Cheerio Treehorn

Apologies – A delayed posting due to vanishing emails. Sad news, I’m afraid.

 Treehorn Express:

A tribute to every NAPLAN victim who is ignored by those who are expected to care.


Cheerio – I’ll miss you,Treehorn

I am finished with trying to bring some discussion about teaching and learning in classrooms into the Australian debate about NAPLAN. Sorry Treehorn. I haven’t done too well. I am quitting. I have been chasing my tail for too many years to little avail. The education debate continues about NAPLAN test scores and how to improve the scores, not the learning. We no longer think of children as children. They’re innate little instruments that are used mercilessly by hypocritical orthodoxy to demonstrate to a gullible public how good our politicians are at pushing professional people around.

The power of political, totalitarian control over what happens in classrooms, aided by Klein-inspired reptilian testucators is quite profound. Their knowledge of what happens in a classroom setting can be written on the back of a postage-stamp in large font. NAPLAN will disappear eventually, but it now looks too likely that more than one generation of school kids will not be given any serious opportunity to develop healthy learning habits, nor will they be encouraged to achieve to the limit of their abilities. The waste is abominable and a serious threat to the future of this beautiful country.

It will impact on our children’s future more that the Japanese would have achieved when they first tried on 19 February, 1942. The new-look invasion – of our children’s cognitive development and our place in world affairs – started in 2008, welcomed by schadenfreude apostles; and is now showing its destructive power. We give in easily these days.

I am disappointed, disillusioned and sometimes disgusted with the way that Teachers Unions, Principals Associations and Professional Associations ignore the realities. Their willing compliance , sometimes giving an occasional little slap on the wrist to the political dictators is too rich, too compliant, too pitiful. I am truly surprised that APPA, AEU, ACE or ACEL has not stood up for basic professional ethics and told our Prime Minister, who introduced the devastating cock-eyed notion in 2008, that they will have no further part of her FEAR-based curriculum. They should have done this in 2008. It’s lasted too long. They don’t seem to care.

As more than an ordinary participant in the activities of each of these groups for a number of years, I’m extremely disappointed.

I’ll still supervise Treehorn’s Distinguished Guest Writers and write an occasional paper. I know that I’ll miss my young pal Treehorn, the universal school child, whose prediction – “If I don’t tell anyone, they won’t notice” – is now a reality. He and his school pals have no serious advocacy and unlikely to have one. Our Press doesn’t even bother to tell the public about significant happenings in the world of teaching and learning and of the attempts to improve it. They don’t have much of a chance.

I’ve claimed next Sunday’s ‘Guest Writers’ section, to be called “Extinguished Guest Writer’ for the day, to explain my reasons further.

After Tuesday 19 February, The Treehorn Express is in the hands of Allan Alach, that remarkable Kiwi educator who has shared so much with Treehorn and me, who believes in children and their native ability to learn, who hates the New Zealand GERM virus infecting National Standards, who has stood up for kids despite authority’s efforts to knock him about. Check him out…here..

I’ll still be involved and would like to thank all those true-blue child-concerned educators who have read The Treehorn Express carefully and have discussed its topics with friends and colleagues. If our representative teacher groups continue to let kids down, each of us will have to make sure that we tell the world that we will not to vote for any candidate in the September elections who does not promise to try to have NAPLAN banned. I’ll be asking each candidate in the Richmond Electorate how he or she feels about NAPLAN and tell as many folk as I can how they reacted.


 The Treehorn Express was simply called Care for Kids once. An early quotable quote was….

The bein-pensant of efficacy hawks is that children must suffer mental agony to learn properly.

Phil Cullen

February16th  2013

The Janus Look

Treehorn Express:

A tribute to every NAPLAN victim who is ignored by those who are expected to care.


Extinguished Guest Writer

Phil Cullen

‘Care for Kids’

The Janus Look 

I’m totally disillusioned and disappointed by the lack of interest in the effects of NAPLAN on the lives of young Australian children shown by those who should care more than they do about child development and the nasty treatment of children at school. As a consequence. I worry a great deal about the future of our great country. I’ve been around for a while, done a lot of things connected to primary schooling, so I’d like to share an overview of what I reckon has happened during my life with kids; and then predict what is likely to happen.

I took over my first classroom in May 1946. I was so proud. I had always wanted to be a primary school teacher and I had arrived! I still love primary schooling 67 years later. Love it. Love it. Love it.


I started teaching in the way that I was taught, the way that everybody seemed to teach…from the front of the classroom near a blackboard with a desk and large space all of my own, spending a lot of time yapping my head off across a demilitarised zone to the youngsters who sat still in a confined space all day facing me. It was standard practice. Teachers had taught this way for hundreds of years, since the Dame Schools, Charity Schools and Common Schools first tried teaching in groups. Such explicit, didactic, sermonising forms of instruction featured, as a rule, some pretty nasty bang, crash, wallop techniques. They only worked for a few easily frightened kids. The technques were based on fear – of the birch, of endless repetitive listings, of detention and public disgrace – applied to learning. We all believed in the prevailing dogma that children would not pass any examinations unless they were roused enough to fear the consequences of failure.

When Grammar Schools wanted to judge the scholastic ability of those who might be allowed to enter their hallowed halls, written tests for applicants became favoured, so much so that governments took over their preparation, publication and distribution. In my home state, it was called the Scholarship Examination. From it, the examination bug went feral. Those that could ‘pass’ them were offered privileges; those who couldn’t were dumped. The successful continued being schooled in a new arrangement of classroom setting, based on subjects that could be tested. The rest were not wanted at school and had to educate themselves out in the big bad world at about fourteen years of age. Not the best of schooling models, but the only one we knew. All children were schooled following the premise that universities wanted only the best scholars and schools should prepare everyone for a likely academic future. Schools were not run for ‘also rans’.

This sort of toxic psychology lasted for some years and, to my eternal shame, I was a part of it. I wasted midnight oil, school time and professional gumption — retarding children’s development by being crazily focussed on testing. Then, I realised that there is nothing honourable, nor ethical, nor professional about stern blanket testing, especially the prevailing 2013 dirt-raking political kind that is endemic to standardised external blanket testing. Never has been. Never will be. It took two little Year 2 pupils to make me notice how much stress, unhealthy competition, creative dullness and missed learning opportunities I was causing. I just hadn’t given a thought to professional ethics nor to the emerging knowledge about the school conditions necessary to help people to learn with self-motivated enthusiasm….without fear. Others were learning that the 3Ls [Love, Laughter and Learning] were essentials for high performance in the 3Rs….while I was mistakenly chasing high performance through tests. Slow learner that I was, I then did a complete 180 degrees. I now hate blanket testing with origins beyond the schools with an intense hate, that I never thought I could possess.

If I had taught them learnacy, then top levels of personal numeracy and literacy achievements would have come as a natural consequence, Hells, Bells and Buggy-wheels, we have NAPLAN running our programs. The longer that Australia’s NAPLAN has the kind of control that it has, the more that reasons arise for all teachers to hate and despise Standardised Blanket Testing supplied by non-local-school personnel. It stinks to high heaven and no form of it should ever exist.

