During the very last days I like the idea of walking, talking, then sitting and thinking along the sandy beach of a beach. Sharing this precious time with a friend or companion makes for an enriching experience.

Then possibly the sharing of a quiet and reflective drink in a bar either alone or with a companion can help when summarising the year that has been. There is a lot to be said for solitary reflection with the mind’s eye touching on key elements of challenge and celebration. Quiet ‘chewing the fat’ conversation with a valued friend or critical colleague has similar merit. Revisiting shared times and revisit old times and invoking memories together has its place in summarising the year.

It may even help to jot down key points that come to mind or into the conversation. This may help with establishing the continuity and the extension that should bridge from one year to the next.

The past, even the immediate past, can be informing and provide thoughts on what might help with the continuation of personal and organisation progress in the year to come.

The requiem period of benediction, while an end point of one year, is the introduction to and starting point of the next.

All the very best as 2020 emerges to take up the mantle of 2019.


All the very best on this Christmas day and for the festive season to all Linked In subscribers. I hope you have a wonderful day locally, regionally, within each State and Territory, around Australia, overseas and indeed worldwide!

I hope the people able to look back and reflect upon things that are of a celebratory nature as well as pondering upon challenges and barriers.

I hope that we can realise barriers are not insurmountable but are obstacles placed upon our pathways as challenges to be overcome. May obfuscations be successfully challenged in the days weeks and months ahead.

I hope that we can consider the importance of society and our part within it, aiming to do our best in a way that considers others as well as ourselves. Too often by habit we are selfish and regardless of our ages, the “I“ generation applies. It needs to be more a case of considering “we“ and “us“.

There is strength in unity and unity comes from togetherness.

May those in fire impacted areas and others who are challenged by nature have the time inability to reflect upon the year that has been entered rejoice in their successes and contributions. Maybe those of us in more fortunate circumstances consider and support those who have been affected.

Wishing everyone all the best.


My first association with our university was in the late 1980’s when I was involved as a part-time lecturer with the Faculty of Education.

In my first post on this subject and with further elaboration on my blog I painted a word picture of how teaching-learning methodologies worked at that stage.

Fast forward to 2011, when I again became connected with the Charles Darwin University, a role that continued after I retired in 2012 and went all the way through to 2016. During that time I was connected as a lecturer, tutor and a marker with various courses within the Faculty of Education.

There were now marked differences in organisational methodology that had not been in place in earlier years. Those changes came about because of the advance of technology.

The most major of these was online learning, which provided students undertaking teacher education with the opportunity to work in isolation and from home wherever that might be. Students connected from all around Australia with online learning programs.

Gone were lectures and group tutorials for these students. They were replaced with sessions arranged by lecturers to connect online with students, either single or collectively in group discussions.

What a poor alternative this proved to be. And it remains an inferior methodology to this day. There is a significant breakdown between the theory and practice of online learning.

While students are supposed to connect for one on one or group online discussions, they often don’t. Some will give legitimate reasons for not being able to connect while others simply ignore the sessions.

The group dynamic so important for teachers in training as part of their preparation (because of the sharing of ideas and the strength of that discourse) has gone.

For those undertaking unit study, courses (until at least 2016 at least) could be satisfied by students enrolling, completing one or two assignments, and then claiming that unit has been satisfied.

On top of this, practice teaching rounds were outsourced to schools with a remote connection to the university. This made for indirect contact between university lecturers and students in the field.

Preservice teachers in training still have the option of undertaking the units on campus whilst others within the group prefer the online methodology. My experience was that those attending lectures were often absent, again with minimal explanation. But when they completed their assignments and handed them in, they were deemed to have completed units if they passed those assignments.

So teacher education moved from obligation on the part of students, to them undertaking units which to a large extent where “optional” with very minimal effort being required on the part of students.

Of course, some of those students have work commitments to justify why they weren’t able to fulfil other than minimal study expectations but that is hardly worthy of people training to be part of the greatest of all professions.

In my opinion, casualisation of teacher training has been a very detrimental development. It paints the picture of a university primarily interested in what students pay to undertake courses of study, and very little else.


I am writing this brief series of posts in order to give a little background on my association with the Charles Darwin University in its current and former lives. I’m suggesting that my association and awareness gives me some qualification to speak about matters associated with the university and tertiary education in the Northern Territory.

Our university started as the Darwin Community College in the 1970s in rooms on a site in Mataram Street Winnellie. It’s moved on and gone through various phases, name changes, and locations since that time.

My association with our tertiary institution in the Northern Territory commenced in 1987 and 1988. I was a part-time lecturer working in teacher education at the then new Casuarina Campus . My work was with preservice teachers and I developed and presented the unit titled “Socio-cultural Communications”. Simply put, the aim of this unit was to help teachers in training to understand the realities of schools and the community is into which they would be going and working upon graduation.

