Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently



Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently


 Dear Simon Birmingham.

You control the purse strings.   You are presently wasting enormous amounts on curbing the learning potential of our young by your maintenance of blanket testing:  NAPLAN.


 Learn…..           to Guide Our Nation’s School Kids  Intelligently.

Encourage         states to get rid of all such nonsense items that inhibit  learning.

Think                     about the reasons for having schools.

Play Fair.

Think Kids

 Think Kids

 Think Kids


Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              







Dirty Tricks. Gonski & NAPLAN


The Gonski-NAPLAN Threat

Dirty Tricks

 It seems as if the government is ready-ing to play dirty tricks in order to dodge the implementation of the Gonski recommendations.  It has linked Gonski to  Standardised Blanket Testing and is threatening to limit the amount of money a state receives if it doesn’t get higher scores on its NAPLAN tests.  As it is now, the results of the tests are used by educationally  incompetent testucrats to judge the general welfare of schooling systems, school districts, schools, classes, principals and individuals.  Reaching conclusions that influence finance allocation, based on blanket testing of this mega-unreliable kind for this sort of purpose is a fanciful and system-crippling exercise.  Educational management, unconcerned about child welfare and progress,  is becoming a nasty business

 Testing begets pressure. Pressure begets disinterest and disengagement. Disengagement begets mental injury and depression. Kids fail. The  system fails.

Lucy Clark Beautiful Failures    [P.19] summarises our system succinctly : “Disengaged kids. Stressed out kids. Parents anxious about their kids’ achievements. Broken education system unchanged while the pressure continues unabated and unquestioned. And children in pain.”  Can it be mended? Yes! We need to dump NAPLAN and institute Gonski. It’s so clear. ASAP!

 A suggestion. If finances are distributed on the basis of need and you wish to learn which schools deserve first attention and how much….you start by allocating the annual amount available to state governments for Gonski Reform, let’s say.  We concentrate on the years of compulsory schooling. Since every state operates for administrative purposes by dividing itself into districts, in some way or other, we only need to ask a senior officer in each district to list, in priority order. the kind of attention that each school needs to ‘bring it up to scratch’. You then concentrate of the recognised neediest district.  Within it, you then concentrate on the highest need schools first and allocate the amount required before allocating money to the second tier district. When they are ‘up to scratch’ in perceived terms, you start using the next amount of funds available and so on. When all are up to scratch, an annual maintenance grant should be easily determined by those who work at the work-face.

 Let me give you an example. During my time as Inspector/Regional Director of North West Queensland, I visited and inspected every school, both church and public, between the Gulf of Carpentaria and the South Australian border. [Mornington Island to Birdsville].  I knew each of them pretty well and would have had no trouble in listing them, either individually or in groups of 6 or 10 or 20, whatever, for special attention. It would not have been very difficult to list them in order of need and to indicate the needs themselves.  [Indeed, during my first few years pursuing this kind  of management, I was obliged to write a report on every school [including church schools]  in the region, and assess each and every teacher [except those in church schools]. 

It would have been an easier task  when I was Regional Director for North Queensland, a district that extended from the Whitsunday area [Proserpine] to the Papua-New Guinea border [Badu and Boigu Islands] because the District Inspectors who cared for the six or seven districts within the region were expert practitioners who knew their districts well. While they did not visit private schools, in any official capacity, they could for needs analysis.

Such lists could and should be published for the general public to see and for folk to challenge, if need be.

 Of course, we don’t have school inspectors of the mentoring kind that were the “last of their tribe” just before cocky managerial experts got rid of them round about 1990.

 Yes, of course, I am going back to an era when Australian states’ accountability for educational progress depended on the thorough mentoring of schools by these dependable, expert former school principals who had ‘been there, done that’ in the worthiest, intellectual and rigorous [bush service] traditions. The were called District Inspectors. They formed a remarkable cohort of expertise whose responsibility for school improvement was a serious matter. Closely connected to subject syllabus committees, they guided and assessed schools,  using a level of ‘clout’ when it was needed; and flew with pollen on their wings from school to school within a defined geographic area.  It’s worth considering the re-introduction of such an accountability system [as Finland did recently], isn’t it…..that’s if we want the Australian system to be the best in the world [instead of our present fascination with maintaining a depressing, mediocre system]?

 All schools……private, church and public.

 As the scheme proceeds and lessons are learned, judgements will have to be made on economic evidence as to which districts or which schools within certain require any further assistance.

 The damage that is being done to children at present, at school under the NAPLAN scheme is enormous. Most Australian know this.  However, while the big end of town and its federal politicians are in control, things can only  get worse.  The egoism and greed of the former , has turned our education system into a money-making racket, pure and simple;  and the fake altruism of the latter has given them all the  confidence to exploit our children further.

 The teaching profession itself, once admired for its ethical behaviour, needs to refuse to have anything to do with the kind of naplanic child abuse that Australian testucators want to maintain.