This model of test-based schooling, well entrenched in world schooling during my early career and not much different from present-day SBTs like NAPLAN and having the same negative effect on children, lasted in all western countries until the 1960s. In my home state, the rigorous Scholarship examination held at the end of primary school was abandoned in 1962 and the most advanced, most exciting, most learning focussed period in the history of education memed itself around the world during this perod. It arrived in Australia with the greatest examples of thought-provoking literature in history translated into a remarkable array of learning based models of schooling. Principals started to grasp autonomy and run their schools based on professionally based readings and personal research. What decent principal has to wait for autonomy to be granted from up-high, anyhow? What level-headed authority figure can claim to ‘grant autonomy‘ to somebody else. [Fair go, Peter and your like-minded State Ministers Stop playing God.] I’d love to list those schools that engaged in innovations that each principal believed would work and did….different from each other – sure. I can’t list them all. I’d leave out too many. If you give me a call, I’ll tell you about some of those schools that proudly based their teaching on multi-aged groupings or Emotions-ABC or play-way or thinking [de Bono style] or resource-rich subject centred or mastery learning or Literature-based…. or one [but it applied to many] which displayed “Living, Learning Laboratory” outside the school. The sign should now display “Testing Factory”.

The 1960s to 1980s was the most progressive period in history. It produced the creative geniuses that have since provided us with more comfortable living and working standards far beyond the expectations of the citizens of the period. Schools and their clients were free to learn, free to innovate. The world started to become a very small oyster. Achievement became self motivating; and schools were starting to use shared and self-evaluation techniques that involved the pupil, the parent and the teacher in the pursuit of excellence. A visit to a fair-dinkum child-oriented classroom was so exciting one could almost touch the LEARNING atmosphere. You could certainly feel it.

The present encouragement of didactic modes of instruction did not have the high priority that is now promoted in the test-based atmosphere of the classroom. Indeed the teachers, moved off the stage and shared more face-to-face maieutic and group modes than had ever been tried. It was working well. During this truly Golden Age of Education [1960s-80s], children were enjoying the role of ‘pupil’ with a caring teacher: “I learn. You teach. We’ve got this contract. Treat me as a pupil, not as a student!!” Today, in 2013, they should be internalising. “Hey Teach, You’re breaking the contract. Get rid of this NAPLAN crap and get back to pupilling.” NAPLAN now rules schooling. It shouldn’t; should it?

Even the School Inspectors, once feared apostles of the testing regime and making judgements about school quality from their own backboard tests and oral questioning, changed during the 60s and 70s. Appointed from the outstanding principals of the day, they free-ranged around their schools to assist in any way they could. The knowledge that they had accumulated over extensive experiences was shared. They knew what a good school was and what a bad school was without using paper-and-pencil tests. They knew which was which within minutes of arrival.They gathered pollen from the best practices that they had experienced and better ideas blossomed. Some were working partners of the State’s curriculum development. They worked with close contact to the specialist curriculum officers and the State’s multi-representative PCC – Primary Curriculum Committee. Quality control and guidance was at its peak. Curriculum changes and their effects on classroom activities were moderated at the classroom level and discussed with all and sundry as to effectiveness. Changes were alive, accepted or rejected; a far cry from the time when curriculum changes were received in the post.

[We had learned over the years that top-down curriculum innovations originating from desk-wallahs in centralised other places, just don’t work. New Maths, Cuisenaire, Whole Word or Phonic based Reading are examples. Nothing that is not endorsed unanimously by classroom teachers will work. That’s why NAPLAN, now in charge of the curriculum, wont help anything. It’s taking longer to get rid of than most execrable impositions have taken because the business- based cum profit-making cum totalitarian political force imposing its dictatorial will on the conduct of schooling is stronger than any previous.]

Things were going well, until, in mid-1980s, befuddled academics with high level politico-bureaucratic control absorbed a special scato-meme invented by corporate managerialists from Up-over somewhere, who believed only in impersonal structural alterations just for the sake of change. In scatological terms, it came from the bottom of the pit. In my state, the Education Minister and the Director-General, both of whom had had unpleasant experiences in their short teaching careers decided to get rid of Inspectors and those sections that were concentrating on curriculum delivery, teaching and learning and teacher development and seemed to be enjoying it. The pair just didn’t like their own lack of control over effective schooling and felt inadequate. So, they blatantly manipulated fellow officers and deceitfully arranged for a ‘preferred option’ to be preferred because it was the one that they wanted. With skilful adherence to managerialism’s impersonal forms of structure, they arranged for learning activities to be ‘outsourced’, introduced ‘performance indicators’ that relied on best-written CVs and thespian skills, ‘down-sized’ the Inspectorate by summarily removing their positions, and removed the school-experience-base of primary and secondary schooling by getting rid of divisional control. Out went any semblance of an Education Department that was supposed, from time immemorial, to be school based.

They made things easy for a rookie Premier, under the influence of managerial high-flyers such as Peter Coaldrake and Kevin Rudd to confuse the public service generally…especially the caring services.

This kind of organisation model, common to all Australian states and federal governance, has devalued school experience, caring for kids, belief in teaching as a pupilling enterprise, basic humanity and belief in professional ethics…from the Australian school system. It’s been hellish for children and caring teachers. It devalues down-to-earth, hands-on experience. It stinks.

NAPLAN is the devil child of these kinds of irrelevant and irreverent changes to schooling arrangements. Efficacy hawks and teachers%20feel[4]testucators, quite unfamiliar with classroom practices, went wild with the blessing of Joel Klein and his Australian agent, now PM, and have had a field day supporting the destruction of learning development and belief in the human spirit. Small wonder that little useful progress of the kind that was a probable dream in the 1980s has been bastardised and that irreparable damage has been done to at least a generation of our future citizens. Australia is now committed to mediocrity. Our controllers just do not know what they are doing

[ “How Figures Show No Progress in Reducing Low Student Achievement in the Past 30 Years” ]

What a pity that we couldn’t have done what the Finns did in the 1980s? STOP and THINK ! THINK. What goes on in those classrooms, we should be asking. It’s not too late, if we are prepared to drop the stupidities completely, return the dignity of the teaching profession to its owners, trust our schools to produce the goods; and encourage a love for learning in each school child for his or her entire school life, Australia can do it. It has a teaching force, that has been the envy of the world. It needs to be trusted. It can lead the world if it tries, not fall behind as it is doing now….thanks to NAPLAN.

Last%20Act%20of%20Defiance[4]Principals. Stop being such gutless wonders. Reclaim your school. Reclaim your ethics. Believe in your professional ethics and exercise that belief. Stop being a party to the cruel outcomes of fear-based learning. You’ve been duped. No half-measures. You can get rid of all of the stupidity by simply saying, “No more”. Send the tests back, if your representatives have been too eichmannised to act on your behalf.

