A Testucation System

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available .

 Australia’s Testucation System

Goodbye inglorious 2015

“You are dead set keen on producing robots……… instead of citizens with full brain power, innovative ideas and gumption”, she said during a recent visit. [It’s only our great classroom teachers that are holding the system up during the present period, she added.]

It’s true. Australia does not have an education system.  It’s a test, test, test dominated TESTUCATION SYSTEM  diluting the curriculum so that the myopic measurers in charge of Australian schooling can demand higher scores on shallow, immoral, abusive,  proven useless, proven unreliable tests called NAPLAN.

This system callously abuses the mental health of children and frightens them away from the beauty of curriculum offerings of all kinds;  and prevents pupils  from experiencing the joy of the arts and physical variety and the millions of other things they would like to learn about.

The monster is  NAPLAN – the real, the biggest enemy of Australia’s progress ever.  It uglifies and corrupts Maths, Literacy, Science……three of the most beautiful, creative, challenging, enjoyable topics in the curriculum.  Want to uglify something? Test it!  NAPLAN is the gunboat of corporate testucation that was introduced by Joel Klein, because corporate America demanded it of us. The Yanks actually believe that FEAR is the most effective motivator of the learning business. There was never any  sound education reason for introducing NAPLAN at the time. Schools were going great guns.  Now, things have all gone crazy…..it’s a radical imposition that has stolen three days of useless sweat from learning exercises; it abuses children with months of cerebral floggings each year,  for school uglification purposes only.  Then there are those boganisers who use the scores to set standards and compare.

No self-respecting parent would give, under normal circumstances, their permission for their children to undertake the preparation and  pain of NAPLAN, but parents have never been asked. NeverEver. No Australian parent has ever been offered the choice.  Australian educrats dictatorially force children to do NAPLAN tests, without permission from the parents or from the teacher or from the school.  Fascist behaviour? Yes. Close to criminal! Yes. What next?

NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability for the sake of a score.

The NAPLAN control of the curriculum represents a system dominated by corporations operating locally  on behalf of bigger ones in the USA.

Talk about taking us for suckers!

Our politicians operate on behalf of these corporations and…

play dumb on their behalf.

It must be noted that our new federal minister, as all new ministers are prone to do, is looking for a gimmick, for which he will be remembered.  His is Voucher Schooling. We’ve been there, done that. It’s a giggle, Simon. Can’t we try something new? WHAT IS LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM ALL ABOUT? There’s a topic.  Let’s be original.

Wouldn’t we be better off encouraging all Australians to talk about the real business of schooling – in all schools?

You could be remembered for the sponsorship of …….


Why not have schools, that are allowed to think, to concentrate on LEARNING ?

Another Bedtime Story.  A mum tells me that her local state high school enrolment asks for her child’s NAPLAN results. Yes.  She did not fill in that part and was telephoned! She wants to know what sort of school she is sending her child to, that has to rely on NAPLAN results, which she knows to be useless, to guide her child through a very serious part of his development.  OMG. Let’s stop the NAPLAN crap before things get worse!

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443   
    http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/

The big year for kids.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn   

  encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available .

NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their emotional and cognitive development.

2016 – The Real Big Year for KIDS?

It’s Election Year for voters. What will be the main issue : penalty rates, political corruption [Union & Corporate]; terrorism; boats; income tax; pensions; Syria; federal control of state business; innovation?

There is only a slim chance that it could be about The Future of Australia : KIDS.

Despite the challenge, please rest assured that the Treehorn Warriors and compatible teacher organisations [e.g. ALEA Australian Literacy Educators Association http://alea.com.au/whose usual great conference will be held in Adelaide 7-10 July. https://www.alea.edu.au/professionallearning/2016-conference-adelaide] will keep sticking up for kids.

It’s not likely that KIDS will feature large as an election issue since not enough adults are interested in them [as Treehorn’s life story keeps reminding us]; but, something might happen.  Parents might stick up for them at NAPLAN time [May]. NAPLAN is undoubtedly  the worst scourge ever imposed on an otherwise reasonable system of schooling. Nothing else has damaged the school curriculum and children’s cognitive development as much as it has. Its supporters and owners have been very successful at controlling the truth.  Indeed, the voting public seems too scared to even talk about it.