 Australia sadly needs a child-focused, teaching [not test] dominant, happy system of compulsory schooling based in quality neighbourhood schools where parents can feel confident that they share their child’s future with the best education services available.  All that is needed at this stage, is some collective thinking by classroom experts aka teachers.

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              

Education Readings September 30th

By Allan Alach

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

The education system would fall over without many hours of teacher overtime. How long until this goodwill is withdrawn?

This article is from the UK; however it sure applies to New Zealand, and, I suspect, to many other countries as well.

‘There is no doubt that the vast majority of teachers do far more work than they are either contracted or paid to do. Recent BBC research showed that the average primary class teacher, if there is such a thing, worked 59 hours per week. If we consider that only 20 hours of this time is actually in front of a class, then it means a phenomenal amount of time is spent on preparation or marking or taking on the many additional responsibilities a class teacher now has.’

How Clear Expectations Can Inhibit Genuine Thinking in Students

Time to rethink WALTs, learning outcomes, etc?

‘Karen did have very clear expectations, communicated effectively and upheld relentlessly in an admirable fashion. But somehow these expectations, the clearest manifestation of what Karen’s classroom was like, seemed to be standing in the way of creating a culture of thinking. How could that be? Why would having such clear expectations for students’ behavior and performance inhibit their development as thinkers?’

The Bonus Effect

One Kind of Interest that Rewards Don’t Kill

Alfie Kohn:

Alas, too many parents, teachers, and managers persist in treating people like pets, offering the equivalent of a doggie biscuit to children, students, and employees in an effort to get them to jump through hoops. (Rewards are tools used by people with more power on those with less.) The more familiar you are with the mountain of research on this topic, the more depressed you’ll be to find, for example, that schools continue to rely on Skinnerian programs such as PBIS, Class Dojo, Accelerated Reader, and the like. It’s not just that they’re manipulative, or even that they’re ultimately unsuccessful. It’s that they’re actively harmful.’

Virtual Classrooms Can Be as Unequal as Real Ones

Online courses are praised for their potential to make education accessible to everyone—but they’re leaving students behind.

So much for the latest brainwave from New Zealand’s loose cannon Minister of Education …

“The same factors that have held back low-income or minority students in physical classrooms also plague virtual ones. Studies have found that online-learning resources had trouble attracting low-income students—or, in the case of school-age children, their parents—and that those who did participate in online classes performed more poorly than their peers.”

Educational Malpractice – The Child Manufacturing Process

‘Over the last decades, research in education and child development indicates that the factory model is based on several faulty assumptions. It assumes that learning can be measured by standardized tests, and that all children will learn at the same rate and in the same manner. This is just not true. The fact that children learn best when something is meaningful, enjoyable and interesting for them is ignored. The importance of learning in groups and from slightly older children is also not considered relevant.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Building Students’ Cognitive Flexibility

‘In today’s world, the skillsets of cognitive flexibility are more critical and valuable than ever before. These skillsets include:Open-minded evaluation of different opinions, perspectives, and points of view.Willingness to risk mistakes.Consideration of multiple ways to solve problems.Engagement in learning, discovery, and problem solving with innovative creativity.’

Why Are Some People Better at Drawing than Others?

‘Since the dawn of human art-making, the divide has been clear: There are people who can effortlessly sketch an object’s likeness, and people who struggle for hours just to get the angles and proportions right (by which point the picture is scarred by eraser marks, anyway). What separates the drawers from the drawer-nots?’

7 Simple Ways To Teach Creativity In The Classroom

‘In the 20th century creativity as valued in society as it is today.It wasn’t important for landing a job, nor was it crucial for building a successful business; the industrial revolution did emerge thanks to some creative out-of-the-box thinking, but it was hard graft and monotonous work that kept it alive and thriving.Skip forward to 2016 and creativity is a highly prized trait. No longer can you depend on conventional thinking to get you by in life; modern society demands ever more creative and innovation solutions — and you’re students can be the ones to provide them.’

Our children aren’t ready for class, so we are ‘worldschooling’ them instead 

‘Over a decade later, I can answer my own question unhesitatingly: my daughter, like thousands of others her age, is simply not ready for the pressures of formal schooling. On first teaching a Year One class, I was shocked and had a crisis of integrity: it felt wrong to expect all these five-year-olds to read and write when they were clearly programmed for play.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Beautiful minds – ‘in a world of their own’

‘The capacity of the brain is infinite. Lucky for most of us so called ‘normal’ people our brains suppress, or filter out, most of the information coming our way but for the savants their brains take in everything in their particular sphere of interest without interference. It is as if they have no ‘delete’ button; their mind, like a ‘google’ search, recalls everything! And as a result they miss out on capacities such as social and practical skills that we all take for granted.’

