GONSKI or no Gonski, the following should be necessary and scripted learning directions.

[* They need to start early in school life.]

* The teaching of LISTENING skills.

* The development eye contact.

* The development of manners, deportment, politeness, respect.

* The focus on looking after goods and personal possessions.

* Focus on speaking skills and the correct enunciation of words.

* Teaching times tables by rote.

* Teaching children the rudiments of handwriting including legibility.

* “How to hold a writing tool skilfully and comfortably”.

* Focus on respect for others and for self.

* Teaching and practising rthe importance of silence.

* Focus on correct word usage, not banalities and profanities.

I could go on.

The guts and the essence of character development, Gonski or no Gonski should happen and be prescriptive.

That may be hard when a lot of newer teachers who have not had the benefit of this teaching as students, find what I have written to be totally foreign.

Gonski or no Gonski, education is ever progressing south into theunderside of mediocrity.


The midsemester holiday break has just started in the Northern Territory. It coincides in an approximate sense with the second semester break period happening in other schools around Australia. I really do hope that everybody connected with education has the opportunity for a good rest, relaxing time, reflecting time, and it and a time that allows people to refresh and to ready for term for. The next term is the business end of the year, the culmination toward which each term is directed . It’s like the fourth quarter of Australian rules football game.

We hear a lot about student indifference and educational challenges. The truth of the matter is that the majority of our students work hard and do their very best at all times. They are supported by teachers and school staff members who go to great lengths to ensure the provision of a quality education.

Step back and relax for time away from what sometimes referred to as the “cold face” is important.

As a retired school principal I’d like to wish everybody the very very best for downtime and then the same in bounteous measure for the final term of the 2019 school year.


A story on radio 104.9 on September 25 covered interaction happening between Gateways Shopping Centre and some of the schools in Palmerston. That brought back memories of those school/shopping centre interactions that used to occur in Darwin but have been discontinued.

There was a time back in the 1980s and well into 1990s when Casuarina Shopping Square had a similar arrangement with nearby schools and a lot of genuine community sharing went on. Hibiscus shopping centre also had a similar program.

As a participating school principal in both ventures I was very sad when these interactions were discontinued by more “modern day management“

Our projects included engagement with the cinemas, static work displays, and interaction by choirs and school bands.

This created an “win – win“ situation. It gave a great deal of free advertising to shopping centres and brought lots of parents and members of the community into those centres to view displays and to watch children performing.

I remain unsure to this day why it was for these programs and this level of engagement was allowed to lapse. “Modern day management” again – and that is not always the best management platform!

I’m glad Gateways has a sense of community and wonder how long that will last.

So glad School Based policing is back


Great news for the Northern Territory! It’s now 12 months since School Based Police were re-introduced to Northern Territory Schools. That reintroduction would never have taken place, had it not been for pressures exerted by some educators and by the Council of Government Schools Organisation (COGSO).

This program, initially introduced in the 1980s, was quite outstandingly successful up to that point in time when it was dropped. That was a very poor decision, one made against the grain of expressed Northern Territory opinion.

There were various reasons the program was discontinued or at least allowed to run down. I won’t go into those at the moment, other than to restate the decision to have been one of sad consequence.

Reinstating the program means that it has had to start all over and rebuild the confidence schools in the community had in school-based police before the program is dropped. There was some tentative nice about reintroduction but sense and sensibility prevailed.

Twelve months on from its reintroduction there has been an evaluation done on the program. It has been given the thumbs up, the green light and hopefully will stay in place and expand further with the passing of time.

I most sincerely hope it’s never canned again.


Chief Minister, the person developing your Linked In account where comments under the leader’s banner are shared with readers, often waxes lyrical about our progress and accomplishments.

In reality, it is often hard to see those ‘best outcomes’ for the Territory. One of your government’s biggest needs is to learn lessons from history, studying issues that have gone before and considering outcomes that have lead us to the present situations we confront.

As as long term Territorian who arrived in 1975, I have raised thoughts with the Chief Minister’s Department. Warm reception to some of my thoughts then became lukewarm before achieving cold water status. I was told it would not be possible to make an appointment to see you – ever – because you have a “punishing diary”.

Allow me to share some thoughts, which you probably will not see because you do not actually compose the copy that goes onto this site.

We have lost manufacturing industries. Inpex has been a winner and is often canned quite unjustifiably for the good it has brought and continues to bring. But it is our small manufacturing and industrial industries that are on Struggle Street, with many having closed and gone.

We have lost service providers in great numbers. Providers across a range of areas from building, electrical and plumbing to catering and restauranters.

