Educators are quite constantly involved with processes relating to testing, measurement and evaluation. This is done in different ways by people directly and indirectly connected with schools. While most factors of measurement relate to academics, there are other things to be considered when evaluating schools.

Over time priorities and processes have changed. These days within the NT a detailed visit by senior colleagues including a group of the principal’s peers and senior management staff is the way appraisals are undertaken. The process lasts several days. Examination includes conversations with some school staff members.

The Northern Territory Education Department has been concerned about the performance of its schools since taking over responsibility for education in 1978. Various models have been followed.

One of the very best was called the “Internal/external School Appraisal Model”. This involved members of the school staff and members of community working in groups to analyse the various aspects of school function. Teaching performance, staff relationships, student welfare, school appearance, communications and all other factors were examined. Each panel included staff and community members. A facilitator was appointed for each group.

Groups had the ability to glean information from a number of options. Included what questionnaires, interviews, and of course the self-awareness of that particular aspect of school function built within the group. Toward the end of the process each group presented in turn to the whole school staff and also members of community who cared to attend those sessions. From the report grew recommendations for future consideration. Each group also indicated things that were being done well and should be continued.

After presenting, each group report and recommendations to the forum of staff and community. Some revisions were then made and a priority put on the recommendations.

When all groups had presented and the final report from the “internal process” developed, this then went to an external panel which considered the report. This panel had the opportunity to order the recommendations as a whole.

This was a very elongated process. However he enabled all staff and those with a keen steak and interest in the school to have input. Importantly the report was owned by school staff and community members.

I applied this model at Nhulunbuy Primary School when first becoming principal. I gained, it was used it Karama Primary School in 1987. Of all the methodologies used over time to help centre school action in the right directions this approach was by far and away the most effective.

When people within an organisation own what they do including developing the context of futures direction the whole process is validated by ownership.

Although it may never happen I would certainly recommend a return to the past when it comes to appraising a school and its place within the community.


Natasha Bita ( ‘Teacher woes create student underclass’, ‘The Australian 14/9) identifies two key areas of need that have been of great concern to teachers and principals for many, many years. Both have a prime place in the National School Reform Agreement released by the productivity Commission.

One contemporary concern, – an obstacle to classroom teachers for so long it has become historical – is the demand they focus on administrative tasks that consume time and distract them from key teaching tasks. These hours reduce face-to-face teaching time, requiring teachers to offer passive and often repetitive learning tasks so they can focus on priority administrative tasks, demanded by education systems. In terms of system priorities, data collection by teachers has become more important than teaching. That has to be reversed.

Permanently improving the quality of teaching degrees offered by universities, is the Commission’s second major recommendation. The relevance of teaching degrees offered trainee teachers has been diminishing for decades – indeed from the 1980’s. Training in the 1960’s and 70’s focussed on the methodology of teaching particular (and all) subjects. Planning lessons, knowing subject content and practice in direct teaching methods during periods of ‘on the job’ training in schools, were key elements of teacher preparation. Practice teaching periods, teaching methods and subject content all had to be passed. So too, did tests in spelling, mathematics, speech and reading. The two, then three year training periods were intense. Those who failed, did not graduate.

Teaching degrees would be enhanced and refocussed if a ‘back to the future approach’ to training was adopted. Having waited for so long for pre-service teacher training to again become relevant, I am not holding my breath.

A question of Balance

Reflect at the end of each day on things you have done well as well as on things you may have done differently and better. You might make a pro’s and con’s list on a page attached to your diary. Self appreciation as well as self criticism is important. It helps maintain mental equilibrium and balance.

DARWIN 1987 and DARWIN 2022


The peace and quiet of Darwin has largely evaporated. A road that was a minor road, passing close to our house in 1987, has become a two-way each-way drive with about 25,000 vehicle movements each day.  Movement is starting earlier and finishing later.

The city throbs to the life injected by tourists and young people who like clubbing. While the suburbs are more austere, the newer ones are far more congested with ever larger houses being build on ever smaller blocks.

