Letter to NT News Editor APPOINTMENT OF LOCAL PRINCIPALS A REAL PLUS

Your story “Bulk of principal posts go to locals” (NT News 14/1) offers good news to Territory educators with school leadership aspirations. It also indicates the bucking of what has been a system trend. For far too long, principal vacancies in Territory schools have been filled by people appointed from interstate. This has denied NT educators, many with years of leadership experience, the opportunity to fill top level positions in our schools.

The input of school leaders appointed from interstate can infuse new ideas while broadening leadership methodologies. However, for too long the depth and breadth of experience gained from years of educational service by Territory educators has been discounted, with local applicants for positions being overlooked

Forty seven (47) of the nine ((49) 2021 principal vacancies in our schools are being taken up by Territory applicants and that is good news. Many have years of relevant experience. They have completed professional development programs that hone their leadership and management skills.

I hope that 2021 is a watershed year, establishing the worth and building ongoing respect for our homegrown school principals. Our system and its schools should be enhanced if local appointments to principal positions becomes the new norm.

Sincerely

Henry Gray

Life Member

NT Principals Association

Leanyer NT

January 15 2021

EUTHANASIA – A LETTER TO KEVIN ANDREWS (2016)

I am a believer in and supporter of Euthanasia. I wrote the following letter to Kevin Andrews some time ago and share the text.

Dear Mr Andrews

For a long time I have been distressed by the fact that you saw fit to introduce a private member’s bill into the Federal Parliament during the Howard years, which went to the overturning of the Northern Territory Euthanasia Bill. This is a matter about which I have harboured resentment for many years.

The NT Euthanasia Laws were well shaped and carefully structured by our then Chief Minister Marshall Perron. It was a day of relief rather than rejoicement when those laws were enacted into legislation.

In opposite vein, it was a day of rather astounded and disbelieving sadness, yet inevitability, when your private member’s bill got its overriding guernsey in Federal Parliament. I do not know if this bill was your own initiative or whether you were prevailed upon to move it to the parliament by other members of the Coalition. In any case, the rescinding of our most reasonable NT Act did our Territory and Northern Territorians a great disservice.

It is interesting that, by degree, the world is starting to catch up with Mr Perron’s ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill’, which became part of our law over 20 years ago.

I have just turned 70. In my time, members of my family have passed in sad circumstances during which their rationality and their humanity was progressively dismantled by creeping loss of body and mind. I have seen that happen for many people and my awareness grows with advancing age.

For mine, I am desirous of incorporating into the provisions of my hastening old age, a provision that should I become totally incapable or demented, to the point of my reliance on life becoming the full responsibility of others, that I be allowed to decline my mortality: That I be allowed this as a legitimate right to determine, while still of sound body and mind.

Your bill stripped me of a basic human right and the possibility of action that should be an entitlement. I was deeply disappointed in what you did then. That disappointment remains until this day.

Sincerely

Henry Gray

11 March 2016

Mr Andrews eventually replied in a nondescript manner. Just to tell me in broad brush terms that the Federal Parliament acting on its operational principles, scuttled one of the wisest, most decent and empathetic pieces of legislation ever introduced into any Australian Parliament.

I still seethe about Mr Andrews and the Federal Parliament for mechanically and unreasonably brushing aside the Marshall Perron Euthanasia Bill. Few things in my life have been unforgivable. This matter is an exception

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

A number of remote communities in East Arnhem are losing their funding for the provision of after school hours care programs.

Some disappointment has been expressed at the curtailment of services, but the change is totally understandable. These programs are only relevant if children attend school. Chronic non- attendance and truancy make the provision of such services totally farcical.

—-

Denise Cahill ( A lesson on how not to be a leader, Sun. Territorian 25/10/20) makes some salient points on what elevates and deflates leaders in the eyes of beholders.

The power of personal example is ever so important bin determined respect held for leaders. Good leaders are also people who learn about how to lead, by learning (often from observation) about what not to do as a leader. Leadership based on respect cannot be transcended.

—-

Parents need to be on guard and absolutely aware of the online sites their children visit and the online games that can be so absorbing.