We members of the voting public are a weird mob. We believe that the right thing has been done for kids by merely….

  1. Compelling them to attend a schools from six years of age [Tasmania 5 yrs.] until at least 16 years of age.  [ States and countries vary in the kinds of attendance that they demand. In some countries attendance is not compulsory.  In Australia, although attendance at a school building is compulsory, there has been quite a substantial growth over the past few [NAPLAN] years in Homeschooling. Finland and other progressive school systems don’t start schooling until the kids are 7 years of age. They enjoy home-based childhood until then]]
  2. Supplying rooms. Most schools consist of classrooms to which children are assigned and confined for each year of their ‘schooling’ or to special ‘subject’ rooms..
  3. Providing teachers who  are responsible for the kind of learning and teaching that take place in these spaces under the supervision of a head teacher [once called Headmaster] now called a Principal [an American term to indicate ‘the highest in rank’]. He or she has to be the best teacher, curriculum leader, innovator, educative decision-maker, and cognition expert with a leadership ability to evoke enthusiastic learning and teaching from every single person in the school for every minute of each school day.

Believe it. SCHOOLING TAKES PLACE IN CLASSROOMS, not in the offices of a test company or education authority or a party room.

Every child should emerge from schooling with a much greater love for learning than he or she did when they started….or it’s all been a waste of time.

Sadly,  we ignore what kind of learning takes place in the rooms. When some nincompoop from somewhere else, with no-to-little classroom experience, dispossessed of a humane conscience,  decides what should happen in Australian classrooms, we scaredy-cats desert the kids and their classroom teacher. We let  the sciolist testucators have their way. We place  Australia’s future in the hands of  abusers of children’s emotions and cognitive dignity.

One has to wonder why Australia’s Future is not always No.1 on every Election agenda.   Maybe voters think that testucators know more than educators; that educrats know more about classroom learning than teachers who dwell there; that scaring and bullying kids into learning doesn’t do any harm; that schools should produced corporate robots instead of human beings; that schools are only for passing tests and exams…..and, of course……lining the pockets of the greedy.

Political candidates, this year, will rely on their charm and their ability to use clap-trap-meaning-nothing to obtain a high-paying job with enormous perks, where specially chosen people will tell them what to do. They will attend hundreds of meetings, some party meetings, lots of commmunity knees-ups, each of which will have barren consequences because the decisions are in the hands of other people. Then Lobbyists [click here]will also be there to guide them, so  they wont worry about the kids in their electorate nor worry about Australia’s real future for that matter. They’ll get the good oil direct from the source. There’s not much real work to do.

Not one politicians that I know of,  has ‘stood-up’ for kids in the past 6 years! Do you know any?

Did you know? It is estimated that there are over a thousand paid full-time well-paid lobbyists working on politicians in Canberra; others inhabit state legislatures.

“So in Australia, we have about 4,000 lobbyists working every day, speaking to ministers and senior public servants and policy makers, seemingly without any record of this activity appearing anywhere.There’s also no way of knowing, without issuing potentially expensive Freedom of Information requests, who ministers are meeting with and how often”  [”Getting to Know Your Lobby Groups.“] Click and read.

4,000 !!

You will note that this provides an explanation for one of the ways that the truth is being deliberately hidden by the media and the political parties about the effects of NAPLAN’s fear-based testing on children’s emotions and cognitive development; and of the reality of corporate control of schooling in Australia. Parents just have to be mushroomed and controlled. It’s essential.  It IS being done NOW.

AND….There is no fearless media commentator of the Valerie Strauss [Washington Post] kind or any known editorial journalist or media commentator in Australia  brave enough to share the real truth with them.

One can’t blame them, I suppose. The consequences can be grim. They are ‘owned’…..and….Big-time corporations can be merciless.   However, it means that the Australian public does not really know what is going on in their schools….after 8 years. It’s been a remarkable scam.  The political policy of each major party and a controlled media working together to support the corporate commanders and to keep people mushroomed [in the dark and fed on B…….t]  is essential for the money-bags who profit from the school NAPLAN contagion.

Despite this grim picture, there is a chance, please God,  that parents will wake up during this election year, vote for the candidate or party that advocates the banning of NAPLAN;  and 2016 will prove to be a big year for kids.

In the meantime,Treehorn Warriors and friends,  keep singing…..

It’s a catchy tune.


Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  
cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/
07 5524 6443          0407865999

Why crush them at such a young age?

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available.

NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability

It’s called CHILD ABUSE.

That’s NAPLAN. Crush the little buggers.

We test them at 7 years of age. Year 3 !

What else can we do to damage our children’s emotional and cognitive development?

{In Finland and other advanced countries, children do not START school until after 7 years of age. By age 12, they are well ahead of the rest of the world. Do you ever wonder why?}

Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 
http://primaryschooling.net/                  http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/
07 5524 6443 0407865999

A big fib.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available.

NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability


This is a great big fib.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

{A child-interested newspaper or independent columnist or TV investigation should look at this. Ever wondered why one hasn’t?}

Here is a direct quote from ACARA’s instructions regarding the administration of NAPLAN Test. It’s ACARA’s way of handling loving parents who don’t want their child to suffer NAPLAN tests and their preparation procedures. 

What do you do if you wish to withdraw your child from the NAPLAN experience?

It’s intention is to deceive you. Please read it carefully and you will see. 

‘NAPLAN tests are a routine part of the school calendar. However students may be withdrawn from the testing program by their parent/carer if there are religious beliefs or philosophical objections to testing. This is a matter for consideration by individual parents/carers in consultation with their child’s school. A formal application in the manner specified by the relevant test administration authority (TAA) must be received by the principal prior to the testing.’   [Potent parts underlined by me]

NAPLAN has never been a ‘ routine part of the school calendar’. It’s an optional extra…nothing more….has no useful part in a normal holistic school curriculum. It is, as described in the title above. An outside body [ACARA], established by one particular corporation-guided politician, later PM, drunk with too much power, in 2008  then added high stakes testing to school time…..and loaded it with dangerous sciolist microbeads.  It’s an uninvited, enormously time-consuming addition to normal school activities  that is proving to be totally unnecessary. More than that, it is proving to be degrading and depressing on children’s emotions as well….and on their teachers.  It is also a dismal failure in terms of its promises…a waste of valuable time. Parental refusal to participate in a school optional activity is treated, by regulation, as other optional extras, such a school excursion or religious education, are treated. Such a refusal is routinely handled as are others…….with dignity.  A parent’s wishes have to be respected.

It’s just so easy to say, “NO TO NAPLAN”.

If you don’t want your child to participate (and thousands of parents are presently opting out)  all you have to do is drop a short note to your child’s teacher or to the school. Nothing  else.  You don’t have to supply a reason nor an apology, nor find nor invent a ‘religious belief’ nor ‘philosophical objection”. That’s rubbish. That’s deceitful. No school nor school authority would dare ignore your demand nor insist that a special form be completed by you. There is no need for a school consultation.  If there was, it would have asked you for your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ choice in the first place. A family consultation on the effects of NAPLAN on your child’s future would seem a wiser alternative.

And another thing;  what is a TAA?  Have you heard of it? What’s its role? Where

is it located? Who are the members? Another hoax? Used to be an airline. Who made up this silly trick?

I was a senior state department officer for almost twenty years and I can guarantee that no self-respecting state department would support this kind of vulgar treatment of parents.  It’s a hoax.

Please ACARA, please stop treating parents as dillpots!   Stop covering up.  Stop the child abuse. Stop being corporate pawns. Stop the bull.

This kind of silly deception does not have a place in professionally ethical school administration circles; and ACARA should be ashamed that it has published this stupidity. Hoodwinking parents in this manner is shameful.

All that a parent has to do is write a short note to their child’s teacher, something like : “I do not want my child to do the NAPLAN tests.” or write this on any enrolment form. Nothing else.  Absolutely nothing else. ..and…this can be done at any time during the year. 

Treehorn’s advice: Do it now. Drop a note to your school now.    “I don’t want my child to do any Naplan tests.”

{A comment like, “I prefer that my child should learn something useful” might remind any naplanners about the real business of schooling!]

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486 
07 5524 6443   cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/
07 5524 6443          0407865999

More of his story

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available.

NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability.

