SUNS 69 & 70: ‘TEMPORARY TEACHER DILEMMA’ and ‘YEAR 12’s GRADUATE’

SUNS 69 & 70: ‘TEMPORARY TEACHER DILEMMA’ and ‘YEAR 12’s GRADUATE’

These columns were published in the Suns during October and November 2014. Please feel free to quote or use but in so doing please acknowledge the Suns Newspapers as publishers.
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SUN 69

TEMPORARY TEACHERS ON UNSURE GROUND

There is a perception that teachers in our schools are all permanently employed. This is far from being the case. When teachers who are permanent go on maternity leave, long service leave or leave without pay, their positions are backfilled on a temporary basis. Replacement teachers are on short term contracts, which end when those on leave return to duty. There are few schools without contract teachers.

Contract teachers often move from one school to another, filling a succession of temporary vacancies on short term contracts. When permanently held positions are vacated due to resignation or retirement, contract teachers may be eligible for permanent appointment.

This process can be slow, with the period of time individual teachers spend on contract sometimes extending for years. While temporary teachers are glad to find work, there are downsides to not being permanent. It is very difficult for teachers who are on contract to negotiate home loans, meaning they are likely to be locked into the rental market. From a professional viewpoint it can be difficult for teachers to operate as they would if permanent staff members.

When temporary teachers move on, students often feel disappointment because they have come to know, appreciate and respect ‘their’ teacher. Disappointment means that re-entry for teachers returning from leave can be challenging.

There are no easy answers to this situation. While it might be nice to offer permanency to all teachers, this would rapidly result in teacher over-supply. The department cannot permanently employ more teachers than there are positions to fill within the Territory. A number of years ago, the majority of contract teachers were offered permanency all at once. It quickly became apparent this was a wrong move because there were more teachers than positions to fill.

Making teachers permanent to the NT Educational system rather than to particular schools in which they are working has also been trialled. This reassures teachers because they have permanent positions. However, it gives no guarantee that they will be placed in the school of their choice.

Remote Apprehension

If teachers were willing to accept appointment to the Territory’s regional and remote areas, the tenure issue would quickly dissipate. However the majority of teachers seeking permanent positions have little desire to move from urban areas to more distant locations. Some believe that accepting remote appointments means they will be locked out of positions in Darwin, Palmerston or Alice Springs. Many are mature age graduates with family commitments which preclude them from teaching in remote locations.

‘Difficult to staff’ schools force the Education Department to recruit from interstate. In time, some of these teachers become entitled to transfers into our cities. This adds to pressures faced by teachers on short term contracts. While empathising with these teachers, it is hard to see their appointment opportunities changing any time soon.
Contract employment for temporary teachers may be here to stay.
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SUN 70

YEAR 12’S HAVE MUCH TO CONSIDER

Several thousand Northern Territory Year 12 students have reached the pinnacle of their primary and secondary educational careers. 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 will have opted for school assessed subjects and will consider vocationally oriented careers. For some students, there will be disappointment but the majority will experience the joy that comes with success.

‘Schoolies Week’ is upon 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 will be without incident if the cautions offered by parents and authorities are observed. In past years there have been too many mishaps that have occurred because of celebrations gone wrong. Sense and sensibility need to prevail.

The question of ‘what next’ will follow the release of results in a few short weeks. 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

In recent years it has become the practice for many graduating Year 12 students to take a ‘gap year’. This period of time away from study is used by some for travelling and others for work.

Those who take a gap year are able to secure university places for tertiary entrance in 2016 providing their Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE ) mark is sufficient for them to be offered a place in their chosen course. Having twelve months away from the books after thirteen years of primary schooling and secondary study can be refreshing. It also offers students the chance to think and reflect on their achievements and ponder opportunities that might lie ahead.

A further advantage of taking a gap year is that it gives students the chance to more 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 are changing courses midstream or continuing with a program that ultimately may not lead to a satisfying 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 accruing funds to help to offset HECS costs and other tertiary study expenses. Degrees do not come cheaply and will shortly become more expensive as Federal Government initiatives impacting on university funding become reality. 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 our graduates well as they contemplate and prepare for the next stage of life.
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SUNS 61 & 62 ‘HEAD LICE’ and ‘BACK-TO-FRONT DISCIPLINE’

SUNS 61 & 62 ‘HEAD LICE’ and ‘BACK-TO-FRONT DISCIPLINE’

These columns were published in the Darwin and Palmerston Suns in September and October 2014
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SUN 61

HEAD LICE AN ETERNAL SCOURGE

Invasion by head-lice is a perennial problem for children at school, with re-infection occurring regularly. There is a significant cost for the purchase of products used in treatment. That is particularly the case where two, three or more children in each family have to be treated every time an infestation breaks out.

Until the 1980s, the impact of headlice was felt less than is now the case. Community health sisters used to come into schools, inspect heads for infestation and treat infected children. However, that practice was discontinued because the powers that be decided the head-lice issue was a “social” rather than a “medical” problem. The onus for treatment came back onto schools and parents.

Teachers and administrative staff used to check children if head-lice were suspected, notifying parents of the need for treatment. In more recent years it has been deemed inappropriate for school staff members to touch the heads of children and inspect for lice. In part that was to avoid embarrassing children. It was also felt that physical inspection of heads could be deemed a form of assault.

If head-lice are suspected, staff telephone parents, asking that children be taken home and treated, before returning to school. This may mean time off work for parents and lost learning time for children.

Head-lice continue to be the number one scourge for schools and students. It takes the inattention of only one family represented in a class of children to cause an breakout affecting them all. Schools urge parents regularly inspect children’s heads for lice or eggs, carrying out treatment if necessary. The problem however continues to manifest itself within our schools.

Illness

In a similar manner, health problems affecting one or two children can have an impact upon whole school classes. During the cold and flu season classes are quite often decimated because of children who are sick and away. Teachers are also susceptible and many become quite ill. The non-treatment or non-exclusion of one or two children in the first instance can have serious health impacts upon whole school communities.

The Demands Of Work

Parental work commitments can mean unwell children are sent to school, even though they may spend the day in the sick bay. It is not uncommon for primary school sickbays to resemble a scene from crowded house! Support staff (when signed parental permissions forms are completed) can administer prescribed medication. They also handle reluctant parental responses when ringing and requesting sick children be picked up from school.

