A decade or more ago, when Information technology was all the rage in our schools, when nothing else mattered, I was moved to write the following. It seems to me that nothing has altered. We remain beholden to I.T.


To you alter ego,
We sacrifice our educational souls.

Of the modern era,
To you all things are beholden.
Now master,
Bowing low in supplication,
We are putty in your hands.

With seven heads,
Your resource appetite is enormous,
Knowing no bounds.
Barely satisfied,
By the dollars,
The tens of thousands of dollars,
Poured into your thirsty gap.

Venus Flytrap,
Your scent entices,
Your jaws snap shut,
You suck our vitality,
Eschew our energy,
Spitting our dry, skeletal remains.
Quickly forgotten,
We blow away on the winds of change,
While you seek,
Your next victim.

Praying Mantis,
Upon us you prey,
Our heads serrated by your pincers,
You feast upon our brains,
Injecting numbing belief,
That YOU,
Are ALL that counts.

Prince of Modern Darkness,
You command attention,
We look upon you,
Falling like blind souls,
At your technological feet.
Stunned by your intensity,
We let all things,
Other than YOU,
Slip from peripheral vision,
All considerations BUT I.T.,
Into never-ending darkness.

You are a drug,
Seared into our psyche.
You are an aphrodisiac,
A demigod,
Exciting our desire,
Driving us to worship at your altar,
NOTHING else matters.

Pied Piper,
You have lead your rats to the brink.
Stand smilingly aside,
Witness from your screens,
As we sink,
Further and further,
Into a hopeless abyss,
Of eternal servitude,
From which,
We will NEVER emerge.



I wanted to share. Hope that is okay.


Feeding one’s kids
It seems like a sin
You go out and buy
Food for the bin.

Chips, yes please!
And chicken too
On a plate the brow pluckers
Tears tumble, boo hoo.

Plates pushed away
Is it a sin
To transfer good food
From the shop to the bin?

“Sit there and eat it”!!
Kinds whinge and whine
But refuse like mules
For eons of time.

Minutes drag by
Like hours it seems
Food stays untouched
What happens are screams.

“Take it away”
Steadfast to the last
They refuse like real martyrs
To break their long fast.

The fast lasts as long
As the food on the plate
But once in the bin
Young voices grate ..

“We’re hungry, we’re starving
Feed us real quick
Our tummies are empty
With hunger we’re sick”!

What do you do?
(This you’ll regret)
Give lollies and sweet things
Then peace you will get –

It’s only a breather
Until the next meal
Then it starts all over
The next squawk and squeal.


I need help

Can someone from WordPress administration please contact me by email at henry.gray@bigpond.com so I can outline a problem. I  am seemingly powerless to overcome the password resetting problem without more direct help.


While written and published with the Northern Territory (Australia) in mind, the content and tenor of this paper has traqctrion eveerywhere. Frankly it is embarrassing that Education Departments and professsional associations are keen to water down the consequences of attacks on school principals and staff members.

Issues of this nature should never be downplayed.



Teaching is becoming an unsafe profession. Increasing incidents of violence being perpetrated against those working in classrooms and schools. There have always been issues of severe misbehaviour, including violence against teachers. However the incidence of such behaviour is on the increase. The matter is one that needs to be brought into the open and fleshed out.

While some instances of physical abuse by students against teachers get media airplay, this may be the tip of the iceberg. Violence against teachers may not be an everyday occurrence but the threat of it happening can undermine teacher confidence.
Too often unacceptable incidents seem to be played down. There are also attempts by behaviourists to rationalise what is unacceptable behaviour as normal. Some years ago, students swearing at or back-chatting teachers was frowned upon. There were consequences. It now seems that the verballing of teachers is often accepted as normal behaviour.

Teachers taking stress leave is becoming commonplace. A major factor contributing are mental stresses placed upon teachers by non-compliant and aggressive students.

There were 22 more physical assaults on teachers in the Darwin/Palmerston area in 2014 than in 2013. Physical assaults against teachers increased in the Arnhem, Barkley and Katherine regions. (Aust. Education Union NT source) The ABC reported that 37 student assaults on teachers in 2012, had risen to 253 assaults in 2013. During the same period (2012/13) assaults by students on each other rose from 10 (2012) to 3000 in 2013.

The 2013 numbers took a huge jump because reporting requirements for incidents changed. Until then, occurrences were not always reported.

On your own

There has been a feeling that assaults, if reported, will not result in any follow up. Teachers can feel isolated after being on the receiving end of student abuse. There have also been allegations that abuse has not been reported by school leaders to the Education Department.

