millions of loving parents out there with often a lack of choice when it comes to the schools their child can go to. They need to have the confidence that if an incident erupts the school has the wherewithal to deal with the problem in a calm and thorough manner.

By calling the police on a 6-year old, I wonder what message that sends to parents who have no choice but to trust that their child’s school is capable of looking after its students.

Good Heavens! It’s the Lunch Box Police!

February 17, 2012

Governments that poke their nose into people’s daily life are extremely annoying. It is a Governments job to provide people with the freedoms and resources required for living a comfortable life. The day they impose regulations that limit our basic freedoms, is the day they have gone too far.

Apparently, in some parts of the Western world, that day has well and truly arrived:

The elementary school in Raeford, North Carolina, decided the four-year-old’s lunch — which consisted of a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice — did not meet nutritional standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Why? Because it did not contain a vegetable.

The USDA guidelines say lunches, even those brought from home, must consist of one serving each of meat, milk, and grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables. Those guidelines — introduced last month as “historic improvements” by the federal government — spring from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! Campaign and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Dr. Janice Crouse, senior fellow for the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America, sees the incident at the North Carolina school as historic in another sense. She says it is just another way government intrudes on the rights of parents.
“It’s another way that the government says it knows best, another way to waste taxpayer dollars, quite frankly, and to really irritate parents,” Crouse tells OneNewsNow.
The mother of the young girl, in an interview with Carolina Journal, says what angered her the most was the message her daughter received. “…Number one, don’t tell my die I’m not packing her lunch box properly,” she stated. “I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats.” The child, she reported, does not like vegetables; so the mom packs fruit instead.

Why do Governments resort to strict regulations and negative tactics to enforce standards which can be met without limiting freedoms and isolating people?

The Only Ones Who Should Be Named and Shamed are the Policy Makers

January 22, 2012

Nick Gibb wants to remove incentives to schools that are protecting their league table ranking at the expense of extending bright students.

Secondary schools that fail to push bright children will be named and shamed in a bid to prevent comprehensives from manipulating the league table rankings, the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb said he wanted to remove the incentive for schools to play the system by focusing only on pupils whose grades will affect their league table ranking.

Gibb said the tables would include additional information to expose schools who fail to push bright students who were capable of performing even better if they had better teaching.

In the reformed league tables, which will be published for the first time next week, parents will be able to compare schools based on the amount of progress made by the top pupils between 11 and 16.

“The way school league tables have evolved over the past two decades can encourage a degree of ‘gaming’ by some weaker schools, desperate to keep above the standard that would trigger intervention by Ofsted or the Department for Education,” Gibb writes in Saturday’s Telelgraph.

“But the purpose of performance tables must be to incentivise schools to raise standards and to enable parents to make informed decisions when choosing a school.”

The reason why schools don’t invest more time into bright students is not because they don’t care. It is because the system was set up to force schools to protect their ranking. It’s these blasted rankings that taint education. Teaching and learning is not a game. It shouldn’t come by way of fear or shaming, but through sound methods and a positive approach,

Policy makers should be named and shamed for changing the landscape of education. No industry is under so much pressure, with so little real reward. Teaching under a cloud of negativity poorly impacts staff and students.

Perhaps there will be more attention to brighter students as a result of these measures. But in the end, nobody wins from negative tactics and a data driven school system.

Education New Years Resolutions 2012

January 3, 2012

Below are some New Years resolutions I suggest the Education sector should take on for 2012:

1. Schools Should Become More Involved With Cyber Bullying –  At present schools have been able to turn a blind-eye to cyberbullying.  As the offence occurs out of school hours, schools have been only too happy to handball the problem to the parents of the bully. Whilst I believe that parents are ultimately responsible for the actions of their children, I ask that schools do more to help deal with this ongoing problem.

The reason why I feel schools should involve themselves more actively with this issue is that most cyber bullying cases result from pre-existing schoolyard bullying.  Having started in the playground and classroom, the bullying then gets transferred online. Whilst the school isn’t liable for what goes on after school, the problem is often a result of what started during school hours.

To me, the best schools are the ones that work with the parents in a partnership for the wellbeing of their students.  For a school to excel it needs to show that it cares about its students beyond its working hours. That is why a teacher or staff member that is aware of cyberbullying must be able to do more than discuss the issue with the class.  They must be able to contact parents, impose sanctions and actively change the situation at hand.

2. Governments Should Stop Pretending and Start Doing – Every time the curriculum changes I think of the movie Groundhog Day. I’ve only been a teacher for a short time, yet already I have seen the curriculum change 3 times. First it was the CSF, then it became the CSF 2, followed soon after by VELS. And the curriculum is about to change yet again!

Why do they do it to us? Just when you get used to one curriculum, they change it from another.