Teachers. You unfortunate pussy-cats. Your pleasant co-operative nature, part of your DNA, so necessary for the most wonderful of the caring professions, is being compromised. Your professional leaders are letting you down and your unions have deserted you. Believe in yourselves again. Things are tough for you. You can tell the parents of your pupils how you feel and advocate that they opt-out by removing their children from the May tests. It’s so easy. You are also part of an enormous, locally-influential voting bloc. You do have power if you wish to exercise it. Just talk about NAPLAN to everyone you meet.

Parents. You can help by sending a simple note to your child’s school, telling it that you opt-out. Also, you vote. So do teachers. If, together perhaps, you ask your local candidates where they stand in regard to the banning of NAPLAN with the intention of voting only for those who would ban it, there would certainly be more political thought about the pestilence.

Politicians. You can show a bit of spunk in your party meetings. Until now, you will have heard little of NAPLAN mentioned, because Peter and Christopher have you by the short and curlies. Think of what they are trying to do to your child. Think about Australia’s future. Mouthing commands, platitudes and ‘We will do it.” is all hot air without decent Aussie, fair-dinkum, experience-based care to back up their meadow mayonnaise. THINK!

In the early 1980s, I dreamed of a wonderful future of happy children at school – right through to Year 12 – bursting a boiler to get to school each day because of all the rich learning experiences that they could share. Shared evaluation of efforts to achieve at the highest level would change to self-evaluation as the pupils moved through school and would continue through life. The development of happy, exciting achievements in learning was on the way. My closer primary school colleagues of the 80s and I could feel the joys of learning in primary schools spreading, and, between us we had more experience at recognising learning improvement than most. We foresaw that the children at school at the time would love whatever they had to do and would constantly try to do better….whether it was digging a neat ditch or solving a tricky bit of space science. Learning would become a part of a happy, useful life-style. Ah well.

Then came managerialism….square pegs in charge…encouraged by a ridiculous, verging on a stupid, political take-over of school-based learning enterprises….pushing around compliant high-level pussy-cats who don’t give a rats about kids.

Dreams shattered. Truly, Today’s NAPLAN control of schooling in Australia is devastating and disgusting. The longer NAPLAN exists, the worse it will get.You can bet on it.

Poor little Treehorn. His parents, teachers and principals still ignore his problems and those of his school mates.

Hang in there, kid. One day!!! 2013 ?? Let’s pray.45ers%20Reunion%2010%20004[3]

We both have NO to NAPLAN stickers on our cars.

Have you?

Love you.

Phil Cullen

Educational Readings February 22nd

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Educational Readings

By Allan Alach

A few themes in New Zealand over the last couple of weeks, all derivative of GERM 101 as practised around the world. The process to implement charter schools continues, with an emphasis on employing unqualified teacher ‘experts’ – yes that’s the expression used by a government MP. The Christchurch earthquake has been used as the justification to ‘reorganise’ schooling in Christchurch, with charter schools in the mix. Seems that schools in lower socio-economic areas have been listed as closing/merging, while schools in richer areas will continue. Government proposals for charter schools have lower socio-economic areas of Auckland and Christchurch as the preferred options for the first charter schools. Is there a rat to be smelled here or is my nose overly sensitive? Another theme, which has taken a while to arrive here, is the demonisation of teacher unions by ‘tame’ journalists and commentators – also straight out of GERM 101 handbook. Surprise, surprise.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

At Long Last, We Are Treating Doctors Like We Treat Teachers

Performance standards for doctors? At last, let’s make them accountable, as we know this will lift their performance, as has happened with teachers.

U.S. teachers’ job satisfaction craters — report

Surprise. Who would have thought it? Of course NZ and Australian teachers will be fine…… won’t they?

Zombie Ideas in Education

Some really common ones – how many do you recognise? Are you able to add to the list?

Characteristics of Highly Creative People (via Bruce Hammonds)

This article is about adults, however it is easy to adapt to children. Look at your classroom – does it reflect these characteristics? Even more challenging – how does this interface with GERM?

It’s Really Very Simple … The Solution to England’s Education Problem (via Ken Woolford, Australia)
And NZ and Australia and USA and ….. Guess what – not a mention of standards, testing, achievement, inputs, outcomes, performance pay and so on.

‘…just as early years education was seen by the Victorians as little more than child-minding which came cheap, so secondary education was accepted as being specialised and expensive, and most often delivered away from the child’s local home community.  A century or more later primary education is still allocated significantly fewer funds, and far less status, than secondary (which means that classes are much larger when pupils are young, and smaller with more direct teacher involvement, when they are older).’

Inquiring Minds Really Do Want to Know

“How do we go from the natural curiosity of the two-year old to the practiced detachment of the stereotypical teenager? What is it about school that teaches kids to not care about their work — and by extension, their world?


And if we want our students to really be thoughtful scholars and citizens, don’t we owe it to them to teach them how to think for themselves?

Who wants adults who can think for themselves? Why, they may start to question the status quo. Can’t have that.

The need for creative schools – schools as true learning communities.

A very important article by Bruce Hammonds. We cannot afford to lose the voices of wisdom and experience! 

‘ I am almost at a point of giving up my crusade for creative education because it seems a losing battle. In Australia ex Director of Primary Education Queensland Phil Cullen has finally given up a long fight against the evils of an over emphasis on testing in basic subjects. He is disappointed that teacher and principal organisations did not have the courage to confront such politically inspired approach.’

Yup, Bruce and Phil. I look around New Zealand and see what you mean. Much too quiet for my liking.

10 Ways To Fake A 21st Century Classroom

A light hearted article, yet has more than a grain of truth….

Kelvin Smythe: Primary School Diaries Part 1: Stories and Satires.

Highly regarded New Zealand educator Kelvin Smythe has published the first booklet of a series which will revisit his best articles from 23 years of writing, firstly in his Developmental Network Newsletter, and then on his networkonnet website. While some of the articles have a ‘kiwi’ flavour, most are applicable all over. This booklet tells the story of the neo-liberal takeover of New Zealand schooling from 1990 onwards and leaves one truly gobsmacked that we submitted to this nonsense.

I helped Kelvin put this together, and even though I have that inside view, I can affirm that this is a high quality document, well worth reading. The madness of the whole ideology and implementation is so apparent and this helps reveal the present government’s agenda as a part of the same process that was started in the mid 1980s in the height of the neo-liberal agenda. Nothing has changed.

$20 per booklet or $17.50 each for two or more. Email Kelvin

Let concerned adults make sure that NAPLAN eradication becomes a top election issue.

Kids don’t get a vote.

Phil Cullen

February 22nd  2013


Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Distinguished Guest Writer

Les Treichel

image[2]If there is a more experienced educator in Australia than Les Treichel, I should like to meet him or her. His astounding, genuine, dedicated service to children started as a primary teacher at Beaudesert, then Southport 1959-60.  From small school to large as a hands-on principal in the most remote and urban places in Queensland,  he served at Wahpunga, Kajabbi, Burketown, Minbun, Boulia. Kin Kin, Aramac and Theodore [both with Secondary Departments], Weir [Townsville] from 1961 to 1978. As an Inspector of Schools, he flew with pollen on his wings in the Northern, Brisbane North, North Western, Darling Downs, South Western Regions and was the inaugural Regional Director for the Sunshine Coast, based at Nambour until 1991 when he was appointed as State Director for the Priority Country Area Program, known as PCAP.