We have introduced massive red tape and bragged about minimal and periodic easing of paperwork accountabilities. Government departments and instrumentalities are overwhelmed with paperwork accountability and justification. Too many people have to guard their backs ands keep a close eye on the mirror to see they are up to speed. They are fearful rather than trustful, unsure rather than confident. They feel insecure in their appointments.

The pastoral industry is unsure of futures with everything from water licensing to fracking confronting their immediate and intermediate futures.

The development of Darwin’s hinterland is fraught. On the one hand the number of small holdings is growing and the rural population is on the rise. On the other side of the equation are diminished water resources and an ominous lowering of water levels within the aquifer system.

We have a level of government debt that is out of control and a credit rating that gives rise to alarm. We endorse greater and greater percentages of our Territory GDP being spent on offsetting interest accumulating on government borrowings. A daily interest bill north of $100,000,000 per day is mind-blowing stuff!

There is an over focus on visions for the development of Darwin’s CBD that defies the realities of city centre limitations. Every government perpetuates the myth that the city centre should be a jewel of the north. At the same time our older suburbs are unkempt, run-down and deteriorating at an alarming rate. Streetscapes that were the pride and joy of government and the municipality are now suffering for want of care.

• Infrastructural projects are approved at a giddying rate and project after project replaces those which are completed. But care and maintenance of existing facilities is largely ignored meaning that facilities costing multiple millions often have a short life expectancy.

Tourists and visitors are deemed to be more important than long term territory residents. A great number of the attractions trotted out to attract and entertain them, are shallow and gimmicky.

Crime is a major social growth industry with huge impacts upon the NT. While our police force – for mine the best in the nation – does a great job in control, the court system is limp wristed at best with punishments being unrealistically light. Our community is increasingly being held to ransom by the aberrant, delinquent behaviour of far too many young and not so young people, who are often recidivist offenders. Government reaction is to try and shy away from these issues rather than confronting them in a full on manner. These matters cannot be treated by sliding around the issues of crime.

Government dreams big and is helped with developing its vision by as plethora of advisers and others who inhabit the fifth floor of Parliament House and who control many of the top jobs in key departments. But in reality we are confronting a tattered economy and a fractured economic and social outlook.


When the NT with its brand new self styled government assumed responsibility for education in 1979, we were offered a special challenge by our visionary education secretary. His name was Jim Eedle (Dr Jim) and he challenged us with a new reality.

“Schools are for children” he told we principals at a Katherine Conference in March 1979.

“Educational structure should always serve function, that being the education of children”, he said.

Metaphorically, he likened the “coming” of the Northern Territory Educational System as being likened to a rising sun.

How sad it is that in so many ways structure is now paramount and often so grandiose an skyscraper like that function is left well behind. In fact, one sometimes wonders what the function of education happens to be these days.

In metaphoric terms how sad it is that in so many ways the rising sun of the developing system has gone behind the clouds and at best is penumbric.

Northern Territory Education is nothing like the system it was when first moated all those years ago. While some changes may have been good, many have discounted the important elements of white meaningful education and proper student development should be all about.


The NT News this week is running a series of articles on NT. Schools that have to do with enrolments, pup[il/teacher ratios and schools gaining or schools losing students. The columns have drawn on information available from AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School). The full details of all schools in the NT under these headings are available on the NT News online platform. Both government and private schools along with the geographical location of all schools have been considered.

In overall terms our pupil to teacher ratios look rosy. They are predicated on the number of students on the roll divided by the number of full time teacher equivalents on staff. However, it does not take into account that many full time teachers do not have their own classes. They offer specialist services (Art, PE, Languages, Music) to the whole school so do not have their own full time dedicated classroom groups. This means that full time classroom teachers have many more students to teach than statistics might imply.

The rather ad hoc rules and attitudes prevailing in relation to attendance in Indigenous Schools is also a detractor.

Principals of government schools do not have the same rights to exclude or expel students as is provided for their counterparts in public schools. This can play on school health and organisational well being.

This can also be a reason for parents taking students from government schools and enrolling in private schools. That is because the teaching time in government schools can be substantially disrupted by teachers having to work on student control, discipline and management.

Fees charged by private schools can mean some students who are in government schools are there for financial rather than preferential reasons. These students can sometimes be reluctant and reflect a resentment that it is for reasons of finance that they are part of the public system.

The NT News columns are interesting and informative. This post is aimed at covering some background elements that may impact upon the offered revelations.


Some government departments recognise and appreciate long term service offered by employees. This happens with Police, Fire and Emergency Services. The Health Department also recognises the length of service offered by employees.