Schools play their part, but awareness, education and the shaping of young attitudes has to start in the home. Parents discount this issue at their peril, for it is one of clear and distinct danger to children.

—-

BEWARE ADDICTION TO ONLINE GAMING

Technology has introduced cyberspace to young people in a way that both helps and hinders. It offers advantages and benefits that support and assist in their studies. However, there are downsides that can have a deleterious effect on their minds and lives.

One of the major digital age drawbacks is the savage impact social media has on lives through cyber bullying. Another downside is the temptation to complete assignments through cutting, pasting and plagiarising from online sources.

One of the more sinister impacts of the online age, is its ability to disrupt and change the behaviour of users. Young people can be influenced to alter their thinking about things important to their future life. Some of these changes are little short of bizarre.

“Australian children as young as seven … are launching aggressive attacks on their parents, lying to get out of school and avoiding family holidays to play Fortnite marathons, as the video game recruits a new generation of underage players.” (Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson, Kids in video game crisis, Sunday Territorian, 26 May 2019)

The author adds “Education and neuroscience experts warn excessive and premature use of (video games) is leading to a ballooning crisis for Australian families, … now checking their children into dedicated rehabilitation centres to wean them off screens and reintegrate them into social, family and school life.” (Op.cit)

This is an issue that has been looming for some time. Experts have cautioned against children of tender years being allowed uncontrolled access to gaming applications. However it seems their advice has largely been ignored.

There are others claiming to be experts who maintain that ‘games are just games’ and do not alter the perceptions of young people about the realities of life.

If a significant number of children and adolescents are so preoccupied with gaming that nothing else matters, then addiction is a real issue. Fortnite, one of the major online games is not recommended for player under 13 years of age.

It is influencing far younger children. The article quotes neuroscience communicator Jill Sweatmen who is concerned that this particular game is attracting children who at 7 or 8 years of age are too young and mentally unprepared to handle its content. “There are short term consequences and significant long term consequences to this.” (Op cit)

Parents need to be on guard and absolutely aware of the sites their children visit and the online games that can be so absorbing. Schools play their part, but awareness, education and the shaping of young attitudes has to start in the home. This issue cannot be ignored.

BULLYING IS ALL TOO COMMONPLACE

The consequences of bullying behaviour have played out in the saddest possible way. The passing of Amy Everett, a 14 year old girl from Katherine, again highlighted an issue that continues to press upon modern society. In Australia, suicide is the major cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14. While there may be a number of factors contributing to this sad loss of young lives, bullying and harassment, has without doubt, become the number one contributor.

The online access people have can encourage bullying. While face-to-face bullying has been a traditional tactic of harassment, the coming of cyberspace communication has added an exponential element to the problem. Bullying, much of it sharp, vicious and aiming for maximum hurt, has become a 24/7 occupation. Keyboard bullies can get at anyone, anywhere and at any time.

Amy Everitt’s passing is the most recent case of a phenomenon that is ending the life from far too many people, especially young people. And it is happening all too often.

The ‘Courier Mail’, in covering the Amy Everett story (January 11) intimated that online bullying can be taking place without parents having a real understanding of what might be happening. Clearly there is a need for children and young people to be protected from online savagery. The following sound advice was offered to parents and those responsible for children.

“ 1. Regularly talk with them (children) about technology and their online activity.

2. Put filters in place and set security levels to high restrictions.

3. Make sure their passwords are changed regularly and kept private even from friends.

4. Many children don’t want to talk about online bullying for fear they will have their social media access taken away. Assure them this won’t happen.” (Courier Mail April 11, 2018)

Many very young children have access to social media platforms and can be reached by unscrupulous persons. Michael Carr-Gregg an eminent child psychologist, believes that 60% to 70% of primary school aged children are on social media and this should be discouraged.

It is suggested that social media companies should not allow children under the age of 12 to use their platforms and this should be enforced.

Children, along with everyone else, can and should be encouraged to eliminate vicious and hurtful online bullying. Young people should be taught to bar access to their accounts by those seeking to harm them through vicious words and vile statements.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

Thank you to all NT school principals retiring at the end of 2020 for your school managenent and leadership.