I remember that at that time we had a burgeoning population of preservice teachers on campus studying either full time or part time. There was excellent contact between staff and students.

Students were required to attend lectures and if absent had to produce medical evidence justifying non-attendance. In a similar way, tutorials were compulsory and well attended. There was a strong interaction between these pre-service teachers both within lecture and tutorial contexts. Interaction between lecturer, tutors and students was enhanced and facilitated by this process. 

From my own teacher training experience and from work I did at the Darwin Community College (later the Northern Territory University) I came to appreciate the strength that groupship and synergy provides for those who are training to be teachers. Being part of a group, sharing experiences, exchanging ideas and working collectively was one of the strengths of teacher education.

That was how it used to be and it was all good. Responsibility and owners for being accountable was placed on the students and lecturers felt a strong sense of togetherness with the students who were part of their cohort.

That’s how it was!

But unfortunately, time moves on and produces new approaches that are much touted but far inferior to the way it used to be.

(it is interesting that these new approaches are usually held in high regard and promoted as “the best” by people who were around during the era of which I write in this post.)

I’ll share more in my next post on this topic.


There was a time in the Northern Territory, when schools were well served by dental therapists.

Many primary urban schools had a dental clinic which was built when schools were constructed. In some cases clinics were added after the initial building of the school.

Dental therapists and their assistants generally supported three or four schools in an area. They worked on rotation from school to school, checking children for tooth decay and carrying out remedial work. While therapists were able to undertake minor corrective work, major jobs were held over until the arrival of a dentist.

The significant amount of work was done by dental staff on education and therefore prevention based on students awareness of tooth care and looking after their teeth.

This program worked extremely well. It was responsible for what was, overall, good dental health in our schools.

When indigenous students came to town and then roll temporarily in schools, attention to their dental needs became a very high priority. Maintenance of careful records ensured that everything was recorded and care up to date.

From time to time dental staff would go out into communities providing on-site attention and education.

But …. Guess what!

Like many of the good schemes in place in the Northern Territory supporting Education in our schools, The system changed.

All of a sudden dental therapists and assistants became hard to recruit. (I suspect it was the salaries issue and costs associated with staff employment.


Dental clinics in primary schools began to reduce in number. Fewer staff meant a greater number of schools to be covered by them and their frequency of visits to dental clinics became almost ad hoc. Visits to communities went by the board.

The Northern Territory Principals Association and other organisations tried hard to have clinics kept open and services being reduced reinstated. That never worked out.

These days I doubt very much if there are any dental clinics left in schools being serviced by staff specifically appointed to those jobs. I do know the dental health has become dental ill-health among young people particularly in the remote areas but also in urban situations.

This was just another service providing excellently in past years that has gone by the board.


There was a time when outbreaks of headlice among students in Northern Territory schools were reasonably under control.

That was back during a time when Community Health sisters made regular visits to schools. Outbreaks of headlice and threats of this scourge circulating amongst student heads were generally thwarted.

If headlice were becoming an issue, Department of Health sisters working within communities would come in, carry out an inspection, effect initial treatments, and advise parents about follow-up needs.

In the mid 1980s powers-that-be decided headlice did not pose a health issue but were rather a social problem. Principals were no longer able to call on Community Health staff to help deal with infestations. Rather, children were withdrawn from school and collected by parents who undertook remedial treatment at home.

That worked when parents carried out the treatment. However, parental management at home has proved to be far less effective than school management once vested in Community Health systems.

This is just one “change” that has most certainly not lead to any improvement. Instead, the withdrawal of the support service has added to the incidence of student absence from school. And we don’t need children out of school.


Many of the things that happen in our schools are not new but rather regurgitated ideas. The same goes with practice.

I have watched with fascination the phenomena that, sadly, is far too often the part of education and schools practice.

It might be called “when the clock resets to zero”.

This sad practice is all about succession and leadership in schools not wanting any part of what has gone before. Rather than building on the traditions, history and the practices of the school, the process is to dump as much as possible so that outgoing leadership teams start at zero. Materials, artefacts and other items are dumped, archived, or hidden from view. Those new to the school as leaders then start over making their own mark and establishing their own set of criteria in relation to the school.

Among the things shelved may be fine educational practices that for all intents and purposes are discontinued.

The new leadership (individual and team) wants to do their own thing and not in anyway be “encumbered“ by past practices and emphasis.

But there is a juxtaposition! After a number of years it’s common practice for those things that have been “hidden“ Buy new management to be dragged out of the cupboard and introduced as as new in terms of introduced materials or educational practices. A sad turning of the wheel.