In the 1992 state elections, Les contested the newly created electorate of Maroochydore. Unsuccessful, he was subsequently submitted to some of the worst forms of politico-bureaucratic skulduggery ever inflicted on a teacher whose desire to teach children was intense. Determined, he undertook occasional employment with the then managerialised Department as a temporary teacher and supply teacher at a number of schools on the Sunshine Coast from 1995 to 1998.  Wishing to return to principalship, he was forced to start again towards the lower rungs of the promotional ladder at Bollon School in 1998, then as acting-principal at St. George Primary in 1999.  He took all that was thrown at him on the chin. In 2000 he served as Principal Education Officer Performance Measurement [in Roma] and as Staff College Director for the S.W. Region. Following a year of acting principal at Injune, Charleville, Wycombe and St George High, he became the Principal Education Officer [Performance Management] for Roma and Warwick Districts, then spent 2008 as Executive Director [Schools] in Roma followed by Principal Education Officer for the Darling Downs South West Region.  He retired in July 2010;  fifty-one years after he started in that classroom in Beaudesert.

I first met Les Treichel, when, as principal at Boulia State School, he was teaching about 8 children in Years 10, 11, 12 on the veranda of a dilapidated school.  A dedicated reader of professional literature, he had a unique capacity for converting useful ideas from his readings into action. I recall his subject-based classroom arrangements at Aramac and a unique resource centre in an old, isolated room at Theodore. He mentored a large number of teachers and principals who now influence useful learning habits in children in many parts of the state. When he retired at 70 years of age, he was as innovative, professionally stimulated and intuitive as he was at any time in his productive career.  If I was an Education Minister and wanted to know which way learner-based schooling ought to go, I’d have a good long talk with the most experienced teacher [that I know] in Australia…..and respect his opinions.  His views expressed below are those of a person who knows what he is talking about.

[When I asked Les for a photo, he returned the above with the caption, “”Let’s unshackle NAPLAN for education.”]

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Will “Caring for Kids” be at the heart of the “moral crusade” that will define the legacy of those in whom we place our trust on September 14? Unfortunately kids don’t have the right to vote but I guess there is a tendency for those holding the decision-making power not to listen to them anyway. However, School Principals, Teachers and Parents do have that right and in exerting it “Caring for Kids” should always remain the centre-point of their considerations.

The “crusade” currently being led by those in power is nothing short of being “immoral”, ignoring as it does the basic premise and tenets of how children learn and how best to cater for their educational growth and developmental needs.

The school curriculum has been high-jacked by an imported, farcical testing regime which has resulted in Teaching and Learning being subsumed by Terror, Testing and Intimidation!

School Principals, teachers and kids have become the “whipping posts” in the course of the school curriculum becoming increasingly “NAPLANISED”. In the process the true spirit of learning has been killed and “robotic kids” are now being engineered through assembly-line production techniques to take their place in and contribute to an ever-changing global society that demands so much more than the narrow set of learning experiences to which they are now being exposed and into which they seem securely locked.

One must be seriously concerned about what the future holds for these kids and for our nation as a whole. Not only will these “Naplanised Victims of the System” be ill-equipped to meaningfully participate and positively contribute to society, their inherent potential as creative, well-rounded, thinking individuals committed to life-long learning will have been stifled.

What has NAPLAN data really revealed? Absolutely nothing that School Principals and classroom teachers don’t already know! Our schools are best placed to know exactly the specific challenges that beset them in their unrelenting quest to deliver quality Teaching and Learning which will, in turn, maximise student learning outcomes.

They know and relate to their individual students in caring and clinically meaningful ways and certainly do not need any imposed battery of external “point-in-time” tests to flag under-performance or to identify individual student achievement levels. Their comprehensive school-based internal school monitoring systems and associated data bases are well-structured to provide all such relevant information.

Understandably they become disenchanted when their school is distastefully nationally and publicly ranked by the NAPLAN fanatics. Such rankings fail to take into account the myriad of factors contributing to the score line and simply act to denigrate the well-intentioned endeavours of the band of dedicated school personnel who are working under duress. Consequently school morale suffers!

Our schools simply require Government support in terms of enhanced human, material and financial resource provision in order to address the short-comings of which they are all well and truly aware and need no NAPLAN reminder! The bulging NAPLAN PURSE should be re-directed towards meeting this end!

“Education Smart” politicians will commit to rekindling the “love of learning” and in doing so take immediate action to snuff the raging NAPLAN FIRE and re-direct the massive wastage of taxpayers’ funds to the schools and classrooms where every dollar counts and where every dollar stands the only chance of making a real difference to children’s learning.

“Education Smart” politicians will take the time to listen to the workforce and flexibly respond to the unique and locally-informed needs expressed by those who are confronted daily by what must seem as insurmountable barriers inhibiting effective Teaching and Learning.

“Education Smart” politicians will realise that NAPLAN is irrelevant as both an accountability and diagnostic tool and will seek to re-introduce a more humanised approach in assessing, supporting and developing our diverse range of school communities.






“What has NAPLAN data really revealed? Absolutely nothing that School Principals and classroom teachers don’t already know! Our schools are best placed to know exactly the specific challenges that beset them in their unrelenting quest to deliver quality Teaching and Learning, which will, in turn, maximize student learning outcomes.” [Les Treichel ]


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

February 17th  2013

Educational Readings February 15th

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Educational Readings

By Allan Alach

Times are getting interesting. There are increasing numbers of articles from Australia, USA and New Zealand that reflect a fight back against GERM. This even includes news from the well known radical state of Texas…..

The situation in New Zealand is going from farce to farce with barely time to recover between events and we must now start to wonder if GERM in its present format will survive the year.  The present government will soon be keeping an eye on the general election at the end of 2014, especially as current polling suggests that a Labour/Green coalition will get the numbers.

Australia is heading towards an election in September this year; however given that the present Labor government introduced Naplan, it is not likely that the more conservative Liberal Party will undo this. This means that Australians have a bigger battle on their hands.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

A Compleat Guide to the Corporate Reform Movement

Here’s a good activity for a staff meeting. Play’ Spot the reform jargon.”

Fundamentals of Creativity (via Bruce Hammonds)

‘Here are five fundamental insights that can guide and support educators as they endeavor to integrate student creativity into the everyday curriculum.’

Creativity can’t be mandated, nor can it be boxed into predetermined outcomes. Creativity by definition can’t be predicted or imposed through technocratic WALTs and the like. It can’t be ‘assessed’ and graded. It can’t be tested although there are those who have developed standardised testing for creativity, to decide whether creativity has increased or declined. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Pearson are developing programmes to teach creativity.