Finding a real curriculum

‘By the age five, when children arrive in elementary schools, they have evolved definite selves…..they have their passionate interests, concerns, topics,humour; a style that is theirs’.In other words their own personal curriculum for teachers to tap into , amplify and challenge. Unfortunately, even from a very early age this curriculum is subsumed by topics teachers want to study with their class. Nothing wrong with this but it ought not be at the expense of children’s interests and concerns. Eventually teacher imposed curriculums lead to the disengagement of many older students.’

Why are schools not implementing authentic inquiry learning?

‘I wish there was a magic wand to get this message of authentic inquiry learning  into all schools and into all teachers’ heads around the country, and beyond them, our politicians. Sadly I fear we are losing the battle, bit by bit. The rot set in during the 1990s and seems to be spreading, in spite of the best intentions of the New Zealand Curriculum. I guess it hasn’t helped having ‘standards’ imposed upon schools to meet yet to be announced political agendas. I used the quote marks, deliberately as labelling these vague statements as ‘standards’ is an oxymoron of the highest degree. Setting ‘standards’ aside, why are schools and teachers not taking advantage of the NZC?’

When we return to common sense.


Will Common Sense Ever Return to the Classroom?

 When your computer or TV set fails, switching the machine off for a while,  rejuvenates it. Maybe that’s what we need to do with the failed NAPLAN testing program. Switch the testing program off until a better alternative is found.

 It seems, though,  as if our politicians are too beholden to the big end of town and cannot prise themselves from its clutches. There’s nobody in Canberra with any grunt or spunk to try to stop the nonsense….to consider the plight of the millions of little Treehorns, totally ignored by adults.  They can’t turn off the greatest threat that Australia has to our economic growth; and they don’t seem to care about  the mental health of its young citizens.  For the sake of kids, maybe  the all powerful testucating fraternity appointed by our pollies, some of whom may have had a passing brush with schooling,   might have the power to turn the use of Naplan into a voluntary service.

 The well-heeled ACARA might like to make NAPLAN tests available free-of-charge to any teacher who requests them.  Just that. No collection of useless data. No competition. No harmful publication of results. Just let the teachers use them if they think that they are of any value and wish to use them. [As a test-fixated principal in my immature days, I wore out two copies of Diagnostic and Attainment Testing by Fred & Eleanor Schonell.  I loved testing.  I even asked a volunteer aide to spend her entire time over a few months  at the school, using Schonells’  Individual Reading Test, to test as many pupils as possible; and a contact at the Schonell Centre became a close friend. Except for the friendship made, the rest was a complete waste of time but it was on my terms. I wanted to know. After awakening to the extent of the damage that I was doing, I later found that the in-built classroom alternatives to blanket testing are much more effective and efficient at getting to know the child and assess class progress. Even routinized shared evaluation techniques work better than raw, bullying blanket types of mass testing.

( I hope testucators understand what I mean by that remark).]  Evaluation as part of the teaching/learning act is powerful stuff. Modes of shared evaluation focus on the child in a personal, confidential 3-way –teacher, pupil, parent – form of collaboration; and not on the extremely competitive, public, immoral Canberra-based one-hit way– – that Gabby Stroud described so well.] The gagging of principals and the mushrooming of parents were dreadful tactics to be employed when our frenemies introduced the scheme. The professional operators in the classroom have far more expertise than anyone located somewhere else, to be able to decide when and how any kind of test should be used.

 And….after all…..child welfare and love of learning MUST come first………. not working like mad to supply data to Canberra.

 Education in Australia needs to escape from its “Canberra state of mind’ and get back to the schools for learning purposes.

 Can anyone in the holy-of-holies explain why May is the chosen month for children to trade three days of learning for three days of stupid inactivity at a desk, filling in bubbles?  Simon?  Yes It suits Canberra.and its politicians aren’t brave enough to use basic common sense – or don’t know what blanket testing means in the schooling context.

 If economic growth hinges on harnessing knowledge, innovation and talent [SMH 18/09/16], Australia has big, big problems.  For years, we’re been heading in the wrong direction.  We’re on the edge of a plateau, heading downwards….that’s for sure. The existence of NAPLAN is very, very serious business. It’s effects can, no longer, be ignored!

 Please let COMMON SENSE prevail. Things have got out of hand. Talk to some real teachers.

 Have another look at ‘The Drum”

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              

Ennuic Schools

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts, emotions and plain common sense in gear, ready to help children.

‘Since 2008, the neoliberal corporate sector, using its own forms of unionism and exploiting the most powerful elements of New Public Management [Managerialism on steroids], has been very successful. As a first step it captured and corralled  the leaders of various professional groups in Australia and arranged for mass ethical  gelding. It then cloned and dominated these associations that once used to stand guard on professional ethics, when they had balls….. Such organisations could rescue Australian schooling from the present doldrums….now….tomorrow…., but their pride in professional ethics and in high level enthusiasm for effective schooling has been successfully neutered and muted.”


