This articles was published in the NT Suns on November 14 2017. Written with the Northern Territory context in mind, it has applicability to Year 12 students all around Australia.



Several thousand Northern Territory Year 12 students have reached the pinnacle of their primary and secondary educational experience. Some have completed their publicly assessed examinations and begin the wait for exam results. By Christmas time they will have their results and can begin planning the next stage of their lives. Other students who have opted for school assessed subjects will be considering vocational careers. For some students, there may be disappointment but the majority will experience the joy that comes with success. Commitment and effort generally lead to positive outcomes.

‘Schoolies Week’ will be happening for our Year 12 cohort. Many students will let their hair down and chill out, possibly in Bali or at some other recreational resort. Celebration is fine and should be without incident if the cautions offered by parents and authorities are observed.

Within a few short weeks, the question of ‘what next’ will be exercising the minds of graduates. Apprenticeships and further trade training will be on the horizon for some. Contemplation of university entrance to Charles Darwin or interstate universities will be considered by others.

Gap Year

Graduating Year 12 students may elect to take a ‘gap year’. This period of time away from study is used by some for travelling and others for work.

A gap year gives students the chance to fully consider career alternatives. Many students who have opted for a tertiary program while still at school, have upon reflection changed their minds and chosen alternative career pathways. To go straight to university from Year 12 can mean commencing a course that is really not the most suitable. The options then become changing courses midstream or continuing with a program that ultimately may lead to a unsatisfying career. While jobs available may not be those of first choice, the chance to earn money and meet people builds confidence and helps develop independence for young people.

Those choosing to work for twelve months know their earnings can go a long way toward meeting HECS costs and other tertiary study expenses. Degrees are becoming more expensive as Federal Government initiatives impacting on university funding begin to bite. Accumulated HECS debts are burdensome and can take years to pay back.

To complete Year 12 is an achievement and congratulations are in order. I am sure we all wish graduates well as they contemplate and prepare for the next stage in their lives.








This paper was published in edited form in the ‘NT Suns’ on September 19 2017.



Educational ideas and changes are often presented to the public as being innovative and new. This is often not the case. Proposed changes are in fact there to have a great article re-introduction of old practices, previously discarded.

Within education at both schools and system levels of management, there is a fairly constant movement of staff. Those new to education in the NT, may introduce ‘new’ practices without being aware of their past use and history. This happens because there is little in the way of written and recorded NT educational history.

From time to time, those earning degrees, may study aspects of our Territory’s educational past. However, their dissertations and theses at best, find their way into the university’s library archive, often never seeing the light of day after they have been assessed and filed. This means they benefit no-one. The research devoted to their preparation and what they reveal is largely wasted.

When appointed CEO of Education in 2009, Gary Barnes observed to a meeting of school leaders that his job as incoming leader was not helped by the fact that we had no recorded and readily available history of education in the NT. He suggested that to understand educational history would help leaders in planning the way forward.

Any hope there might be some changes to overcome this deficiency have never occurred. Consequently, many educators who come to the NT remain blind to educational history. They make decisions and introduce policies without realising how much of their ‘new’ content is old hat. The following are a few of the policies that have been re-run:

• Regionalisation of educational management which has been on, off and on again several times since the late 1970’s.

• Introduction of Aboriginal languages into schools. Over time, bilingual education and other approaches have been embraced, rejected and re-endorsed.

• Developing programs for the study of languages other than English (LOTE) in both primary and secondary schools has had the same on again, off again, now on again history.

• Teacher training methodologies have been re-modelled so many times, that confusion has resulted.

• TAFE, VET and life education approaches are in a constant state of flux, posing huge challenges for schools, training institutions and students.

Innovation and change are important to grow educational systems and the schools they support. However, so too is consistency and predictability. Introducing, dropping, reinstating and changing focus by habit, is not wise. For the sake of stability we need to reflect on our educational history.






An edited version of this column was published in the NT Suns on September 12 2017



While most formal education takes place in classrooms, learning opportunities beyond the ‘four walls’ can add to student development. The part excursions play in furthering awareness should be appreciated.

Excursions extend normal teaching and learning contexts and are planned to support development and knowledge of the world beyond school boundaries.

In primary school, the child’s first extended educational experience may be an overnight camp at school. By the time children are in year 3 or 4, excursions often extend to provide for overnights of one or two days at places away from home. Berry Springs Wildlife Park is a top end example of where children camp and learn about animals, birds and nature.

Children in upper primary years may spend up to a week at the Batchelor Outdoor Education Centre, Outbound Adventure at Wallaroo (on the Arnhem Highway) or at similar places. These programs build confidence, introduce students to new skills and allow them to develop a sense of living that goes beyond the home. Sometimes exchanges between schools take place, with students being able to learn about other places in the Territory, for example Katherine, Jabiru and other Territory towns and communities.