How Standardized Curriculum Short-Circuits Innovation In Education

Using Sir Ken as a starting point, this article reinforces the previous article about creativity.

“And that’s what gets lost in a standardized curricula, where the artistry is replaced by this dead language of delivery.”

While the battle against GERM dominates at the moment, we must also keep our awareness on the way ahead. GERM will be eliminated – there’s evidence that 2013 may be the turning point. However, what will the post-GERM world be like? Educators must be ready to reclaim the playing field, otherwise another imposed ideology may take over.

Are We Teaching Citizens or Automatons?

Automatons, of course. Powers that be don’t want a population who can think. Why, they may realise what is being done to them, and object. Can’t have that. Keep them in their place, hence skills based common core/national standards.

The Dehumanization of Education

A teacher’s viewpoint.

‘I am a teacher because of the love I had for school. I loved my teachers. I loved having fun while learning. I loved the interaction with my peers. I felt safe and successful at school…even when I made mistakes.’

A teacher evaluation session out of ‘Star Wars’

Seems to be a theme developing here – now for the the dehumanisation of teachers. Have you been calibrated yet?

Technology for the sake of technology: False promises, false prophets and false notions (via Bruce)

US educator Jamie McKenzie (always worth reading) making a salient point: ‘Technology is a false god, unlikely to do much for children unless schools focus on learning and make huge investments in professional development.’

Yes indeed.


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

February 15th  2013

I need to pray. It’s NAPLAN time.

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


I Need To Pray – It’s NAPLAN Time

Australia does not ban Religious Education from schools. America does.

However, it has been said, “There will always be prayers in schools while there is any Standardised Blanket Testing.” Only way to go for some kids.

This comment started Up-over. It could have been written in this vein by any one of the thousands of Australian teachers, who will spend this year deciding how to vote……

It’s NAPLAN time in Australia!

After being interviewed by the school administration,the prospective teacher said:

“Let me see if I’ve got this right.

‘You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behaviour, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instil in them a love for learning.

‘You want me to keep smiling, always listening, maintain intense pupil-attention, answer all sorts of questions, listen to hundreds of short stories per day, cajole, question, support, expound, correct, check, sometimes frown, prepare ahead for the presentation of some of your ridiculous curriculum imperatives and waste valuable time on maddening test practices.

‘You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride and stop the playground bullying brought on by your ridiculous classroom demands.

‘You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to beat the NAPLAN testing regime and your testucators by fair means, while you cheat with blanket practicing,

‘You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behaviour, and make sure that they all achieve high scores on your ridiculous, immoral tests.

‘You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Hebrew or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card.

You want me to stuff them with facts and details for exam purposes when they want to learn how to handle a world of unknowns.

‘You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, bundles of practice tests, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a list of your instructions, a big compliant smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.

‘You want me to spend the next few months preparing kids for a silly, useless. damaging blanket test called NAPLAN 

‘You want me to do all this, and then you tell me……


national planforscoolimprovementnationalplanforschoolinprovementnationalimprovement


Who will tell us?

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“Standardised high-stakes tests are the single greatest obstacle in the why of curricular improvement. Sold to the public as a necessary club to old over teachers’ heads the tests are dumbing down kids at a spectacular rate. The problem isn’t test overuse. The problem is their inability to measure what most needs to be measured.

Standardised tests are to accountability what a finger in the wind is to a weather station. What they measure – information stored in memory – is useful, but for kids facing an unknown future that’s not nearly enough. They need to now how to create new knowledge. That knowledge will be original, and standardised tests can’t evaluate original, non=standard thoughts.” [Marion Brady][ ]


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

February 14th  2013

Where Have All the Children Gone? Care for Kids.

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


‘Care For Kids’

On Tuesday evening [12 February, 2013] I listened to the Federal Minister for Education and his successor being interviewed by a political interviewer, none of whom knew much about schooling or classrooms or kids. It was so obvious.

It was scary stuff. The future of the nation and the quality of the lives of our kids rely on the knowledge and school-insight of these two people. Children didn’t get much of a mention, nor did the way they are currently treated in schools, except perhaps in oblique reference as to what these folk want ‘done’ to schools.

Mr. Garrett tried to assure listeners that while we have an ‘educational decline’ at present, ‘we will arrest the decline’. [I wonder why, Peter. It’s the sixth year of magical NAPLAN. Cause or remedy?]

“Our EXPERTS tell us that things are working well”.

We have a National Plan For School Improvement.

The states must pay their way. Money fixes everything.

We need $6.5 billion to pay for GONSKI which we will introduce by 2020. [What if you used the money wasted on NAPLAN? Be or guest.]

Mr. Pyne used his broken-record statement of reforms [which he refuses to explain when requested].

  1. Teacher Quality. Teach them how to teach. Big tick to him for that, but this requirement has been obvious since he was in knickers, hasn’t it?
  2. Robust Curriculum. When asked what it means, he wont answer. More testable subjects?
  3. Outcomes are declining . He won’t explain what ‘outcomes’ he means. If he means general Literacy and Numeracy, he can be assured that those bits of the curriculum will decline as long as we have NAPLAN. That’s been proved.
  4. ‘There has to be a return to traditional teaching…. More phonics when we teach reading…. We will direct the kind of curriculum we want.”
  5. There will be more autonomy for schools. Charter Schools? NZ Model? [Schoolies! Is autonomy grasped or granted?]

The interviewer wanted Chris to assure him that there would be a return to a ‘more emphasis on Grammar than on Literacy’. You can bet on it, Professor.


It’s frightening

national planforscoolimprovementnationalplanforschoolinprovementnationalimprovement

NAPLAN, the GERM device that controls all schooling in Australia, was not mentioned.

Yet, it drives the office-based politically-controlled curriculum [whether it’s Garrett’s or Pyne’s].

It guides the kinds of teaching strategies that are required to pass tests.

Standards of any ‘outcome’ cannot be enhanced while NAPLAN exists.

The quality of teaching will deteriorate while NAPLAN exists.

The principles of the GONSKI report cannot be supported while NAPLAN exists.

There is not enough money available for any decent improvements to schooling while NAPLAN exists.

Being in ‘the top 5 by 25’ on PISA tests [of doubtful use to humankind] is an impossibility while NAPLAN exists.



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Click on the title ‘Care For Kids’ if you want to recharge your sanity button for a minute or two.

There is also a Senate Committee of Inquiry, not quite ‘in camera’, but close, working away at present. Whisper when you refer to it. The Press might learn about it.


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

February 13th  2013


Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.



Senate Inquiry

Teaching and Learning (Maximising our Investment in Australian Schools)

Public Hearing 4 March, 2013

Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens, 380 William Street, Melbourne. VIC 3000

Readers of The Treehorn Express and as many of their friends as possible are encouraged to attend.

Members of the Senate Committee will question those who made submissions

David Hornsby [Submission 39] and Lorraine Wilson of Literacy Educators have been invited to attend. I[Submission 6] have been invited to join David & Lorraine – by telephone – as a group. Our time allocation is 3.35 to 4.20 pm, the second last of the day.