And at last the NT News (14/1) reveals some good news on the recruitment front. Of the 49 principal vacancies, 47 are being filled from within the Territory, with only two people appointed from interstate.

Finally, home grown leaders are being recognised, appreciated and promoted into top level leadership positions. This long overdue move deserves applause.

——

I hope that as children and students begin returning to school within the next fortnight, they will not be confronted with the same challenges that distorted the 2020 academic year.

How schools, staff and students deserve plaudits for the way they coped with last year. But they don’t need to repeat in 2021.

—-

The one good thing about education in 2020 was the “disappearance” from the school agenda of NAPLAN tests. I can only hope that they will stay gone this year and forever. I am no fan of this testing regime. It needs to stay gone.

ARE AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS ‘REALLY’ BEHIND THE EIGHTBALL?

Media stories that highlight student mediocrity, are brought to the attention of the Australian public with predictable regularity. ‘The Australian’ has run front page stories that bagged Australian students accomplishments. Our best were described as being on par with Singapore’s least accomplished students.

According to International Student Assessment (PISA) results released in December 2016, students tested in Singapore ranked first in science, reading and maths results for OECD countries. Among these countries, Australian students ranked 14th in science, 16th in reading and a lowly 25th in mathematics.

Comparing Australian with Singaporean students is fallacious. Singapore is an island state of 5.6 million, and the country’s prime focus is on commerce and finance. It is a country that controls the civil and political rights of people and is governed by a semi authoritarian regime.

Australia’s vastness, the fact that education is largely state and territory controlled and our multicultural nature are factors that make us different to Singapore. Singapore’s republic has a centrally administered and tightly controlled educational system. The focus on education is influenced by expectations that graduates will continue to build and expand the industrial, commercial and financial focus of the country. Personal choice and career options are more directly influenced by government and the education system than in Australia.

There are many more occupational choices on offer to Australian students than is the case in Singapore and many other OECD countries. Vocational opportunities within the agricultural and pastoral industry are not options for many in small, densely populated overseas countries, so competence in these occupations is not measured.

The fact that our students are encouraged to think freely and make decisions about their occupational futures is also a plus.

There are weaknesses in every educational system. Australian parents and teachers encourage children to make the most of education and school, but career decisions ultimately belong to students. And study aside, there is a focus on personal and social development and recreational opportunities.

Students in Singapore and other OECD countries are academically focussed on what seems to be a full time, whole of life basis. And all for a few extra PISA points. That is not the developmental balance we need for Australian students. By and large, Australian education meets the holistic needs of our students and generally does it well.

THE ‘B.Y.O.D AGE’ IS UPON US

For many years, schools have been supported by Government in the acquisition of technological equipment. For many years the NT Government has provided hardware equipment and software programs supporting schools, teachers and students. In the NT, one of the most notable programs has been the allocation of laptop computers for teachers. Units are signed out to teachers and retained by them on transfer from one school to another.

Computers remain the property of the Department, with resigning or retiring staff having to return units to their school. Units are then re-issued to new staff members appointed to the school. Laptops have been maintained by the Department under leasing warranty and replaced by upgraded models after a period of years.

Computers issued to schools for student use have been allocated under a similar program. When hardware has been replaced, schools have had the option of keeping redundant equipment and also assuming future maintenance costs.

Costs of school computerisation has been a number one outlay for both the government and schools themselves. Included for schools have been outlays for licensing agreements and network establishment. Increasingly, school council fundraising has also been directed toward supporting technology in schools. It seems that budgetary requirements for technology and technological support can never be satisfied.

Rapid change

The pace of technological change means that equipment purchased for schools is outdated almost as soon as it is installed. Update needs are constant, impacting significantly on budgets. At the same time, government funding of computer needs is becoming less generous. This is placing funding onus more squarely on schools. Without doubt, technology is the most significant item impacting on educational costs. The question of affordability and the need to balance income and expenditure is pressing schools into the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) era.