The Revised Version [20 July 2015]

 After 70 years since first facing a class of Year 3s, I’ve always had this deep desire for Australia to stop fiddling with schooling enterprises for a while and just THINK.  I remain optimistic about the possibility that Australia will, one day, think seriously about  its schooling/education system. Yes. [I have happened to note that things are much worse than they were in May , 1947].There have been one or two attempts in our past history to come to terms with a superior form of schooling, prominent amongst which was the establishment of a Schools Commission in 1973, with scholar Malcolm Skilbeck in charge….as you do {Google him]. His work in the U.K. since then, in the development of school-based curriculum has been seminal. The likelihood of school-based development of anything to do with basic schooling  in Australia  seems quite remote while testing children dominates the scene.. Schools are now controlled by a higher authority which treats schools as simple-minded collection centres for useless data that testucating measurers like to play with.

Despite this, I want to remain optimistic.  NAPLAN will go. One day.  It’s too damaging to Australia’s future to last. Entrapped in the serious corporate desire to control schooling as the big-end-of-town sees fit, schools have been forced to tolerate far too much dismemberment of children’s desire to learn.

 THINK. It’s 2016. We are on the edge of a schooling plateau, looking down

  1.  Disinterested adults now ignore the wonder of childhood to such an extent that its very existence is not relevant. Children are now regarded as hardened, little adult robots.
  2. The exercise of humane attitudes towards children is no longer discussed in the schooling context. Data matters, not kids. 
  3. Respect for children’s modes of individual development is now being totally  ignored. Remember “Each One if Different” by Prof. G.W. Bassett? Ye Gods!! That was 1962!  54 Years ago! Slow leaners aren’t we?
  4. The heart of a healthy, social, professionally ethical  and economically  secure learning environment for all has disappeared from our down-under island nation.
  5. The rich knowledge base and expertise possessed by classroom primary teachers is unused and generally ignored.

 Just in passing, Paul Wildman has reminded me of Sotto, E. (1994). When Teaching becomes Learning: A Theory and Practice of Teaching. London: Cassell. 230pgs. Only 22 years ago!

 You might be able to see, from my politico-schooling paradigm [attached], why I maintain a little bit of hope, however.  The designs show why we are held back.  Australia can only stand so much of NAPLAN-based  ennuic schools…..just going through the motions…..the stage that is all too common at this time.  NAPLAN is being ridiculed –CRAPLAN – with adjectives that we normally avoid. People are looking forward to the movie! Comic drama?  However. While schools are encouraged to be just formal and functional, collecting heaps of data, there’s a bit of grit left at this ennui stage; and recovery is possible. Australia badly needs innovative schools with enthusiastic personnel, independent in curriculum interpretations, icons of professional ethics; and happy places for children to attend, because of all the wonderful learning enterprises that are offered there. But…

 The Treehorn call over the years for adults to be more conscious of the damage being done at present,  has fallen on deaf ears. Classroom primary teachers and authors like Lucy Clark and her  Beautiful Failures, tell the story of the damage….and it’s serous stuff.

 Since 2008, the neoliberal corporate sector , using its own forms of unionism [They run the most powerful Unions in the country] and exploiting the most powerful elements of New Public Management [Managerialism on steroids], has been quite successful.  As a first step it captured and corralled the leaders of  various professional groups and in the style of ‘lambs to the slaughter’, arranged for the mass gelding of professional ethics.  It then cloned and dominated the associations that used to stand guard on professionalism…when they had balls.The Australian Primary Principals Association was concumed by the Australian Government Primary Principals Association, for instance…..according to plan.  Let’s not muck around with the semantics of the take-over. It now belongs to Simon.  Both deknackered Associations approved of NAPLAN and continue to support its crude exploitation. Captured! On hard labour.

Once strong on ethical behaviour, principals’ organisations and their networks acquiesced in obscene haste. There has been no serious public discussion regarding testing and system evaluation since…….none available to the public, that is.  Such organisations could rescue Australia from the present doldrums and positively alter the course of Australia’s future, but their pride has been neutered and muted.  Ethical muscle is being held in detention.

State governments themselves had no choice. They were captured first.  A piece of cake, really.  No testing; no money. The threat saw their knees turn to jelly. They sold their respectability without a question or a whimper. None seems to want the schooling business back. They just don’t have the balls to run their own schools properly. ….and any one of them could do a better job than they do at that funny-farm in Canberra.

 Since 2008 Australia has used an education system controlled by fear-based standardised testing techniques. Once state responsibilities Australian schools are, clearly, now run by ACARA…. a politico- kleinist  organisation established by Julia Gillard and a group of testucators. Children have been exploited in the interests of a greedy testing industry whose profits rely on the neoliberal way of doing fearful things to children.  Adults, in tune with the causal attitude  shown by school administrators,  don’t care much what happens to the kids. Treehorn will tell you more.