2016 – The Year to get Rid of NAPLAN – The Great Year for Kids. A Great year for Australia

Vote for Kids. Opt out of NAPLAN


In 2008, Federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard dumped an enormous extra, not-needed, bogan-class, unasked-for load on the Australian  school curriculum  in contempt for the views of state ministers for education, who capitulated easily. It was called NAPLAN rhyming with NALPALM, but more destructive. It can ruin nations. There were no suggestions from the federal bullies as to what NAPLAN  might replace in the day-by-day operations of a  school.  It was, unceremoniously dumped on schools as an extra load….as if the curriculum was not over-loaded at the time.  ACARA, Julia’s monument to herself, grossly lacking in classroom knowledge, had no idea of the effect on classrooms, thought it knew how to produce little child robots; and invented a test that they thought would do the trick i.e. scare kids into reaching the same mediocre standards at the same time;  and pretend that NAPLAN would just become a matter of school routine. This unit had the hide to say that the test was not compulsory, but it ‘expected’ schools to do the tests. Ever heard of hierarchical confusion?

State educrats denied this right of refusal to schools in each state; and disallowed the right of principals to be curriculum leaders and head teachers to use NAPLAN however it fitted their own evaluation program or not use it at all. Pompous educrats, hierarchical hitlers, they seemed to enjoy the pain of pulling rank and denying schools the right to use innovative and successful processes of learning. What does ‘totalitarian’ mean ?    again?

One stroke of her pen cost Australia billions of wasted dollars, millions of kids’ intellectual cognition twisted and turned-off, teacher-ethics denied…..just because nobody bothered to check out what happens to schools when corporate education of this kind takes over.  SO … we now have an almighty and unholy mess and nobody seems to be able to get rid of the nuisance. And….too many adults just don’t care….even state Ministers for Education.

Present federal minister Simon Birmingham could make a worthy contribution to our nation’s progress. One stroke of his pen would do it. Does he realise the import of his legacy? Does he realises how many votes might be in it? Does he even want to talk about it and allow others to do the same?  Any one state minister could, also. Stopping the nonsense in one state will start the trend. But….none will. Ever asked yourself, “Why?” 

Anti-naplanners, pro-learning folk now have to spend 2016 trying to convince political parties through the rituals of submissions, forming anti-NAPLAN groups, writing and reading endless tomes about the nature of learning, contacting politicial candidates, trying to find one who might be serious, maybe marching on parliament house; and trying to prove to non-caring adults that NAPLAN is dangerous to our children’s health…such a waste of time……..when one word from those who must think that God-almighty is, like Julia, Peter, Chris and Simon seem to do,  their co-pilot, would do the trick.  Those who care about kids will seek justice and progress, despite the wall of resistance from corporation–hugging officials and languid pollies and candidates who just want a good high-paying job. That’s the big task for Australian educators and parents for 2016…..to agitate, to yell “HELP !”  “Save Our Kids” although it must seem  such a waste of everybody’s time and the skulbuggery naplan-huggers know it.


If NAPLAN continues, we will have watched in silence over extreme cognitive damage to a second generation of school kids. We will have been witness to Australia’s movement towards third-world status. The dirty deed has been done. SO ! Maybe we could think seriously about our grand-kids, if it continues. It will be too late for the present  pupil cohort if NAPLAN doesn’t go this year.  Genuinely, my heart bleeds for them. They had no control over the holocaust.  One would never have thought that ordinary, every-day folk – voters – could or would ignore the damage that is being done.

Besides, I join two fat ladies this year, the twilight is darkening and I’d really like NAPLAN to go before I  do. In the meantime we can just hope that the present school kids, being treated as Treehorn was,  will recover somewhat from the experiences imposed on them. Looks like we should pray for them, seriously, and the previous generation of school attenders; and start to think very seriously about our grand and g-grand children. Bit too late for those about to undergo NAPLAN-prep until May this year. As a highly respected and outstanding educator wrote encouragingly to me this week : “I’m sure that Treehorn is gaining traction. On behalf of my grand-children, can I thank you for your passion in trying to restore true and real meaning to personalized learning.”   Thanks, Good Buddy.   “Trying” sums it up.  { “Very” says Simon the Superior. }

So, fellow lovers of learning, let’s go through it again.  Let’s….