6.30 p.m. March 6

Victoria University 301 Flinders Lane City Room FLB

‘Boycott Naplan Tests’

Click Attachment  Victorians: please print and circulate.


AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION TODAY The February issue of The Monthly contains a story of a gifted young Year 9 student undertaking the Select Entry Accelerated Learning [SEAL] program at Box Hill High School. Tina is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who want her to do well. The SEAL program is run in 39 government schools throughout Victoria, designed to stem the flow of talented students from public to private education by creating an environment that would challenge and stimulate bright children. The article by Alice Pung is called, “The Secret Life of Them. What it takes to shift class in Australia.”

GARFIELD HIGH STUDENT TELLS Garfield High was the lead school in Oregon to start a trend. Teachers refused to handle the state blanket tests, of the kind that we call NAPLAN. A student writes :

I am a freshman at Garfield, There have been flyers handed out with information for opt-out for about a week. They have been saying to fill in a form with a parent signature or email the test coordinator. This morning as people arrived at school, there were flyers that said that you could opt out verbally without any consequences, or a need for parent consent,

Today was the day they were starting to hand out the tests to be proctored by administrators because the teachers were refusing. Administrators went to the Language Arts classes, and very few students went with them because pretty much everyone verbally opted out. This happened until about the third period when something changed teachers and students don’t know exactly what. Students could not verbally opt out. They needed the signature of their parents. We were told the if we opted out verbally, we could face severe consequences for disobeying an administrator, even though we knew that the admin didn’t want to give the test either (they wee being put under lots of pressure to give it though.) I don’t think that anyone verbally opted out after the rules were changed, so no one knows exactly what the consequences are,

Many people in my class did not want to do the test but they did not have parental consent. I did not know along with most of the class, so we went to the computer to check the opt-out list. If our name was not there, we were allowed to use our cell phone to contact our parents to get them to email the coordinator within the next 5 minutes. Most managed to get in touch and most were able to opt out. Those who had to take the test went through it as fast as possible, picked random answers. If a student completes the test in under 15 minutes the scores are invalid. Since that was the case for everyone, hopefully that is making a point too. I think that about 40 of these took the test out of at least 120.

One of the main reasons the students dislike the test is not only because it is a waste of time, but it closes the library. We were told that, not only the library, all 4 computer labs are closed for the rest of February because of the tests. This means no books, computers, internet or printing which many students rely on.

Coming to a school near you in Australia.

Home-schooling Coordinator Ken Woolford writes : “I believe the first contact I had with blanket National Testing was in an aboriginal community in NT [1989]. The tests arrived by truck. I took one look at them and burned them all. The Area Principal [aka District Director] was amused and appalled. The next year I was advised to write across the cover for each booklet ‘not appropriate’ and return them.

I struck a similar thing when back in Qld in 1999. A senior Ed Qld official told a group of principals how inappropriate the tests were but then began lamenting how poorly Qld did in comparison to NSW. I have not been involved with them since.

When I ran a small independent school in the mid noughties I had every family decide not to have their children take the tests. When queried by an officer from the Office of Non-State Schooling about this I pointed out to her that involvement in the tests was optional. She would not believe me and checked with with one of her colleagues as to the correctness of the statement. When it was confirmed, she looked quite shocked. I then informed her that in my opinion National Testing was merely child-abuse.

Since then I have been working with homeschoolers – none of whom has been involved with the tests – even though the Home Education Unit and the Brisbane School of Distance Education regularly and incorrectly inform their clients that tests are mandatory. The families I work with have ignored both bodies.

I feel sorry for the educators who are torn between their professional ethics and the dictates of their employers. I believe that many doctors suffered similarly under the Nazi regime.

Cheers from one who works in a world of education where NAPLAN is a non-starter.”

Former primary principal, Bruce Jones comments : Funny how schools now regard the importance of enforcing the goals and intent of Conformity as paramount, while the real world celebrates the glory and joy of Diversity, in all its forms. Maybe the politicians dream of a more easily managed electorate where Conformity is God. Conformity equates to Compliance and the greatest money-making government bodies of the past three decades have been in the areas of Compliance. I finally realised why NAPLAN is featured for the subservient and compliant.

The Romans had The Circus. We have The Circus sand NAPLAN. How can things ever be better than that.


Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

February 13th  2013

What I Learned From My Granddaughter.

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Distinguished Guest Writer

Bob Phillips

Bob Phillips has had a varied and intensive life as an educator. During his first eight years as a primary teacher in NSW he developed a keen interest in ‘how to make learning more interesting and meaningful’. Recognised for his outstanding talent, he moved into curriculum development and undertook ‘the interaction between curriculum and teaching’ as a major study. His career focussed on four major focal points:- Mathematics & Curriculum (1964-1990); Research & Scholarship (1973-1993): Development Education(1969-2003); Teacher Education (1969-1993).

Early in his career he worked as a Research Fellow, studying teacher education and testing of children using hypotheses based on psychological principles of learning and development. Pursuing his passion for learning he was a visiting scholar to the Universities at Virginia, Houston and Haifa. His abilities led him to Senior Lecturer at Goroka Teachers College, then to Director of In-Service Education for PNG. Such experiences disposed him to take a keen interest in emerging countries and he spent some time in Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, PNG and Thailand.

His notable academic career focussed on Sydney:- Principal lecturer at Andrew Mackie CAE, Dean of Academic Services at Sydney CAE, Head of School of Education of Teacher Education at University of NSW. Associate Professor of Education at U.of NSW, Adjunct Professor at Macquarie U. He was awarded the St. George medal for outstanding contribution to the St. George Institute of Education.

I first met Bob when he undertook a major study for the National Curriculum Centre. He travelled extensively in Australia, Canada and USA and produced a report of considerable value. Later we joined forces when he invited me to join with him in Jakarta in a special two-week program for Teachers’ College lecturers.



I spent a life-time in Education and all the theories about child development, and the whys and wherefores of education, came into focus when Emma entered my life.

image[3]Emma is my only grandchild so naturally, I adore her.  I was a child myself once but I was too busy being a child to really understand what being a child was like.  I was a father once, but I was too busy being a teacher, lecturer, researcher and curriculum consultant to watch carefully and analytically the growth of my own children.  Now I am a grandparent, and I have watched Emma, and listened to her, and learned where the emphasis on primary education should be and worked out one way we retired educators could really help.

The most beautiful words Emma ever said to me were, “”Ï love you grandpa because you play with me.”  Not because it was my due, not because it was the right thing to say but because being with me was fun-I played with her.  Primary education should be fun.  It should be like a big game in which the teacher plays with the children.

Whenever I pick Emma up from school, as we walk hand-in-hand across the playground, I would ask the usual question, “Well, what did you do in school today? I would vary the question, “Did you do anything exciting? …Anything that was fun?…Did you learn anything?”  Pre-school and infants always seemed to be fun days. Once she reached primary school it seemed like she should have been questioning me because, although I am a geriatric, sometimes I seemed to be leading a more exciting life, playing more, and having more fun than she was.  I asked her, “What would make school more fun?”  “Well”, she said, ”the teachers could be more fun.”