Sadly, this recognition is not part of Department of Education (DoE) practice. The DoE employs several thousand people, many of whom are long term employees. They work in remote, rural and urban communities. Most are not recognised when service milestones are reached. Unless engaged at senior levels within the DoE, many on retirement are not recognised. For most, thanks upon retirement or departure after lengthy years of service is left to their schools or workplaces. For some there is little or no recognition at all.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs. When asking about reasons for this oversight and neglect in the past, I have been told that maintenance of service records would be too difficult to manage. While the task may have been difficult before the age of computerisation, it is hard to accept that management of service data would be a difficult task in 2017.

It should be relatively easy to enter DoE employees on a data base in a way that flags the history of their appointments, levels of service and length of time serving education. To recognise educators after 5 years and thereafter in service increments every five years, should not be difficult. Letters and certificates of thanks and appreciation can make all the difference to the way people feel about the work they are doing. For many teachers, periodic recognition is more heartwarming than their fortnightly salary payment.

There is a perception that teaching in the NT is a profession in which people are coming and going all the time. Decades ago, people would come for twelve months or two years and then return south. That is no longer the case and has not been the major system ‘habit’ for many years. There are a significant number of teachers who have spent the whole of their lengthy teaching careers in Northern Territory schools. The same is true for staff filling administrative and support positions in our schools. Appreciating and recognising these people should be an element of system practice.

Recognition does not have to be over the top in terms of cost. People appreciate intrinsic recognition and acknowledgement for a job well done. Appreciation is affirming and builds goodwill in the hearts and minds of the recipients.



Caring for school environments is the duty of all users. If care is not taken, classrooms, walkways, toilets and school yards can quickly become littered and grubby. Most schools emphasise the need for students to properly dispose of rubbish. There are rubbish bins inside classrooms and buildings and strategically located around school, in toilets as well as communal areas.

It can be extraordinarily difficult for schools to maintain a clean, litter free appearance. A drive past some schools, particularly late in the afternoon, reveals a scatter of paper, plastic cups and other rubbish. A proliferation of rubbish detracts from the grounds appearance, giving the impression that all students are litterers. That is true only of of a minority.

Awareness of the need for classroom organisation and tidiness should be part of student development. In many classrooms there is a roster, assigning students to specific tasks. They might include the following:

• Cleaning whiteboards

• Delivering and collecting notes from the office

• Taking lunch orders to the canteen

• Collecting lunch orders from the canteen

• Tidying shelves and classroom storage areas

• Giving out and collecting work books

• Collecting recyclable materials.

All students take responsibility for:

• Tidy desks and personal storage areas

• Stacking their chairs at the end of the day

• Disposing of food scraps and their own rubbish into bins

• Putting litter into outside bins

• Personal hygiene including toilet flushing and hand washing

• Using classroom bins rather than floors for pencil shavings and scraps of paper.

Some would argue that attitudes of cleanliness and tidiness should be automatic. However, recognising effort and rewarding enterprise can help reinforce personal and civic attitudes. Recognition of class responsibility for care and maintenance of school appearance might include the following:

• The awarding at assembly of a mascot that ‘visits’ the tidiest classroom until the next


• Recognition of the class that looks after the verandahs and public areas adjacent.

• Giving small rewards to children caught ‘doing something good’ when it comes to environmental care.

• Presenting class or principal’s certificates to classes and children who always do the right thing when it comes to school and classroom appearance.

Schools have cleaning contracts. Contractors attend to daily and weekly cleaning together with a ‘spring clean’ during each long holiday period. However, it is up to students and those using the school to look after and take pride in their facilities. Along the way, habits of cleanliness and tidiness that should last a lifetime, are reinforced.


CONGRATULATIONS to Liz Veel, and to the student and staff community of Sanderson Middle School for the way in whichPrince Edward’s visit to that school was choreographed and managed yesterday. Media coverage in all formats was brilliant and illuminated this government school in a very positive light.

The program organised for the Prince’s visit compacted a lot of activity into a relatively short period of time. Without doubt His Highness would have had a great deal to contemplate, all of it positive, when he boarded his aircraft for a return to the UK.

I thought it great that students got to converse with the prince, and to take a leading role in the program put in place for his visit. Too often when it comes to official visits to schools, students tend to be offered a secondary role, with the prime focus being about the staff cohort. The way Ms Veel developed the day’s program is one others might accept as the way to shape a visit of this nature – and indeed any visit to one of our schools.

I am glad a government and not a private school was highlighted and that yesterday’s activities built a positive focus and confidence on Sanderson as a representative public school.