Smart Choices Tuckshop and Canteen Makeover Program

Education Queensland Announcement

Funding of $1,000 each is available to assist up to 250 state and non-state schools to increase their capacity to supply healthy, nutritious foods and drinks through their school tuckshops or canteens.

Read more and apply here

Kevin Donnelly and Jane Caro debate Gonski

Kevin Donnelly and Jane Caro debate the virtues of the Gonski Review at The Sydney Institute

Listen to the Podcast here

External beats internal

The Queensland government is currently holding an inquiry into assessment methods related to senior mathematics, chemistry and physics. It’s about time – primarily, because the assessment model used in Queensland is substandard, flawed and lacking in credibility.

In its promotional video detailing school-based assessment and moderation the Queensland Studies Authority boasts that its system is “unique”. When it comes to Year 12 that is certainly true as every other system across Australia, except for the ACT, relies primarily on externally set and examined examinations in the final year of schooling.

The reasons why the other states, and the most successful overseas education systems as measured by international tests, prefer externally set examinations under supervised conditions is a simple one – the alternative involving school based moderation doesn’t work.

The first problem in allowing senior school students to complete assessment tasks over time and outside the classroom, often with the help of parents or paid tutors, is that it leads to cheating.

While teachers might spend hours and hours trying to verify students’ work to ensure it’s genuine, the reality is that it is often impossible to tell who’s responsible. That’s aside from the fact that how do you draw the line between constructive outside help and somebody taking over and completing the student’s work for them.

Associated with cheating is the time consuming nature of school-based assessment as instead of a 2 or 3 hour examination to prepare for students spend weeks and weeks drafting and completing projects and work requirements that leave little time for additional learning.

The second problem with moderation, a situation where groups of teachers across the state meet to try and ensure consistency of marking, is that it is impossible to guarantee that the grade or mark given to the work of one student is comparable to another.

Notwithstanding the claims by the Queensland Study Authority it is impossible to guarantee that a grade or mark given to a student’s work in Cairns, Mt Isa or Brisbane is equivalent to a student living elsewhere in the state.

Compare that situation to externally set examinations where a group of markers meet together in one place over a set time with an agreed criteria for marking and regular feedback, involving statistical checks, to ensure consistency of marking.

Unlike the situation in Queensland, an added benefit of externally set and marked examinations is that all students are on a level playing field as they sit the same test under the same conditions and it is impossible to cheat as the test is supervised.

Compare that to the situation with school-based assessment and moderation where a wealthy, privileged student from a comfortable home has far more help and resources to draw on than a disadvantaged student from a poor background.

The fact that school-based moderation is costly, ineffective and educationally unsound explains why Victoria, after experimenting with such an approach during the early 90s, abandoned it in favour of the more traditional end of year, externally set and marked formal examinations.

It’s also the case that research by the European academic Ludger Woessman and the US based John Bishop demonstrates that what they term externally set, exit examinations are one of the characteristics of stronger performing, more successful education systems.

In addition to being credible, reliable and more equitable than school-based assessment and moderation, external set and marked examinations provide a powerful incentive for schools and students to try and outdo one another.

The competitive nature of such exams, and the fact that they are often seen as prestigious and reputable, mean that they are taken seriously as a school’s reputation can rise or fall on the results achieved.

No wonder Margaret Thatcher when Prime Minister referred to the English A-Levels as the ‘gold standard’ in assessment. Such examinations, in addition to being externally set and marked, have the additional benefit of being academically rigorous and a sound preparation for university education.

Kevin Donnelly taught English for 18 years and is director of Education Standards Institute.

Dr Kevin Donnelly
Education Standards Institute
Phone: +61 3 9016 3427
Fax: +61 3 9830 2190
Mobile: +61 (0) 413 311 271

University cuts take gloss off school package

An interesting article from Michelle Grattan quoting Essential Media Survey about voting intentions surrounding Gonski Review. The question was asked

Q. The Gonski report on funding education has recommended a new model for school funding that would mean all students are entitled to a set level of funding regardless of where they go to school, disadvantaged schools receive more funding and taxpayer funding for private schools is adjusted down based on parents’ capacity to pay.

Do you support or oppose these recommendations?

Read the responses here

Are parents groups captive to the AEU Gonski Campaign?

Do Australia’s parents really want smaller classes and more funding for teachers without greater improvement in teacher quality and a better curriculum?

Australia’ peak parent body for the State School sector and its state counterparts seem to have hitched their wagon to the AEU I Give a Gonski Campaign completely.  Is this what Australia’s parents are asking for? Have we had a debate on this subject?