A good deal of the contagion that spreads through school classes happens because children in poor health are at school and spreading infection.

Notification

A growing amount of administrative time is spent in notifying parents about health issues. Letters from schools to parents about head lice are sent home with monotonous regularity. With a growing percentage of parents declining immunisation for children, notification about measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, new strains of flu and other outbreaks have to be made.

Student health and well-being matters are major school issues. They should be at the forefront of parental awareness and response.
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SUN 62

DISCIPLINE ISSUE IS BACK TO FRONT

In recent weeks that hoary old chestnut ‘discipline’ has been to the fore in local media. The key issue raised was that of corporal punishment and it’s use in schools. What came to light was the fact that the NT Education Act still refers to corporal punishment as an available disciplinary alternative.

That in fact has not been the case for more than a decade. Around the turn of the century, principals in Government Schools were notified that corporal punishment was no longer to be administered. Prior to that time and as far back as the 1970’s, the use of the cane was allowed within strict regulatory parameters.

It is true to say that discipline applied to students was quite harsh in both verbal and physical terms. With the passing of years, anachronistic practices have been streamlined and modified. Behaviour management strategies based on understanding students have been developed and implemented. All schools have behaviour management policies which are included within their improvement action plans. Principles of natural justice underpin these policies. They are ahead of the present Education Act, which when modified will catch up with discipline practices in place within our schools.

Boot On Other Foot

We have moved a long way from the old, historical methods of discipline. Every effort is made to offer safe, secure learning environments to students. The idea for discipline is that it should positively uphold and reinforce 2014 school values.

A key and sinister shift however, is not how discipline impacts upon students but how the softly, softly approach can and does backfire on schools and staff members. This is particularly the case within the public school sector. Student aberrance, deliberate defiance and antisocial conduct raises difficult, sometimes intolerable situations for school staff, along with silent, suffering student majorities. As disciplinary options for principals and their teams have ‘softened’ it seems there has been an escalation in the unacceptable behavioural attitudes of some students. Teachers and other students have to suffer the indignities these behaviours unload on classes and schools.

Nicely worded, affirmative and embracing behaviour management policies, in practical terms, have little impact or influence on this hardline student core. The system appears to have little capacity to deal with manifestly unacceptable conduct, meaning that schools suffer. At the classroom level, about the only countering device and control measure available to teachers are their tongues. In many cases, verbal remonstration has little impact on correcting student behaviour. Principals and school leadership teams are similarly constrained.

Offering engaging educational alternatives within purpose built units for disruptive students has been tried and can make a difference. However, there are far more students needing this support than places available to meet school and system needs.

Stress Issues

Student discipline is an area increasingly impacting on health and well-being issues for school staff. A health and well-being survey conducted by the Monash University in 2013 identified student violence and bullying as a key stressor for school leaders (Summary Report pp 7,8). The number of teachers taking long term sickness and stress leave has escalated in the last decade and is largely attributed to student behaviour. Recently a Victorian teacher was awarded $1.3m as compensation for a career disrupted and ruined by student behaviour. According to rumour, this settlement has other educators, who have similarly suffered, considering litigation. ‘Discipline’ is a two-way street, and teachers are increasingly on the receiving end.
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SUNS 53 and 54 “SCHOOL UNIFORMS” and “DISCIPLINE A POSITIVE?”

Note:

I have now been writing a weekly column for the Suns Newspapers, community papers for Darwin, palmerston and Litchfield for just over twelve months.

Someone suggested that there would be an end to topics with appeal to newspaper readers. Not so. Education is never-ending in terms of its topical nature.

I aim to write in a way that is timely, relevant and contributive to the educational debate.

Feedback is always welcome. In addition to my blogsite I am at henry.gray@bigpond.com

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UNIFORMS ADD TO PUBLIC SCHOOL CHARACTER

Much has been said and written about school uniforms for Northern Territory school students. The issue has been more newsworthy than for other States and Territories. Wearing of school uniforms by children attending interstate government schools has been the accepted practice for many years. The issue for NT students at government schools is more recent and the policy still developing.

Fact or myth

A story that did the rounds after Cyclone Tracy’s devastating impact in 1974, was that in students had worn uniform. However, this practice was discontinued in the aftermath of Tracy and not revisited until much later. This may or may not have been the case. However, the fact there was no dress code for government school students, certainly set them apart in appearance from their private school counterparts.

The issue of student dress was left to individual schools and their communities. Some made more effort than others to develop policies on dress standards. It was common practice for schools, where dress mattered, to mention and reward ‘most uniform conscious’ classes at school assemblies and in newsletters. In some schools ‘mascots’ were awarded to the best dressed class of the week.

Difficulties

This school based approach generally worked well. However there were students and parents who resisted the push on dress standards. On occasion, complaints were raised to the department by these parents, with principals generally being instructed to support non-compliant students. This made it very difficult for principals and councils who were trying to set dress standards through promoting the wearing of school uniforms. The biggest issue was encouraging uniform wearing students, while having to accommodate that minority excused from compliance. Lack of system backing did not help. Principals and school leaders had to manage the issue on their own.

Policy change

In July 2009, the NT Education Department introduced a school uniform policy, applicable to students for primary and middle schools. Wearing of school uniform became compulsory, with exceptions for students on cultural or religious grounds. Safety and health requirements included the need for enclosed hats and enclosed shoes. The introduction of this policy had some positive results.

* It lifted the standards of student appearance.
* It added to the identification of students with their schools.
* It built the levels of pride children felt for their schools.
* Students become aware that levels of behaviour, especially in public, needed to reflect school standards.
* In many cases it reduced costs to parents. School uniforms were cheaper than alternative dress.

While primary school students accepted uniform as including school shirts, shorts, skirts or dresses, middle primary students were generally content with shirts only. That amounts to partial uniform compliance, meaning there is still some way to go in developing standards to meet the full dress code.

Until recently, Senior School students (years 10 -12) were free to wear, within reason, whatever they liked. Uniforms are now being considered for senior students and not before time. Senior Secondary students should be representing their schools in the same way as their younger peers. (38)

Appearance counts

Attitude toward wearing school uniforms can be a strong selling point for parents and enrolling students. In this respect, private school students have outshone their public school counterparts for many years. The non-government school sector is still well on top in this domain. Adherence to working policies on school uniform requirements, sells schools to many parents.

