A Message from Aurukun

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

protecting school children from nasty excesses of the greedy and misguided

Aurukun and NAPLAN

It’s been a week or so ago…off the radar now. ‘Na,na,nanana,’ says Treehorn. Who cares?

Yet the issue could be as large as any other educational issue of the past few decades.

 The Aurukun school riots provide a stark illustration of the effects of NAPLAN testing on learning at schools.

 Fact 1. Naplan is a pure data-collecting instrument and has nothing to do with the act of teaching and learning.

 But. When scores are down, PANIC! You’re expected to. Authorities demand it.

Measurement know-it-alls use it to account for what they believe reveals the standard of literacy and numeracy, but its reliability as a standard of school worth is zero. They just love data.

 Fact 2. Its value as a diagnostic or motivational  device is severely limited. 

 There is no substitute for classroom-based teacher evaluation of child progress.

Evaluation of progress is part of the act of learning.

NAPLAN’s  importance in the scheme of things has been overblown by artful politicians, whereas it’s really a flop.

 Aurukun school was judged by know-it-alls, early in the piece, as not doing well on NAPLAN tests.  Its overall performance in curriculum terms was fine, but scores were down in literacy and numeracy items.

 Fact 3. Someone decided that heavy concentration on imporoving test scores should dominate all school curriculum activities at Aurukun. 

 A packaged program called Direct Instruction was purchased from the United States to concentrate on NAPLAN scores. It took over the schooling.

 ‘Di,’ as it is described in the literature, is a well honed, ritualistic, tightly-sequenced,  teacher-proof package that boasts about improvements  in test scores . School time has to be extended and the work load is heavy so important aspects of a normally healthy curriculum are put to one side. Children do not enjoy it. As a small piece by small piece, ‘read aloud’ routine, the smooth continuance of the units is important. Miss a unit and the child has problems. The more ‘learners’ present at school to maintain the sequence, the better; even if pupils have to be forced to attend school.

Its introduction as a schooling device follows the Gillard style of innovative progress……. an influential, popular non-educator is first sold a pup……then…..when all else fails, double the effort…all hell….

Let’s try this with the medical or legal professions!

Direct Instruction became God. Testucators in the area believed that it should be used more widely because NAPLAN is mandated and there is no other more important thing for Australian schools to do, than to raise scores. Such testucrats don’t seem to realise that this politically controlled view of NAPLAN has a  nefarious and macabre background. Ask those parents who aren’t given a choice. All political parties have been caught in the undercurrent and none is brave enough to question things and won’t be allowed to do so, no matter how many Aurukun riots we have. The LNP, through Christopher Pyne gave it $22 million ‘off the cuff’, when asked. No evaluation.  No questions asked.

 Fact 4. Normal children want to learn – about all sorts of things. A positive attitude to learning is fostered in normal classrooms and is essential for intellectual progress. NAPLAN destroys healthy attitudes to particular subjects,to learning and to schooling generally.

 Aurukun children weren’t allowed to partake in normal holistic curriculum offerings. The use of Di is a busy business. 

 Standardised Blanket Testing devices such as NAPLAN are known for their negative impact on the mental health of school children.  Mental illness, bullying, suicide are outcomes that are not side-issues of learning-based authorities.

In most mainstream schools in Australia, neither pupils nor teachers like NAPLAN and their frustrations are now showing. NAPLAN is confirmed as a WOMBAT – Waste Of Money, Brains and Time.

Aurukun is a pleasant land-locked community. Because of its isolated, remote location it has always expressed its frustrations in dynamic style. It imported Di to concentrate, exclusively, on NAPLAN improvement. BIG mistake. Pupils’ frustrations became too much.

Denied the opportunities such as city-folk have – like the peaceful march on the house of decision-makers in Brisbane this coming Wednesday – the only attention-raising method available to its citizens is to riot.

Because of its remoteness and its aboriginality, whatever happens ‘way up there’ can be ignored by decision-makers south of Cooktown.

The Aurukun reaction to NAPLAN is a microcosm of the Australian population’s reaction. Most people dislike NAPLAN but can’t do anything about it. They do in Aurukun.

 Please don’t be too critical  of  the youth of Aurukun. It’s not their fault.  