From time to time the Department and the Teachers Union have considered behaviour management. However, rather than having a bilateral agreement, follow up is largely left to individual schools.

The assault mentality and its magnitude are a blight upon our system and schools. Downplaying issues seems to be based on the perception that public revelation is bad PR for schools, principals and staff. I believe the responsibility for assault should be lifted from schools and owned at departmental level. Rather than a softly softly or minimalist approach, the matter should be managed assertively. This should include expulsion and prosecution. The days of excusing and offering soft response options, should be consigned to history.


Some schools embrace support offered by retailers, while others figurativelty shudder with abhorrence.  Is there a right or wrong position to take on this issue? In the end it is generally left to each school to consider the matter.


There are pros and cons about programs such as Woolworths ‘Earn and Learn’ initiatives. Some believe these activities to be an unfair trading ploy. Others see this as no real issue, preferring to subscribe to the benefits of the program.

Schools are increasingly in need of resourcing. Funding only goes so far. It often seems more materials are needed than school budgets can afford. This adds to the appeal of programs like Woolworths ‘Earn and Learn’.

Not New

These school support programs were introduced in the late 1980’s. Coles ‘swap dockets for computers’ was one of the first. In an agreement between the retailer and Apple Computers, students were encouraged to collect shopper dockets. At the end of the promotion, these were exchanged for Apple 2E computers, printers and other hardware.

This annual promotion lasted for several years. In order to collect dockets, students did everything from foraging in rubbish bins to organising weekend car washes. Cars were cleaned in exchange for dockets.

In the years since, both Coles and Woolworths have offered sponsorship to Australia’s schools through rewarding shoppers. Coles most recent support was in the area of physical education equipment. While Coles sponsorship seems to have been discontinued, Woolworths are maintaining their ‘Earn and Learn’ program. There has been a significant change this year, with $10 of expenditure being necessary to earn each point.

Redeeming products

Redeeming points for goods throws up some revealing cost interpretations.
* An Aussie Rules senior size football costs 732 points or $7,320 worth of shopping.
* A small Aussie Rules child’s football requires 218 points, $2180 worth of shopping.
* Plastic stack chairs range in cost from 732 points ($7,320) for a 26 cm chair up to 1832 points ($18,320) for a full size chair.
* A round table and four chairs, ideal for classroom group work will set the school back 5865 points, making the cluster worth $58,650.
* One iPad shockproof case comes at 1612 points, $16,120. A set of ten cases requires 12,098 points, $120,980 of shopping at Woolworths.
* A bag of 12 tennis balls costs 548 points, or $5480 in shopping terms. That equates to 45 stickers ($456) for each ball.

Resources that can be redeemed cover the spectrum of educational needs from text books and art materials to sports equipment, but the price is high. At $5 per sticker the redemption price was steep. At $10 for each one point sticker school community expenditure will need to be astronomical if schools are to gain significant benefit. However with schools experiencing ever tightening budget controls, every bit of support helps.


New idea after new idea, curriculum initative after curriculum initiative descend on schools with increasing frequency. Schools and staff hardly have time to consider and digest one new idea before the next one arrives. School is a place becoming increasingly frenetic and often decidedly unsettled. That is not what education should be about.

Published in the ‘Suns’ newspapers in September 2015. This subject was relevant ten years ago and will have that same relevance (if nort more so) than ten years from now.


Education so often seems to involve roundabouts and swings. As a profession it attracts more commentary and contribution than any other occupation.

Quality education is founded on the application of research. That research is often quite extensively tested before being released and recommended as part of future practice. However, the volume of ideas being passed down from governments, to systems and then onto schools can be quite overwhelming. Often very little time is given for the acceptance and embedding of initiatives before they are changed again. This means that school programs are in a constant state of flux.

National Curriculum

While many overseas systems have national curricular applying to all schools within the jurisdiction, that is not fully the case in Australia. While “National Curricular” is the flavour of current discussion, adaptation is staggered. This means that implementation is largely dependent on the resources of States and Territories. Authorities also have the right to determine if, how and when National Curriculum guidelines will be introduced. There is no uniformity or overall plan about the way this is being done.

Another anomaly is the belief that new ideas have never been previously tried. National Curriculum is an example of this thinking. During the 1980’s an attempt was made to introduce a curriculum with uniform application across Australia. States and Territories cooperated during planning stages. At the end of many months, involving time, travel and endless meetings, a national plan was created. Implementation however, was a failure. States and Territories were not prepared to surrender their own identified curricular to a national agenda. Tens of thousands of curriculum and subject documents were permanently shelved then destroyed.