Compared with interstate government schools, our attitude to the wearing of school uniform is still quite cavalier. It is an area in which improvement needs to be continued, for the sake of public schools and their image.
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SUN 53 29 – 2014

UNIFORMS ADD TO PUBLIC SCHOOL CHARACTER

Much has been said and written about school uniforms for Northern Territory school students. The issue has been more newsworthy than for other States and Territories. Wearing of school uniforms by children attending interstate government schools has been the accepted practice for many years. The issue for NT students at government schools is more recent and the policy still developing.

Fact or myth

A story that did the rounds after Cyclone Tracy’s devastating impact in 1974, was that in students had worn uniform. However, this practice was discontinued in the aftermath of Tracy and not revisited until much later. This may or may not have been the case. However, the fact there was no dress code for government school students, certainly set them apart in appearance from their private school counterparts.

The issue of student dress was left to individual schools and their communities. Some made more effort than others to develop policies on dress standards. It was common practice for schools, where dress mattered, to mention and reward ‘most uniform conscious’ classes at school assemblies and in newsletters. In some schools ‘mascots’ were awarded to the best dressed class of the week.

Difficulties

This school based approach generally worked well. However there were students and parents who resisted the push on dress standards. On occasion, complaints were raised to the department by these parents, with principals generally being instructed to support non-compliant students. This made it very difficult for principals and councils who were trying to set dress standards through promoting the wearing of school uniforms. The biggest issue was encouraging uniform wearing students, while having to accommodate that minority excused from compliance. Lack of system backing did not help. Principals and school leaders had to manage the issue on their own.

Policy change

In July 2009, the NT Education Department introduced a school uniform policy, applicable to students for primary and middle schools. Wearing of school uniform became compulsory, with exceptions for students on cultural or religious grounds. Safety and health requirements included the need for enclosed hats and enclosed shoes. The introduction of this policy had some positive results.

* It lifted the standards of student appearance.
* It added to the identification of students with their schools.
* It built the levels of pride children felt for their schools.
* Students become aware that levels of behaviour, especially in public, needed to reflect school standards.
* In many cases it reduced costs to parents. School uniforms were cheaper than alternative dress.

While primary school students accepted uniform as including school shirts, shorts, skirts or dresses, middle primary students were generally content with shirts only. That amounts to partial uniform compliance, meaning there is still some way to go in developing standards to meet the full dress code.

Until recently, Senior School students (years 10 -12) were free to wear, within reason, whatever they liked. Uniforms are now being considered for senior students and not before time. Senior Secondary students should be representing their schools in the same way as their younger peers. (38)

Appearance counts

Attitude toward wearing school uniforms can be a strong selling point for parents and enrolling students. In this respect, private school students have outshone their public school counterparts for many years. The non-government school sector is still well on top in this domain. Adherence to working policies on school uniform requirements, sells schools to many parents.

Compared with interstate government schools, our attitude to the wearing of school uniform is still quite cavalier. It is an area in which improvement needs to be continued, for the sake of public schools and their image.

SUNS 51 and 52: ‘SCHOOL HOLIDAYS’ and ‘SCHOOL SUPPORT STAFF’

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS A BLESSING AND BANE

Australian Education was once offered on the basis of three terms making up the school year. Then semesters replaced terms as the model under which education was offered. Four terms, each of ten weeks were organised into two semesters. All States and the ACT opted for a two week break between each term, with six weeks holiday at year’ end.

NT Different

The Northern Territory Government and Education Department settled on a different model.
* Six weeks over Christmas and the New Year
* One week between terms one and two
* Four weeks between semesters one and two
* One week between terms three and four
* Six weeks (Christmas/New Year) at the end of the school year.

The Northern Territory chose this model because of isolation and the need for a long mid-year break. That was many years ago and things have changed.

* The Territory is less transient and families are more settled than was the case.
* Dry season festivals encourage people to stay in the Territory.
* Travel costs and economic realities are making two long holidays a year less affordable.
* This is the season for relations visiting rather than Territorians exiting.
* Communications have come of age. Contact with distant family and friends is achievable through online connections

There is a case for shortening the mid semester holiday, adding a week to the break between terms 3 and 4. The final term of the year is both busy and exhausting. One week does not allow sufficient time for recovery. Both staff and students flatlined as they go into term four’s critical examination and assessment period.

Misnomer

The NT News regularly carries letters written by people lambasting teachers as minimalist contributors who are given far too much holiday release. While there is a small percentage of poor performing educators, the great majority of teachers put in many, many more hours each week than the 36.75 for which they are paid. It is not uncommon for teachers to work for 60 or more hours each week, making the profession the most significant in the Territory for unpaid overtime. In addition, many use a large percentage of holiday time, planning and preparing in readiness for the return of students. Not only is teaching an exhausting profession, but one in which teachers are rarely appreciated and regularly condemned.

Key Concerns

I suspect that community discontent over holidays is due in part to schools being considered by some as child-minding centres rather than educating institutions. This misplaced understanding is fuelled by governments who charge educational systems and schools with taking on responsibilities for bringing up children. These were once once vested in parents. With schools closed, the onus of responsibility for holiday weeks falls back on parents. Child care costs far more than school attendance and this can lead to resentment. There are of course many parents who welcome holidays as a chance for family refreshment and organise their yearly schedules around school term time. However, it is the perceived ‘negatives’ of school holidays that are most upheld in the public eye.

Without these necessary breaks, teachers and students would be forever flagging and never refreshed. Teaching would suffer with learning becoming a drudge. It is in the interests of teachers, support staff and students that school holidays stay in place.
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ANCILLARY STAFF ARE ABSOLUTELY INVALUABLE

The roles filled by parents and teachers in developing meaningful educational partnerships and programs are important and valued. The care, concern and empathy of their parents and teachers, supports and encourages students during their educational years.

However, partnerships underpinning successful schools go beyond the three-way linking of students, parents and teachers. There is a fourth dimension, that being the educational support offered by ancillary and support staff employed within schools. Without their involvement, services available to students would be drastically reduced.

Administrative Support

Administrative support staff include the school’s registrar (these days designated the ‘Finance Manager’) and front office staff. Frontline staff members set the tone and atmosphere parents and visitors feel when entering the school. That welcoming quality is crucial because first impressions are lasting, for those who come calling. Of equal importance is the impression gained when phone calls to the school are answered. Students come to the office for a myriad of reasons, including sickness, and need to feel comfortable with that contact.

