Australian Education was once offered on the basis of three terms making up the school year. Then semesters replaced terms as the model under which education was offered. Four terms, each of ten weeks were organised into two semesters. All States and the ACT opted for a two week break between each term, with six weeks holiday at year’ end.

NT Different

The Northern Territory Government and Education Department settled on a different model.
* Six weeks over Christmas and the New Year
* One week between terms one and two
* Four weeks between semesters one and two
* One week between terms three and four
* Six weeks (Christmas/New Year) at the end of the school year.

The Northern Territory chose this model because of isolation and the need for a long mid-year break. That was many years ago and things have changed.

* The Territory is less transient and families are more settled than was the case.
* Dry season festivals encourage people to stay in the Territory.
* Travel costs and economic realities are making two long holidays a year less affordable.
* This is the season for relations visiting rather than Territorians exiting.
* Communications have come of age. Contact with distant family and friends is achievable through online connections

There is a case for shortening the mid semester holiday, adding a week to the break between terms 3 and 4. The final term of the year is both busy and exhausting. One week does not allow sufficient time for recovery. Both staff and students flatlined as they go into term four’s critical examination and assessment period.


The NT News regularly carries letters written by people lambasting teachers as minimalist contributors who are given far too much holiday release. While there is a small percentage of poor performing educators, the great majority of teachers put in many, many more hours each week than the 36.75 for which they are paid. It is not uncommon for teachers to work for 60 or more hours each week, making the profession the most significant in the Territory for unpaid overtime. In addition, many use a large percentage of holiday time, planning and preparing in readiness for the return of students. Not only is teaching an exhausting profession, but one in which teachers are rarely appreciated and regularly condemned.

Key Concerns

I suspect that community discontent over holidays is due in part to schools being considered by some as child-minding centres rather than educating institutions. This misplaced understanding is fuelled by governments who charge educational systems and schools with taking on responsibilities for bringing up children. These were once once vested in parents. With schools closed, the onus of responsibility for holiday weeks falls back on parents. Child care costs far more than school attendance and this can lead to resentment. There are of course many parents who welcome holidays as a chance for family refreshment and organise their yearly schedules around school term time. However, it is the perceived ‘negatives’ of school holidays that are most upheld in the public eye.

Without these necessary breaks, teachers and students would be forever flagging and never refreshed. Teaching would suffer with learning becoming a drudge. It is in the interests of teachers, support staff and students that school holidays stay in place.


The roles filled by parents and teachers in developing meaningful educational partnerships and programs are important and valued. The care, concern and empathy of their parents and teachers, supports and encourages students during their educational years.

However, partnerships underpinning successful schools go beyond the three-way linking of students, parents and teachers. There is a fourth dimension, that being the educational support offered by ancillary and support staff employed within schools. Without their involvement, services available to students would be drastically reduced.

Administrative Support

Administrative support staff include the school’s registrar (these days designated the ‘Finance Manager’) and front office staff. Frontline staff members set the tone and atmosphere parents and visitors feel when entering the school. That welcoming quality is crucial because first impressions are lasting, for those who come calling. Of equal importance is the impression gained when phone calls to the school are answered. Students come to the office for a myriad of reasons, including sickness, and need to feel comfortable with that contact.

Office administrators are the public relations front-runners for their schools. They are also responsible for maintaining the bulk of student records, including everything from admission to assessment records. Contact with parents and caregivers on behalf of the school is part of their brief. Daily and weekly returns that have to be lodged with the Education Department, school newsletters, web site updates and maintenance are included in their responsibilities. They carry out a myriad of tasks, most being programmed but others of a more immediate nature.

Perhaps the most significant administrative support role, is that filled by each school’s Finance Administrator. Money management and budget responsibilities are becoming more complex by the year, with several million dollars annually going through the books of many schools. Careful management of financial delegation is crucial to both school solvency and success.