 I still wait for the teaching profession to grow in spunk terms and sternly exert its ethics based on the considerations of  effective teaching strategies, whose results would make Australia a proud nation.  It will happen. I’m optimistic.  Why am I so certain? I have never met a teacher who has joined the profession to be as nasty to our children as the present system demands…..and I’ve met a number who have left because of the lack of professional ethics. I reckon that most teachers are sick of NAPLAN schooling. We have some strong, great teachers in Australia. No classroom teacher that I know, favours NAPLAN.

 It should not be too difficult for the government to arrange to forgather large groups of classroom Years 1 to 10 to ask them to describe what compulsory schooling should look like.

 To help THINKING in ordered form, I have a couple of designs [Zone of Acceptance, and Belief and Control Systems ] that I find handy. How do you feel about such presentations? Do you have one to share?

 There will soon be a strong resurgence of professional ethics. One can feel it in the air.  Compliancy and heresy [the belief that fear works best in the teaching act] need to be discussed.   Principals and school administrators need to come out and stamp their authority at the same time….before  any more NAPLAN tests are allowed to persist with its damage to fair dinkum learning processes. Schooling needs to be returned to schools and its real teachers.

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486               

 Let’s think 


A Note from a friend to Treehorn

Can you believe it? Little Shane (4) is having his pre- school tests for K placement (Tweed South Public School). We are to attend an interview to discuss his “report”. Er I won’t be going. I asked the teacher how such ‘tests’ could be valid at such a young age. She said it was policy to do the tests!screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-3-59-34-pm

So, kindy students are to have an additional testing regime as well as the Best Start Assessment that is already carried out on school entry (“Kindergarten test to replace $55m reading program”, September 22.). Welcome to school, kids: 13 years of assessments to go.

Clare Moore Blacktown

How can the government get it so wrong? Children do not need to read in kindergarten; they need to PLAY.

The neural pathways needed to learn to read at a suitable age are developed through MOVEMENT! This is common knowledge. Get children moving and exploring their environment and they will achieve better in school.

Haven’t they read the the statistics from Finland?

Wake up and do the right thing for our children.

Lalage Craig Normanhurst


Education Readings September 23rd

By Allan Alach

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

Fast policy: when educational research morphs into quick fixes and ‘silver bullets’

‘These new ‘actors’ in the field produce and promote usually short, easy-to-read and easy-to-implement glossy reports, which offer simplified evidence and give definitive solutions involving ‘best practice’, and where research knowledge is orchestrated to best influence government policy. Evidence is tailored to the needs of policymakers but also fits within the report generator’s own interests and agendas.

We call this type of report ‘fast policy’; that is, policy shortcuts via readymade examples of ‘what works’, which are often borrowed from other countries (or systems) and cherry picked to meet political needs.’

We are in “Deep” Doo Doo: Latest Buzz Word of Caution

Beware ….when will this arrive in your location?

‘Here it is: DEEP LEARNING

It’s something we can all start following/investigating.

It’s a word… like GRIT, PERSONALIZED LEARNING, CHOICE, and 21st c LEARNING…words that are code for corporate colonization… meet deep learning.”’

The Curse Of The Bell Curve

‘On a crisp July winter’s morning, I had the pleasure of spending 45 minutes listening to the fabulous Yong Zhao (YZ). For all 2700 seconds, I sat on the edge of my chair enthralled by what he said, the synapses in my brain tingling with passion and purpose. A few weeks later, my mind is left buzzing; his words still ringing in my ears. Which is why this blog post exists; my way of re-gifting these key messages (and calls to action) from such an inspirational gentleman.

So, sitting from the comfort of my chair, in the warmth of my wee house, it feels fitting to tell the ‘Sherlock-Holmes’-style tale of, “The curse of the bell curve”. Cue: the typical murder mystery introductory style music….’

The Child Predator We Invite into Our Schools

‘There is a good chance a predator is in the classroom with your child right now. He is reading her homework assignments, quizzes and emails. He is timing how long it takes her to answer questions, noting her right and wrong answers. He’s even watching her body language to determine if she’s engaged in the lesson. He has given her a full battery of psychological assessments, and she doesn’t even notice. He knows her academic strengths and weaknesses, when she’ll give up, when she’ll preserver, how she thinks. And he’s not a teacher, counselor or even another student. In fact, your child can’t even see him – he’s on her computer or hand-held device. It’s called data mining, and it’s one of the major revenue sources of ed-tech companies.’

The rearview mirror

Unfortunately what I continue to see is a vicious cycle where teachers don’t trust the administration when improvement is advocated, where governments want students to be creative and innovative but continue to support high stakes testing and where parents want more engaging learning experiences without schools daring to be innovative in teacher practice and school design. All these come together in the perfect storm alongside publication of  international test rankings and federal and state elections.

