This was published in the NT Sun on September 11 2018.


The issue of homework has been front and centre of the educational debate for decades. The topic continues to be a key point of discussion. It plays a part in education at all levels. There seems to be a lot of confusion about homework, but that should not be the case.

The NT Department of Education homework policy, written in 2008 and reviewed every two years, was last updated by endorsement in November 2017. The policy is one and a half pages long. It precisely, yet simply outlines departmental expectation.

The following statement is offered.

“Schools must develop and implement a school homework policy. School homework policies should be developed in consultation with the school council. School homework policies must be regularly communicated with staff, parents/carers and students.”

It is a requirement that homework policies “ … should be readily available to the school community … students and parents/carers should be advised of class specific homework expectations at the beginning of the school year.”

The overall homework policy, once agreed, becomes part of the management responsibility vested in school principals. Teachers are responsible for setting and checking homework.

The policy offers clear points to clarify homework issues.
. It should be appropriate to student and stage of schooling.
. It should help students to be independent learners.
. It should link home and school in educational partnership.
. It should be relevant.
. It should support the curriculum.

Homework should never introduce new, untaught work. It should be about practice to help children become more independent in their understanding of what has been taught at school.

Children like being able to show pride in spelling accuracy, in knowing their tables, in developing a piece of prose, in offering neat and tidy work.
These are all skills that form part of the teaching challenge. What teachers teach children at school, can be shared with parents through practice at home. It’s not for parents to complete. Rather, it offers them a chance to be aware of and encourage their children’s learning. Homework should be a part of the school – home partnership.

For that reason, maths tables, spelling words, and reading are frequently extended beyond school for extra attention and awareness at home.

Homework should always be checked and evaluated by teachers. That will confirm its value to students and parents. If this is not done, it will lead students to thinking it is pointless.

The NT Education Department policy is clear and unambiguous. If followed, there will be no confusion about homework in the NT.


This was published in the NT Sun on September 4 2018.



Poor dental attitudes are leading to significant medical problems in the NT. Last week, RDH senior health practitioner and oral surgeon Dr Mahiban Thomas stated that neglect of oral health was leading to deep seated emergency surgical needs. (ABC Radio News 22/8/2018)j

Dr Thomas’ statement could be taken to infer that little in the way of dental education and support is available for Territorians, especially children and young people. This is not the case.

One of the outstanding services providing for the well-being of children in our schools is that of dental health care. Those who are under 18 and still at school receive free dental health services in the NT. (Source: NT Government Website, ‘Dental Services’, updated August 18, 2018)

Dental care is provided as part of the student support program in urban schools. Facilities are set up to provide for regular dental checks. Children can visit any school based dental clinic from birth until they have completed year six. From year seven onward, they can attend community dental clinics and receive cost free treatment.

Parents of students attending schools without a dental clinic, can make appointments for their children at schools with these facilities. There are three school dental clinics in Alice Springs and one in Tennant Creek. Humpty Doo Primary School has a clinic. Palmerston is served by school clinics at Bakewell, Driver and Moulden Primary Schools.

There are eight school dental clinics in Darwin. They are located at Anula, Karama, Manunda Terrace, Nightcliffe, Parap, Stuart Park, Wagaman and Wanguri Primary Schools.

Community Dental Clinics are permanently located in Alice Springs, Katherine, Gove, Humpty Doo, Palmerston and Darwin. Tennant Creek is supported by a visiting service.

The needs of children in remote communities are not neglected. Visiting and mobile dental services are offered at 69 communities throughout the NT. Dental checks, education and basic corrective work is provided through all these programs.

Dental care for children is a primary responsibility of parents. All parents should be responsible for the dental care of their children.
School dental services provide excellent education for children, because they are taught about the necessity for care and maintenance of their teeth. These services are supportive of children and their parents.

Doctor Thomas’ revelation is disturbing news. It implies that the quality care offered for children in our schools is not accepted by parents. It also suggests that the care offered for children is disregarded by those growing into adulthood. The service offered by schools and dental clinics needs to be fully utilised.


NAPLAN keeps hundreds of educators in permanent jobs. Since its inception, NAPLAN has become an institution costing at least a billion dollars, maybe more.

Since being introduced in 2008, it has become a monster.

NAPLAN dominates the educational thinking in schools, their controlling systems, State, Territory and Australian Education Ministries.

It has spawned countless highly level salaried positions in curriculum departments and ACARA.

NAPLAN underpins the focus of many school staff meetings. It always influences the agendas of school principals gatherings. It occupies the system hierarchy whenever state and territory administrators and leaders meet to consider key issues. It exercises the minds of education ministers whenever they gather to consider Australia wide educational matters.

Without NAPLAN, meetings would be shorter and called far less frequently than is the case.

NAPLAN predicates the thinking of classroom teachers. “Your score is my score”, the words of Tim Chappell when singing about the subject, are ingrained into the thinking of those responsible for preparing children for these annual excursions into the study of comparative data.

NAPLAN is about more than three days of testing each May for students sitting the tests. ‘Pretesting’ programs commence in many schools weeks and even months before the tests are administered. Students practice and practice and in all honesty get to be bored stupid by all the pretesting attention that goes on. When students are asked about the tests, they confirm this to be the case.

NAPLAN is an industry. It engages thousands of people in primarily focussing their attention on its accumulation of data. Teaching and strategies are driven by the data imperative that has its base in NAPLAN.

This program in its many parts is like unto the seven headed hydra of Australian Education.

NAPLAN has come with a huge cost and through the years of its operation, has given little back.