Clearly, Aurukun has provided us with a reason to think more carefully about what we are doing to children. The riots have dramatically revealed Australia’s schooling problem…..

 NAPLAN controls schooling in Australia.

Preparation for NAPLAN testing is the most important function of schools in Australia.

NAPLAN test preparation is boring for child-learners.

Our tolerance for it has led to the birth of some cock-eyed ideas [e.g.Di]

Frustrations mount.

Pupils’ mental health and social attitudes are damaged.

Australian schooling standards suffer and sink.



Using crutches merely to improve NAPLAN scores is a big,big,sad mistake.

Decent learning-focussed schooling is urgently needed in Australia.

We must stop dominating learning with testing fads and their crutches.

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  0   cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/

looking for a decent political party to vote for….one that thinks

 Let’s think 

This is Australia

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 for the sake of a score. It’s a favourite of politicians who wouldn’t know a wombat from a pussy-cat. .

This is Australia

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 1.59.40 PM 

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

                             Why do we tolerate it?                        


Outstanding Features of Australian Schooling

Treehorn repeats himself….


Outstanding Features of Australian Schooling

LNP has entrenched : “The conditions for funding include standardised year 1 school assessment of students’ reading, phonics and numeracy skills, annual reports to parents that identify literacy and numeracy attainment against national standards, and a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy skills for year 12 school leavers.

The government also wants to link teacher salary progression to demonstrated competency and achievement against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, rather than just length of service”  (SMH)


 This news item on the recent budget indicates significant changes to the Australian schooling system, the likes of which Australia has never experienced before. Once a nation of learners, we are about to become the world’s busiest and nerviest test-takers.  The changes, cunningly arranged as an adjunct to the budget papers were not commented upon by any teacher group nor by any professional organisation  nor by any political party nor by any candidate nor by any educational journal nor newspaper. The new rules were plonked on an unprepared public and are here to stay.

[By the way, on the way home from the Parents Rally in Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon, 1 June, I heard a Queensland Lab. M.P., former teacher, say that the tests for Year 1 were necessary so that, in the future, comparisons could be made between scores in Cunnamulla, Coolangatta and Caboolture. They are needed, he said.  Sorry kids. he must believe in the ‘state theory of fear based schooling’.  One day!]

 The testing industry is now in complete control of Australian schooling and of its associations.  Only a large reaction from concerned parents and opt-outers can change it. Reliance on any political party  to care about the kids they force to attend school is fruitless.  The atmosphere is clouded by fear and tension and bullying and unethical conduct.  Teacher groups that purport to represent professional attitudes of teachers, maintain a laissez faire attitude and are noticeably silent.

 You can pick the kleinist testucators. They use NAPLAN scores as a reference point, as if they were important.

 Who would want to become a teacher?  There is a serious need for government  to listen to the voices from the classroom and to return teaching to the teachers; and to think more seriously about what it is doing to schools. Check your candidates.

 One can now state, without fear of contradiction, that the most outstanding features of Australian schooling on the world’s stage, are…..

 * Children are introduced to the rigours of heavy-duty testing at five years of age.

* Fear-based test preparation occupies one-third of every school year for Years 3,5,7,9.

* Parents and teachers are not encouraged to express their concerns nor given the choice of “Yes” or “No” to test participation.

* School principals are prevented from informing parents of their right of choice prior to test-time.

* School leavers must undertake minimal competency tests of literacy and numeracy in their final year.

* An holistic curriculum is undertaken only by those pupils who attend completely independent schools and by home-schoolers.

* Teachers are punished if their pupils do not perform well at tests held in MAY each year.

 These features are about the most rigorous in the western world. Historical evidence [from the US and UK in particular]  indicates that such features lead to disaster. Punishment by Results is the latest innovation for teachers. Wow.

 One must ask :  How would Finland’s voters react if these conditions were imposed on their schooling system?

                          Have you ever wondered why Australian schooling has gone backwards so fast since 2008?

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

The Testing Industry Responds



Might I ask?


  A testucator from ACARA, expert at Naplanspeak, responds to some oft-asked questions. No laughing please.



