AUSSIE FRIENDS OF TREEHORN
The Gonski-NAPLAN Threat
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.