Classroom Assistants

Classroom assistants include preschool aides, transition aides and Student Engagement Support Assistants (SESO’s) who support younger children and those with special needs. Students adjusting to school and those confronted by learning challenges gain from added support and attention. Aboriginal and Islander Educational Workers (AIEW’s) encourage indigenous students and fill a role in linking home with school. Assistants can and do bolster students and help teachers in understanding the capacities and needs of individual children. Within many schools, teachers and support staff form valuable, collaborative teams. A significant number of classroom assistants undertake further study, including teacher training, outside their work commitments. They make excellent teachers, largely because of the background they gain through working in schools.


School function without support staff would grind to a halt. Administrative staff carry significant delegations and without their efforts school leadership teams would find coping quite unbearable. Without classroom assistants, teachers responsible for upwards of 25 children, would be less effective in meeting the broad spectrum of student needs.

The motivation of most ancillary staff is unquestionable. They are there because they want what is best for their school, its students and teachers. An examination of salary scales confirms that occupation is about far more than money. Most bring maturity, understanding and deep dedication to the jobs they do. They add value to our schools and are indispensable team members.



Hardly a day passes without us becoming aware of a major educational change or new initiative. Change impacts on systems, schools, teachers and students. Some change is necessary, with implementation of new ideas definitely adding value to educational practice. However, many initiatives are more about change for change’s sake, while other ‘new’ ideas have been tried, applied and discarded in times past.

Recycling change

The most obvious recycled change in NT Education is that of our departmental title. When responsibility for system administration was passed from the Commonwealth to the Territory Government in 1978, we were known as the Department of Education. Since then the department has had numerous name changes. We have been the Department of Education and Training (DET), Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) and the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) to name a few titles. In 2014 we returned to 1978, again being the Department of Education (DoE).

The costs associated with departmental re-branding are astronomical. The system has spent hundred of thousands of dollars in returning its name to exactly what it was 36 years ago.

Our department has changed its structure and re-vamped its organisational chart, time and time again since 1978. Some of the shifts include the following:

* Education has gone from centralised to decentralised models of operation. Regional models have changed on at least three occasions.
* Curriculum services have been expanded, reduced and expanded again on a regular basis.
* Teaching and learning priorities are being constantly reviewed and changed, with alterations making it extremely difficult for teachers to focus on any one approach in key subject areas for any length of time.
* Student services which supports children with special needs has been similarly destabilised.
* The system and its schools has moved from linear classrooms to the open plan model, returning to single classrooms and back again in a dizzying manner.
* Technology is in a constant state of change. Hardware systems and associated software are never the same for long.
* There is quite constant locational movement within our Department. Divisions are regularly moved from one location to another.

The question needing to be answered is whether constant change is necessary or takes place to satisfy the whims of people moving into new positions as departmental heads or school leaders.

Cost Implications

Change is very costly. The department and its schools need to carefully consider budgets and priorities before committing to change related expenditure.

* Changes in curriculum emphasis means an outlay of many thousands of dollars to purchase the latest materials. New approaches often vary little from what has been superseded, but existing resources are generally dumped rather than being modified.
* Technology upgrades come with an astronomical price tag.
* Changes to school architecture consume tens of thousands of dollars.
* Relocation and office shifting within the department ensures almost permanent engagement for some removalists.

Change needs to be carefully considered. Importantly, incoming leaders and those promoted to senior positions should study the history of what has happened in the past. They are likely to find their new ideas and changing priorities have already been tried and discarded. The education of children is best served by a steady, predictable system rather than one becoming destabilised through constant change.



The present dispute existing between the Northern Territory Government and the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU(NT)) has reached a point of stalemate. Since negotiations for a new EBA commenced in September 2013 there has been an ongoing tussle between Government and the Union. On the one hand, the AEU(NT) insists that Government reinstate teachers removed from senior secondary schools at the beginning of 2014. It was contended that teacher loss would remove some program options available to students and unfairly load other staff who would have to pick up the shortfall. The Government has insisted the disputation is really about salary increases and condemns the union for not accepting pay rises on behalf of all teachers.

