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Opening Notes

It’s a big newsletter this month – so much has been happening, particularly on the religious freedom front. I have focused on this issue by writing an editorial piece, ‘Are Christian Schools in the firing line?’ There are multiple updates coming out of the Royal Commission on Sexual Abuse, with bullying also getting some attention. I hope you get some time and space to read the relevant parts of the newsletter before the holidays.

Welcome Christine Paech

The AACS Council has recently appointed Mrs Christine Paech as the new Executive Assistant. Christine lives in the Dandenongs (east of Melbourne) and comes to this position with over 25 years of experience in the Christian school sector. Christine takes over from Wendy Domingues who has been working out of the AACS National Office in Sydney (within the CEN office) – thanks Wendy. There will still be lots of collaborative work with the Sydney office, even whilst this makes Melbourne-based work easier to undertake.

A New Prime Minister

At the time of writing Australia sees its 29th PM sworn in, though we are yet to find out who will be the new Education Minister. We are certainly hoping that whoever takes up the role, they will have sufficient time and focus to address key educational policy issues, resolve the long term funding model impasse and the address the SWD funding crisis.

Spotlight on Religious Freedom

The Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, is calling for submissions (due Sept 25th – AACS in conjunction with CSA will be making a submission) on religious freedom after having conducted a national consultation on rights and responsibilities.

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Discrimination Exemptions on again in Victoria

The Victorian Greens and LGBTI lobby is preparing a private members bill to remove blanket exemptions from discrimination laws for schools. At the same time the ALP government is pushing ahead with its own changes to the Equal Opportunity Act. Under current legislation faith-based schools may determine which students attend their school, and which staff they employ to align with the school’s faith.

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SRI Cutbacks in Victoria

The Victorian Government has announced that it is moving SRI out of school hours into periods before, after school or during lunchtime. Part of its justification is that it needs to make room for a new program, called ‘Respectful Relationships’, a course that will educate students to: build healthy relationships; understand global cultures, ethics and traditions; and prevent family violence.

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Are Christian Schools in the Firing Line?: And then there was only me

This story comes to mind as I ponder the SRI cutbacks issue. To a measure SRI in state schools has no impact on Christian schools (perhaps it can be to our numerical advantage). At the present time SRI is an easy target. It has had its problems in the context of an increasingly unbelieving community and secular education and it doesn’t have too many defenders. What will be next to be cut back?

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Christianity is still Significant in our National Life

Congratulations in principle to the Victorian government on introducing a new course in state schools to cover world histories, cultures and ethics…I regret that it comes at the expense of Special Religious Instruction (SRI), which is being dropped from class time to lunch time or before or after school.

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Intolerance of the Intolerant – Q&A 17 August

Anyone watching Q&A on August 17th would have seen a fantastic example of the difficult position Christians often times find themselves in when they seek to defend viewpoints that have typically been seen as ‘Christian’ like traditional marriage.

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NSW Prayer Groups

Community and political concerns about Islamic radicalisation can cause increased scrutiny around all faith expressions, something that previously would have been unheard of. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that some schools have not been adequately monitoring lunchtime prayer groups.

“Mr Baird announced in July that all voluntary prayer groups in the state would be audited following revelations that a student at Epping Boys High School may have preached radical interpretations of Islam during lunchtime sessions…Since March, the Department of Education’s Religious Education Implementation Procedures has stated that voluntary religious activities should be monitored and principals must obtain parental permission before students participate.”

Gayby Baby

Gayby Baby is a PG rated documentary that follows the lives of four children with homosexual parents as they approach their adolescence, juxtaposed with the views of the community on issues such as marriage equality. NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccolli, had issued a directive to government schools that the documentary ‘must not be shown in school time…

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Safe Schools Coalition

The Safe School Coalition (SSC) is a program that begun in Victoria in 2010 as a response to the reported high degree of bullying of LGBTI young people. SSC has spread across all states and receives federal funding. Its aim of making schools safer and free of bullying has resulted in bi-partisan support. In Victoria it is compulsory in state schools.

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Deed of Indemnity – in Light of the Sexual Abuse Royal Commission

Have you been asking whether there are any sexual abuse claim “surprises” in store for you that are presently totally unbeknownst to you? Or more challenging, you are aware of bits and pieces of information of events that have, or are alleged to have occurred, but…

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Where are we at Regarding the Royal Commission Outcomes?

