About pooroldhenry

I was a long term Northern Territory (NT) Educator, commencing my teaching career in WA in 1970. We came to the NT in July 1975 and worked in remote, town then urban communities. My tenure in the NT was at Numbulwar School (1975- 1978), Angurugu Community School on Groote Eylandt (1979-1982), Nhulunbuy Primary School (1983-1986), then Karama School (1987-1991) and lastly Leanyer School (1992 until retiring in January 2012). I filled the position of school principal from 1977 until my retirement. My career started at Warburton Ranges in WA as a teacher in 1970 then as headmaster in 1974. My major focus on and belief in education is that it develop children and students holistically, preparing them for the whole of life. Educational partnerships involving staff, students, community and department have always been important. I am a Fellow and Lifetime Member of the Council of Education Leaders, a Life Member of the Association of School Education Leaders (recently rebranded as the Northern Territory Principals Association) and was awarded the Commonwealth Centenary Medal for contribution to education. A member of Toastmasters International I am an Advanced Toastmaster Gold (ATMG). I hold a number of degrees and remain actively interested in and contributive to education. A highlight of my 'recent' life (from 2011 until 2016) was contributing to Teacher Education at Charles Darwin University. This has involved marking, tutoring and lecturing in a part time capacity. I was also involved with our Department of Education (NT) as a member of the Principals Reference Group (2012 until 2016) and have worked with others on the establishment of a Principals Coaching and Mentoring program. From 2014, I was the Education Minister's Nominee on the NT Board of Studies until its reconstitution in July 2016. Prior to retirement from full time work I represented the Education Department on the Board (2009 - 2011). I was working in support of students enrolled with the School of Education at CDU from 2012 until 2017. I enjoyed the chance to give back to the profession which over many years has done much for me. From July 2013 until the end of June 2019, I wrote a weekly column about educational matters for the Darwin/Palmerston /Litchfield 'Suns' Newspapers and then the rebranded 'Suns Newspaper' with Territory-wide circulation. This newspaper ceased publication in June 2019. I occasionally write for other papers and am a contributor to professional magazines and online discussion about educational matters. Included were regular contributions to the Australian Council of Education's 'e-Teaching' and 'e-Leading' publications, which ceased as communications organs in December 2017. I hold retired member's status with the Australian Education Union (NT), contributing occasionally to union publications. I am presently working on developing a series of vignettes, aimed at providing information that pre-service and beginning teachers may find useful. They are oriented toward assisting with an understanding of practices that may assist meet professional and teaching needs. To date, 89 of these have been completed. I contribute to general conversations and various groups on ‘Linked In’ and am also a contributor to ‘The Conversation’. I have a blog site at henrygrayblog.wordpress.com and invite you to access it at any time should you so wish. Henry Gray February 28 2020


It is a great shame that more and more, the development of very young children is vested in care institutions. Parents who should be the primary caregivers for their children are less and less responsible for their upbringing. This leaves children light on for family love and nurturing, deficits that will leave them emotionally insecure.

I often wonder why some parents have children. Is it to do with fashion or do they genuinely want to be parents?

If the latter, many parents have difficulty in understanding or accepting the responsibilities that should go with parenthood. They want children’s but then pass them to childcare agencies, often for many hours each day.

Small wonder then of many of these children grow up feeling unwanted and unloved. What a shame that this should be the case.


I am concerned that we in Australia are going to confront major COVID-19 outbreak the like of which we have not yet seen. The lack of ability on the part of people to take a long term attitude on control measures is leading me toward this thinking. There are a number of factors causing me to think in this unfortunate manner.

* Quarantine fatigue is breaking the resistance of people to countering C-19.

* More and more people are breaching physical distancing rules. It has been proven unequivocally that distancing (along with hand cleanliness) are the best deterents to contacting C-19.

* Return to the normal supply of alcohol and other relaxants will play out in a way that mitigates against physical distancing.

* Crowds flocking to pubs, clubs, beaches, rallies, parks cinemas and elsewhere will bring people into a closeness that will spread C-19 through social contract.

* The optionality of testing as a requirement for those in quarantine and lock down areas will mean cases occurring because of vtest avoidance.

*Foolish statements about safety of airline travel (compared to bus, train and ferry travel restrictions) guarantees a spear of the virus among airline travellers.

* A continuing return of overseas travellers into quarantine situations is bringing cases into Australia.

* The number of cases in schools, businesses and elsewhere will spike: Victoria’s revisitation to C-19 is only the start.

*Thinking that C-19 is short term is unfortunate. This affliction is going to be with us into the foreseeable future.

* I’d prognosticate that the opening of travel around Australia will generate dollars and bequeath C-19 cases.

* It can be forecast that when C-19 gets into remote communities (and there is a 99% chance it will), C-19 will take off in a major way.

Am I worried? You bet I am.


I just just heard an astounding item of news on the radio. It’s so gobsmacking, I had to stop to express my thoughts for a blog entry.