Thirty years later in a new era, nationalisation is again in favour. Timing may be better but until all systems are using the national curriculum in step with each other, the initiative is still in a developmental stage.


A real danger about the floods of new ideas being dumped onto our educational systems and schools, is that school leaders and teachers are grappling with new directions and constant change. This can be unsettling for students. Change needs to be carefully orchestrated. Shifts in emphasis are often based on sudden urges to move educational focus in new directions. That is very destabilising for schools and students. New directions are necessary, but change should be managed within a structured context. To be ad hoc in introducing change creates suspicion and builds resentment.



Many say that for a child to repeat a grade is anathema. As a long time practitioner I believe that repeating has its place. But children need to be included in any conversation about repeating.



Repeating a grade may be an issue for some parents, children and teachers. The subject generally comes up during term four. Should students who are really struggling, repeat a grade or move on to the next year level. This can be an issue for parents and teachers of younger and sometimes older children.

The general consensus is that under no circumstances should children repeat. However the subject is one not about which generalisations should be made. Rather, the matter should be considered in relation to the needs of individual students.

Empirical evidence generally suggests that repeating a year will act against the self esteem and well being of children who do not go up a grade with their peers. Shame and self consciousness may become overwhelming feelings. Children may also be subjected to teasing by other students. However there are two sides to the issue.

Repeating can be a better option than prematurely promoting children. While aligned with peers, they will always be on Struggle Street, attaining results at the lower end of the outcomes spectrum. There is a danger children will accept mediocrity as the norm, rather than aiming higher.

Always include children in any conversation about repeating. They are well able to understand the pros and cons of issues. If repeating a grade is being considered, the child has to feel comfortable about this option. This requires negotiation that takes into account the child’s feelings on the subject.

Not all academic

The need to consider repeating a year may be for other than academic reasons. It could be advisable because of the child’s extended absence through illness or long periods spent on holiday overseas. It may be considered because a child lacks sufficient maturity to deal with curriculum requirements at a particular level. Repeating is not uncommon. A Martin (University of Sydney in ‘The Conversation’ November 21, 2011) revealed that between 8% and 10% of children repeat a grade during their schooling years.

Same or new school

Some children may find it easier to repeat in a new school. However, leaving friends and a going elsewhere has its downsides. To the child, transferring may seem like running away. This may not be good for character development.

Repeating a year should never be considered lightly. Children should be fully involved in discussion and understanding, because it is their future that is being considered. Unless this happens, repeating may do more harm than good.




With so much going on within schools, it is easy to discount the need for special events and activities. Teaching and learning strategies, together with data collection and analysis, are constant and almost totally preoccupying. The need for academic pursuits to be a key activity is unquestioned. It often seems that schools are so wired to testing, measurement and assessment that there is little time for anything else.

Schools become so busy responding to systemically imposed requirements and the academic imperative, that the fun part of education can be overlooked. Schools should be happy places. There is a danger that the overloaded curriculum will impose a ‘nose to the grindstone’ mentality on teachers and students alike. This is not helped by principals and school leaders feeling the need to everlastingly oversight the school academic tasks at hand.

Including special days and celebratory opportunities into school calendars is important. These activities help to build school spirit. They draw students, staff and community members together. There are many special events from which to choose. They might include the following.

* School discos. One held toward the end of each term is a way to socially celebrate school and students.
* An annual or biennial school fete brings people together and offers special fundraising opportunities.
* Celebrating anniversaries is a way of remembering school history and looking forward to the future.
* Organising events to celebrate the opening of new school facilities.
* Organising open classrooms and celebrating learning themes is positively focussing for parents and the community.
* Highlighting book week including a costume parade of students dressed in the costumes of book characters.
* Special days celebrating science, maths and the cultures of children who are members of the student community.
* Highlighting student accomplishment during school assemblies. This might include class items, celebrating success in competitions and acknowledging sporting results.
* Taking part in the Tournament of Minds, ‘Lock up Your Boss’, Principal for a Day and so on.

This is not an exhaustible list. Many more activities could be included.

A question of balance

Not for a minute would I downplay the academic priority of education. However, there is need for fun, enjoyment, camaraderie and days of relaxation to be mixed with more formal teaching and learning pursuits. These are the things upon which happy and memorable school days are based. They should not be forgotten.



It can be too easy to recognise teachers as key educational personnel, without appreciating school support staff. Those in support and ancillary positions help schools to tick.

This paper was published as a column in the ‘Suns’ Newspapers in October 2015. 