The outcomes of the Sexual Abuse RC will have far reaching implications for schools. Even though the RC is not due to finally report until Dec 14, 2017, schools can expect a wave of new state government legislative changes. This will largely involve having far greater responsibilities to…

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Beware of Grooming Behaviour

School Governance (August 13, 2015) reports on a Perth Independent school that has been reprimanded by the Royal Commission for a failure in best practice. “The Royal Commission…has released Case Study 12 which emphasises ‘best practice’ policies on grooming behaviour for schools. Although there are no registration guidelines…

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Using NAPLAN Data

Articles in support or critiquing NAPLAN are a dime a dozen. In my opinion using NAPLAN data for gauging school achievement or other uses like funding is a gross ill use of the data. Recently Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said he’s considering linking school funding to NAPLAN data.

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NAPLAN Online Can’t Deliver Fairness

Kenneth Wiltshire, the academic who co-chaired the Review of the National Curriculum wrote a recent Fairfax opinion piece criticizing the move to take NAPLAN online. “All the ecstatic reporting over NAPLAN results is misplaced…

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Grattan Report – ‘Targeted Teaching: How better use of data can improve student learning’

While NAPLAN tests provide essential data for system monitoring and can point to areas of strength and weakness in a classroom, on their own they are too imprecise, and held too infrequently, to identify each student’s specific learning needs. Instead, schools should use NAPLAN as part of a balanced system of assessment.

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Do Faith and Politics mix? Kristina Keneally’s View

Kristina Keneally, former NSW Premier and also a practicing Catholic wrote a great article in The Guardian (Mon 7 Sept, 2015) on how she handled the question from journalists, “How much does your faith influence your political decisions?” Here are a few gems…

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Higher Education Completion Rates

A recent ACER Report compared the completion rate for students from different backgrounds, including low SES. The report, ‘Completing University in a Growing Sector: Is Equity an Issue?’ found that…

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New Acting Executive Director of ISCA

The ISCA Board has announced that the new Acting Executive Director of ISCA will be Colette Colman. We’ll meet with Colette at the upcoming ISCA National Consultative Group Meeting next week.

Charter Schools in Australia?

The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) study on Charter Schools is an interesting addition to the education debate. This option occurs in many of our western compatriot nations – NZ, US, UK, though one wonders whether those contexts are significantly different to Australia’s. The CIS report suggests…

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Long Term Funding Model

In conjunction with CSA and AEA (Adventist Education Australia) AACS has prepared a long term funding model paper to be presented to the major parties. The paper supports the basic structures and principles of the Gonski model but recognises that full implementation is too expensive. The paper offers suggestions for ways to make delivery more affordable and specifically requests immediate attention be given to SWD funding based on the NCCD data. Click here for a copy of the Funding Paper. 

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The Politics of Funding and Wage Expectations

The latest update is: Minister Pyne has indicated that he is in favour of maintaining a national funding system excluding the funding anomalies between the States and Territories and without increasing the budget. This is somewhat in keeping with his present position of 2017 (4th year of Gonski) plus CPI. However, because states are all at different places on the transitionary pathway this position is flawed, as it represents a partially ‘rolled out’ model. As the federal election approaches, it is expected that both sides of politics will refine their models – the Coalition to something a tad more than what’s presently outlined and the ALP some sort of compromised Gonski model. Word around Independent school (AIS) circles is that staff wage increases will be around 2% per annum over coming years.

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Submissions – Students with Disabilities

There have been two recent inquiries into Students with Disabilities. In conjunction with CSA and Adventist Education Australia AACS has made submissions to both.

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Making Reasonable Adjustments – Students With Disabilities

The following article from School Governance (Sept 3) tells the story of a Perth primary school being fined $8,000 in damages by the Federal Court for failing to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a nine-year-old disabled student. The Court’s finding here demonstrates that the individual needs of a student with a disability must be recognised and catered for by the school.

Schools are reminded that the Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a person to treat, or propose to treat, a person with a disability less favourably than they would treat someone without a disability in the same circumstances, because of that disability.

Click here for the full article, ‘School ordered to pay $8,000 in damages to disabled student’.

How much did your Fees go up between 2005 and 2011?

A Mitchell Institute Report has found that between 2005 and 2011 Catholic school fees increased by 24% and independent school fees increased by 23%. The Financial Review reported that this was higher than the rate of inflation, which has only 20% during that period. Click here for the Mitchell Institute Report. Click here for the Financial Review article.