  1. Talk about learning as being the proper purpose of schooling.
  2. Talk about testing and the real effects that it has on attitudes to learning and on learning emotions..
  3. If you are a member of a group or association that might influence the political decision to drop NAPLAN, talk about testing and learning at every meeting.
  4. If you are not a member of such a group [parents’, teachers’ or community association or political party], start an anti-naplan campaign or form a serious child welfare group with your colleagues and friends.
  5. Start a network of your own on mail or compose a blog that will spread the call for “Care for Kids” or to “Stop NAPLAN Child Abuse.
  6. Encourage every parent that you know to ‘opt out”.


Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443   cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/
07 5524 6443          0407865999

How Treehorn started

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available.

NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability.

2016 – The Year to get Rid of NAPLAN – The Great Year for Kids. A Great year for Australia

Vote for Kids. Opt out of NAPLAN



How the ‘Treehorn Express’ started

 “If I don’t say anything, they won’t notice.”

It was 2008 when Julia Gillard was ordered by Kevin Rudd to reform Australian education.  Let’s not forget the year of the biggest blunder ever made in our nation’s progress towards high status and prosperity. He had been listening to his big business superiors then initiating a corporate attack on education;  and was doing as he was told. Besides, working as a public servant for Premier Goss in Queensland in another life, he had found that it was a piece of cake to introduce radical reform to a major system that would, with his and other managerialist neo-cons, alter the public service spirit and wreck the good order and condition of services in Queensland. As a super-managerialist, he helped to establish a form of organisation that only the devil or any enemy of the state would introduce. In leadership terms, the notion that  plumbers could lead mechanics, circus clowns lead university facultiesand, all in all,  that skill and experience had no place in the administration of government enterprises. [Pray for the UN]  He and his managerialist friends left a monumental mess from which Queensland has yet to recover.   Some of its tenets, were outright crazy.

It was assumed that, because a person did well at one job [e.g. running the railroads],  he or she would also be good at running any other [e.g. education] department within the public service; that a full and well composed curriculum vitae backed by smart thespian skills of being interviewed, would be just the requirements for filling  a higher position within the organisation; that, because he or she was a person who had a doctorate or a number of academic achievements, he or she was good at everything. Everything.  That last particular tenet was the first major Gillard ultra-blunder. When she established ACARA, she appointed measurement experts whose knowledge of the classroom was very limited. School cleaners would have had more classroom experience.  She was a slow learning show-pony.  If an enemy of Australia wanted to muck up its major systems – education and public service – it would restructure both services as Rudd did in Qld.. Appointments would, in future, be political not experience based. Things became an unholy, monstrous mess and, because of the large unhappy numbers within the public service and teaching professions in Queensland, the public service revolted; Goss lost his job as Premier, thanks to these managerialists [Rudd and Co.] within his own department. They weren’t thinking ahead as to how many people they offended.

A few years later,  Julia G., the super-wrecker of children’s futures, in 2008,  headed off at Rudd’s command, to get her riding instructions from ‘he who must be obeyed’ in NY….. their big  boss; and  brought home a pet lawyer, Rupert’s good-buddy, Joel Kleine with her to convince the people who matter in Australia that his scheme was the best…. of the only one she visited. The Australian big-business boys actually paid his way down under. Using their empirical-based knowledge of “It didn’t do me any harm”, his advocacy of Tell facts-test-blame  tactics impressed them. They fell for it . He now works for the mighty Rupert Murdoch,  who, at the time was the greatest stake-holder in the school testing industry and sometimes seen [as here] as sucking the blood out of Australia. The publishing of the tests and related programs are worth billions to him and other testing companies…and to Klein [who now claims ‘The Australian Education System’ as his].  Klein spoke with as many business leaders, bankers, politicians and corporate leaders in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra as he could. He sweet-talked them [They’d all been to school once – easy] as she later did to the educational profession’s groups like APPA, ASPA AEU, ACEL, ACE.  Both were good at their job.

NAPLAN was born out of this.

STOP PRESS: Today’s [16 Jan.] news tells that the leader of corporate America’s attack on education and head of the failed  test-publishing company Amplify, Joel Klein, has moved from the creation of educational mayhem from the Murdoch empire to medicine, having taken control of an on-line medical company called ‘OSCAR”.  

Back to our Aussie problem…..

There was no open discussion, prior to the introduction of NAPLAN to Australia,  with classroom experts nor with school administrators about the impact of a NAPLAN bomb on the everyday class, prior to its introduction. NONE.  Julia just said, “THIS IS IT. NO  ifs. NO buts.”