He’s probably unsure of what goes on in a normal classroom,  .:

Q, STRESS? A. Get teachers and parents to control it!

Q. DIFFICULTY? A. We’ve changed the tests!

Q. FEEDBACK? A.  We’re getting better….a month earlier than last year.

Q. INSIGHT? A. We’re getting the whole picture now. We now know that those kids who failed in 2008 are still failing.  That’s progress.

Q. TUTORING?  A. No need. Teachers should work harder on NAPLAN preparation.


And that’s NAPLAN in a nutshell. Gurgle. Gurgle. Gurgle.

Politician!  What part of NAPLAN testing don’t you understand?

Might I suggest that you just get rid of the stupid thing and let the teachers teach?


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




Why do we tolerate it?


How Do We Get Rid of the Curse, NAPLAN?


 A country is judged by the way it treats its children.

Just HOW Do We Get Rid of NAPLAN?


 When NAPLAN was introduced by Julia Gillard into Australia  in 2008, it was backed by the Murdoch empire. She was conned, pure and simple, by Rupert’s henchman, Joel Klein who was good at his job.   It was known to have the potential to make billions of dollars for the Testing Industry; and his entrepreneurs had the savvy to organise the Australian stakeholders in such a way that Australians with neoliberal value systems thought it wasn’t such a bad idea. The BCA and IPA- The Club (G.Carlin)- backed the idea as a profitable business venture. Those who warned of its potential to ruin Australian progress on the world’s economic stage and of it’s certain effects on the intellectual emotions of the young children of Australian, saw that its threat  might be curbed if enough fair-dinkum Aussies got together. Others, who sat on the fence, mostly politicians, school principals and private school boards were worked over by managerial experts. They were easily captured….easy meat.

 NAPLAN has since lived up to the fears of the experienced educators,  who saw it as an economic cultural threat. It has proved itself to be a dismal failure as an instrument and has had a serious toxic effect on other aspects of Australian schooling. The rally held in Brisbane recently emphasised these issues. ‘Coming the heavy’ on very young people [5 year-olds], for instance, is as nasty as you can get. If something is not done soon, Australia will surely suffer in both intellectual and economic terms.  NAPLAN is certainly a failure.  At best, it’s a nasty business. Australian teachers know of better ways of motivating learning and accounting for achievements than using unreliable, boring, brutish tests that impact negatively on the learner. The testing industry has failed us.

 Sisyphus had it easy. NAPLAN has become a burden of enormous proportions. Getting rid of it as the Learning Industry tries to do,  isn’t easy.  Hardened by tonnes and tonnes of brass, it’s costing the Australian taxpayer billions of dollars to maintain a failed operation. It’s a useless, barren rock and nobody really understands what it is all about. Getting rid of it has proved to be an enormous undertaking.  When it was re-located  from New York, it was seen that getting rid it would be a ‘piece of cake’; because, it was thought,  no professional person of worth nor loving parent would tolerate the nasty kinds of treatment that NAPLAN has to use.  However, pups were easy to sell at the time and we were given a real mongrel.  Put simply, it’s because HE says we must, we now do. As the supreme authority of the testing industry and possessor of the means to control the minds of millions through adroit use of his media empire, opponents must try to push the barren lump up a steep hill without relenting in any way. The silence of the easily controlled Labor and Liberal and Green Parties have been stumbling blocks along the way; when they should be strong supporters. It certainly looks as if each one is owned by interests other than those of its members.  If one of these parties should display itself as composed of worthy citizens, success in the elections would be a shoe-in for their party….and mean progress for our schools.  They are too well controlled, however,  so the hill gets steeper for kids’ supporters.

 Which group of citizens would be most likely to persuade the government to get rid of NAPLAN.?

 Parents ?   David Hornsby  of the Australian Literacy Education Association has always believed that the parents of Australia would see beyond the mischief of NAPLANNers and would certainly be disturbed by the kind of intellectual abuse and stress that their children have to suffer at NAPLAN time;  and would opt out in droves.  Yes. NAPLAN has done a lot of damage to kids and thousands of parents are opting-out. David and his literary folk are right.

Parents of Australia now seem to be faced with a couple of choices…..

