This column was published in the NT Sun on December 18 2018. It was publish3ed under the title ‘Students feeling the pressure’.


Thursday December 12 marked the end of the 2018 school year for those in urban schools. Remote schools closing their doors the following day.

Schools acknowledged students who have done well during the year. Presentation assemblies have been held, giving peers, staff, parents and community a chance to recognise and celebrate student success. Recognising students with certificates together with monetary or book awards has been part of many celebrations.

These ceremonies as endpoints to the academic year, leave students feeling satisfied and fulfilled. They can also encourage those, who with greater effort, could also have been recognised and rewarded.

There is no better way of ending a long school year than by celebrating the efforts and successes of students. We are often quick to point out what children and students should do to improve performance or attitude. We need to be equally as forthcoming in offering recognition and praise.

Pressures are increasingly on schools to perform. Everything seems to focus on data driven outcomes. Teachers and students are pointed in the direction of achieving more and more in terms of key academic results. Increasing amounts of content have to be shoe-horned into every school day. So much is demanded, that students of all ages often go home thoroughly fatigued by the end of each school day.

Both primary and secondary students need the respite offered by the six weeks of Christmas and New Year holidays.

The school day is only part of teacher commitment to education. Planning, preparation, marking, assessments, recording and report writing are obligations that take place beyond the classroom. To this must be added an increasing plethora of meetings covering everything from school action plans to personal performance management. Downtime at Christmas is sorely needed by all classroom teachers.

While the school year is out for students, the same opportunity to relax is not being afforded to many school principals and leadership teams. A great deal of what the system requires of them, is worked on and completed during school holiday periods.

Chief among these items will be the preparation of school annual reports, due to be completed by 31 March next year. These documents are intricate and detailed, requiring specific data that reflects upon the 2018 school year. They cover student progress, staff development, community relations and capital works completed or anticipated. Minutely detailed financial accountability is included.

All the very best to students, teachers and school support staff for a great holiday break.

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