Teachers unions have for too long held governments to ransom for wage increases with small if barely noticeable improvements in outcomes for our children. Don’t get me wrong, great teachers are undervalued and need better pay and conditions, training and assistance but they have failed to embrace their employers, the parents of Australia, not the government or the union.

The teachers union always want better pay and conditions. The greatest noise regarding the Gonski campaign is around reducing class sizes and increasing teacher pay. Statistics produced today by Henry Ergas in his opinion piece in today’s Australia bear interesting reading.

According to Henry Ergas ” The long-term increase in teacher numbers is telling: school students account for exactly the same proportion of the population today as they did in 1951, but the share of teachers in the population has doubled. Telling too are the cost increases, with teacher wages per student in government schools rising, in real terms, by 33 per cent in the past decade alone.”

Australia’s whole education system needs an overhaul and a focus to definitive outcomes that aren’t just measured in Naplan tests or OP numbers. Our education system needs a complete stakeholder shakeup.

All stakeholders have a share in the blame to be apportioned to the failure in the last 20 years of our education system. All stakeholders must review their own positions and responsibilities, governments, education departments,  teachers, parents and children.

Great Teaching, Inspired Learning – a blueprint for action

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli announced one of the most comprehensive set of reforms to improve teaching quality ever undertaken in Australia.

Media release – Great Teaching, Inspired Learning – a blueprint for action

Read all about it here 

Federal Coalition welcomes NSW teacher plan


Federal Coalition welcomes NSW teacher plan

The Coalition welcomes the release of the O’Farrell Government’s discussion paper entitled Great Teaching, Inspired Learning which is designed to support and lift student outcomes in New South Wales schools.

“At the heart of the education debate is the quality and performance of teachers, it shouldn’t just be about funding and school halls,” said the Shadow Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne.

“The Federal Coalition believes that reforming the areas outlined by the NSW Government today, such as enhanced opportunities for professional learning and feedback is critical to lift Australia’s performance in education,” Mr Pyne said.

“The NSW Government is sending a clear message to those only focused on school funding that it is possible to enact reforms now that will significantly impact on student outcomes.

“Quality teaching, a robust curriculum and principal autonomy are central to the Federal Coalition’s plans for education.

The NSW Coalition strategy is based on solid research and the Federal Coalition will consider the details of the discussion paper carefully.

“We particularly support the emphasis on increasing the practical experience and mentoring of teachers at entry level,” Mr Pyne said.

“NSW is proposing that for the first time all new teachers will have access to trained mentor support when they start full-time teaching and school-based professional learning will count towards future accreditation.

“The Coalition also welcomes plans to improve existing accreditation processes for teachers in NSW,” Mr Pyne said.

March 6, 2013

Media contact:

Adam Howard


Are more under Fives now going to school?

In a report in today’s Australian it reports an increase in the number of children being enrolled in schools as families struggle with the rising cost of childcare.

Is this a problem for your family? Do you have access to affordable childcare or family support?

Read the Australian article here

Is more funding the answer for our schools?

The recent article by Ben Jensen from the Grattan Institute raises a number for real issues that will have more of an impact on the quality of our education system that just handing more money out.

Ben raises 6 key issues

School Principal Training
Teacher Mentoring
Teacher Research Groups
Teacher Appraisal and Feedback
Specialist literacy and numeracy teachers in every primary school

You can read Ben’s full article here

Interestingly in the Weekend Australian, the Federal Education Minister backed these comments and added,

” Bonnyrigg Public School in Sydney’s southwest which received more than $740,000 in targeted funding under the national partnership for low SES schools.

The school employed a literacy and numeracy coach, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and provided professional training and development for staff.

They bought new resources and were able to develop personal learning plans for students. The results are tangible (and exciting for the students), with the number of students achieving above the minimum standards in National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy testing increasing significantly. The proportion of Year 5 students achieving above the national minimum standard increased in reading and numeracy by 22 per cent and 43 per cent respectively. Year 3 students also saw an improvement of 12 per cent in the number of students achieving national minimum standards in reading.”
The debate in Australia is more than just about funding. It’s about the mix .

Better qualified teachers who are better resourced and can therefore better engage the students
Parents who take more responsibility for parenting and engage with the schools and their children
Politicians who need to stop blaming someone else for their states education results and set a standard that says they want their state to be the best.

Wrong fix for failing schools” Ben Jensen article The Australian

Minister Garrett’s Response

Future of Online Higher Education Working Group

Tony Abbott has established a Coalition Future of Online Higher Education Working Group which will examine how Australia can capture the benefits of the digital revolution including significantly increasing our education exports into Asia through online services.

Read More – Future of Online Higher Education Working Group