I believe union thrust is primarily about the staffing quotient, not simply the salary issue. Thirty five (35) teachers were removed from senior secondary schools. Over the years, there have been many changes to staffing formulae, including both decreases and increases of teacher to pupil ratios. This change generated more than the usual outcry.

Staffing reductions for the 2014 school year impacted on the senior secondary sector. Primary school staff have always been more accommodating of staff loss than their secondary colleagues, who zealously guard the boundaries of their conditions. Non-acceptance of the EBA on the grounds of its staffing impact has resulted.

Confusion reigns

This scenario has been playing out in the Territory for nearly twelve months and doesn’t look like being resolved any time soon. Both the union and government have run extensive print media advertisements espousing their viewpoints on the issue. There have been radio bulletins and television interviews. These have added to community confusion because people do not know what to think about the matter.

This is particularly the case for many new arrivals who have been in the NT for less than twelve months. What they have walked into is an ugly issue portraying public education in a bad light. For them and indeed for many long term Territory residents, the alternative of private education with its greater stability becomes the preferred enrolment option for their children. There has been an upturn in private school numbers, due in part to the non-resolution of the EBA issue. Perceptions of instability in government schools caused by this dispute, is harming public

Union issues

EBA negotiations were distracted by the Blain by-election, where the matter became embedded in statements and positions on education made by candidates. Indeed the AEU(NT) President Matthew Cranich took leave to stand as an independent candidate. The union executive, responsible for EBA campaign then put this industrial issue on the back-burner while it sorted out internal matters. With the arrival of a new president still to take up his position, the dispute will again be re-visited.


Semester two will commence with EBA issues again front and centre for the union. Undoubtedly, negotiations with the Public Service Commissioner will recommence. Teachers are still working and being paid under an agreement which expired in August 2013. There are many hoping resolution will come sooner rather than later, enabling government and union to work together as one, rather than pulling public opinion and public education in opposite directions.


VIGNETTES SERIES TWO – Vignettes 8 – 10


Nothing beats good old fashioned quizzes as engaging time fillers. Quizzes also have relevance to general knowledge and understanding. They can be related to subjects being studied, to skills development and to general knowledge – to name but a few options. One of the best topics has to do ‘the world around’ in terms of constructs within the local environment. Topics that come to mind within this genre include:

1. School Source

* Features in and around the school and its grounds.

* Identification of teachers who are teaching in particular units or rooms; call it ‘location, location’.

* Roles filled by people within the school. “Who is our principal? Who is our Janitor? Who is our canteen manageress?” and similar questions.

* For older students, chronological recall of who has been in the school and their capacities in times past.

* Historical events embracing the school including anniversaries. (It may be that a quiz of this nature is given ‘on notice’ allowing students a day or a few days to visit the historical archive of the school in the library/resource centre to study material from which questions may be drawn.

* Quiz material is embedded within literature and can be part of the study relating to science, SOCE, mathematics, music and other school subjects.

2. Community Context

* ‘ What’s where’ and similar questions relating to the local shopping centre or a nearby major shopping complex.

* Questions about road names, parks, sporting facilities, churches, natural or man-made landmarks, street names, bus routes and so on that apply to the location or suburb.

3. Territory Context

In similar vein, questions about the Territory or State in terms of landmarks, topographical features, tourist destinations, notary public people, parliamentary make-up, mining, agricultural pursuits, industries, parliamentary details and do on can be source material for quizzes. There can be a link to local and extended excursions with students being made aware of the fact that quizzing will be part of the follow-up program.