Office administrators are the public relations front-runners for their schools. They are also responsible for maintaining the bulk of student records, including everything from admission to assessment records. Contact with parents and caregivers on behalf of the school is part of their brief. Daily and weekly returns that have to be lodged with the Education Department, school newsletters, web site updates and maintenance are included in their responsibilities. They carry out a myriad of tasks, most being programmed but others of a more immediate nature.

Perhaps the most significant administrative support role, is that filled by each school’s Finance Administrator. Money management and budget responsibilities are becoming more complex by the year, with several million dollars annually going through the books of many schools. Careful management of financial delegation is crucial to both school solvency and success.

Classroom Assistants

Classroom assistants include preschool aides, transition aides and Student Engagement Support Assistants (SESO’s) who support younger children and those with special needs. Students adjusting to school and those confronted by learning challenges gain from added support and attention. Aboriginal and Islander Educational Workers (AIEW’s) encourage indigenous students and fill a role in linking home with school. Assistants can and do bolster students and help teachers in understanding the capacities and needs of individual children. Within many schools, teachers and support staff form valuable, collaborative teams. A significant number of classroom assistants undertake further study, including teacher training, outside their work commitments. They make excellent teachers, largely because of the background they gain through working in schools.

Essential

School function without support staff would grind to a halt. Administrative staff carry significant delegations and without their efforts school leadership teams would find coping quite unbearable. Without classroom assistants, teachers responsible for upwards of 25 children, would be less effective in meeting the broad spectrum of student needs.

The motivation of most ancillary staff is unquestionable. They are there because they want what is best for their school, its students and teachers. An examination of salary scales confirms that occupation is about far more than money. Most bring maturity, understanding and deep dedication to the jobs they do. They add value to our schools and are indispensable team members.
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“SUNS” COLUMNS 25 – 28 … ON EDUCATIONAL ISSUES

These columns were published in the Suns Newspapers (Darwin, Palmerston and Litchfield) in January and February 2014. Please feel free to use but acknowledgement of the Suns newspapers would be appreciated.

SUNS 25 – 28 COLUMNS

These columns were published in the Darwin/Palmerston/Litchfield ‘Suns’ on a weekly basis in January and February 2014. Readers are welcome to use them but I would ask you acknowledge the publishers, Suns Newspapers.

COLUMN 25 THE SCHOOL YEAR DAWNS

The school holiday period has all but passed. Students are preparing themselves for the 2014 school year. Those who have graduated from primary school will be moving to the middle years (junior secondary) educational phase. Middle school graduates begin the final stage of formal schooling, going to year 10 in the senior secondary area. Finally, many of those who have completed year twelve will move to higher level training or study.

Moving up the grades, through the years and transitioning from one level of education to the next, is a process enabling students to build on what has gone before. ‘Building’ from one year to the next is important and happens if students have a positive approach to work and learning tasks. While support from parents, caregivers, teachers and support staff is important, self help is critical.

Myths

There are several key myths that need to be dispelled. While only loosely coupled, they can individually and collectively inflect upon the success of schooling.

The first is a belief, too commonly held, that the early years of education are not particularly important. If little children don’t do well, it doesn’t really matter. They can catch up later, when they are older and more inclined towards school. That is not true and generally doesn’t happen. Critically important concept development, leading toward competency in literacy and numeracy are part of early learning. If those concepts are not covered with children during their formative years, they may begin a journey down Struggle Street which many never leave. Concepts and attitudes are part of early learning and cannot be overlooked.

A second myth is that of children feeling their learning is for others. They go to school for the benefit of their parents and teachers. If they don’t put effort into their studies and perform minimally, that somehow is an outcome impacting on others, not themselves. Impressing on students the need to take ownership of their learning as being for their benefit is important and necessary if they are to gain full educational benefit.

At times schools and teachers are criticised by those adhering to another myth. They believe all students are inclined learners, wanting to do their best. Shortfalls in learning outcomes therefore are not their fault but due to poor teaching. That is not true. In the same way as one can lead a horse to water but not make it drink, learning opportunities can be offered but declined. Deliberate disinclination toward learning is sadly, a fact of life. What students fail to accomplish in schooling terms can be due to their personal commitment. Support from parents and teachers is important but cannot supplant non-compliant attitudes manifest by children and students.

An unfortunate myth is one held by some Territorians (and particularly newcomers to the Territory) that our system, because of its smallness and distance from the rest of Australia, is somehow inferior. In my opinion, that is not the case. New arrivals coming with this predisposition can set their children challenging educational hurdles because of parental antagonism toward our territory schools. Giving schools a chance and connecting with them through school council membership or volunteer involvement is a better option, largely because it gives people a chance to understand and contribute. If parents have negative attitudes toward our educational system, this will influence their student children.

Simple Success Messages

One of the dangers we face with education is unduly complicating its message. We become so focussed on process and structure that education’s true purpose and function becomes distorted. There is also a danger that education will shift from those it ought to benefit (our students) and focus instead on providers. It becomes a vehicle to promote career opportunity rather than providing for the needs of our younger generation.

To focus on child (and student) development should always be the prime educational purpose. Awareness of traits children need to succeed should always be a major focus.

We would do well to reflect on traits identified by Hiliary Wince in her book “Backbone: How to Build the Character Your Child Needs to Succeed” (Endeavour Press). Wince urges parents and teachers to encourage the following characteristics within children.
Resilience
Self-Discipline
Honesty
Courage
Kindness
Ability to love and appreciate life.

I hope the educational year ahead is one leading to satisfaction, fulfilment and joy for parents, teachers and students.

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COLUMN 26

LOOKING, LISTENING AND SPEAKING – OVERLOOKED LITERACY SKILLS

Looking, listening and speaking are often neglected literacy skills. While educationists, to some extent recognise and rue literacy loss among students, many do not place a high priority on these three literacy elements.

For the past several years and especially since NAPLAN became a major item on the annual education agenda, we have been told of the need for students to reinvent themselves in literacy terms. The focus is on reading and writing. How sad it is that the prime communications skills of looking, listening and speaking are not sufficiently a part of this recognition.

Learning by looking

As children grow into life ‘looking’ is an initial literacy skill. First and foremost, children as babies and young toddlers learn by looking. From that grows an awareness based on listening to parents and siblings. Speech is what happens as very young children begin to verbally copy and respond to circumstances by talking.