The person concerned has worked in the aeronautical engineering industry for 50 years. At the present moment he is/was working for Jetstar.

Jetstar along with Qantas is downsizing its workforce. This gentleman received a message of a phone in and called the number.

He was greeted by 2 1/2 minute message which had been pre-recorded. It let him know that after 50 years his services were no longer required; he was being dismissed along with a good number of other people.

No ‘by your leave; , ‘I beg your pardon’ or anything else – just a pre-recorded, impersonal message giving him the flick.

As a person who worked for over 40 years with people in another context, I could not but think “how rude, how callous, and just how bloody awful.”

How was it possible that a person who is given half a century to an industry can be so offhandedly dismissed! Where is the world heading when faithful service rendered for so long, counts for so little!

What is the world coming to when such impersonality and indifference dominates in the manner a company leaders contact employees in such a dismissive manner.


Always uppermost in the planning minds of universities and education departments, is training our future teachers. It is well known and understood that good teachers make a difference. Teachers who build student confidence and a commitment towards learning are always well remembered .

Those selected to train as teachers need to have done well in their own secondary years of education. Once relatively low tertiary entrance scores were sufficient to allow students into teacher training programs. This is no longer the case. The Federal Government wants those considering teaching to have finished in the top 20% of Year 12 students. A quality academic background is deemed essential for those contemplating entry into the teaching profession.

More recently, it has been determined that preservice teachers should pass literacy and mathematics competency tests that have been developed by the Australian Council of Educational Research. These tests became mandatory for students who commenced training from the beginning of 2017. Maths, spelling, English literacy including listening, speaking and reading tests were part of training programs in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They should not need reinstating because they should never have been dropped.

Teaching Schools

Teacher training has changed over time. Until 2000, the focus for teachers on practice in schools was to be visited and advised on teaching methodology by university or training college lecturers. While lecturers still visit, the emphasis is now about partnerships between ‘Teaching Schools’ and universities. Trainee teachers are evaluated by classroom teachers who are their advisers and mentors. In each teaching school, a member of staff is appointed as Professional Learning Leader (PLL). The PLL supports both mentors and students. During practice, pre-service teachers are introduced to programming, planning and classroom teaching. A tutorial program to share ideas about teaching strategies is organised in each teaching school. Assisting student teachers to understand testing and assessment requirements is included in this focus.

The teaching schools approach is directed toward helping those in training to understand and meet graduate standards set by the Australian Institute of Teachers and the NT Teachers Registration Board. Results of literacy and maths competence are now included in registration requirements.

Could universities through their teacher training courses do more? Past university training included learning about teaching methods and the ways in which key subjects could be presented and taught. There was less onus on earning a degree and far more on teaching and classroom practices. That focus needs to be reinstated.


An object lesson arising from the COVID-19 crisis has to be our realisation that as a country, Australia has become far too dependent on essential products manufactured elsewhere in the world. In the interests of trade and economy, we have surrendered our capacity to be self sufficient. Post the coronavirus, that has to change.

Individuals and organisations constantly pressuring the government to relax biosecurity restrictions and border controls need to draw breath and take a cold shower. Barely a day goes by without the Chief Minister and Attorney General being bombarded on this issue. These controls have kept Territorians safe. We need to put the health of community ahead of the economy and making money.

And on money: Young people need to be introduced to the value of saving and warned off spending every bean they have or own.


I’ll. This is one of the reasons our Principals should be An object lesson arising from the COVID-19 crisis has to be our realisation that as a country, Australia has become far too dependent on essential products manufactured elsewhere in the world. In the interests of trade and economy, we have surrendered our capacity to be self sufficient. Post the coronavirus, that has to change.

Individuals and organisations constantly pressuring the government to relax biosecurity restrictions and border controls need to draw breath and take a cold shower. Barely a day goes by without the Chief Minister and Attorney General being bombarded on this issue. These controls have kept Territorians safe. We need to put the health of community ahead of the economy and making money.

Young people need to be introduced to the value of saving and warned off spending every bean they have or own.


It’s great to know that NT School Principals are close to the top in Australia when it comes to happiness, commitment and importantly, lessons learned from their appointments. This is one of the reasons our Principals should be offered a return to permanent public service appointments rather than increasingly short term, end dated temporary contracts. Job security for those who are the best is important and presently denied.


Haileybury Principal and Deputy Principalship Graig and Kerry Glass have inspired staff and lead a rejuvenated school community to put the school on a solid educational footing. In a few short years they have uplifted the school to rival Essington in the private educational stakes. Their contribution has blessed and enriched NT education.


There are two glaring deficits impacting the effectiveness of Australia’s university education. Reliance on overseas students and overpriced degrees makes domestic students second best. As well, the focus on grants dollars for research detracts from what should be the prime focus of universities – teaching.


From all the challenges students and teachers have confronted this year, there has been one blessing; the abandonment of NAPLAN testing for 2020. This questionable testing regime has burdened education since 2008. I hope NAPLAN is gone for good and believe the vast majority of teachers share the same wish


There is a major issue that mitigates against Indigenous students in many parts of Australia ever achieving satisfactorily at a school level. That issue is “school attendance“.

