Education Readings October 13th

By Allan Alach

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

More than bricks and mortar: A critical examination of school property under the National-led Government

An article I posted last week referenced an article by Dr Leon Benade, School of Education, Auckland University of Technology. Here is Leon’s full article.

‘Teachers are largely unprepared for flexible learning spaces that bring together multiple teachers and students (see my earlier blog on MLE/ILE). These (enforced) changes require students to master new learning habits and routines, while parents’ most recent school memory may have been of sitting in rows or possibly in grouped desks, in so-called ‘single cell’ classrooms with one teacher and no more than 30 or 35 students. So, where has this policy come from, and what does it look like in action?’

Is Math Art? Dream or Nightmare?

‘I was blown away by this remarkable (and strangely empowering) critique about math education:  how we view it as a culture; how teachers are teaching it (or not teaching it); how and why some students struggle with it; how some students who apparently “get it” don’t; how parents perceive it; how testing may not be showing us what we want to know, and how we can change math education for the better.’

FORCE & FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

‘A frenzy surrounding reading is caused by school reformers and the media, claiming children are not learning to read fast enough. Kindergarten is the new first grade, automatically making preschool the new kindergarten. If we aren’t careful, obstetricians will show newborns an alphabet chart immediately after babies are born! We’re told that reading is an emergency, and if it’s not addressed by reading programs produced by individuals, companies, and technology, children won’t learn to read—and they won’t be ready for the global economy.’

Most everything you need to know about creativity

‘It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? And how do you take in and capture those details that you do choose to zoom in on? In other words, how do you maximize your brain attic’s potential? …Everything we choose to notice has the potential to become a future furnishing of our attics.’

Stop Forcing Introverts To Speak In Class. There Are Better Ways.

‘Class participation is often a significant portion of a student’s grade, and I have felt pressured to force myself to speak in order to meet the participation requirements, as do many introverts. But I was fortunate to have a teacher who offered an alternative, and I strongly encourage other teachers to do the same. How can a teacher recognize an introverted student and support him or her?’

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

‘Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Malcolm Dixon: Time to discuss primary school education

‘I don’t know if anyone else noticed but primary school education was seldom mentioned throughout the election campaign and yet for everyone with children or grandchildren education plays an extremely important part in their lives. Why didn’t the Government mention it? In my opinion it was the legacy of the Parata regime and there is very little to celebrate and the current minister is completely out of touch with reality.’

This Is What Teachers Need And Aren’t Getting

‘An important category of educators: teachers with a high level of professional freedom will be extinct by 2033 if the current rate of loss continues. Like most endangered creatures, their habitat is threatened. When you were a child they were present in every city and town in the United States, but now their world has changed. They can be found only in rare, hospitable environments’

Raising the bar with flexible grouping

‘Professor Christine Rubie-Davies, a leading researcher in the field of teacher expectations, is based at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. In this blog Christine challenges the practice of grouping students by ability, arguing that it constrains learning.’

We Need to Trust Teachers to Innovate

‘If we want to see innovation happening in our schools, we need to trust, encourage, and empower teachers to transform their practice. Too often, teachers are forced to teach inside the box and it can feel frustrating. In this post, I explore why teachers are the innovators, what’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all – lessons from the Masters. Based on the book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene.

An education to develop the gifts and talents of all students.

‘Developing an education system premised on developing the talents and gifts of all students has always been my vision. Unfortunately schooling has been more about standardisation and conformity – sorting and grading of students. National Standards with its emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other areas of endeavour, is the most recent iteration of this standardised approach.’

Does your classroom have the ‘wow’ factor?

The first sign of ‘wow’ is the overall first impression the room gives you. The feeling you get is that you are indeed in special place. There is a feeling of positive relationships between teacher and learners and often parents are to be seen quietly helping students. Other students seem to be working without supervision. A quick look around the walls, covered with students creativity gives an impression that this is a room dedicated to the students themselves.’

I’m a Primary Principal

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn is the hero of a children’s book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that some very cruel adults impose on them – like the operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.

I’m a Primary Principal

This is about the greatest job in the world. It is a task in which the pressures are continuous, demands can be contradictory and the days unending. It requires a high professional conscience, continuous personal development, superhuman energy, decision-making capacities as to what drives conflict resolution regarding the school’s curriculum and what should; and a level of personal reconciliation with professional ethics beyond the normal.

