Quite often, one sees people both young and old holding pencils and pens when writing on surfaces. There are many occasions on which signing of one’s name takes place in public and that shows on television, in print and online pictorial records.

In “real life“ one sees people in shops and other occupations requiring writing, handling writing tools.

It’s true to say that the majority of people these days and probably 95% of those who are younger, demonstrate an inability to hold a pencil or pen properly. Handwriting is pure torture!

Quite obviously, these people have never been taught to write. Until the mid 1980s handwriting lessons, including the holding of a writing tool were part of what was taught in schools. Children were taught about how to sit when writing, how to position the paper or book onto which they were writing, and how to hold a pencil or pen. These skills were not only a part of handwriting lessons but were also reinforced during other lessons required children to write.

With the emergence of computers, iPads and the arrival of keyboards, handwriting and skills associated therewith have more or less gone out the back door. That’s a crying shame! Children and young people are increasingly unable to write without device support.



People often talk about the fact that Education takes place on a continuum that is lifelong. Education commences a day a person is born and ends the day they pass. It is “from the cradle to the grave“.

In recent weeks much has been said (and utterances continue to be made) about gaps in education during the formative years with those gaps negatively impacting upon the capacities of students as they grow into adult hood.

I sincerely believe that the major gap in education is around the lack of development put in by so many parents for so many children in their formative pre school years. That neglect doesn’t happen in every case but it is certainly far too frequent.

It might be argued that children from a very young age are well and truly catered for, by being enrolled in childcare centres.

For mine, that does not count. This care is not a case of contact between parent and child but between a lot of children in care situations. The prime focus is on minding rather than individual development. For this reason, many children enter school years without being ready in terms of everything that should be in place from a behavioural and self management viewpoint.

The imperative of work means that too many parents have to leave the children when they are far too young to be left, in the care of others. Children are dropped off early in the morning at long daycare centres, where children are being or enrolled is younger and younger ages.

At the end of the day they are collected and taken home. Parents are generally fatigued and don’t have the time or energy to spend very much time with children. They are propped up in front of television sets all given iPads and other games with which to play.

Little happens by way of conversation, reading to children, playing with children and spending time with them.

How’s the weekend parents have chores to do so again children are largely left to their own devices.

During the very formative years, the early years of their lives aspects of growing up I overlooked and not attend to my parents. Childcare centres do their best but often with staff whose training is limited.

This all adds up to the fact that when children are presented at school, from preschool on through transition up into primary years, substantial shortfalls in social, emotional and readiness development are found to be wanting.

Schools do their best to overcome this “gap” but it can be very hard going.

I firmly believe that lack of parental engagement with children through their very early years is creating a major educational gap that has is part of its consequence children, who at the end of it all the less well at school and they might because so much has to be made up that should be beyond the parameters of the school and dealt with on the home front.



Several years ago during my second last year of teaching In 2010, I went to a breakfast meeting of the Northern Territory Principals Association at Wagaman Primary School in Darwin’s northern suburbs.

NAPLAN had been in place for two years and we were about to go into this testing mode for the third time.

This was during a period when the Federal Minister of Education Julia Gillard and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd were concerned about failing standards in schools. (Failing standards are not new.)

Like many school leaders I was starting to feel pressured by the fact that all sorts of criticisms with being thrown at schools for the alleged failure.

Following the breakfast meeting I sort to have a conversation with the President of the Australian Primary Principals Association. She was our guest at this breakfast meeting.

I asked her whether or not our political leaders and others in high places of decision-making were aware of the fact that we were confronted by a most challenging circumstance.

We were having to deal with and motivate an apparently increasing number of deliberately disinclined and apathetic students and non-caring, disinterested parents. Where are those in high places aware of this major confronting challenge faced by schools and staff.

The president told me that indeed they were aware of this issue but didn’t want to know about it! To me, that meant that metaphorically they were like ostriches hiding their heads in the sand. They didn’t want to be aware of what was facing us in our schools – but they wanted us to fix the problem and with caustic in the remarks towards us because of the issues we confronted that weren’t being fixed on this attitudinal front.

It was at that point in time that I decided that the following year would be my last as a full-time educator and school principal.

That disinclination, apathy and accompanying passive or aggressive attitudes of non-compliance and non-support by students and parents exist to this day. If anything they are becoming more pronounced.

It is small wonder the Australian education is in the doldrums when confronted by this particular issue as a major this disincentivising plank.



I believe that the major reason Education is failing, particularly in the Northern Territory and most particularly in remote areas, has to do with chronic non-school attendance.

The issue of attendance at school has been one dogging the Northern Territory Education Department since 1979 – when the Northern Territory Government accepted responsibility of schools management.

School attendance is something that has always been treated in an almost light-hearted manner. I say “light hearted“ because although they have been rules, regulations, procedures and various initiatives put in place to counter non-attendance, very few have worked.

They have been catch cries, buzzwords, fantastic phrases, federal and territory employment of a legion of school attendance office is under various names, and so on. At the end of the day most of this has been dressage and very little is carried through to any sort of consequent outcome.