BYOD

Bring your own device is a requirement in a growing number of schools, both public and private in southern states. The approach is also creeping into Northern Territory schools. “The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program works like this: Kids in all year levels are free to bring in their own iPads to use in the classroom. … Parents buy the devices, kids take them to and from school, and everyone hopes like hell they end the day with screens intact.” (Kate Hunter ‘When a free education costs $650’ from Mummamia.com.au)

William Cohen a Sydney Secondary Education Teacher says this new approach is challenging. “Unfortunately, the switch to student-owned technology is not going to be a simple one. Leaving aside the equity issues that underlie a BYOD model … the options are so varied that some schools are now creating documents that give minimum device specifications.” (William Cohen ‘BYOD … Buyers Guide To Schools’, abc.net.au)

Whether we like it or not, BYOD is becoming the new way forward. Painful budget cuts and the need to carefully prioritise expenditure, will make this the only option available for many schools. BYOD may only be the start. As funding becomes even more scarce, parents and families may be increasingly called upon to make up the difference.

CHILDREN NEED EXPERIENCE WITH ‘REAL’ MONEY

In our increasingly cashless society there is a distinct danger that children will grow up without understanding the value and worth on money. It was recently reported that 81% of business transactions are now completed online or by card. Only 19% of transactions involve hard currency. With coins and notes disappearing from purses and wallets, the value of money is becoming abstract and without real meaning.

Writing in the Sunday Territorian (August 19 2018) Sophie Elsworth warned that children are losing ‘the sense of cash’. Our card focussed culture is eroding their understanding of money and finances.

Elseworth’s column cites a recent Financial Planning Association report. “The report … quizzed 1000 Australian parents with children aged between 4 and 18. … A majority of parents (66%) concede electronic transactions are a massive barrier for children grasping the true value of money. It … showed 68% of parents were reluctant to speak to their kids about cash.”

Parents have an important part to play in helping their children overcome ignorance about money. The article suggests that giving children pocket money “… makes it a lot easier for parents to discuss and teach their kids about money. … The truly important thing is to teach kids about the ‘value’ of money.”

Giving children pocket money and encouraging them to save some of it, initially in money boxes and then by banking into a savings account can help. With that should come conversations about the reason for saving. There is a paradox to parental responsibility in this matter. Elseworth wrote the FPA report “ … showed 38% of parents admitted to borrowing money from their child’s piggy bank or bank account to pay for urgent expenses.” That does not set a good example on money management.

Although children should have been introduced to money at home, schools have a part to play in extending their awareness about the value of money.

Educators often state that children learn best when their initial experiences involve the use of concrete objects.Their understanding is reinforced if they can use and handle the materials being discussed. The Australian Curriculum requires that “ … students learn about the nature … and value of money.” (ACARA Mathematics overview). Children start with simple experiences which include them handling money and understanding it in a very basic way. More complex matters are presented as students move up the grades through their schooling years.

Elseworth advises of caution offered to parents (and teachers) by Tribeca Financials Chief Executive Officer Ryan Watson. He urged that young people be taught that “credit cards are the devil”. This may be a little extreme but cards need to be managed carefully and sensibly.

AM I A SIMPLETON OR SIMPLY MISSING SOME POINT?

Maybe I am a simpleton or just not able to understand understandable issues. Can someone please help me understand the matters I find so confusing. They are not in any particular order of confusion but all are hard for me to understand.

I need educating.

. Why is it that the more and more Australians repatriated from overseas, the more abd more there are on waiting lists wanting to return? Australian families – airlines estimate close to 100,000 people may be waiting to return. How come when so many are already back?

. Why have more than 16,000 Australians been granted exemptions to go overseas since the government embargoed overseas travel in March/April 2020?

. Why are repatriated Australians being quarantined in hotels in the centre of cities in all places but the NT?

. Why are deterrent Covid behaviours suggested rather than being mandated?

. Why do authorities act in a way that makes them beholden to fixing up the issues that people have gotten themselves into through their own behaviour and actions – often indulged counter to the advice of authorities?

. Why are people so frenetic about travel and holidays when this flies in the face of the common sense we should all be exercising?