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

What About the Rules? A Lesson Plan for Building Trust First

‘Before I start my second reading of the poem, I ask students to think about a teacher who has been one of their “hands-down favorites.” When the poem concludes, students turn their notebooks to page two to find their first task:

Your first homework assignment is connected to the poem I read to you today: “Dear Mrs. McKinney of the Sixth Grade.” For me to understand the type of teacher who motivates you to do your best work, I want you to write about a “good” teacher from your K–8 school life. Include specific examples from his or her class. Remember, first homework = first impression. Spend time writing your story. I am looking for the details in the story, not punctuation and spelling (at least not this time).’

How Creativity Works

‘What differentiates humans from other species is their ability to think, imagine, create and shape the nature. It is the creative fire that every human being carries within itself. Creativity is the ability to create the new, which does not already exist in our physical world. . Every human being is born creative, while children we live immersed in creativity, and along our growth, we are led to abandon it and follow patterns.’

Why Learning Should Be Messy

‘Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell.’

Messy Works: How to Apply Self-Organized Learning in the Classroom

‘SOLEs are short forays into the kind of self-organized learning that Sugata Mitra found to be so powerful.

In a classroom SOLE, Bechtel asks her students a “messy question,” something that doesn’t have just one right answer, then sets them loose to research the question in small groups. Students choose who they work with, find their own information, draw their own conclusions and present their findings to the whole class. It can be a bit chaotic, but Bechtel says that’s often good.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Tapping into the student’s world

Schools to develop the talents of all students.

‘The stance taken about how children learn is vital. Those who think they know more than the child work out prescribed curriculums and, as part of this, develop elaborate systems to see thing as are being learnt – including National testing. This is the ‘jug and mug’ theory of learning where the teacher is the full jug and the teachers job is to pour knowledge from the full jug to the empty mug.For others the aim is to do everything to keep alive the innate desire to learn – or to ‘recover’ it if it has been subverted by prior experiences.’

Developing talent in young people?

‘Benjamin Bloom is well known to teachers for his taxonomy of questioning. In the late 80s Bloom wrote a book called ‘Developing Talent in Young People’. Bloom was interested in what contributed to the greatness of talented individuals and what role did schools play in their success.’

A new creative agenda for education required

In 2013 New Zealand teachers stood out against the Government’s agenda, and recently they did so again.

‘Teachers, it seems, have woken up to the true agenda of the government which began with the introduction of ‘Tomorrows Schools in 1986.The agenda is summed up in the acronym GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) – an agenda that will, when in place, will lead to the privatisation of education – the beginnings of which are to be seen in the push for Charter Schools. The corporate thinkers behind the GERM agenda see education as a fertile ground for private enterprise. As part of this agenda we have National Standards which will lead to National Testing and League tables all to allow for school comparison performance pay and parent choice. Choice, it seems, for only for those who can afford it. The trouble is that the standards will have the effect of narrowing the curriculum and eventually teaching to the tests.’

A Politician’s Promise


.. “Treehorn sighed. ‘I don’t think I’ll tell anyone.’ He thought to himself. “If I don’t say anything, they won’t notice.’” 

A Politician’s Promise

 “We will increase our spending on Education.”

[not on the basic compulsory schooling years, but somewhere]

 Thus stated in Naplanese, presently guiding our system of testucation,  this means…….

 1. We will do more of the same. We will give more standardised blanket tests to more pupils….from Year 1 to University graduation [neophyte teachers only]

2. We will privatise as much of the school system as we can.  That means schools, school management, test preparation, teaching material, in accordance with the best neo-liberal practices.

 3. As part of the drive towards the privatisation of schooling, we will establish more charter schools…..a few more each year. We will describe them using confusing terminology [e.g Independent Public School, St. Custard’s Proper School etc]

4. We will extend NAPLAN to other subjects and other grades. Year 1 pupils will need to start the process.  Once we label each child in Year 1, we can make ‘reliable’ judgements about teacher quality, school programs, school administration and public education forever.

 5. We will keep our political decisions secret until they are announced.  Sharing the decision making with real teachers is a waste of time.

 6. Parents will continue to be mushroomed. Parents can be a real nuisance, when they consider the welfare and mental health  of their children against what we want to do with them.

 7. Airy-fairy subjects such as Music, Art, Environmental Studies, Social Studies and the like will be kept on the back-burner. They don’t get people proper jobs.

 8. We will protect the Australian public from systems based on holistic learning.  Systems such as Finland’s are weird. Start schooling at 7 years of age, no homework, shorter school hours, no blanket testing indeed!  Such learning schemes  are anathema to our robust form of kleinism. Only frightened children can achieve at tests!  The use of play and experiencing joy as learning devices is too radical to be compatible with our testing programs.

 9. We will continue to follow the American methods of schooling as closely as possible.  Kleinism is a reliable method of operating. We need workers who can add-up and talk proper. Schooling is not meant to be enjoyed. Sloth and disinterest in learning will be punishable. School products such as thinkers, doers and learners would create turmoil in our society. Workers!