1. Do I withdraw my child from the test because of the mental damage that part of the test ?

2. Do I withdraw my children from school and home-school them; because NAPLAN abuses children for one-third of each of their NAPLAN years and beyond? That’s a large waste of learning time…and a living curriculum gets ignored. Did you know that home-schooling in Australia is growing dramatically?  If a parent has the time to give to their kids, it’s the only way to go, under present circumstances.

Parents Associations of various kinds have maintained a neutral position, it seems, though the mood is changing.  Without any recommendation from any parent body, most parents are withdrawing their children from nasty NAPLAN operations.

There is a great deal of hope that Australia’s thoughtful  parents will win the day.

 School Principals ?  When NAPLAN was introduced, I was absolutely certain that the ink would not dry on any document, before the network of Principals’ Associations and individual principals would just say, “No Way. No teacher ever joined the profession to do this sort of thing to children. You are asking us to drop our profession’s code of conduct and be deliberately nasty to children, We don’t do that.”

I was so sure that this would happen. Following a close association with Primary Principals’ Associations in Queensland, NSW and ACT, I would have bet my life on it. The principals that I had known were not of the toady kind when it came to caring for kids. I cannot figure what changed the atmosphere? Can anyone?

When I read the APPA submission to a Senate Inquiry that opened with “APPA supports NAPLAN”,  my heart truly sank. I could not believe it. I had always  believed that the Queensland Association, when it was a proud PRIMARY association and  a member of APPA, was a professional association of the highest order, and recalled many discussions with them  about this topic. [It’s a long story, but I was disgusted to learn what was happening after many years of close connection between the Principals Association and the State Division of Primary Education.  We had been so close, conscientious and professional. We were as one.  The was pride in primary.  I still have difficulty in believing what happened, and double-disgusted to see that nothing has happened to repair the damage, since. It is a sad time for kids when your mentors desert you.

 \Learned Societies ?  The Australian Council for Educational Leadership A.C.E.L. and the Australian College of Education A.C.E. consist mostly of academics and state officials who express concerns over contemporary issues when the occasion presents itself. Because of their personal alliances with the high and mighty, they are cautious. They can control the heat in the kitchen and they do. Moderation in all things, no matter how serious.

 It would be a welcome addition to Australian educational thought if one or all of these kinds of groups could devote one of its annual conferences to Standardised Blanket Testing, if they were allowed.

A note of caution, however……. When the APPA did so a few years ago, the messages from its lead speakers and from the deliberations, didn’t seem to make the mainstream press.  Impactful press reports didn’t make it to print. Strange how the truth gets cut off.

 Subject Associations ?  I know of no Subject Association that supports NAPLAN. Most oppose it rigorously and there is a large number of them. They represent the real chalk-face. The Australian Literacy Education Association has ‘set the main’ and, with more support, could be a major influence in helping parents tell their politicians to ‘Ban NAPLAN or butt out’.

 It is now a WAR, [in the best Turnbull-Morrison-Shorten sense]. It’s the Testing Industry versus the Learning Industry.

 The Testucators are in power and have the big guns. Financially powerful, they dominate the battlefield and their victims have been many. They are in total control  and keep adding more punishing assault weapons to their arsenal, sneaking them onto the battle-field wrapped in paper. They are supreme, nasty and unthinking. They prefer to abuse kids.

 As George Carlin says, Testucators “…don’t want a well-informed population, capable of critical thinking. That’s against their interests.”

 Learners, who care for kids,  are too easily overcome, however. The majority do as they are told but their gladiators are prepared to stand up to the nasty marauding hordes of money-makers on behalf of their kids and their future. It’s all about kids’ welfare and progress and that’s worth fighting for. They need more gladiators.

 When they all stand up and refuse to budge, the war will be over and the battlefield will be  green and colourful with progress.

 Where do your sympathies lie? The Testing Industry or The Learning Industry. There’s no connection in any serious way any more.


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


Education Readings June 3rd

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Why the tablets in schools debacle is over

I’ll leave it to you to form your own opinions….   however I know I couldn’t handle my life using just my iPad.