NAPLAN was created in Frankenstein fashion as a sure-fire way, she thought,  to produce scholars, all of whom are to be cubed replicas of each other, at a mediocre level of interest in learning. No individual talents were wanted and it has since proved to be a really great Australia-made  horlix [aka: an unholy mess; a complete balls-up of the highest degree]

When it all started, one was sure that it would not last to the end of 2009. It was just too silly for words. All of my close school-experienced colleagues. school-research academics,  high level educators, with whom I discussed the stupidity, were sure that School Principals would not have a bar of it. We were so sure that they would just say politely to Julia, through their organisations, like APPA, ASPA, A CatholicPA, AEU: “Sorry dear. We just don’t do those sorts of things to children. We evaluate their progress with them…part of the learning process. We like kids. We aren’t in the job to make them hate school, to make them cry, to vomit, to lose sleep…” ….and….if the lady had any sense, she’d have said, “Fair enough. I don’t want you to be unethical. “  It didn’t happen.  I had always had complete confidence in primary principals to play the game by the kids. The ones that I knew and respected,  were not appointed to their position nor lacked pride in their professional ethics and truly cared for kids, as far I knew. They must have disappeared.  We were sure that principals, in their roles as head teachers and curriculum leaders,  would advocate firmly for children at their own school, at their local, regional, state and national level and emphasise that they were not in the job to abuse children, make they cry, cause them to lose sleep with naplanitis and worry the daylights out of parents. Principals as head teachers in particular,  just did not do those nasty, unethical, unprofessional things.   I had no doubt that they would say. “It’s not on. We don’t do things like that. It’s grossly unethical.” I did not think for one minute that any Australian primary principal would have a bar of it. I was so sure…we, in Queensland had been talking about the importance of shared evaluation as a part of learning for some years. I knew that our good old Queensland Primary Principals would not let the kids down.

Have you ever had all of your ideals and visions crushed; your notions of having school children treated as fair-dinkum pupils ignored; to foresee all schools concentrating on teaching children how to learn for a lifetime replaced by swotting for tests; to share the joy of children really loving school and bursting blood vessels to achieve just because they want to do so, replaced by fear-of-failure. Schools must be  happy places to learn,  run by people who know what they are doing, are innovative and independent; and unafraid to have a go.  [Of course, many children love school now, despite the assault on their vulnerability and cognition because Australia has some remarkable teachers who are able to create magical classroom atmospheres under any circumstances.]  Encrusted within the learning act are on-going, shared evaluation devices and strategies that dispose the pupil to discuss how well they are doing as they go, without the need for useless, costly, immoral, curriculum destructive, one-off, biennial tests compiled by enlisted officers from some unknown deschooled planet,  who wouldn’t know a classroom from a hole in the ground. These aliens even think that their tests are more diagnostic than teacher-opinion at the chalk-face.  Fantasy.

Talk about disappointment!!  This strange woman was able to manipulate the kind of people I had always applauded for their dedication to children and for their grit in sticking-up for kids.  It was, and remains, a truly sickening experience for me….to be so wrong.  They had chosen her views at the cost of kids’ learning emotions. I was flattened- failed.  I also endure a bitter disappointment  that their passive compliance and toady behaviour has lasted for so long. I have kept the hope, too,  that I trumpeted  in the 1970-80 period that the professionalism of school administration in this county would grow and become a powerful force in its own right. Again: no such luck. Wrong again. I wonder, sometimes, how Bill Walker, ‘Gus’ Crane, Ross Thomas, Hedley Beare, Keith Tronc, Bill Mulford and fellow executives of ACEL during my brief, but intense excursion into those climes would react .   If any one of the organisations listed above [e.g. APPA] spoke up now,  and exposed the dangers of NAPLAN to the educrats and testucators now running the show and openly stated to federal politicians that they do not approve and would no longer do the dirty work  for ACARA , for Jerry Hall’s hubby and kids and for our patron Saint Joel or his replacement at Headquarter, Australia could then get on with the job of teaching children properly. We’d become a truly progressive nation….but…. we continue to head backwards and downwards year by year……and few care enough to protest above a grunt.