Communication skills evolve slowly. Literacy competence does not happen overnight but builds over the years. It never stops developing.
When children arrive at school learning too often focuses far too prematurely on reading and writing. While both reading and writing are important, the continued development of looking, listening and speaking is essential. Early learning leading toward formalised testing (remembering that NAPLAN testing first impacts in year three) with its prime focus on reading and writing makes it easy to overlook listening and speaking needs.

Key needs discounted.

Education at home and school should take prime account of the need for students to be taught the skills of listening and speaking. Sadly, this essential need is too often relegated and accorded only minor importance.

It is critically important that children be taught to listen. Without listening skills being carefully developed, students often fail to pause, think and respond on the basis of having thought through questions being asked. They tend to anticipate responses which can be incorrect because they have not listened with understanding. Another bad habit which develops can be children not hearing questions because they expect their teachers will repeat them a number of times before moving on to the next requirement. A common example is that of teachers repeating mental maths questions or spelling words over and over again. Parents at home and teachers in schools need to recognise how important it is that children learn to listen. For adults to model this as a skill to the younger generation, will help. ‘Do as I do’ is an ideal way of setting the example when it comes to the development of listening skills.

In the same way, it is important that adults model correct speech so children grow up learning by hearing and then copying correctly enunciated vocal patterns. There is nothing more important than young people learning by rote, when it comes to the basic elements of communication. The practice of correct speech and speaking is essential if we are to be clearly understood. It is also important that adults model elements of correct speech to young people, who observe and copy. We ought not overlook the need for speech to be careful and correct.

Eye contact

Eye contact is another neglected attribute. People tend to be very indirect when it comes to eye contact, often looking away from and avoiding their eyes engaging during conversation.

Failure to make eye contact can lead to hesitation and embarrassment between those listening and speaking to each other. That should not be the case. Confidence in communication, both listening and speaking, builds when those engaged in discourse look at each other. I believe the eyes to be the most powerful of all tools supporting conversation between people.

Engagement.

In our modern times, looking, listening and speaking often seem to be the lost arts of communication. They are very important observational, auditory and verbal elements of literacy. Revisitation and reinstatement of these essential skills needs to be part of the educational focus at home and school.
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COLUMN 27

REPORTS DO NOT HAVE ACTION OUTCOMES

Northern Territory Education officially came of age in 1978. At that time responsibility for NT Education passed to the Northern Territory Government. Education was the first function to be managed locally.

Since 1978, educational priorities have grown, changed and developed. Over the years, earnest attempts have been made to shape education to best suit local needs. Those efforts have considered urban, town, rural and remote schools and students.

Efforts to identify educational needs and priorities have given rise to countless reports. The number of reports commissioned and developed since 1978, would fill the shelves of a large bookcase. For the purpose of this column, reports considered have more to do with management process and system direction than with specific curriculum issues.

Some reports have been vital and system shaping. One of the earliest was the Betty Watts and Jim Gallagher Report (written before 1978) which at that time was a bible, shaping Aboriginal Educational development. There were two reports prepared by Mitsuro Shimpo which looked at Indigenous Education and the need for interdepartmental cooperation across the Territory. Both were researched and written in 1978 and 1979. Shimpo travelled the length and breadth of the Territory in researching his reports. His findings were insightful but never implemented.

Reports shelved

Many, many reports containing recommendations for Indigenous Education were prepared in the following years. Most are long forgotten and many, like the Shimpo Reports, never saw the light of day. They were commissioned, researched, written, presented, sometimes tabled in the Legislative Assembly, then shelved. Rarely have they been enthusiastically accepted and implemented.

‘Education into the 1980’s’ and ‘Toward the 90’s : Tomorrow’s Future’ were two reports with implications for the whole system. The first, apart from Shimpo, was possibly the most widely consulted of all reports. ‘Education into the 1980’s’ sought opinion from practitioners in many schools and communities. Wider opinion was also canvassed. A green discussion paper evolved to become a white paper firstly in draft then confirmed status. Its validity was in large part due to the wide ranging consultation that took place. People knew what was going on.

Acceptance and change

Over the years since self government there have been a plethora of reports produced on every aspect of Northern Territory Education. Our system has been ‘analysed by dissection’ time and time again. Report recommendations have at best been partially implemented. In many cases nothing has changed. That has been especially the case when cost implications are considered. Change is generally not cheap. Over time, this disregard has coloured the opinions held by Territorians about the purpose, validity and relevance of reports.

Need for Reports

On many occasions, the raising of concerns is responded to by the announcement of a study that will lead to a report on matters under the spotlight. It somehow seems that studies of this nature are considered to be a panacea. Reports produced with suggested solutions are deemed sufficient. Without follow-up action, problems magnified by reports are compounded. School based educators and the community at large become cynical about process, follow up and outcome.

Merry-go-round

Educational priorities are constantly reflected upon and revisited. One focus point is the regionalisation and centralisation debate. Another has to do about supporting children with special learning needs for both challenged and enriched students. A major area dizzyingly revisited is the staffing formula for schools, with changes that are almost annual. Policies on Bilingual Education, Languages other than English and curriculum priorities have come, gone and in some cases, come again. Major and minor proposals for change mean education seems to be in a stage of constant flux.

Reports can be valuable as documents confirming research and making recommendations about the way forward. However their commissioning is not an end but a means to an end, that being toward system improvement. It is not appropriate for reports to be prepared, if their recommendations are not carefully considered. Reports cost in terms of time and money. Non-implementation shows a lack of respect for the researchers and amounts to a huge waste of human endeavour and financial resources. They need to be validated by follow-up action rather than building skepticism through disregard.

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COLUMN 28

TEACHING SHOULD BE ENJOYABLE

From time to time print and online articles emphasise the importance of workplace satisfaction and happiness. Some even address the need for work places to be fun places. Humour, laughter and light-heartedness are promoted as having tension relieving capacity. Inherent within this is a suggestion that not everything we do will be perfect and errors will be made. We need to have the ability to reflect on our mistakes and learn from them about how to improve and do things more successfully. An element of this ‘sitting back’ is the ability to reflect seriously but also light-heartedly because there is often a funny side to outcomes.

Confidence within

There is a need for those who share workplaces to ‘give and take’. We should welcome the evaluation of our efforts by others and be prepared to offer feedback to them as colleagues. It is important for well-being that people within organisations are able to share with each other. This includes the both receiving and giving of advice and appreciation.