‘To be exact, 88.5% of teachers and 74% of grade 7-12 students wanted laptops, not iPads. The observations were clear, that while iPads may be appropriate for young children, they are not suitable for older children who need to acquire writing and other more sophisticated skills using tools that don’t work on iPads.’


Overlapping arguments: Why we love to hate technology

On the other hand…

‘So there you have it. Those who say technology doesn’t work are right. And so are those who say it does.’


Is ‘pedagogical love’ the secret to Finland’s educational success?

Finland, again…

‘Teachers and teacher educators in Finland are well aware that Finnish schoolchildren perform well in academic metrics such as PISA, but they seem much more concerned that their children are happy. It was something that impressed me immensely when I visited the country.

The wellbeing of children is central to Finnish society and culture and underpins their approach to education. Relationships between students, teachers, parents and even educational administrators are based on trust, which I believe is their defining motivation.’


Wild things: how ditching the classroom boosts children’s mental health

Not rocket science, is it?

‘Importantly, students are encouraged to take ownership of their own learning during outdoor learning sessions and teachers ask the children to set personal targets such as improving resilience, problem solving and working with others.’


Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The empty brain: Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer.

What are the implications of this in the classroom?

‘But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.’


The “Official” Theory of Learning

Will Richardson interpreting Frank Smith’s ‘The Book of Learning and Forgetting’ (an excellent read, by the way):

‘Smith counters that, however, with what he calls the “official” view of learning, which he calls “preeminent, coercive, manipulative, discriminatory — and wrong.”’


Reading with intention can change your life

‘A random sampling of the world’s most successful people will show one common trait: a love of reading. Reading is the easiest way to continue the learning process, increase empathy, boost creativity, and even just unwind from a long day. But books can also change the way we think and live.’


How the Power of Interest Drives Learning

Annie Murphy Paul:

‘In recent years researchers have begun to build a science of interest, investigating what interest is, how interest develops, what makes things interesting, and how we can cultivate interest in ourselves and others. They are finding that interest can help us think more clearly, understand more deeply, and remember more accurately. Interest has the power to transform struggling performers, and to lift high achievers to a new plane.’


Thriving in a modern world

Derek Weymouth’s blog : Five human skills for the future. Great must see short video

‘These five things Curiosity, Creativity, Initiative, Multi-disciplinary thinking and Empathy have been the engine of innovation and survival since the beginning of civilisation. We’re at a point in history where our human skills are just as important as our knowledge. The challenge for schools and educators is to maintain a focus on these things amidst the pressure to also ensure we are addressing those fundamental pre-requisites of literacy and numeracy We’re fortunate in NZ that our National Curriculum has at its primary focus the Key Competencies around which the curriculum in our schools should be designed. New Zealand schools have the scope, flexibility, and authority they need to design and shape their curriculum so that teaching and learning is meaningful and beneficial to their particular communities of students. So one would imagine that in such an environment we’d see amazing things happening in terms of the development of ‘an adaptable mind’ as this clip celebrates – and we do, but often in pockets rather than in a systemic way. The constant pressure to recognise and measure achievement in terms of the traditional subject areas can mitigate against efforts to develop a curriculum that will truly inspire and develop things like curiosity, creativity and initiative among our students.’


From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Power through reading!

‘Reading, and writing, are not just processes to be ‘achieved’ but are all about power – power of the imagination, power of gaining messages through literature, and power to gain and share ideas that can change how you think. Unless students, particularly those from from families who lack ‘cultural capital’, appreciate this power why would they bother to read or write?’


Standardization of America and democratic Finland.

‘Rigor in the American scene is cutting recess and replace with instruction. Cut the frills., cut art, cut music, cut everything except reading and math. And then turn the school day into a reading and maths drill and reading and math exercises, and get those scores up.’


Five Minds for the Future

‘Based on the premise that students are entering an accelerating world of change in every area of life Gardner, renowned worldwide for for his theory of multiple intelligences , believes that such changes call for new ways of learning and thinking in schools if students are to thrive in the world during the eras to come. The directions our society is taking and the future of our planet demands such ‘new minds’ able to explore creative alternatives for problems that cannot be anticipated.Gardner’s ‘five minds’ have much in common with the ‘key competencies’ that underpin the recently published ‘new’ New Zealand Curriculum.’