In 2014 when Bruce Wilson carried out a review of education in the Northern Territory he suggested in his report at school attendance for indigenous students of three days a week. At least that was the inference of his report.

Truancy is the subject about which I’ve written on many occasions over the years. I did it as a principle of remote area schools and have continued to push the need for full-time school attendance in the years since.

I was principle of Angurugu School on Groote Eylandt from 1979 to 1982. During my time Angurugu School enjoy the high levels of school attendance. There were programs in place to ensure that attendance was maintained and action was taken at school attendance for any reason fell away. I would be more than happy to go into the management strategies negotiated between our school in the community to ensure high level school attendance.

Suffice it to say that a partnership existed between the school and community which ensured that school attendance was at a high level and maintained. I despair in my soul to know that these days attendance at that school is the lowest of any in Australia at around about 18%. Without casting aspersions, I would suggest that it’s to do with people not doing their jobs and not managing the issue – because it can be managed.

One of the exacerbating points for me is that as the Department of Education and various professional associations seek to tackle this issue and those related to it, they do so without ever considering what might have happened in the past to manage the issues they find so challenging. There is no way known that Contemporary leaders are at all interested in any historical exploration either by way of consulting documents or talking to people who have been there and done that successfully.

Truancy will continue to be the number one educational detractor in the NT. For various reasons, the issue is becoming more entrenched and is not contracting.

Truancy has always been and remains a chronic educational problem in the NT. There ARE ways of minimising the issue that HAVE worked for some in the past. They require both proactivity and fortitude, qualities that on this issue, have forsaken government and the Education Department.


NT EDUCATION CEO Ms Vicki Baylis has announced she will be retiring from her position in February 2020. The Department and NT Government will advertise for a new educational leader.

I worked in NT schools under every Education Department CEO from the time the NT Government took carriage of educational responsibilities in 1979. Every CEO is remembered for different things, for highlights and challenges occurring during his or her tenure. That adds up to a quite long list of people in the top educational position, all remembered, alas by a dwindling number of people as age takes it’s mortal toll.

There was once a proposition that the key points of educational development, including commemoration of those in the top leadership position, should be highlighted by a physical display in the Mitchell Centre. Also that this might extend to include the preservation of educational history as a page on the Department of Education website,

Alas, that notion which had been enthusiastically supported by her predecessor, was not encouraged by the present administration.

What a pity that as leaders and contributors to education in the NT move on, their times and contributions under their watch pass quickly into the annals of forgotten, unrecorded and undocumented history.

It makes for NTN Education, from a recorded point of view, being perpetually locked at Genesis 1:1 – in the beginning.


Concerns about the mediocrity of Australian education and the poor performance of students gets to be re-cycled on a quite regular basis. Annually, after the NAPLAN tests we hear about students performing or at least under performing on the state and territory basis of comparison. Then we have a comparison of Australian students with other overseas countries every three years.

The latter is the comparison that’s come out in recent days. Educators, particularly those in carpetlands, are ringing their hands and wondering why – why are students performing so poorly. You’ve got people running around tearing their hair out, ducking for cover, and looking to blame circumstances on anything that does not directly impact upon them.

The aftermath and reaction is all about government saying that we must do better, must do better!

The paradox is that this determination to do better is not new. It’s a resolution that happens every three years, after these results come out. Then three years on the opportunity comes again for some recrimination and the uttering of many pledges about how we are going to improve.

But we don’t improve. And we won’t improve. But we could improve.

The issue is one that could be addressed successfully and the solution is really quite simple. Take that from me, a person who was a practitioner in the educational field for over 40 years. Take it from me also, there were things that worked for us in the field : Things that people in Carpetland (a term of endearment applied to the headquarters and administrative centres of education departments)and government seem to be uninterested in hearing about. I’ll elaborate further in some following posts.



Beware the apathetic and disinterested parent.

There are more and more of them.

They LOVE blaming teachers for the attitudes of their children.

Their children are chips off the old block.

Often chips with copied attitude.


While criticising the Federal Government for its funding attitude, NT Government ministers should remember that for every dollar levied on Territorians by GST funding, we get $4.50 back. Government’s constant playing of the Australian pauper is quite belittling.


To up the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years is illogical and flies in the face of common sense. Both home (if parents are doing their job) and school through rules and regulations, instil the difference between right and wrong. To say otherwise is totally wrong and offers young people a licence to offend with immunity from consequences for their actions.


I believe that a significant number of people eligible for parole are content to remain under corrections care. Once paroled, food insecurity, humbugging, and general living living conditions offer challenges they do not face if remaining in custody.


To up the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years is illogical and flies in the face of common sense. Both home (if parents are doing their job) and school through rules and regulations, instil the difference between right and wrong. To say otherwise is totally wrong and offers young people a licence to offend with immunity from consequences for their actions.


I believe that a significant number of people eligible for parole are content to remain under corrections care. Once paroled, food insecurity, humbugging, and general living living conditions offer challenges they do not face if remaining in custody.