4. Australian Context

Included might be questions about federal parliament, names of State and Territory capitals, features of major cities (i.e. Sydney’s ‘coat hanger’ and opera house), methods of travel to reach these places, attractions within cities, states and territories, weather and climate, celebrations (i.e. Australia Day, Anzac Day),sporting events (i.e. Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, football codes, Territory players in Australian sporting teams), topographical features, naturally occurring phenomena (i.e. droughts, floods, bush-fires,weather disturbances), and so on. The list of source material is endless.

5. Process

The important thing is to construct quizzes according to the age, background and comprehension of students. However, quizzes which start within the confidence zone of known and understood issues can extend to enable children to explore, through quizzing, areas of new knowledge and understanding.

It seems that there is a surprising lack of general knowledge these days. Many adults let alone children have no grasp of what might be termed ‘general knowledge. Quizzing is one way of helping to develop this base of understanding.

When conducting quizzes between groups, watch that the exercise does not become a ‘free-for-all’ with children, having no consideration for others, calling out answers in loud, drowning tones. It has to be ‘hands up’ or a variation of that methodology. With arms, avoid the distraction that goes with frantically waving extensions. Still, rather than wildly gesturing arms should be acknowledged. Set the protocol ground rules before commencing the exercise.

6. Quiz examples

I will include a couple of examples of quiz construction in this vignette. However, quiz questions can be pulled straight from one’s head. Groups within the class can play in competition with each other. The context may be a ‘girls versus boys’ approach or any other arrangement that comes to mind. If as sometimes happens, a teacher has to take temporary responsibility for another class, it may be that the quiz is between the two classes, or a number of children selected as representatives from each class.

7. Variations

There are lots of variations to traditional oral quizzes that can be stimulating, engaging and exciting. I may write of these in the future.

Happy quizzing



There is so much required of teachers, school leaders and schools that it can be hard at times to lift our heads above the parapet and smell the roses. There never ever seems to be enough time in the day, week, term or semester to complete all that needs doing. Young or old, new or experienced, teachers tend to be tired and exhausted. Added to that is the frustration of seemingly never ever completing all the tasks that need to be undertaken. The more one does, the more there seems left to do.

This can settle an air of despondency upon schools, taking from the positive atmosphere that should embrace our centres of teaching and learning. It manifests in there being less smiling between people, with lightness of spirit being absent. It can also happen that anxiety and academic focus reduces the quality of empathetic care which should be part of the school.

There are challenges about teaching but the work we do is not only essential; it should also be rewarding. Part of that joy comes from celebrating the accomplishments of students within individual classes and throughout the whole school.

Individual Student and Class Level Celebrations

* Offering recognitions for subject accomplishment by individuals, groups and the whole class. This might include notes on work, project sheets and so on. Stickers from both teacher and Principal reinforce pride children feel in tasks that are well done.

* Recognising efforts of children in extra-curricular activities (i.e. sport).

* Celebrating birthdays.

* Culmination of units of study by having a rounding activity (i.e. presentation) to which parents of children are invited.

* Reflecting positively within class the success of assembly items presented to the whole school.

* Celebrating the success of class ventures, for instance the growing of vegetables, the planting of a special tree, success in earning the school conduct or behaviour or class cleanliness award presented weekly or periodically by the unit leader or school principal.

* Placing stories of individual accomplishment or class success in the school newsletter onto the class link to the school’s website.

* Arranging through the school’s leadership team for media coverage of a quality presentation, practical project outcome, excursion success or similar.

* Arranging visits by parents to class to share the learning of children with them.

* Notes of congratulation about individual student success and accomplishment to parents. This is outside the formal reporting process.

* A personalising touch is to ask the school principal to consider writing notes of congratulation to students or classes who have cause to celebrate successful outcomes

Nothing succeeds like success. To recognise and reward student effort helps cement within children a keen desire to keep doing their very best. Tp appreciate and praise genuine effort and quality outcome is an invaluable intrinsic motivating strategy.