For many decades, the most significant challenge in education that has confronted these students is that of sporadic school attendance. It’s small wonder that children grow up to become adults who are very minimally educated and for all intents and purposes, often illiterate. Far too many indigenous students decline to attend school day after day, week after week, month after month, and indeed year after year. Then when they leave school there is a general caterwauling about the fact that they are not ready to enter the workplace because of poor education.

It’s generally the educational system and educators who get canned for this failure.

Perhaps the Shimpo Report of 1976 titled “A Social Process of Education” goes some way toward explaining why parents, including those who had the benefit of mission based education, were/are prepared to support the truant habits of their children and grandchildren.

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on programs that have been designed to overcome chronic truancy and to encourage school attendance. In recent years the most notable of these was the Commonwealth Department of Education employing hundreds of people in remote communities throughout Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia, and W.A., to help children transit from home to school. These people wore yellow shirts and as they were employed during the period of Nigel Scullion being the Minister for Indigenous Affairs in the Federal Parliament, they became known as “Nigel’s Army”. I remember at one stage a figure of $28 million being quoted as the cost associated with employing these people.

This program along with many others put into place over time has ofcourse gone by the bye.

Expectations about indigenous student attendance at school are almost sinister. When Bruce Wilson reviewed Indigenous Education in the NT in his report published in 2014, he identified chronic school non attendance as a major drawback for students. However in suggesting this needed to be corrected if children were to achieve, he suggested that a school attendance of 60% (three days of every five) would be a good outcome.

I cannot accept that proposition for a minute. School attendance needs to be full time if students are to become achievers. A 60% attendance rate leaves a 40% gap in meaningful learning opportunities and that is just not good enough.

Investment in programs aimed at overcoming truancy has been long term and ongoing for many decades. But success in overcoming the issue has not and will not work. It will not work unless and until families and children themselves take responsibility for school attendance. That cannot hinge on inducements because the desire to learn has to become a motivation within itself.


It seems to me that more and more students, particularly those at secondary level, are confronted with homework tasks that are well and truly over the top. Students are being handed massive assignment requirements, requiring countless hours of time, where the teaching that should be associated with units of study have not been offered. This requires students to tackle topics without a sufficient and class taught understanding of what is required.

Homework is increasingly being used as a means of transferring teaching obligations straight onto students and also their parents. The curriculum is widening and deepening in terms of content that has to be taught. A lot is extraneous and b opted onto requirements at the whims of government and ‘experts’. What does not help is a system that says, “yes, yes, we can take on board more and more”.

So it is downloaded as new learning , without prerequisite classroom teaching, onto students. This is not the way to go for outcomes will be web based constructions handed in for assessment where the work has been mechanically prepared, under obligation, and with little understanding and love for these conscripted responses.

Modern educational approaches are too often scarce on meaningful teaching and destructive of a love for learning.


It is to be hoped that the tens of thousands who crowded our cities on June 6 to support the Black Lives Matter movement do not contribute to a second, sinister COVID-19 spike. There will be many Australians feeling apprehensive about the possibility that a second coronavirus wave may eventuate. If that happens, watch out for a revisitation of business lockdowns and movement restrictions.


The prisoner who made a second foray to the rooftop of a Holtze prison building did so in protest against treatment following the mass breach of security and the $40 million damages bill from recent times. Small wonder corrections staff are treating them with apprehension and limiting their activities. They all deserve lengthened sentences without parole. The majority of prisoners who do the right thing, do not deserve to have their reputations tainted by the appalling behaviour of the aberrant minority.


Jacinta Price speaks with inside knowledge and deep wisdom about challenges confronting Indigenous Australians. She is one of the very few leaders who urges Indigenous people to accept responsibility and ownership of issues they confront, also pointing out that so much misery is inflicted by Aboriginal people on each other.

So much of the fixing has to come from within their own cohort.



The CDU focus on international students is distorting. The needs of our domestic students deserve to be more highly prioritised than is the case. Courses supporting NT and Australian students have been reduced and staff laid off. The result is a loss in trades training opportunities together with a discontinuation of essential occupational degrees in nursing and pharmacy. Homegrown students are being overlooked in favour of dollars that pour into university coffers from overseas students.


There seem to be a growing number of people who think that the new CDU campus plan for Darwin looks angular and ugly. The original design that was being looked at Had a far more relaxed and welcoming appearance. I believe that it was the design done by Wayne Gabbert. For whatever reason that design has been passed over for one developed by an interstate architect. If they go with this, the university campus will look imposing but for many people, myself included, rather ugly, inappropriate and hideous.


Meanwhile, what about the Casuarina Campus which is huge, and rather empty. That campus, the main campus, too often looks like a set of deserted buildings. Just what, I ask, is going to happen to this campus. It is a multi tens of millions of dollars facility totally under used.