In my view, the Government is bereft of ideas and would rather pretend to be do something than actually making the tough decisions. They know that education outcomes are underwhelming, that there isn’t much satisfaction in the quality of schools and performance indicators are not painting a rosy picture. Yet, they don’t have a clue what to do about it. They neither have the money, vision or gumption to make any real change, so they go for the obvious alternative – perceived change.

When asked to reflect on their achievements in Education, the Government will proudly point to overhauling the curriculum. In Australia’s case, they will triumphantly declare that by introducing a national curriculum, they have been able to do what previous administrations couldn’t.

But they will know the truth all along – you can’t change the fortunes of a countries academic performance by altering and renaming a curriculum. In fact, from my experience you can’t expect any change at all.

3. Schools Should Fight Problems Instead of Investing in Worthless Programs – Every week a new program is being established for schools throughout the world. If it’s not Sex-Ed it’s suicide prevention, bullying, cyber bullying, cyber safety, hygiene, traffic safety, Stranger Danger etc.  Whilst all these initiatives have good intentions and are worthy causes (with perhaps the exception of Stranger Danger), it causes a great strain on teachers already struggling with time constraints.  The more programs undertaken by schools the harder it is to cover the curriculum.

If schools have a bullying problem in particular, they ought to be doing a lot more than relying on their flimsy anti-bullying programs. Schools have got to ramp up their responses. Programs, procedures and policies is not enough. They will not work and never have. Appealing to kids to improve their communications wont work either.

4. It’s Time To Stop Blaming Teachers For Everything – Education is supposed to be a team effort.  All parts of the system are supposed to work with each other and for each other.  Yet, it always seems to be that the teachers get singled out for blame.  Poor testing results – blame the teachers, a bullying problem – blame the teachers, lack of classroom control – yep, let’s blame the teachers for that too.

The question has to be asked: At what point do we focus our attention on the administrators when handing out the blame? It seems to me that whilst there is always going to be poor teachers in the system, nowhere near enough focus is directed to policy makers as well as those in management positions and on school counsels.

5. Stop Banning Innocent Things and Let Kids Enjoy School – From banning hugging, ball sports and cartwheeling to making play equipment devoid of anything to climb or swing from, kids are becoming even more restricted at school. What measures like these do, is transform schools which are already unnatural places for children and make them even more dreary and dictatorial.

What’s next – banning students from complimenting each other?
It’s about time we started matching school bans on children by imposing bans on schools.  I would love to ban schools from implementing rules inspired by political correctness gone wrong!

Instead of Cutting Teachers, Cut the Bull!

December 7, 2011

Teacher bashing has become the new sport of the day and nobody is better at blaming teachers than elected officials.

The latest politician to lash out at teachers is New York City’s mayor. Michael Bloomberg. He believes that only half of New York’s teachers are effective:

“Education is very much, I’ve always thought, just like the real estate business: there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke. Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would — if I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”

If I was teaching an education course in university the quote above would be written on the board for all to see. This is what young teachers are up against. A tirade of simplistic, ill-informed, ill-considered and non sensical ideas that would, if enacted, ruin hard-working teachers’ lives without any benefit to the educational cause.

Teaching has nothing to do with real estate. Politics does. Politicians and real estate agents take it upon themselves to make the gloomy look positive and the impossible seem realistic. Teaching isn’t like that at all. Teachers know they can achieve a great deal, but are also aware that there are many factors that are involved with a child’s education.

Unlike mayor Bloomberg who thinks that education wholly rests with the teacher, teachers are aware that they are one of many stakeholders in the education system. Mr. Bloomberg should consider the following players:

1. Parents – Teachers can not achieve to their potential if parents are against them or uninvolved.

2. Administrators – If school Principals and councils are poor, then schools will be run poorly.

3. Teacher Training – If the teachers are a product of poor training, you can hardly blame them for their output.

4. School Culture – Teachers who inherit poor school cultures are bound to find it harder than otherwise.

5. School Funding – A school that is either underfunded or is a product of wasted or misallocation of funds is at a clear disadvantage.

Mayor Bloomberg’s idea of cutting jobs in half and doubling class sizes is a policy so simplistic that a ten year-old could have come up with better. His love affair with standardised tests is even more concerning.

Standardised tests cause more problems than they solve. Yet politicians love them. It’s the same reason they love to “bash” teachers – it takes the heat off them.

If Mr. Bloomberg wants to cut some thing I suggest he cut the tests.

I suggest he cut the wastage too.

I also suggest he cut the teacher bashing.

While his at it, I suggest he cut his policy advisor.

And most of all, I suggest he cut the bull!

Charity Wants Us to Teach About Gambling to Our Students

December 4, 2011

There’s no limit to good causes, but at some point teachers have to put these to a side and concentrate on their main responsibility – teaching Maths, English and Science.

It’s really frustrating to be told to put the ever-packed curriculum on the backburner to teach about road safety, internet safety, sex education, fire safety and for some, gambling ed. It’s not that these causes aren’t important. On the contrary, they are very important!