Celebrations at School Level

There is much that can be done to celebrate success at the whole school level. Success is a quality that can help bind the school community with a sense of togetherness which is both precious and scarce. Preoccupation with obligatory tasks and bending in response to system demands can mean that success and celebrations are overlooked. There is just no time to stop and rejoice together in accomplishments; but there should be!

Some suggestions for commemorating special outcomes and events follow.

* Consider having plaques created to mark areas of significance around the school yard that recognise people who have contributed. If the school has a caretaker, a plaque that personalises their abode is an example. Should someone create or donate a lovely garden area, an appreciative plaque naming the garden in their honour might be considered. If someone has been connected with the school for a long time, an honorary plaque or similar might mark their contribution.

* Honour boards to commemorate academic accomplishment, citizenship, musical prowess, house success into perpetuity in competitions and similar, are wonderful markers of school history. Students, growing into adults, will come back years later to revisit their successes marked on honour boards. Organisations and past school associates are often happy to sponsor the cost of boards and their annual engraving.

* Whole of school photographs taken annually and placed on walls for all to see, are wonderfully recall school history and participation of students. Present students like to visit the area where photos are mounted to see themselves as they pass up the grades and through the years. Secondary school students enjoy revisiting their primary school, to ‘remember’ themselves as they were. Years on, adults share a similar joy in viewing their past and remember the times of their childhood. Photos are great mementos.

Similarly, photos of staff and student representative councillors over the years bring with them positive reflections of past remembrances. These mementos live on for years, enabling schools to revisit their history. If schools ‘build on traditions’ this is a way of showing those who have involved with the school over time to the present day.

* Hold regular whole school assemblies which allow classes to share items with other classes, parents and invited persons.

* Over the years, school students as individuals and teams representing the school win trophies which are held by the school. Some schools choose to put trophies in boxes or cabinets to gather dust. Others have display cabinets which let visitors know about success in sport, arts and cultural events and in other activities. To have cups, shields and other artefacts on display sets an example to current students. It also sends a positive message to parents who come to enrol students.

* Celebrate school anniversaries. Holding school community events to celebrate schools turning 10, 15, 21, 30, 40 or 50 years of age makes an indelible imprint on present and past students. Anniversaries bring the school and community ‘together as one’.

* The completion and opening of new facilities is a great reason to celebrate the school. Upgrading the event to event filled gala day status can add to the specialness of the occasion. Media might be invited to attend and a print supplement in the local newspaper is possible. The striking of commemorative plaques to be permanently displayed adds an enduring touch.

* Media plays an important part in displaying schools. Using media to sell good news stories emanating from its students, classes and the organisation as a whole
affords a sense of pride in attainments. To share outcomes through media, print, TV or radio was something that I found stood schools and community in good stead.

Advising media of upcoming events, therefore using it promotionally is a good way of getting the message out. That goes a long way toward ensuring success through attendance.

* An extension of media, is to organise for the inclusion of supplements celebrating school anniversaries in local newspapers. These days supplements do not come cheaply, but can be underwritten by sponsors who carry congratulatory advertisements within the insert.

* Holding special assemblies for the presentation of key awards is a great school celebrating strategy. University of New South Wales certificate earners in Maths, Language, Computer Studies, Science and other subjects can be presented to those earning credits, distinction and high distinction awards in front of the whole school. It is a great idea to invite parents and relations of students to share in this celebration. A media story is possible.

* Holding an end of year awards presentation day or evening is a great way of culminating the school year. This can go down and include all primary school children from Transition upwards. Awards might recognise academic outcomes, effort and citizenship at each class level. Then the idea of primary awards for star students and stand-out seniors might be a part of the priogram. Having presenters of awards include key community members can add to the flavour of the evening.

Some schools ask that people or businesses within the community sponsor awards which they are invited to present during the awards program. The event is a great way of celebrating the year that is drawing to a close. It also builds anticipation toward a return to school after the long holiday break.

