EDUCATIONAL THOUGHTS

Behavioural issues in schools are very real. In many schools, teachers spend as much time on matters of discipline and student control as they do on teaching. Poor behaviour of the few, deprive many students of learning opportunities. It is one of the reasons parents enrol their children in private schools.

More education money needs to be spent on teaching and learning needs and less on building and infrastructure. Facilities are being oversupplied while educational programs are being stretched. Expenditure balance is needed.

All the very best to our NT students and teachers for the upcoming school holiday. Your learning responsibility and teaching efforts earn the appreciation of parents and community. Have a great break; you deserve it.

SUPPORT ORGANISATIONS PLEASE REPRESENT YOUR PRINCIPALS AND TEACHERS

LET’S IGNORE THE PUBLIC DEBATE – A FACTOR OF BEMUSEMENT

Over the years I have on many occasions been told by principals and other educators that they do not read the paper or follow the popular news. They consider media, particularly it seems print media, to be biased against them and interested only in reporting negatives and downsides. That being the case, their predisposition is to shy away from reading or understanding what is being said and written about education.

Regardless of personal preference, it is to the detriment of school leaders and teachers if they do not know how education is being reported in the media. Without knowledge and awareness, repudiation and the expression of counterviewpoints is impossible.

I’m giving a shout out for the Aust Education Union (NT) but not the other representative associations.

Along with principals and teachers, it is important that their representative professional associations are in the business of knowing what is being written and said about members. Through their executives, they need to speak up in a representative context, participating in conversations and debates about issues. To shy away from this responsibility and cocoon against what is being raised in the public domain, is anathema.

Be bold, be representative and speak up!

Enjoy the school holidays

Today marks the beginning of the three week school holiday period separating Semester‘s one and two in the Northern Territory.

Significant periods of school holidays will be starting the children and teachers in schools elsewhere around Australia, either this weekend or next.

As a retired teacher I want to wish everyone all the very best for a happy, relaxed period of time away from the school.

These days, teachers particularly on students as well her off and on the receiving end of criticism. This can be for perceived lack of application and effort. It adds to the fact that we become a profession that takes on board criticism and also self reflects, where the reflections and thoughts are often negative.

It is important that educators take time to consider things that they have done well, outcomes of benefit students, the system and of course themselves! Self-congratulation is important.

Of course taking account of things that could be done differently and better is a part and parcel of self evaluation. However overlooking those things that have been done well means that reflection is one-sided. It needs to be balanced.

My suggestion is to periodically about and maybe note down those things that have been done well in order to balance the perceptual ledger. There is much more to education and our contributions than negatives.

I also suggest that educators think about the contributions of peers and associates, where their contributions have been a personal benefit or assistance to others. Touching base by text or card, phone call or message “thank you” in appreciation during downtime could well boost them as well as satisfying you for having recognised their contribution.

STUDENT PHONES IN SCHOOLS – EASY FIXED

I acknowledge Colin Wicking’s cartoon on the subject. He is the pre-eminent cartoonist with the NT News.

And the issue IS easily fixed. It is only an issue because policy pertaining to mobile phones in schools has either not been developed or if in place, often not enforced.

So ‘pushing the envelope’ because of ‘accomodation’ has been the outcome.

YOU NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN

As a long-term Northern Territory resident and a contributor to education pre-retirement for 36 years (and post retirement in various capacities for eight years since) I am often asked for an opinion or comment on various issues. These matters have had to do with general territory living, with education and with matters relating to more rural and remote areas of the territory (where we worked for quite a number of years before coming to Darwin).

One of the things I find bemusing is that while people are quite willing to ask for input, if that input is provided, there is rarely if any feedback on outcomes nor the benefit of that advice may have offered.

That’s not a case of asking over and over for thanks. It is however a case of being appreciated and people knowing that you’re interested in the outcomes of the conversations or meetings, where advice given has been a part of the discussion.

Is this a case of being appreciated or simply used?

In 2017 and 2018 there was wide ranging discussion on School Based Policing and the need for it to be returned as a program in Northern Territory schools. This is a subject in which I’ve been deeply interested for many years both from the viewpoint of being a practitioner and a student who wrote on the subject during a Masters university course.

Following quite intense conversations between the government, the Northern Territory Police, the Council of Government Schools Organisation and others the program has been reinstated and guidelines developed for its re-introduction.