Sadly, there is a lot of fighting, ever increasing numbers of traffic accidents, and paramedics who are overworked in conveying victims of accidents and fights to the RoyaL Darwin Hospital.  The wail of ambulance and police sirens regularly punctuate each day and night. 

A lot of long time residents are opting to leave because they feel insecure and believe their property and possessions to be vulnerable. Assaults on people are at an all time high. Shopping centres are often subjected to terrible behaviour by ‘patrons’. Riding on a bus is often like a jungle experience because of unruly passenger behaviour.

Sadly, many of our schools have become unsafe because of fights between students, mainly at secondary but also at primary school level. Students are allowed free access to mobile phones during the day. Many fights are orchestrated in order that ‘fight and film’ episodes can be shared on social media.

The peaceful, quiet and happy Darwin I came to in 1987, is, sadly, a Darwin of the past. Things are out of control and authorities almost hopeless and helpless when it comes to dealing with these issues.  

Sadly, Alice Springs is the same, Katherine has major issues, Nhulunbuy is impacted by socially negative behaviour, while Tennant Creek has been declared the most unsafe place in the NT (and possibly Australia).

The only way is up, but when.


With The Passing of Time

(Written when I retired in January 2012)


He wondered about modern communications. Were the children of the 1970’s not better speakers and listeners because face to face communication was alive and practised? ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, texting and the new ICT tools of the twenty-first century reduced the need to gain and have confidence in speech and speaking (including listening). He was concerned that literacy skills were going out the door. What would happen to reflection and thinking!

He wondered about the wisdom of straying too far from the scriptural adage,”spare the rod and spoil the child”. While responses to poor behaviour ought not to be barbaric, was not accomodation in 2012 on what was totally unacceptable in 1970, simply encouraging children and young people to push the envelope? Were not the elders abrogating their upbringing responsibilities and being ostrich like?

He was sad that keys, security, guard dogs, dead latcheus, CCTV cameras, high fences, barbed wire, crimsafe mesh, sensor security systems and floodlights had become the order of installation. It seemed that in 1970, nights were for sleeping. Forty years later, nocturnal malevolence seemed to prevail. He wondered where ‘Where Willie Winkie’ had gone.

He wondered about gender equality. In the 1970’s children deferred to adults on public transport, when going through doors and joining queues. Similarly, men deferred to ladies, the young to the old. No more!

He wondered why it was that in 2012, chivalry was dead!

He was concerned about ‘pace’. In the 1970’s things moved more slowly. There seemed to be less to do, yet key tasks were completed. There was a simple serenity about the way things were done. Time off work WAS time off work.

He pondered tranquility. Inner peace had been enhanced by the separation of priorities. Family, work and recreation had occupied degrees of importance in that order. Come 2012, it seemed that the imperative of ‘work, work and work until you drop’ had pushed family and recreational pursuits onto the back-burner. Was that not poor prioritisation?

Did the ‘new way’ promote happiness and inner peace?

He wondered about the future. As a young educator in 1970 he had looked to the future with confidence and rosy anticipation. Come 2012 and looking back he wondered why system realities had sullied his vision.

And revisiting this piece of writing ten years after its was developed, he still wonders.


With The Passing of Time

(Written when I retired in January 2012)


He worried that with the passing of years, a preponderance of weighty issues had grown into school curriculum requirements. Lots has been added and little dropped. He wondered how teachers could cope and was concerned the children would be overburdened and staff become disillusioned. The educational pathway seemed increasingly cluttered and overgrown.

He was concerned that written reports were no longer short, succinct, explicit and individualised. Rather they were long on hyperbole being stereotyped, jargon riddled statements. They had become increasingly wordy but in essence said less and less. Notwithstanding the huge amount of teacher effort devoted to their preparation, he felt they really said meant very little to parents.

He worried that with the passing of time, children had become more self-centred. “I” and “my” were pronouns and possessives that underpinned their belief and value systems. He yearned for those times past when, it seemed, children were well mannered and cared for others. “Yes please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “may I” were fast disappearing epithets. That he felt underpinned a loss of character.