Self Appreciation

One of the processes that can help in terms of self evaluation is for people to develop a regular self-evaluative précis, reflecting on the things they have done. Reflections could include the following:
* Key elements learned or developed.
* The strengths and positive qualities helping build one’s contribution.
* Things learned from personal efforts including what might be done differently and better
* Future considerations to be taken into account with forward planning.
A strong part of this should be self-appreciation. There are many things teachers do well.

Up against it

One of the most significant educational detractors is the level of criticism heaped on schools and teachers from within the community. Governments in justifying educational policies criticise schools and teachers. System administrators also point the finger at schools when things don’t work out as demanded. Teachers become frazzled and students jaded.

We all need to step back and take a deep breath. Rather than drowning schools under torrents of expectation, those creating agendas need to act more reasonably. ‘Overloading’ of classroom teachers and support staff through curriculum demands is all too frequent. There is only so much that can be accomplished during any given period. Teachers need time to breathe and along with students should have the chance to enjoy teaching and learning. “Take time to smell the roses” applies.

Governments, system administrators and the community need to appreciate teachers and school support staff. The joy of teaching felt by teachers and school based staff can and does quickly sour. It is little wonder that close to 50% of our teachers are gone from their chosen profession well within a decade of their commencement. While poor career advice may contribute to this exodus, by far the greater loss results from teacher disillusionment. The actuality fails to meet career expectations. Those departing often do so because to them, teaching is or has become a thankless occupation.

Interestingly, most who dump on teachers and schools would no more take their place than fly in the air!

For teachers and school support staff, genuine appreciation and thanks is rarely given. While World Teachers Day in October is one day each year, pressures on schools and staff members is constant. There are some minimalist teachers but they are a minority group. The vast majority go the extra mile then some, in their endeavour for students.

Let us appreciate school staff. It would be my hope for 2014 that it be for them a year of joy.

PREPARING THOSE WHO WOULD TEACH – A Need to Revisit Yesterday’s Practices

PREPARING THOSE WHO WOULD TEACH

A lot is being talked about in the community and reported in the media on the subject of teacher quality. The soul searching and almost daily comment around Australia and in the Northern Territory is futuristic and forward looking. I believe in looking forward, those responsible for teacher preparation need to reflect on past teacher training practices, revisiting and including some of the key elements in our 21st century teacher preparation courses.

Historical Priorities

My teacher training dates back to 1968 and 1969 at Graylands Teachers College, a post second-world-war collection of Nissan Huts with a few added on buildings, in Perth WA.

At that time, two year training programs were being phased out, being replaced by three years of training. As a mature age student I was required to be one of the last two year trainees.

Fast forward nearly fifty years, and no-one gets to graduate as a teacher without a four year degree or a Graduate Diploma in Teaching built onto a pre-existing degree. The difference between training then and now, involves more than course length.

You would think that the extra training would lead to better teaching on graduation. Not so. In those past years, trainees were taught to teach and were properly readied for the classroom. These days, its often a case of degree qualified teachers being readied to take up classroom positions without the methodological awareness training they need to confidently enter the profession. High level academic qualifications do not necessarily translate into excellent teaching skills.

While the world is a more complicated place than it was fifty years ago, the essence of what is required to be a good teacher stays the same. Subject knowledge, a sound understanding of teaching methods and the ability to ‘model’ as a teacher dealing with children were essentials when I trained – and should be the same in this day and age.

The needs remain but I worry that critical teaching and preparation methodologies are insufficiently stressed. Rather than prospective teachers receiving that understanding while in training, they graduate with degrees and as neophytes are expected to begin acquiring practical teaching skills and dispositions upon full-time entry into classroom teaching positions.

Teacher Training in the Sixties

In the 1960’s, trainees at Graylands undertook the following studies:

* Educational Theory and Practice, a detailed unit that occupied two years.

* Teaching Methods for key subjects which also conducted over two years. Key subjects included English, Mathematics, Psychology, Social Science (including history and geography). Teaching method included consideration of Junior, Middle and Senior Primary students.

* One year courses taken during the two year program included Social Institutions, Science, Art, Craft, Music, Oral English, Physical Education, Health Education, and Drama.

* Students had to undertake one major and three minor electives relating to teaching and involving research and formal recording and documentation. Nature Study, further investigation of Education Theory and Methodology, Creative Writing and Historical research are examples of optional studies.

* A compulsory one year course in Arithmetic set at Grade Seven level had to be satisfied. This included an exam which had to be passed before graduation. Those failing had to re-study, re-sit and pass the exam before satisfying training requirements.

* A compulsory one year Spelling course had to be passed. Trainees sat a test during which 100 words were administered. A pass required 99% (ie one mistake only allowed). A cross out and re-write of a word so it was correct, was deemed a ‘mistake’. Students failing this and Arithmetic had to re-sit the exams at a later date.

There were other requirements .

* During the two year course, students had to attend lessons being taught at Demonstration Schools. They had to observe then discuss lessons with demonstration teachers. They then had to write these lessons in a Demonstration Book in reflective manner that indicated their developing awareness of teaching pros and cons.

* At the beginning of their two year program, all potential teachers were given a reading and oracy task. Those who were assessed as being other than fully competent readers and speakers, were required to attend speech and diction classes aimed at developing these skills. This was seen as necessary because classroom teachers were models for their students.

Practice Teaching

* Students undertook a practice teaching round (teaching practicum) each term. Duration increased from the first practice of one week to the final practice of one month. Each student went out on practice teaching six times during their two year program, in different school types and at varying grade levels.

Trainee teachers were rigorously assessed by the practice school and the training college. At the end of formal observations both oral and written feedback was offered the practice teacher. This focussed on lesson content, teaching method, and vital supplementaries of classroom control (management) and student assessment.

At the end of the practice, a Teaching Mark was awarded to each student. She or he took this to the next practice, with the challenge that competencies be consolidated in order to ‘grow’ the person as a preservice teacher. Evidence of growth sustained or added to the teaching mark, but backward movement reduced that evaluation.

Graduation

In order to graduate, students had to pass all subjects. They also had to attain a C level Teaching Mark or better. Those failing in these requirement might be Awarded a Conditional Teaching Certificate, with a requirement that the deficit be made good and the certificate confirmed within the first teaching year. If this did not happen, employment of the teacher was discontinued.