It seems to be the case particularly in the Northern Territory that individuality and “doing one’s thing” is very important. The notion of connectivity and working in a group like way and sharing credits is something that lacks in many cases.

While the individual is important and then can individual contributions essential, The outcomes of synergy or collective energy brought to bear for the benefit of organisations is superior as an operational strategy.

So too is building on what has gone before for that enables organisations make steady progress, progress that is always built upon a solid foundation. Discounting the past and a discounting history causing organisations to have to start all over doesn’t do anything facility but does create organisational tentativeness and insecurity.

We need education in our schools to be based upon what is in place when new leaders are announced, with the idea that we go forward not backwards. Expunging inherited practice and starting again Without a thought about the consequences is not wise.


Without going into all the details, a report published in the Sunday Territorian today (15/12/19) confirms that many childcare centres purporting to operate early learning programs, are doing a little in the way of educating children. The report suggests that at least 25% of those centres are no more or no less than places operating for babysitting purposes.

This calls to my mind situation that existed many years ago when efforts were being made to link schools preschools with childcare centres. At that stage commonsense prevailed and a clear delineation between preschools and the centres remained in place. It was recognised preschools had programs supported by teachers, while centres were staffed by childcare workers.

While both groups of staff undertook qualifications for positions, preschool staff are fully qualified teachers who have completed degrees, with childcare centres offering support for children by lesser qualified certificated staff members.

Alas, with the passing of time the two institutions have become merged to a point of where black and white (in terms of differentiation of service) have merged into the penumbric “shades of grey” area.

Adding to the issue and confusing the subject have been indications of qualified teachers working in childcare centres. It has become fashionable to call childcare workers early childhood educators and from the term “educator ” there is just a small step to the notion of “qualified teacher”.

Juxtapositionally, parents who want to enrol children into childcare centres in order to receive formal education, are in a position where they discount the value of free play for children growing up in a pre-educational context.

In this modern day and age there is a necessity for childcare, necessary in order to enable parents to return to work.

Personally I feel somewhat sad about this necessity because in the very early years the best learning and development takes place when children are at home with their parents. The busy lives parents lead increasingly denies this opportunity.

Such is life! However, childcare centres and schools (including preschools) should have a separation – as was once the case. The merging that has occurred confuses the situation of what is learnt where, and how significant that learning happens to be.



Channel 7 test cricket commentators are far better than their Fox counterparts. They talk about the game while Fox commentators pay little attention to the game itself, preferring to laugh, joke and talk about themselves. Thanks Channel 7.


Slippage by Australian students in PIZA maths and literacy rankings I’d hardly surprising. Add ons to overall curriculum requirements trivialises the educational agenda. Disruptive, unmotivated and defocussed students require too many teachers to spend far too much time on discipline, detracting from their teaching of students who are keen to learn.


Those connected with the Gardens Tennis Club have every right to feel miffed because of exclusion from funding largesse offered almost every other sport in the Top End. What a pity that horses do not play tennis.


The sad situation in Samoa, with hundreds infected and many children dying from the preventable affliction of measles is both sad and horrifying. The same could happen in Australia if the anti-vax movement really takes off. There is no place in our society for the anti-vax message.


It is hot in Darwin when taking a shower has one looking for a cold water to turn on to cool the hot water coming from the cold water tap to the shower head.


The progressive abrogation of traditional celebrations that have long been part of the Australian life is both sad and alarming. Forsaking Christmas, Easter and Australia Day for the real or imagined discomfort they may cause to Indigenous Australians and overseas arrivals is disingenuous. This is about capitulation and will add to discord rather than building relationships within society.



Today is the last day of the school year for students and staff in Northern Territory urban schools. Tomorrow marks the last day of the 2019 school year for those in the outlying and remote NT schools.

Eight years have elapsed since I retired from full time schools engagement, but the feelings engendered in the closing stanza of each school year live in my memory.

I wanted to wish all our students and school staff the very best for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday period. I hope that on balance, challenges you confront have been outweighed by celebrations you have been able to share with students, between staff and within the community.

There is a misnomer that does the rounds suggesting that on the last day of the school year, teachers and support staff close the door and walk off for a six week break in its entirety.  Not true, for there are the ‘under the radar’ tasks that require attention during these weeks.  However please take time during these weeks to stand back, relax, refresh, contemplate and look forward to what happens next year, without being locked into a cycle of tasks that can become shackling.

All the very best and please know that the work of schools, staff and leaders is appreciated by communities. There may be brickbats, but there are also bouquets.

In appreciation.

Henry Gray

December 12 2019