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.