Of the various courses I have undertaken over time, the attaining of my Teacher’s Certificate was by far and away the hardest of these studies. Along with other students (there were some 230 from memory in my course, including quite a healthy percentage of men) I often wondered at the need for the course to be so rigorous and often so fatiguing.

Over the years, I have come to bless the training I received for its focus on both rigour and emphasis. Teacher training was character building. Not everyone stayed the course. However the attrition rate was not huge, because prior to entry all aspirants were psychologically tested and evaluated for suitability to undertake the training program.

Without doubt, the focus and the quality of our training helped, for we were solidly prepared for entry into schools and classrooms. Our preparation for this vital profession was based on a solid foundation.

I don’t disrespect modern day teacher preparations by Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education. However, there is room for the solid foundation received by those who trained yesterday to be revisited in these modern times.

Henry Gray

March 11 2013

WHEN THE CLOCK RESETS TO ZERO

WHEN THE CLOCK RESETS TO ZERO
(Some Reflections of a ‘Yesterday’s Leader’)

One of the organisational contexts that has been precious over the years, is a belief in the fact that institutions should progress in an onward and upward direction. “Steady state” development has always been important. It is confirmed as a practice if what has gone before is accepted and built upon by those new to organisations. The idea that succession in office should require the successor to dump as baggage the organisational culture he or she inherited in order to start all over, is anathema.

The best organisations are those that build, accepting what has driven the particlar institution to date and moving it along. There will be some changes, including practices that might be deemed redundant. By and large however, it will be a case of incoming leadership accepting existing culture and building on existing mores. Modification, refinement, revision and extension come to mind as drivers of this precept.

Suspect organisations or those that have their credence called to mind, are those in which leadership changes are generally or always accompanied by the dumping of inherited culture in order to ‘start over’. Leaders who practice this philosophy seem to be uncomfortable with other than their own ideas and perceptions. They contextualise the organisation they have inherited as threatening, until the vestiges of development occurring under previous leaders are expunged. This means ‘wiping the slate clean’ and pretending that ‘what is’ (inherited culture) ‘never was’ because it is peremptorily wiped out.

Metaphorically, that assigns everything built up over time to the waste paper bin. If organisations are build from the foundation up, its a case of big time demolition and the reduction of what has been to a pile of rubble. Leaders who are comfortable with only this operational style are not satisfied until the very foundations on which the organisation was built, are gone.

Expunging School History

Schools are organisations. The application of this principle, (tear down to build up) to schools and school communities can, in my opinion, be extremely destructive. While it might identify the Principal or Leadership Group as the sole owners of what ultimately comes to hallmark the school, damage done in ‘evolving toward’ and reaching this point can be destructive to the extreme. Organisational history and school history are wiped out; what remains are cultural scars.

Leadership so styled flies in the face of logic. It is generated by a false belief that in order for the new leader or leadership group to feel safe and comfortable within the school, its past must be dimmed until it vanishes into a never remembered past – a past that fades until fully shrouded by the ‘never was’ mantle.

Genesis 1:1 – In and Back to The Beginning

There used to be criticisms leveled about leadership changes in remote area Northern Territory schools. It was of concern that Aboriginal Schools were destabilised by the fact that incoming leaders assigned existing policies to the WPB as the first step in ‘starting all over again’. The fact that schools were always at Genesis 1:1 ‘in the beginning’ meant that little accumulative progress was made.

There used to be an advertisment on television talking about the propensity for people to take ‘two steps forward and one step back’. With Indigenous Education it became more a case of ‘one step forward and two steps backward’. This was largely the result of incoming leaders and staff members not accepting the authenticity of pre-built culture developed by those who had come, contributed, then gone.

When this happens in school contexts, the clock resets to zero and the organisation is forced to start over. The cycle of recommencement is not confined to Indigenous Schools. It happens elsewhere. It happens far too often and the happening has a deleterious impact on schools and their supporting communities.

Starting Over

There is a saying “If there is no problem, why fix it?” The answer to this question lies in an innate belief that people contemporary to organisations feel impelled to individualise the institution in order to leave upon it their mark and their stamp. They don’t want their contribution to be in any way diluted. In a school context this means incoming Principals and leadership teams don’t want what they have to offer, to be colored or tempered by what has gone before. Rather than accepting and building upon organisational history the preference is to dump inherited culture and ideology, therefore starting over again.

Why?

It seems there is a lack of logic to an approach that discounts organisational development, attempting to return (its) time and historical clock to zero. Nevertheless it happens and not infrequently. One probably never quite knows why, so contemplation has to be somewhat conjectural.

The Question of Personal Security

Perhaps the most significant reason new leaders attempt to shed the ‘old’ and ‘established’ school practices is their desire to make a mark that is not seen to be influenced by what has gone before and therefore been inherited.

There may be concerns by new leaders they cannot get on while historical residue remains. They desire to put distance between themsleves and the organisation’s past feeling that until and unless they do, they will be minimally acknowledged. They don’t want to be compared to past leaders lest that comparison shows them up in a poor light. The best thing to do therefore is to promote a ‘fade out’ of what has happened in past years. “I can’t get on while memories of your involvement linger in the background’ may apply. That being the case the ‘new’ incumbent’s aim is to “put distance” between herself or himself and past leaders.

This worry may be aggravated by the new leader or leadership group feeling uncertain or insecure in the new position. The need to ‘prove oneself’ may come from inner motivation: It may also be that the new leader has been told she or he needs to take the school in a certain direction.

The incoming leader may have been told things about the school are wrong and need to be put to rights. The need to be a ‘fixer’ has certainly been put on incoming principals appointed to various schools in the Northern Territory over the years. Unless the Principal lives up to the expectation… ! The consequence may be less than palatable.

These matters go to the heart of personal security. Often it seems those new to principalship suffer from feelings of insecurity. This is likely to be exacerbated if the Principal is taking up appointment in an interstate or intra-territory location.

Elements Impacting on ‘Person Security’ Issues

The issue of security – with its close links to personal well-being is impacted by further considerations.

1. The fact that the Principal occupies (in the NT) a non-permanent position with the maximum temporary appointment being a four year contract, adds to anxiety and can create feelings of personal disequilibrium. The Principal becomes a creature anxious to please and therefore a person who is very conscious indeed, of superordinate expectations.