When considering schools and educational issues, thinking generally embraces students, their parents, teachers and school leaders. There is a tendency to overlook the roles and positions filled by administrative and support staff. Key support staff occupy Department of Education positions. These are allocated to schools on an enrolment and pupil-teacher ratio basis. Included are the Finance Administrator and Administrative Officers (AO’s).

AO’s used to spend some time as teaching assistants in classrooms. However, educational complexity and school accountability have required them to increasingly focus on office management and administrative duties. They are no longer ‘teacher aides’ but occupiers of significant ‘whole of school’ support roles. The tasks they undertake on behalf of classroom teachers may be limited to photocopying, construction of material aides and completion of other peripheral tasks. School self management and independence has dictated this change in support staff roles.

Classroom support

Classroom support that teachers need is largely provided by Special Education School Assistants (SESA’s). SESA positions are funded on the basis of identified student needs through Student Support Services. Additionally, schools are allocated aide positions to support Preschool and Transition students.

Recent changes to school budget responsibilities combined staffing allocation and operational grants into a single one-line allocation to be managed as needed by each school. It includes both base funding and finding for student needs.

This budget strategy has been hailed as a step toward schools being increasingly accountable and responsible for outcomes. This may be the case. However in order to fund material needs, there is a possibility that staffing numbers will be pruned. The challenge confronting Principals with their School Councils or School Boards is to maintain school needs as a whole without compromising in the area of staff support.

Professional Development

Historically, school administrative and support staff could be employed without having any formal qualifications. A statement regarding employment prospects for Education Aides in the NT reads as follows. “You can work as an education aide without formal qualifications, but employers usually require Year 10. You will probably get some informal training on the job. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications.”

Wise Principals and their Councils invest in training for school support staff. Professional development needs to be commensurate with the positions they occupy and should include every staff member.

School management practices and educational outcomes are enhanced if staff are well versed and up to date with workplace requirements. For the sake of school efficiency and educational outcomes, support staff along with teachers, need to be included within this educational loop.


Be Positive when Assessing

When evaluating or assessing students, be personable. Offer commendations along with recommendations. Be encouraging and avoid put downs. Offer advice on major needs in private to avoid embarrassment.


The Ideas Mill: Accept Substance and Disgard Dross

Our profession – education – has more people clamouring to contribute their ideas about trends, directions and priorities than any other. Welcome substantive thought but avoid dross and razzmatazz.

Mission Statement

My Mission Statement is ‘to fulful and be fulfilled in organisational mode, family, work, recreation; to acquit my responsibilities with integrity; to work with a smile in my heart.’ What’s your’s?
Some things should be everlasting in intention and changed only to meet significantly altered situations. Mine, created after a meaningful leadership inservice in 1983, remains with me to this day. My statement is for substance and not for show. Sure, I share it but I try to live it. ‘Fashion’ in education has not been part of my practice. I have my mission statement on the reverse of my business card and it attached as a footnote to my emails. If my mission statement can influence or focus others, then that is a good thing. (I too, am influenced by those with whom I speak and about whom I read.) I commmend mission statements for the focus they offer.


Keep Things in Perspective 

Beware! As an educator, the more you do the more there seems to be left to do. Keep things in perspective. Always recognise your accomplishments along with ongoing and remaining challenges.
                               The ‘stage’ that classrooms  mirror

Classrooms are like stages, teachers like unto both actors and directors. How well they set teaching and learning scenarios is important. Taking their students along with them confirms their success.
                                    The calling should never sour

My hope is that no educators will ever walk away from their calling, their contribution, their giving, their work, their care for others with a bitter and cynical taste, so glad their career  is done.

Caught between Priorities

School leaders are often caught between a rock and hard place, challenged by the need to meld departmental expectaion with teacher needs.
                                            Value Atmosphere

There is nothing more fleeting nor more precious than organisational atmosphere. Tone and harmony are precious and easily lost school ingredients.
                                             Make a Difference

An aim for all educators, regardless of their position, should be a desire to inspire others. Onus is placed upon us to be people who put stock in the character development of children and students.


Don’t Downplay on the Basis of Language or Ethnicity

When developing special programs for those with specific language and ethnic needs, we must be careful not to diminish, downplay or minimise learning capacities.


An ultimate reward is when students from years past, having reached adulthood, thank you for the contribution you made in years past to their educational nurture and development.

Building Blocks of Learning

There are elements of learning that are ‘nose to the grindstone’ basics. Tables, word study, rules, formulae, spelling and handwriting are examples. Learning rudiments are important.

LOTE  Learning needs Careful Predication

We need to consider Languages other than English (LOTE) as part of our school programs. They need to be recognised, resourced and staffed. They should include cultural aspects of understanding because langauge on its own is poorly referenced in situational terms.