Parents were deliberately deceived  and important issues hidden from them, so that their children can be treated as robots.  Parents were conned into believing that the tests were a normal part of school routine. Parents were not given a choice of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to having their child partake of this optional test; and the Rupert-huggers helped to establish an aura of belief that the tests were important. Shamefully, principals eichmanned; some milgrammed.  They did as they were bid, almost immediately; and did not tell the mums and dads that  they could say “no” just by saying ‘no’. That was a very naughty thing for ‘professionals’ to do. Those principals who were queried by parents, were told by authorities that they should make the parental refusal as complicated as possible, by the use of hoax form-filling  rituals. This ‘trick’ was supplied by ACARA. [See Treehorn Express 9 January, 2016] and continues to exist!!] It treats parents as easily conned galoots.

Time on important school subjects was stolen and, now,  a generation of children has endured naplannic schooling and lost the well-rounded opportunities provided by an holistic curriculum. A full holistic curriculum was dumped to shoot for better scores on silly tests.  There is a school of thought that believes that children should be taught the full curriculum during normal school hours and those who wish to contest NAPLAN should do naplan-prep in their own time; even the three testing days. It is an optional extra, as a course on underwater knitting or the study of the Koran would be. It has nothing to do with schooling. It’s more about making money, in various ways, than anything else. Education in Australia is now a large-profit industry; not a pubic service. Why shouldn’t naplan-prep and testing become an out-of-school activity for those schools that like testing?  It is of no use to the teaching-learning obligations of schooling.

Because of the importance that NAPLAN has claimed, many parents enrol their children at after-hours unregulated and unsupervised  tutoring companies at high cost.  Many of these specialise in NAPLAN performance enhancing activities for money. It’s usually of short-lived use. Such back-yard operations have also become a profitable growth industry; and their operations detract from the worthy work of those tutors who help children with special needs.

Some parents believe that a good NAPLAN score will support a child’s enrolment at a private school. Some fee-paying and pretend schools, do ask for NAPLAN scores. These sorts of schools need professional help, it appears. The request itself reveals an educational deficiency. They lack appreciation for the difference between ‘schooling’ and schooling. 

Performance-enhancing vitamins are used in some places. You will have seen the  Tv adverts for ‘Fish Oil’ brain food to help NAPLAN contestants.  Recruiting for ‘The Dons’ or ‘The Sharks’ ?

School administrators in Australia are cautious about the way they handle NAPLAN tests. They should be. Remember that principal in an inner-Brisbane suburb who allowed the kids to work a few minutes over-time on a test? He was pilloried.  A sexual assault on a dozen young kids would have received less ‘treatment’.  He received headlines of many pages in Brisbane’s major newspaper, aggressively interviewed through his screened front door at his home shown on TV channels in an all-out effort to destroy his reputation and career opportunities; then taken from his school and confined to “Room 101” aka “a rubber room” as Americans describe a concentration camp in a departmental office, and finally ‘disappeared’.   He was only thinking of his pupils….a major crime.

With all of these antics going on, I wanted to do something just to help the kids. I understood and appreciated that most adults don’t give two hoots about kids….that’s clear….. and that many teachers do not try to enlarge their esoteric knowledge of classroom activities with any great vigour, although I am impressed by the growing numbers that are. I remembered the children’s book “The Shrinking of Treehorn” given to me by colleague, Althea Hurley, and the author’s trilogy by Gavin Shepherd. It’s one of the best books ever written and it still shares pride of place on my shelves with “The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right On.”, “ Up the Down Staircase”, “Hooray for Dieffendoofer Day” and some other classics.  Treehorn’s comment towards the end of his story, when he had just turned a violent green all over his body was “If I don’t say anything, they won’t notice.”  He was right.  I should tell as many as I could.

I wrote an article that was printed in the Queensland Teachers’ Journal on 10 October, 2008. It was called “ARE YOU LISTENING MR. RUDD?”

I said, “It seems unfair for my wrinkled generation to have tolerated two stupid governrnents in a row, both of which know nothing about school evaluation. [He’d taken over from John Howard.]

We think that we deserve to see some optimistic sparkle for  a healthy schooling era for our twilight years.  We once held that vision. With Australian schools about to be immersed in high-stakes testing we look like losing the vision.

We can hope that Mr.Rudd and Ms. Gillard [and Mr.Turnbull] will change direction but they seem to be stuck in the clutches of the measurement-obsessed hierarchy of the federal education department..