* A school yearbook, in print, on DVD format or available in both formats, offers an indelible memory of the year that has been. Yearbooks are great mementos. Again, costs can be defrayed through the offer of sponsorship opportunities to local families, businesses and notary public persons.

* Publicly recognising staff for contributions offered, awards received and so on is a way of offering intrinsic appreciation for enterprise and copmmitment. Quality staff members add great blessing to their schools. To show appreciation is a reciprocal action.

* Inviting key departmental personnel, notary publics and others to visit helps make the school known beyond its boundary fences. Having senior students accompany visitors around the school adds to the occasion for visitors value the chance to appreciate schools through the eyes and interpretation of students. This helps reinforce the fact that ‘schools are for students’.


The suggestions contained in this vignette are suggestions. There are many bother ways of celebrating and I have included only a selection. It is important that celebration is part of the school psyche. That is a way of building spirit and developing positive school atmosphere.


One of the sticking points about life and relationships both personal and professional, is to insist that ‘your’ viewpoint is the right viewpoint. To offer and incorrect statement or recommend an action that proves to be wrong is reluctantly followed by an apology.

Within school contexts, this can have atmosphere destroying and suspicion arousing outcomes.

For teachers, it can be all too easy to make mistakes. It may be the incorrect spelling of a word, the misunderstanding of roles played by children in some dispute, or getting it wrong when it comes to a particular fact being correct or incorrect. In these instances and others, to apologise to students for a mistake or misunderstanding is important. It models a correct social attitude to children and also earns respect from children. The following examples illustrate my point.

1. Incorrect Instructions

On occasions, incorrect instructions might be given to students who are asked to complete an assignment or other piece of work. When the mistake is realised, or when it is pointed out by students or parents, an apology and correction earns respect. To discount the error is quite the reverse. If students complete work tasks based on instructional error, acceptance of the assignment rather than requiring resubmission is the better course of action.

2. Forgetting an event

The lives of teachers, classes and schools is both crowded and busy. In that context, upcoming events which require preparation, parental permission, the wearing of special clothing (i.e. swimming, costumes for an item being presented) or the need extra food because the class is going on an excursion can be forgotten. Sometimes it is too late to correct the matter so children miss out on the event or the excursion. Apologise for your mistake; don’t try to brush it over.

3. Failing to keep appointments

Appointments are made to be kept. Perchance you are not able to keep an appointment, for instance with a parent or student, make contact and apologise. Set up an alternative date and time.

4. Misjudgement

If misjudging a matter, apologise for the mistake. It can be easy to misjudge a situation involving student discipline, work completion and so on. If this happens and the mistake is yours. say so and apologise.

Teachers are models. This includes in behaviour and attitude. If something you do is wrong, say so, apologise and move on. That will be good modelling and leading by example. Apologising as necessary is part of role modelling.

Henry Gray



Literacy is often considered to have four components, listening, speaking, reading and writing. Listening is the first element addressed, with that starting the day children are born and developing as a skill for the rest their lives. Speaking follows, with children learning to speak on the basis of what they hear and how they interpret the conversations of parents, siblings, peers and other adults.

The elements of reading first come to the attention of children through stories read and literature shared with them by parents and older brothers and sisters. The influence of teachers, fellow students and school comes later, with early awareness firstly coming from home.

Writing is the last of these skills to be explored and again it starts at home. Children first taste the elements of writing through using chalk, crayons, felt pens and coloured pencils on varying surfaces. These might be drawing boards, concreted areas, card and paper. From their initial scribblings grows an awareness of what later becomes printing and writing.

The pathway to developing literacy skills transitions from home. Included are the influences of child-care centres, pre-school and finally school. Exposure to early literacy opportunities at home determines the readiness of children to commence those stages of learning which are part of formal school education. Children do best when learning starts at home, moving with the child to include what takes place at school.