Extending knowledge

In recent years, senior primary students have travelled interstate on extended excursion programs. One of the most popular destinations is Canberra where the War Museum, Parliament House, the National Art Gallery and other places of significance are visited. Education officers working in each place offer key learning and understanding opportunities. Some school groups, while down south, also visit Australia’s snow fields.

Destinations for some primary and secondary school excursion groups include overseas countries as near as Indonesia and as far away as Japan.

‘Living’ learning

Excursions add value to learning, enabling students to extend their knowledge and understanding. After reading, visualising or being told about elements of the curriculum studied, they get to ‘live’ in these environments beyond home and school.

Learning outside the classroom enables students and staff to build on positive relationships. Often those participating come back to school with added appreciation and respect for each other. Excursions are exercises in team building. They certainly help those taking part to understand and know each other as people. They come at a cost to parents and often engage schools in fundraising. However, the value added to student learning outcomes makes the preparation and expenditure fully worthwhile.

Note: Extended excursions are often referred to as ‘camps’.












A little over four years ago, I was invited to write a weekly education column for the Suns, a community newspaper published each Tuesday as an insert in the Northern Territory News.

The Suns has gone through a number of changes over time, and I am outlining distribution as it happens in 2017. The Suns is also published as a stand alone paper which people can pick up for free.

Along with other NT News products it is also available online.

This week was my 200th column for the Suns, my first being published on July 2, 2013. I have enjoyed developing the column and can confirm that educational topics are never-ending.

My columns are necessarily edited for inclusion in the paper. Unedited versions are published on my blog at

I have enjoyed giving back and giving to the community through my column. Many people comment to me and generally in terms of appreciation. It is a nice and personally rewarding way of engaging with the community in a volunteer context.

And I wanted to share my 200th celebration on my blog.


Henry Gray


Tip 40


There are far too many presenters who are quietly regarded as ‘know-alls’ – and not in a particularly complimentary manner. They may well be very knowledgeable in their fields. However, if they present to their audience in a ‘high and mighty’ manner, then the respect that might be theirs for a more wholesome and humble presentation will be lost.

The MANNER in which a presenter relates to his or her audience is of absolute and paramount importance.

Tip 41

Note: The next few snippets are offered from the position of listening to presenters on radio or viewing them on television. There are of course parallels to be observed and appreciated in a live audience context.


When watching television or listening to the radio, listen intently to what is said and how the presenter comes across on the screen. Consider his or her speech from the viewpoints of pitch, rhythm, tone and intonation. Does the voice catch on and engaged you or is style a bit of a turn off. The way in which vocal qualities engage (or disengage) listeners is every so important.

Think about what you are hearing and make mental notes about the example this presenter or speaker is offering. To study others can help in reflecting upon the need for personal awareness and self improvement.

More to come in the next few days.



I hope people may be finding these useful.

Tip 36


* “Andrew fix him up”: Should be “Andrew, please fix it up.”

* “You staying back for five minutes.”: Should be “You will be staying back for five minutes.”

* “Tell something about what you learned.”: Should be “Tell me (or us) something about what you have learned.”

* “Today the last one.” : Should be “Today is the last one.”

* “Are you talking something about your story?” You should have said “Are you talking about your story?”( The word ‘something’ was not needed.

* “Please come to sit on the floor” should be “Please come and sit on the floor.”

Tip 37


* The shape is “rhombus ” not “rhombos” -pronunciation.

* “Depth” not “depf” -pronunciation and substitution of “f” for “th” in word usage.

* “You like this song?” should be “Do you like this song?”. Always use “do” as an upfront word when asking a question of this nature.

* “Carbor box” should have been “cardboard box”.

* “Pu your hands up” is “put your hands up”. Always use “please” when asking this of children because that is modeling the manners we want of them.

* “Look at here” should be “Look up here”. Again the use “please” at the front of a request is important.


Tip 32


In a role with the Charles Darwin University I was working with a number of International Students. Most were undertaking one year Graduate Diplomas in Education. Part of my role was to observe them in classroom teaching situations, advising on teaching methodologies and voice usage. Some of the points I made with members of the group overtime are included below. They tend to be points of pronunciation and speech application that needed a little attention. I’m I am including these points as they build up over time to become a statement of things to watch that I could share.

Tip 33

Some things to watch:

* Your pronunciation and use of ‘sh’ – you tend to go to ‘s’ with words.

* The need to be aware of the fact that some words (ie ‘sugar’ are said as ‘shugar’ although they are spelled without that sound (sh) being emphasised.

* Similarly with ‘cl’ ie ‘in the next class’, not ‘in the next cass’.

* Similarly with ‘th’ ie ‘thirty centimeters’ not ‘tirty centimetres’.

* Sometimes you miss plurals, ie ‘use your coloured pencils’ not ‘use your coloured pencil’.

* “How many we need?” should be “How many do we need?”