It’s just that it leaves us precious little time for doing what we are evaluated to do – teach the curriculum!

Schoolchildren as young as 12 should learn about “responsible betting” to tackle problem gambling, the Government has been told.

Pupils should be taught about risk and probability, and how to gamble responsibly, in the same way they are taught about the risks of drinking alcohol and taking drugs, according to a charity that supports gambling addicts.

I’ve got a novel idea. How about we ask the parents to teach some of these skills?


Bubble Wrapping Our Schools

November 13, 2011

Occupational Health and Safety have gone mad! They have decided to take control of school monkey bar wrung by monkey bar wrung. They have hatched a plan so conniving and out of control, that Principals have reached out for their white flags in despair (only to find out that white flags are a violation of OH&S, because someone might get poked in the eye by the stick).

Below are 5 nonsensical examples quoted in today’s paper of health and safety gone mad:

1. Teachers are expected to put on masks, surgical gloves and gown to apply Band-Aids to students!

2. Schools must have 5 different types of first-aid kits.  These kits must be regularly monitored.

3. Staff must undergo regular hearing tests and the results are recorded on their files.

4. Schools must identify all sources of ultra-violet light radiation.

5. Students are banned from bringing their own liquid paper or sunscreen to school.

And don’t get me started with these new boring playground designs, custom-made so that children wont even get a scratch. They are dull and absolutely unfair to children who instinctively want to climb and swing at recess. No one wants to see a child hurt themselves, but get over it – it happens!

If we provide an environment without risk, we are essentially providing an environment without reward. Schools will flourish when the best interests of kids, teachers and parents are paramount and the fear of lawsuits isn’t a stumbling block for a vibrant and fun-filled educational experience.

Do Suspensions Really Work?

October 7, 2011

I have been reading about the dramatic increases in suspensions as a response to schoolyard violence and unruly behaviour.  A few months ago I wrote about the 900 British students reportedly suspended per day.

Today I noticed that more than 100 students in Australia are being suspended on a daily basis:

VIOLENT schoolyard attacks have marred the start of Term 4 as figures show more than 100 suspensions were handed out every school day last year for physical misconduct.

One student was stabbed in the head and four others bashed with a baseball bat in separate schoolyard incidents this week.

A 14-year-old girl was hospitalised at Tara, west of Dalby, on Wednesday after she was stabbed in the head allegedly by another student, 14, with a steak knife during a lunchtime scuffle.

Tara Shire State College went into lockdown shortly after 1.30pm and police were called.

A 14-year-old girl has been charged and will be dealt with under the Youth Justices Act. She has also been suspended. The injured student required stitches.

The question has to be asked: Are suspensions working?

In my day the threat of a suspension was extremely effective in moderating our behaviour.  But with so many seemingly disregarding the inevitable consequences of violent or unruly behaviour, I am of the opinion that suspensions are not working.  It seems an opportune time to consider an alternate form of action.

What has been your experience with suspensions?  Do they work in your school?


Court Ruling Forces Teachers to Act Like Police Officers

October 6, 2011

Why is it that Government and now the courts think it’s appropriate to constantly change our role and responsibilities?  Why can’t we do the job we have been doing for centuries without having to take on new unfamiliar duties?

A 14-Year old was acquitted for holding up a service station and stabbing the attendant because the teacher he confided in reported it rather than caution him.  Apparently, the teacher had a duty to warn the student about his legal rights.  Because the teacher failed to have that discussion, the child got off.

TEACHERS could be forced to warn students as young as 10 about their legal rights before counselling them after a remarkable court decision.

A 14-year-old boy who confessed to his teacher that he robbed a service station and stabbed the attendant with a knife, has been acquitted after the District Court refused to allow the teacher’s statement into evidence because he had not “cautioned” the boy.

It could change the way teachers and students relate to each other, NSW Teachers Federation President Bob Lipscombe said yesterday.

“This is potentially very serious for teachers,” Mr Lipscombe said.

“Teachers are expected to provide advice, assistance and counselling to young people on a daily basis and during the course of that, many things are disclosed to teachers.

“Most are fairly insignificant but often there are matters disclosed that are quite significant and in such cases teachers have never been advised that they can only act on information if they have previously cautioned the student,” Mr Lipscombe said.

The federation was taking urgent legal advice, he said.

“No teacher in the course of their work would caution students in the way this case states,” he said.

“Clearly this teacher did think he was doing the right thing and acting responsibly.”

Last time I checked teachers were neither police officers or lawyers, so why should we be expected to act like them?  Surely this teacher acted responsibly, first for consulting his/her superior and then for reporting the matter.

What do they mean by giving a caution anyway?

“Next time, I recommend you not stab the person.  He may get hurt.”

Yet another ridiculous and insane development for Australian teachers.

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