He wondered where safety and security for children had gone. In the 1970s and 1980s children could play outdoors in what was a safe, secure environment. Come 2012 and parents no longer felt the children were safe. Threat for young people was felt from cyberspace to the street. There was a feeling that children needed to be cocooned and cosseted – but not by parents. As primary caregivers they were too busy at work to offer personal nurture.’Minding’ at Outside School Hours Care centres was the in thing.

He wondered whether, in an enlightened age, children feel ‘used’ when their schooling futures were discussed in a way that likened them to pawns on a chessboard. He also wondered whether children appreciated being ‘objects’ for limited academic testing (Four May Days each year). Did they feel that overall and holistic educational needs were regarded as important by Federal Politicians setting State and Territory educational agendas?

To be continued


With The Passing of Time

(Written when I retired in January 2012)


Once upon a time a principal reflected on what was (2012) what have been (1970) and what had happened between times. A little voice in his head told him to think as much as possible about “balance”, “pros” and “cons”, “challenge” and “celebration”. Determined to toward even-handedness he began to reflect on the four decades of his educational experience.

He thought about the waves of systemic leadership that had rolled over the system. There was the “Moresby mafia” followed at intervals by domination from other States, Territories and arrivals from overseas destinations. More recently (2009) the ‘Queensland Cowboys’ had succeeded the Western Australia ‘Sandgropers’ as system leaders. The Northern Territory were certainly hybrid.

He thought about Jim Eedle the Northern Territory’s first Secretary for Education after the NT Government took portfolio carriage for education. Eedle said (Katherine, March 1979) that “schools are for children” and “structure should support function.” He thought how structure had now assumed skyscraper proportions with the children somehow in the shadows.

He thought about the back of many children were children who seemed to lack the first hand care and nurture a parent should offer. It seemed this was less forthcoming with the passing of years. Increasingly, schools were asked (indeed required) to take on primary matters of children’s upbringing. He wondered and was sad that ‘loco parentis’ was now so mainstream.

To be continued.


I thank Adam Drake, founder of Balanced Choice for sharing the following pointers about overcoming the fear of public speaking.


1. The idea of doing it at the start is so scary

2. Be prepared to fall many times but use the falls as wonderful learning

3. Never think you have it all mastered because the next wave or audience will smack you.

4. Be in the moment and read your wave and the room.

5. Don’t get stuck in your head, find a flow.

6. Don’t rush, this is your chance to enjoy yourself and the chance to build an amazing connection

7. Look around, enjoy it and be grateful always

8. Express yourself, dance on the wave or dance with your words.

9. Remember you are a very small part of a much bigger thing.

10. Smile, laugh, be in awe of all the emotions you will encounter.


The Emergence of a Guru (Part Three)

(The birthing of new educational ideas)

Of course the admiration of his adoring public eventually reached saturation point.

His theory had achieved a status of becoming standard household and workplace practice.

There was no more tinsel and glitter about his new idea. Then of course it was time for role to move on, embracing other thoughts that were new, untried and untested.

So it was that his adoring ones moved on, creating new heroes, new Gurus, all the while continuing to practice the habit of ‘discipleship’. They of course were dedicated to being followers.

He was quite happy to let them go. He had had his turn! The translation of his ordinariness into extraordinariness had earned him years of substantial acclaim and one huge pile of dollars.

Years later he pondered the “why”. Why can mortals rise, their ordinary becoming extraordinary. Through his ponderings he realised it takes time, effort, thought and creativity to translate a dream into reality.

He wondered about his experience. And wow, what an experience. “Guruism” had set him up for life. He faced the prospect of enjoying an early, long and carefree retirement.

“Blessed be ordinary people who take ordinary people and create for themselves a Guru Class. I am glad, so glad I was able to cater for those who had itchy ears and who longed for excitement. Thanks to my theory I feel better now.”