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Back to Basics: Isn’t all that it’s cut out to be

In this interesting article academic Jennifer Charteris (in The Conversation – August 11, 2015) critiques Christopher Pyne’s ‘Back to the Basics’ approach to curriculum. Here are some snippets…

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The following articles might be of interest to you although they are a little outside the political realm…

Two Outstanding John Hattie papers

In his previous book, ‘Visible Learning for Teachers’ (highly recommended – I suggest looking at the table which ranks what works) John Hattie looked at the huge range of ideas and propositions to improve education that had been ‘put up’ over the last few decades. He made the case that unless an intervention has an effect size of 0.4 or greater (the average expected growth effect size for one year of progress in school) that it wasn’t worthy of great investment (eg class size came in for a hammering). His basic thesis asks for more impact for our effort. He identifies the relatively few ideas that pass this benchmark at a classroom level. In two new papers Hattie continues his crusade. In the first paper, ‘What Doesn’t Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction’ Hattie re-states that all students to make at least one year’s progress for one year’s input,...

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Junior Primary Book on Bullying

A friend of mine in southern Tas (Maz Gill Harper) has written a children’s book, ‘A Tale of Jim’ that recounts the story of Jim – how his changed heart turned him from being a bully into someone who stood up for those who got picked on. The book can be ordered from Maz by emailing or PO Box 476, Kingston, 7051.


In an ITV article (UK, 1 Sept) it was reported that nearly half of all young people are bullied at school each day. Some of the findings according to new research from the Diana Award Charity:

  • A survey of 1,865 9 to 17-year-olds found 45% were bullied at school each day.
  • More than two thirds (70%) of young people said they have considered changing the way they look because they are being teased, while a quarter (24%) said they had felt suicidal because of being bullied.
  • “Our research seems to suggest that the largest amount of bullying is verbal and face to face. But that is not to say that the drama in playgrounds doesn’t turn to drama online… We are seeing bullying continue online. It amplifies the bullying – there is a bigger audience and in some cases anonymity.”

Click here for commentary on the report.

Bullying and Legal Action

A number of students have successfully sued their schools for the harm that bullying has done. This is a concern to school leaders as school responsibility for managing all parts of student behaviour can be quite challenging. In a helpful article in The Conversation (July 1st, 2015) Sally Varnham suggests…

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How to Handle Bullies?

A helpful article on ways to manage bullies by Flinders University academic, Phillip Slee.

“Being bullied is a stressful experience – in fact it is one of the most stressful experiences we can face. International research shows bullying occurs in every school. We now better understand that bullying is physically, socially and psychologically damaging, with the hurt extending beyond just the victim to the bully and the bystanders who witness the activity as well.

“As such, we have to develop techniques to help students cope with bullying, including cyberbullying. However, our research suggests that students have a very limited repertoire of strategies for dealing with bullies.”

Click here for the full article, ‘How to handle bullies’ in The Conversation, August 27, 2014.

Too Much Screen Time

Researcher in Adolescent Literacy, Health Promotion and Education at Murdoch University, Margaret Merga discusses the effects of high doses of screen time on children. “Since the 2008 … Education Revolution, when the government funded laptops for secondary school students, there has been a growing impetus to increase young people’s screen time both in school and for homework at home.

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Why Screen Time before Bed is Bad for Children

Another piece on screen time – in The Conversation (Sept 2, 2015) by Sarah Loughran from the Uni of Wollongong.

“Sleep is an essential part of our development and wellbeing. It is important for learning and memory, emotions and behaviours, and our health more generally. Yet the total amount of sleep that children and adolescents are getting is continuing to decrease. Why?

“Although there are potentially many reasons behind this trend, it is emerging that screen time – by way of watching T.V. or using computers, mobile phones and other electronic mobile devices – may be having a large and negative impact on children’s sleep.”

Click here for the full article, ‘Why screen time before bed is bad for children’.

Fallacious Neurosophisms

This article from The Conversation, critiques the recent steady increase in the use of brain-based language in education saying it’s added little to the teaching/learning discourse. The language is used as a clever device to build a sophisticated argument but is really a fallacious application of neuroscientific language.

Click here for the full article, ‘So much talk about ‘the brain’ in education is meaningless’ (Sept 8th, 2015).

Teaching How to Think is just as Important as Teaching Anything Else

Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else Peter Ellerton from the University of Queensland writes in The Conversation (August 19, 2015), “A new paper on teaching critical thinking skills in science has pointed out, yet again, the value of giving students experiences that go beyond simple recall or learned procedures.

“It is a common lamentation that students are not taught to think, but there is usually an accompanying lack of clarity about exactly what that might mean. There is a way of understanding this idea that is conceptually easy and delivers a sharp educational focus – a way that focuses on the explicit teaching of thinking skills through an inquiry process, and allows students to effectively evaluate their thinking.”

Click here for full article, ‘Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else’