Writer Alfie Kohn, one of America’s most outspoken critics of the fixation on grades and test scores, has endured such movements in his country.

He wrote : “A plague has been sweeping through schools, wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers and administrators. Ironically, that plague has been unleashed in the name of improving schools, invoking such terms as ‘tougher standards’, ‘accountability’ and ‘ raising the bar’. people with little understanding of how children learn  have imposed a heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven version of school reform that is lowering the quality of education in this country.

It has taken educators and parents a while to realise that the rhetoric of ‘standards’ is turning schools into giant test-prep factories, effectively closing off intellectual inquiry and undermining enthusiasm for learning [and teaching] . It has taken even longer to realise that this is…a political movement that must be opposed.”

I hate being pessimistic. It is a sad experience to be witness to the dumbing-down of learning and to be so certain that this will continue.

This Australian revolution is tawdry and cheap, fostered by disgruntled middlemen, anxious bureaucrats and supercilious politicians, disdainful of efforts of teachers in schools. They ignore the obvious – the over-crowded curriculum, the lack of real learning resources, the differences between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and the plight of the poor pupils being treated as students. The aim is to fail as many pupils and schools as possible. Political self-aggrandisement knows no bounds.

Teach pupils HOW to evaluate, for goodness sake, and to share personal progress with someone they respect. Spend the money and time sensibly; not on this immoral failure-based assault on schooling.”

It was 2008. Nobody took any notice.  Writing journal articles has its limits, it seems.

It seemed that, if I wanted to continue  trying to help school kids , I should start an article-based newsletter and send it out to as many as possible who might be interested in the topic and, perhaps, send it along to a number of their friends, so that, eventually, the whole  of adult Australia would insist on treating our school kids with humanity-based learning.  Another flop….so…..we keep trying.

I called it “The Treehorn Express” after Florence Heidi’s little boy, whom all adults ignored despite his big problems. It’s not that they dislike kids, though this might appear so. Adults are just so indifferent. Aussie kids need their help now.               But…

Kids : just don’t get your hopes up.

About the time that the name was chosen, I’d been exchanging views with an amazing Kiwi trinity : Allan Alach was a primary school principal who is an amazing professional reader and gatherer of wonderful articles. A remarkable visionary, dedicated to schools and children, he has shared activities from early in the piece and started a Treehorn blog : http://treehornexpress.wordpress.au/ .Allan has built up its readership [now 1,213]. His Friday Readings are keenly sought-after by true-blue professionals from around the world. I send The Treehorn Express direct, including Allan’s writings, to almost 300 readers. Because there is so much to describe about the antics of NAPLANers and the skulduggery of Rupert-huggers, well over 1000 Treehorn Express articles have been sent out and hundreds of Allan’s Friday readings.

The Treehorn Express was on its way with serious fair-dinkum, Aussie support.  There is a chance that our children will be in charge of a remarkable country, once it thinks about LEARNING per se.

Allan’s close colleagues, Bruce Hammonds and Kelvin Smythe are something else. I suspect that, because of the likes of them, New Zealand maintains such a high place in world education circles. They are a perfect mix – Kelvin, former Chief Inspector for the country and fearless erudite commentator working with master school helper-consultant Bruce are so outstanding that Kiwi schools do things better, despite the antagonism of local departmental oberleutnants and peculiar politicians. The trio sets thousands thinking. So Treehorn visits a lot of people. He’s largely ignored as far as action is concerned, but then, he is shared with the converted, many of whom do their best with ‘send-ons’ to groups of their own, who seem to enjoy reading it.  If you don’t now, please send this and other Treehorns to a dozen or so others.

Check Allan : http://thedailyblog.co.nz/about-us/about-allan-alach/

Check Bruce: http://leading-learning.blogspot.com.au/

Check Kelvin: https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/author/kelvinsmythe/

Check Phil [‘ON LINE OPINION’ articles] :http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?id=5872

If you have read this far, thank you and congratulations. It’s so great to share things with great people.  I must be content with that.

Will you share my present dream ? Let’s make LEARNING as its is related to educational accountability and national progress, the No.1 issue for this year’s federal elections.

Put simply…….



TESTING              TESTING             TESTING

 There’s more to come.

Any suggestions as to how to get through to our politicians? 


Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443   
cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/
07 5524 6443          0407865999