On occasions her face would light up and she would talk animatedly about a Science or Art Project.  If a teacher, or a child, did something, which caught her attention, this would warrant a mention.  Excursions always occasioned pre-and post-discussion.  Special events, concerts, new technology and, in fact, any variation on routine, were highlights, worthwhile in themselves and important because they broke the mould.

The other major cause for excitement was that associated with the winning of awards.  Recognition through merit certificates, external rewards for learning worked, at least in the early years.  These carrots seemed to lose their attractiveness over time.

As the years progressed from Kindergarten through to year 6 it was clear that Emma was progressively resigning herself to the fact that some schooling was, ”boring”.  Of course, school had some stiff competition from the extra-curricular activities.  These were fun:  Sea Scouts, swimming club, netball club, Irish Dancing and flute.  Of these, learning to play the flute was the only one done on school premises and involved an external instructor preparing the children for a school band.

Repeatedly, lunchtime and morning tea were rated as the best parts of the day, because those were the times when she could play with friends. Sleepovers and parties are popular leisure activities with middle-class primary children in Australia. I have worked in many different countries, and, although the form or context may vary, the need to have fun, and the urge to play together, seem universal for primary children across all cultures.

Teachers were praised and criticised.  Anything which really engaged her would warrant praise for the teacher.  One teacher seemed to engage her all year and she loved her.  Apparently, she had an exciting program and was brilliant at teaching it.  In other years the engaging events seemed to be sporadic:  ”Oh, it was good today.  We did (usually something in Art or Craft….)”.  The advent of the electronic white-board caused a surge in interest and a teacher drew praise for the way she used it.

Criticisms were of a different sort.  They related to persistent, recurring teacher behaviours such as the following;

”He talks, and talks non-stop.””

”She spends all her time helping “the kid with special needs.”

“She is really good at Sport but there is so much of it.”

“We never do……”

“He is so disorganised. He is nice…but so disorganised.”

“She yells at the kids all day…and carries on..”(About a teacher who Emma didn’t have, thank heavens.)

The School is generally regarded as a “good” school.  Parents aspire to send their children there.   The NAPLAN results are pretty good and Emma herself did quite well.  My first –hand knowledge of what goes on in the school is practically non-existent. I once gave an interested teacher a loan of a rather large book I had co-authored on fun activities across the curriculum.  When Emma spent two years in a combined class I gave another teacher a co-authored paper published by the Australian and New Zealand Councils for Educational Research on the best practices of experienced teachers in multi-grade situations. Apart from these two minor incursions, I have remained as one of those who wait outside the walls.


I learned from playing with Emma, and listening to her views on schooling that, if you wanted to engage her, then it is for now, for a limited amount of time, until she is sick of it and it becomes boring.  She complained particularly about repetitive work, the reintroduction of ideas and the revisiting of skills already mastered .

”Fun” is the propellant for learning.  ”Play”, preferably with other children, is the preferred mode of learning. There were programs in the 1970s (Dienes, Nuffield etc.,) which relied upon play, fun (and even dance!) to teach Mathematics.  However, when I look at the sterile texts, the coaching college courses and Newsagent cribs for today’s students, I sometimes feel that   perhaps Emma was born 30 years too late.

Accompanying fun and play there should be some structuring of knowledge and skills, some consolidation and some applications. The teacher might wish to evaluate the level of learning by observation, face-to-face questioning or paper and pencil test to discover what each child is getting out of a particular learning episode at the time of it happening.  This is the basis for further decision making about course components and delivery methods.

Primary schools have always been more resistant to child-centred influences than infants’ schools.  A study tour I did of American schools many years ago showed me that, in the classroom, the text book, with accompanying Teacher’s Manual, was king. Whenever I went into a new district the Superintendent would welcome me into his office and as I sat down, pull from his top drawer, a series of charts showing how, since he or she took over, basic skills scores had improved.  Good politics.

The teachers I saw in schools were being tram-lined.  The track was the text, the terminus the examination.  Follow the track and you will get to the destination.  This is the retrofitting of the experience to the test.  Not much fun or play en-route. No measurable objectives for those two concepts.  Is NAPLAN having a similar effect in our classrooms?  Poorer teachers love these sorts of chains.  But the interesting question is whether some other teachers are also being tram-lined by the imposition of NAPLAN?  Does the spectre of NAPLAN, even years in advance, move teachers from the child-centred end of the spectrum towards the text-centred end? That’s one hypothesis that ought to be researched.

”I feel anxious about NAPLAN. We prepare for it for a month …not strenuously…and it makes me feel nervous.  I want to get it over and done with. You’ve got to have it because it prepares you for tests like that in High School.”  Now, Emma, that makes me shudder.

Questacon in Canberra has the right approach.  There was a young field officer in Samoa when I was there on one occasion who ”switched on” every primary child he had contact with by tapping into the Samoan love of fun and play.

A young magician in the streets of Cairns also had the right idea.  He was accompanied by some young children and they worked as assistant magicians for him.  After watching the street show for a while I said to him, ”You should be a teacher”. ” I am, he replied,   these are four of my pupils.”   A member of the watching crowd pulled me aside and said, “He is the greatest teacher we have ever had in this town.  The kids love him.  All the parents try to get their kids in his class.”  Apparently magic was an integral part of the classroom activities.  Shades of Harry Potter.

A television series showcased a top British teacher who had a class of difficult children reading Shakespeare to a herd of totally engaged cows.  Their NAPLAN results have not been published so we are in a poor position to compare the cows’ understanding of English literature with other herds of cows from the same demographic.  He also taught punctuation in a fun manner.  Full stops, capital letters, commas, quotation marks etc., were all represented by hand or foot noises, stamping, clapping, clicking of fingers, or oral percussions and whistles.  So his class could punctuate a passage with a slap of the desk, a click of the fingers and a stamp of the foot.  What fun. Can you imagine it?

In Denmark, in Western Australia, a young man, who was a field officer, gave the most inspiring lesson I have seen using primary ecological material with a group of retirees on a boat.  His main props were stuffed animals which he, and the retirees, moved (sometimes flung) around to represent anything from extinction of species to continental drift.  One old guy said afterwards,”   If my primary schooling had been like that I wouldn’t have spent my life digging ditches.”  Yet we are having trouble getting enough young people to join the Wilderness Society at a time when so much of Australia is under threat.

It is time for governments to recognise the importance of fun and play to primary school children and to start exploring ways of making primary learning and teaching more fun.  The outcomes we are seeking might not be easily measurable but they have to do with joy in the moment, happiness in the school and an unbounded interest in learning.  Maybe there would be less binge drinking and drug taking by teens if school was fun.  Tens of thousands of abused children might find, in schools, an antidote to their misery.  They‘re the sort of outcomes society needs…and even the academic subjects might prosper, if learning became more fun.