 10. Managerialism will be maintained. School administration based on experience and expertise can interfere with the progress of our kleinist principles. Coercive leadership is required. We will continue to appoint leaders who have a voluminous CV ,  noticeable entrepreneurial skills; and can maintain the unpalatable and varying versions of reality.


 The electorate can feel assured that we will continue to control what happens in our classrooms. We shall continue to encourage the spirit of NAPLAN. The curriculum will not get out of hand. Curriculum control by the use of testing devices will, in fact, be enlarged. Hard-core Maths, Grammar, Reading,Writing will remain supreme.  We will privatize the better public schools first. We can assure big business educational enterprises, of our unending loyalty.

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486 
07 5524 6443               



Education Readings September 16th

By Allan Alach

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

Ambitious Mathematics Curriculum

‘What about curriculum? We all know that children enter classrooms in many different shapes and sizes, and that their understanding of the content we intend to teach is as varied, and yet we design curricular resources that mostly aim to support an average child. What if there is no such average child? The curriculum that aims to best support the average child may in fact support no one best. It is well-known, for example, that students need multiple opportunities to both learn a mathematical idea and to access their memory of the idea in order to strengthen their memories. Almost no curricula deliberately interleave practice or offer opportunities for spaced retrieval practice. What if a curriculum deliberately included ideas from cognitive science into its construction?’

What Students Really Remember Learning in School

Food for thought from Will Richardson.

“Very little of what I was taught in school did I actually learn, and very little of what I learned do I remember, and very little of what I do remember do I now use. The things I’ve learned, remembered, and used are the things I’ve sought out or met in the daily, serious, non school part of my life.”

Why school is a ‘confusing mental mish-mash’ for kids

More food for thought, this time from Marion Brady.

Learners discover and deepen their understanding of such relationships by inferring, imagining, hypothesizing, predicting, sequencing, extrapolating, valuing, generalizing, and so on—thought processes too complex and interwoven to be evaluated by standardized tests. Billions of dollars, trillions of hours, and intellectual potential beyond measure, are being wasted on tests that dumb kids down because they can’t measure complex thought.’

Tablets in Schools: Case Study in Success

‘I think that great teachers and great teaching are the key factor in successful learning and technology is the servant to great teaching and learning, not vice versa. I don’t think that technology will ever substitute teachers in a formal school environment but I do think that technology can amplify the reach and impact of great teachers.’

Discover Genius In Your Students: The First 30 Days.

When teachers celebrate student genius, the focus in class moves to student strengths and the ongoing internal conversation with your students and external conversation in the class, is to think about what their particular genius is.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Creativity is GREAT : so why would Britain cut its nose to spite its face?

Same applies in New Zealand.

‘Creative new ways of working and innovation fuel our economy, whether it’s GSK, Dyson or ARM (you know the company who make the computer chip in just about everything from your washing machine to smartphones and tablets. The company that was just sold to the Japanese).So why are creativity and creative ways of teaching our children in UK schools such dirty words to many educators, commentators and policy makers? And why don’t parents value it and head teachers lead it?’

Can Morality Be Taught?

The key to molding well-adjusted students: experiential learning.

‘So how can educators and parents retaliate against black and white thinking and the need to create enemies in the other? For my classroom and me, I will focus on cultivating a culture of learning and respect that is focused on human beings and not just content. I will provide authentic opportunities for my students to grow as people, and I will challenge them to do so, even when they are reluctant.’

4 Habits Of Highly Creative People

While creativity is often considered the domain of artists, everyone can utilize more creativity in his or her professional life. Achieving something that is truly fulfilling will come with difficulties and challenges. The only way around these challenges is to face them with the help of creativity. The question then becomes how we incorporate more creativity into our lives and how we create the space for the “muse” to flow through us. Here are a few habits from the most creative people I know.’

Getting Restless At The Head Of The Class

Facing up to a standardised system in the USA

‘Every classroom has a few overachievers who perform above their grade level and don’t feel challenged by the status quo. A new report suggests they are surprisingly common — in some cases, nearly half of all students in a given grade.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The Way David Hockney Sees It.

‘Hockney began his interest in art playing around with drawing exploring a range of media when really young as do most young people. Young people, Hockney says, all want to draw something that’s in front of them which he suggests they have a deep desire to depict what they see. Children and artists gain great pleasure making and looking at pictures and this desire to capture images goes as far back as the cave artists. It is a shame in our literacy orientated schools that all forms of art are not taken seriously as they might except by those teachers who retain a more creative approach to learning.’

The forgotten genesis of progressive early education

‘Progressive ideas that helped New Zealand lead the world in education, particularly in reading, were developed by creative early education teachers who were well aware of the modern educational ideas of the time. The history of progressive education in New Zealand (now at risk) is the subject of a new book, ‘I am five and I go to school,’ written by Helen May.’