I did receive verbal thanks from COGSO.

What crystallised my thoughts on this topic was receiving an email copy of the reinstated guidelines from Thomas Moorhead who is advisor to the Leader of the Opposition Gary Higgins, in the Northern Territory Parliament. I really appreciated sent these guidelines and reflected upon just how rare it is to receive follow up and feedback from those to whom assistance has been provided.

Responses of this nature are, unfortunately, all too rare these days. For the provider of input the process has a beginning (request for support) middle (assumption of the negotiations that follow) but no ending.

This is unfortunately a modern day trend that should be recognised and put to rights. However, I doubt that there will be any change.

YOU NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN … UNTIL THEY WANT ANOTHER FAVOUR!

PROGRAM RESURRECTION IS A REAL PLUS

This column was published in the NT Suns Newspapers on June 25 2019 under the title ‘Program plan a smart move’.

This was my final column for the Sun as it will no longer be printed. It has departed from the Northern Territory News stable.

I will continue to publish on my blog.


The NT Government’s reinstatement of the school based policing program is one of its smartest decisions. This is proof positive that governments are sometimes prepared to accept that not all decisions made, generate the best outcomes.

The School Based Policing program, introduced in the 1980’s, was a ‘top drawer’ initiative. Attached to high schools, each School Based Constable (SBC) had a number of feeder primary schools he or she attended. Constables would visit their schools to conduct Drug and Alcohol Education classes with children. They extended their role to include ‘stranger danger’ awareness and issues such as bullying.

The axing of the school based policing program from Territory schools was one of the worst decisions ever made. Judith Aisthorpe was absolutely right in reporting that when introduced to NT Schools in the 1980’s, “the program was heralded a success and adopted worldwide … the program in its original state was beneficial as it stopped crime and anti-social behaviour before it happened”. (Back to school for cops, NT News, 28/5/2018).

The dismantling of the School Based Policing program with the substitution of police station based ‘Youth Engagement Officers’, was tokenistic. As was forecast to happen, school programs lapsed, along with the contribution SBC’s made to the sharing of children’s learning and the development of positive attitudes. The absence of School Based Constables left a big hole in school support programs.

Fast forward twelve months, and Ms Aisthorpe has been able to write about the program in a far happier context. “The (reinstated) school based police program has been largely hailed as a success … schools, police officers and students (want) to see the program continue …” (School police praised but role ‘needs clarity’ NT News 15 June 2019).

Dripstone Middle School Principal Robyn Thorpe encapsulated positives of the program. “Being on site means (constables) can build positive relationships with students … staff and … community … that puts police in a positive frame rather than police being called in for negative reasons.” (Op cit). Senior Constable Dan Bull upheld the program for helping “… students deal with issues and problem solve hurdles they may have in the future.” (Op cit).

There is a need to train police to work with students. However, that may simply require the police training unit to dust off and reinstate the carefully designed training programs that were in place before the program was discontinued. There is no need to reinvent but simply revisit what was a part of the training regime. It is to be hoped the program regrows to include all NT schools.

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POSTSCRIPT

Thank you to those many people who have read my column and offered me feedback during the past six years. Sharing contemporary educational issues with you has been my pleasure. You are always welcome to access my blog ‘Education a life force’ at henrygrayblog.wordpress.com

HONORARY DOCTORATES SHOULD BE OFF THE AGENDA

Ash Barty is a credit to tennis and a shining example to all young (and not so young) people.

She deserves all the accolades she is earning. BUT

What I don’t like is that universities all over Australia will now be pushing each other out of the way to award her honorary doctorates.Honorary academics qualifications should never be awarded to those who haven’t earned them.

Adam Goodes is an example. He has justifiable earned recognition including Australian of the Year. He also has 3 honorary doctorates. For non academic prowess. WRONG.

As are the honorary doctorates that have been given to many other sportspeople, both indigenous and non-indigenous. The list of honorary doctorate holders ion the sporting domain is mind-boggling. Check it on Google.

Honorary doctorates trivialise tertiary education. Handing them out willy-nilly to sportspeople, politicans, retired defence personnel and others who may have made an occupational mark, discounts those who work hard and study for years to earn PhD’s and other academic doctorates. To add to the slight on genuine doctorate earners, graduation ceremonies offer accolades to honorary awardees while genuine doctorates earners are left to sit and hear from those being so honoured.

Wrong?

WRONG!