Emma’s views on teachers would be considered shaky evidence in a court of law, were it not for the fact that we have all seen such problems, in different schools, with a range of teachers, over many years.

The best teacher across the curriculum, who I ever knew, was on the staff with me at a primary school.  The children loved him and he made the classroom such fun that they didn’t want to leave it during the day.  They wouldn’t go out to “play with their friends at lunchtime and morning tea” because they were enjoying playing with them in the classroom. Others recognised the power of his approach. He ended up as Director of Primary Education in NSW.

Primary children want to love their teachers and many teachers reciprocate in the most positive way.  However, there are teachers who may not be bad, in the sense of failing to deliver measurable results, or in the care they have for children, but who are struggling day-today with some aspect of their professional performance.    The teacher who talks too much could be helped through clinical supervision; the teacher who is only interested in a limited range of subjects might benefit from mentoring by a specialist in other areas; the teacher who yells at the children would benefit from help in the area of classroom management; the teacher who is spending so much time with the special needs child might need more support, and the disorganised teacher might benefit from closer supervision.

Support is usually costly and it is exactly the area where cutbacks are being made.  However, the thought of these teachers going on, repeating these behaviours, year after year, with successive cohorts of children, is frightening…and unnecessary.

I would like to suggest an idea that might help.  Stop spending money on NAPLAN, because any impact it has will be antithetical to play and fun and there seems to be little enough of that already in the primary school. For a fraction of the cost set up an Institute of Senior Education Mentors.  Invite outstanding educators who have recently retired, and have identifiable mentoring skills, (teachers, lecturers, principals, etc.) to join the Institute.  Ask them to pledge a month per year for five years to working in schools with teachers on identified problems areas.  In the first year they should attend a two-week program to familiarise themselves with the work of the Institute and after that a three-day conference every year.  The government’s contribution would be to support the Institute, pay for the familiarisation program and the annual conference, and give the mentors travel and lunch money to visit a school.  There would be no consultancy fee.  This would be a volunteer organisation.

I am confident that most of the negative behaviours identified by Emma could be corrected, with the school’s help, by the equivalent of one or two people, visiting the school, as invited mentors, over an initial period of two weeks followed up by two other periods of one week each.  The disproportionate amount of time being given to the child with special needs would require a different strategy.

I am well outside the suggested five-year credibility clause but there was a stage when I would have been so honoured to be invited to join such an Institute, so excited at someone offering me a way to continue contributing to my profession and the community, that I would have jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

Of course, the prospect of seeing a little girl’s eyes still excited from what happened at school that day would be reward enough for anyone.

R. D. Phillips BA PhD

2417 words

4th February, 2013

Acknowledgment: I gratefully acknowledge the role of my wife, ex-teacher and member of a school executive and my daughter, currently a teacher and also a member of a school executive, in providing feedback on successive drafts of this paper.


‘It’s time for governments to recognise the importance of fun and play of primary school children and to start exploring ways of making primary learning and testing more fun” [Bob Phillips P.5]


You know and I know that NAPLAN and its ilk are based on junk science. Please make sure that our political candidates know and understand.

Phil Cullen

February 10th  2013

Educational Readings February 8th

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Educational Readings

By Allan Alach

It’s all too easy for people to dismiss concerns about the seemingly obvious connections between GERM implementation and rhetoric in many countries as ‘conspiracy theory.’ This phrase has become a very easy and convenient way to dismiss anything that does not fit the ‘party line.’ However we must not fall into this trap. It is so clear that every GERM country is using the same song book. This is no coincidence. This is compounded by the tendency of the ‘oppressed’ to unconsciously adopt the language of their ‘oppressors’, and so we hear educators start to use GERM language, even though they hold strong anti-GERM viewpoints. Listen to the language used in your school. Identify all the GERM related terms that have slipped into every day use.

Thanks to Bruce Hammonds who contributed several of this week’s articles.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Why Mathematical Practices Matter as Much as the Content (via Bruce)

‘the approaches and uses of the tools students learn in math matter just as much as the topics and situations in which they apply.’

Deeper Learning: Defining Twenty-First Century Literacy (via Bruce)

‘In today’s world, being literate requires much, much more than the traditional literacy of yesterday.’

Change the Subject: Making the Case for Project-Based Learning (via Bruce)

‘What should students learn in the 21st century? At first glance, this question divides into two: what should students know, and what should they be able to do? But there’s more at issue than knowledge and skills. For the innovation economy, dispositions come into play: readiness to collaborate, attention to multiple perspectives, initiative, persistence, and curiosity. While the content of any learning experience is important, the particular content is irrelevant. What really matters is how students react to it, shape it, or apply it. The purpose of learning in this century is not simply to recite inert knowledge, but, rather, to transform it. It is time to change the subject.’

Three Trends That Will Shape the Future of Curriculum

‘What we as adults experienced in school, as educators and students, will bear little resemblance to what lies ahead. Here’s a look at current trends, their implications, and changes to watch for.’

Let’s see: National standards? Nope. Standardised blanket tests? Nope. League Tables? Nope. Performance pay? Nope. Focus on the 3Rs? Nope.

Do you agree with this article?

Bringing Students to Life With Memoir Writing (via Bruce)

‘Incorporating personal writing in students’ education may seem like a waste of time to those who emphasize acquiring skills and mastering content, but countless writing teachers at every level have seen otherwise.’

This is where personal blogs can play a big part.

If profit-making schools are the answer, what’s the question?

Article is from England but….

There is no such thing as an objective rubric.

Beware of rubrics and their relatives, such as WALTs, success criteria, national/common core standards, employee performance standards, key performance indicators, etc, all of which profess to use subjective judgements to make objective assessments. Thought experiments: how would Picasso have been judged using predetermined rubrics? The Beatles were rejected by Decca on the basis of a judgement that guitar bands were no longer current. Einstein struggled for many years to get a university post and was forced to work in a patent office. Any predetermined measure carries a huge risk, that the truly unique and original is overlooked due to tunnel vision.

Kelvin Smythe: Primary School Diaries Part 1: Stories and Satires.

Highly regarded New Zealand educator Kelvin Smythe has published the first booklet of a series which will revisit his best articles from 23 years of writing, firstly in his Developmental Network Newsletter, and then on his networkonnet website. While some of the articles have a ‘kiwi’ flavour, most are applicable all over. This booklet tells the story of the neo-liberal takeover of New Zealand schooling from 1990 onwards and leaves one truly gobsmacked that we submitted to this nonsense.

I helped Kelvin put this together, and even though I have that inside view, I can affirm that this is a high quality document, well worth reading. The madness of the whole ideology and implementation is so apparent and this helps reveal the present government’s agenda as a part of the same process that was started in the mid 1980s in the height of the neo-liberal agenda. Nothing has changed.

$20 per booklet or $17.50 each for two or more. Email Kelvin

Let concerned adults make sure that NAPLAN eradication becomes a top election issue.

Kids don’t get a vote.

Phil Cullen

February 8th  2013