Looking at Art – Julie Diamond

Ideas about art by Julie Diamond from her excellent book ‘Welcome to the Aquarium’

‘A critical component of art work….is an acceptance of the unknowability of the end product….I have had to learn that mistakes are not only inevitable but necessary and useful, and that dealing with them – untangling some knot- takes us somewhere unexpected.’ Once again in contrast with all the ‘intentional teaching’ now seen as ‘best practice’ in our schools resulting in a conformity of product devoid of personality. And as well the importance of art as a form of expression is demeaned.’

Education Readings September 9th

By Allan Alach

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

Do Our Expectations of Kids Aim Too High or Too Low?

By Alfie Kohn

My premise is that it makes sense to adopt what might be called a “working with” — as opposed to a “doing to” — approach with children. That means relying on love and reason, seeing kids as more than bundles of behaviors to be managed and manipulated, and treating troublesome actions as problems to be solved (or, if you like, teachable moments) rather than as infractions to be punished.’

Students are not hard-wired to learn in different ways – we need to stop using unproven, harmful methods

School ‘reform’ movement – take note.

‘In health there are well-established protocols that govern the introduction of any new drug or treatment. Of major consideration is the notion of doing no harm. In education there are no such controls and plenty of vested interests keen to see the adoption of new strategies and resources for a variety of ideological and financial reasons.’

Screens In Schools Are a $60 Billion Hoax

Something to reflect on – do you agree or disagree?

‘Tech in the classroom not only leads to worse educational outcomes for kids, which I will explain shortly, it can also clinically hurt them. I’ve worked with over a thousand teens in the past 15 years and have observed that students who have been raised on a high-tech diet not only appear to struggle more with attention and focus, but also seem to suffer from an adolescent malaise that appears to be a direct byproduct of their digital immersion.’

Teaching ‘grit’ is bad for children, and bad for democracy

Debunking another educational ‘gimmick?

‘Duckworth celebrates educational models such as Beast at West Point that weed out people who don’t obey orders. That is a disastrous model for education in a democracy. US schools ought to protect dreamers, inventors, rebels and entrepreneurs – not crush them in the name of grit.’

Disrupt Assessment: It’s like the 21st century never happened

‘The notion that the assessment tail wags the dog of learning seems so illogical and yet it drives the entire process of educating our children as they get processed through the conveyor belt of the school system. Work hard, get good grades, go to university, get a good job. Why do we continue to collude in this illusion when even a degree from the best university doesn’t guarantee wellbeing and employment for life?’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

What I Worry About When I Worry About STEM

Are we training our future employees, or are we educating our present and future citizens?

‘Education’s fundamental purpose is to improve our capacity to question and develop our ability to build bridges (metaphorical and physical) between theories and applications. So why do we allow the discourse to focus on pushing people into STEM for the fulfilment of the needs of industry (even when we know the industry needs are more complex), especially when it’s sold back to us as a national mission to “beat” other countries at math?’

What is Creativity in Education Really All About?

Sir Ken: What is creativity in education all about? Short and sweet.

‘So we all want to become more creative teachers. But what does creativity in education really mean? Is it about making worksheets look prettier? Is it about teachers standing on tables and being more exuberant? Is it about loosening things up and rethinking organizational structures and curricula? Or is it about finding and using more unusual ideas in the classroom?Creativity in education is none of these things.’

Attention artists: the new key to remembering things might be your drawing pencil

‘With the increased popularity of coloring books for adults, we’ve all been busting out the colored pencils and getting our inner artist out. Now, there’s new science that suggests your artistic talents could help improve your memory.A new study suggests that if you want to remember something, you should draw it.’

To improve quality in education, reconsider true definition of ‘good teacher’

‘It is assumed, therefore, that teachers and the actions they take in the classroom fundamentally impact students and what they learn. Often we, as a community of education stakeholders, take this assumed relationship so far as to assert that educational systems are only as good as the quality of their teachers.However, this nearly universal valuation of both teaching and teachers glosses over the sober realization that individual teachers have differential effects on student learning.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The transformative Power of Interest: Annie Murphy Paul – Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

“‘If there is just one message I could share with parents, educators, and managers, it would be about the transformative power of interest’. Annie Murphy Paul. The development of every student’s unique set of talents and gifts is the challenge for a 21stC of education and so far few schools have yet to appreciate this challenge.”

We have lost so much over the past 50 years. We need to return leadership back to creative teachers.

‘The rise and fall, and possible rise again of the leadership of creative teachers. It was in the sixties when creative classroom teachers working within a shared educational philosophy were the real leaders.’

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21stC?

‘Apart from the surge in technology use, and the new skills teachers need to adopt, implement and harness new digital media and tools (a subject for another blogpost), I would argue that little has changed in our expectations of good educators.’