2. The loading down onto schools of Government expectations with accompanying accountability and compliance requirements may make new leaders anxious to show their worth by doing it their way – where their way has close alignment to systemic policy.

3. There may be a belief held by the incoming leader that the previous incumbent will somehow continue to impose upon and influence matters at the school. It could be a case of ‘gone but not really’. This means that in terms of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Analysis, the previous Principal and leadership group are regarded as threatening the newly appointed leader.

This being the case, the new leader will take every opportunity possible to distance her or his predecessor from the school. There is a certain worry about new leadership being compared and contrasted with the past; this can be felt as a threat by the new leader, particularly if the previous leader was in place for a substantial period of time and during that time had built up a respect base of appreciation within the school community.

An astute leader new to a school community will carefully assess that past and aim to engage her or his predecessor in a way that enhances opportunity and builds strength for the incoming leadership team.

There is danger that if the incoming leader and leadership team predetermine the outgoing leader to be a threat, this concern may become a reality. It is not hard to imagine that if the outgoing leader perceives herself or himself to be regarded as ‘alien’, this too may become a reality. No-one who has made a sincere commitment to an organisation for a long period of time appreciates being tossed aside and regarded as distasteful. It would take a noble person indeed, to ‘suck this up’ without reacting. Incoming leaders need to be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

4. It follows that new leadership may suggest that what is inherited is inferior or sub-standard. That justifies statements such as “drastic remedial action is necessary” and “things will get worse before they get better” – implying that if those within the school have been comfortable in working within an inferior environment, they will be given a good shake as the new leadership groups takes the school toward betterment.

Wise leaders take their time to carefully assess inherited environments before initiating wholesale change. While they may wish to change the way schools are branded, this needs to be done with care. Good inherited organisational practice deserves to be maintained, not tossed aside.

5. Plagiarism is an interesting juxtapositional point that comes into the equation of new leadership, particularly in Northern Territory schools. There are rapid population shifts within the Territory. It is not unusual for schools to have a turnover of one third to one half of the school student population every twelve months to two years.

With this being the case, incoming school leaders can allow processes and practices to lapse for a period of time, then re-introducing them as new ideas after twelve months or two years. This is accepted as healthy change by a client group who, not familiar with the way it was, considers these changes to be new rather than ongoing. This could apply to school assessments, reporting to parents, school marketing, methods of newsletter circulation and so on. Far from being new, these approaches are back to the past; however they are claimed as being new ideas. Undeserved credit is given to leaders for what is tantamount to recycling.

‘New’ initiatives and approaches are new to those who come later, but not to those who have been there all along. In other words, what is ‘new’ is really old hat.

Concluding Thoughts

No -one denies that school leaders (and leaders of other organisations) need to be given a fair go. Pragmatic people rejoice with leaders for and in their management and administrative successes. Those who don’t are sadly negative or inherently jealous.

However, when incoming leaders in turn deny what has gone before, wanting to minimise memories of previous leadership contribution and distance their predecessors from the current and contemporary organisation, a similar negative applies. The one is hardly better than the other.

Some leaders from the past may want to ‘push in’, being reluctant to let go. Others are more than willing to relinquish but can stay connected in a positive context as resource people.

It is behoven on school leaders to be careful lest their actions lead to negativity and generate bitter waters and bad feeling for and within their organisations.

Henry Gray

IT’S TIME TO STOP THE BREAST BEATING

It’s Time to Stop the Breast Beating

In terms of educators meeting learner needs, it is time for us to stop the self-flagellation and breast-beating that accompanies educational accountability. “Are schools and teachers meeting the needs of children and students” is a question that needs repositioning.

Rather than schools and educators being dumped with loads of accountability for educational inputs and outcomes, it’s time for quizzing to turn to children and their parents. Self responsibility on the part of students and their parents should be the challenge. Are we meeting the needs of learners needs to be looked at in terms of “are children and their primary caregivers doing their bit toward the development of our next generation”.

I once had a conversation with a Principal colleague who told me of a meeting with parents over their child who was particularly and negatively challenging his schools’ culture and ethos. The parents upbraided the Principal for his lack of care and concern. They demanded he and the school do more for the child. The principal offered a conditional response. He and the school would do better for the child for the eighth of the year the child spent at school, if the parents would commit a greater effort for the remaining seven eights of the year – the time he was in their care.

This story goes to the nub of the issue.Schools have a role to play in child and student development, a matter educators have never shirked. However, parents are the primary caregivers and over time the gradual off-loading and dumping of rearing responsibilities onto schools is misplaced and alarming.

The notion of school being a place where fizz has to be applied to every learning situation in an effort to engage learners is equally as galling. Schools need to be fun places and learning needs underpinning with enjoyable experiences. However, there are vital aspects of learning that are repetitious, mundane and focussed toward cognitive appeal. Not everything can be bubble and froth because learning is not about fizz but about substance.

Metaphorically, schools add the yeast added to the bread to make learning rise in the minds and souls of young people. That means biting onto key issues and chewing on the meat of learning opportunities.

The thought ‘best’ education has to be about froth and bubble in order to appeal to young people is a sad commentary on modernity. It also suggest that deep learning is unimportant.

Motivation and Inclination

There seems to be a belief held within society and certainly implied by Governments that all students are inclined learners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Deliberate disinclination is an ingrained element within the psyche of many children and students. Non-respondents may reject learning opportunities by passive resistance or by more belligerent defiance. All rejection is negative, confirming that while you can lead a horse to water you can’t make it drink.

If children come to school with attitudes of deliberate disinclination and defiance, it is hard to move them from negative to more positive attitudes without parental awareness and support. That is not always forthcoming and in fact parents often take the side of children, being in no way prepared to support the efforts of school staff.

It is behoven on children and students to recognise and accept responsibility for their actions. Educators are often too quick to excuse children and parents and too slow to recognise that the onus for change and development should be vested on the home as much as on the school front.

Sadly in this day and age, with parents compulsorily committed to work and earning, the upbringing and development of children, in almost total terms, is thrown at schools. I mean this quite literally because the social/government and system imperative plants this responsibility on and into schools. Many school educators feel they are being ‘commanded’ to bring children up. When societal failings become apparent, schools and their staff members are held up as being the major contributors to that failure. parents, prime carers and students themselves are home free.

That is totally wrong. The wrong people and institutions are be3ing blamed for shortcomings, when the responsibility belongs to those whop are excused.