Curriculum demands

Curriculum requirements are constantly changing. This places pressure on school leaders and teachers to comply with new requirements. Constant changes to what is taught does not help create steady, predictable learning environments. To educate students as demanded by everyone from curriculum specialists to government ministers would require a school day far longer than the five hours and twenty minutes of daily instructional time.

Neglected needs

Because of pressures placed on schools there are important literacy areas that can all too frequently be overlooked. Handwriting often gets minimal attention. This happens because the curriculum is so crowded. It might also be due to oversight, or can come about because handwriting is being replaced by keyboarding.

Linda Silverman commented on this situation. “Keyboarding is an essential life skill in this new millennium whereas handwriting is not. … If the major issue is (handwriting) … the solution is as simple as providing a child with a keyboard. (‘Poor handwriting: A major case of Underachievement’, online source).

I disagree. Handwriting is an ingredient of learning and development as essential now as it was decades ago. Sadly, it has been relegated. There are far too many students whose writing is illegible. Workbooks are tatty and dogeared, with entries hardly decipherable. This is poor testament to the development of handwriting skills.

Spelling and associated word study are literacy basics. For many years they were de-emphasised and regarded as impediments getting in the way of creativity. Fortunately that has changed. Spelling and grammar have been reinstated to the level of being included in NAPLAN testing. However, the many years of lowered expectation reduced literacy outcomes and deprived many of key language competencies. While spelling and grammar checks can be computer generated, nothing is better than being able to edit text without the need to depend on technology.

Handwriting competence spelling confidence and grammatical appreciation should be part of everyone’s knowledge base.


There is a desperate need for counsellors to be appointed as staff members in ALL our schools. Mental health and well-being issues demand that our system look at this as a number one priority. There are counsellors in some of our high schools but their role is more in the area of career guidance and vocational support. Secondary schools also have school nurses to whom students can talk about matters. However, for the most part they are more focussed on physical well-being and social issues rather than mental health needs. No counsellors are appointed as primary school staff members.

With scrutiny of school staffing numbers under constant review, it is hardly likely that the issue is going to be addressed any time soon.
However ignoring the matter, is overlooking deep seated issues of student need.

Student Services

The Student Services Section of our Education Department provides support for schools. Students with special learning needs are assisted by visits from Student Services staff. They help students with speech, hearing and sight issues. Staff also test students needing assessment to determine if they qualify for in school support.

While guidance officers (GO’s) were a part of the Student Services team, pressures of work and heavy case loads, along with working conditions lead to many resigning or going into private practice.

Needs Not Met

The issue is one that has been ongoing for a long time. In 2003, a group of principals from around the NT met with our then Education Minister Syd Stirling and told him that the need for counselling support was the number one issue confronting Northern Territory schools. The department was then allowed to advertise for Well Being Teachers (WBT’s) with counselling qualifications to be appointed. They would provide student counselling services in our primary schools. Not all Darwin and Palmerston Schools would benefit. Rather one or two WBT’s would support each region and work with schools on a rotational or ‘as needs’ basis.

Counselling needs for some schools were partially met while other schools missed out altogether. It soon became apparent that a well being teacher with responsibility for up to 12 schools would simply tinker at the edges of student needs. There was no time for in-depth counselling

The well being teacher concept quickly faded. Some advertised positions never filled. Other positions were vacated as incumbents applied for and won other advertised jobs and were never replaced. Within the relatively short time frame of two or three years, this initiative was consigned to history.

Why Primary Schools?

Issues confronting children appear from a very early age. Yet it is considered that counselling is not really necessary until students reach their secondary years. This opinion is just so wrong. Issues confronting younger children can be deep seated and problematic. To leave them untreated will impact on students’ behaviours and attitudes as they grow older. Problems and concerns confronting them impact on their lives, becoming an ingrained part of behaviour and attitude. One in five young people are stressed and depressed and that percentage is growing all the time. It is far better that issues are addressed and nipped in the bud before they become insurmountable. That will not happen unless and until counsellors are appointed as staff members in our schools.