It’s a tough job, but it has an endless array of unusual, wondrous fringe benefits that other jobs don’t. The Practising Administrator once said that it has special perks. It asked in what other job can you….

Start the world all over again at the beginning of each school year and have an opportunity to influence its direction.

Touch a child and see your fingerprint.

Look around and see 100 kids trying to imitate some personal mannerism you didn’t even know you had.

Have the mother of a five-year-old faithfully entrust the dearest thing in her life to your care.

Have a seven-year-old show you his skinned knee but blink back his tears because he doesn’t want you to see him cry.

Feel a tug on your coat and look down to an enormous set of brown eye asking, “Do you know who I am?”

Feel the rush of success when you reply, “Of course I know you, Susie.”

Overhear one child tell another, “That’s our principal. He owns this school.”

See a young chap greedily eye the chocolate cupcake in his lunch-box – and then offer it to you.

Practice dentistry without a licence.

Have an excited teacher burst into your office shouting, “It worked!”

Hear a grateful mother say, “You were right. That’s what he needed.”

Watch a skilled teacher at work and remember how many times she came to you in tears in her first year.

Having hundreds of adults and children try to sing “Happy Birthday to You” with gooey icing from the tuckshop mothers’ cakes still in their mouths.

Watch your wife’s face, when a Year 1 points to her and announces confidently “That’s the principal’s mother.”

It’s the kind of job that makes one realise that there is a divine plan and that one has been chosen to play a special role in some children’s lives.

Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 [3rd left from Q’ld.] 07 5524 6443        

Why are so many Head Teachers Resigning Worldwide?

Reposted from Save Our Schools NZ

How many good educators are we losing all over the world each week due to the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement)?  This one in NZ?  This one in the USA?  Or this bunch in the UK? Or these twelve in Iberia?

  • How many are over the excessive testing that is about data collection not about student learning?
  • Or are fed up with the wonky teacher assessment methods that negate trust in senior staff and instead bow before the altar of data points?
  • How many are just plain fed up of being bullied?
  • How many are fearful for the future of education?

Because judging students just on their scores, or weighting the scores so heavily that the students feel they are judged as people by them, is not a way to educate and grow good people.  Students should be and are tested throughout schooling, but it should be done to personalise their learning, with fast turnout and feedback, and about growth not about a line in the sand that is called The Standard.

And what about all of the factors that impinge on student learning?  How come they get so little air time from the people demanding reforms left, right and centre and insisting they only care about the kids?  Forgive my cynicism, but could it just be that there is no money to be made in solving those problems but heaps to be made in selling educational materials to panicked parents?

It is a sick world we live in where we blame teachers for the ills in our societies and don’t look at the root causes of poverty, ill health, poor homes and hopelessness that factor large  for those not achieving all they otherwise might.

Poverty does not automatically mean poorer achievement, but usually it does.  The OECD reported that “education experiences remain strongly associated with social disadvantage. In many countries there are large numbers of people with very low education levels whose family origins were impoverished and characterised by disadvantage. Whilst education can break such intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it can also act to reinforce them: for example, if education policy is not designed with egalitarian notions in mind.”  Source (page 7).

That is the disgrace and shame of all so-called first world countries, and that is the reality many countries are facing right now, including in New Zealand.

Is that truly the country you want?  If it is, then GERM is your friend- let it run rampant and do its business all over our education system.

But if you want better for our country as a whole, then you need to say “No more”.

No to rampant global reforms in education that are far more about $$$ than they ever were about learning or improving.

Let’s get back to research-based, well-thought-out improvements for all schools that truly are about raising achievement for all.


WAPPA speaks out.

 Please note : Queensland principals are not able to receive emails above a pre-determined size. They cannot receive, through the official network, largish items of professional relevance e.g. Allan Alachs “Professional Readings”. If  any Queensland principal on an official email address wishes to access The Treehorn Express, they will need to do so on  Please tell your principal friend about this if you are in touch.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn is the hero of an easy-to-read, sad children’s book, “The Shrinking of Treehorn” by Florence Heidi Parry. She cleverly exposes adults’ couldn’t-care-less attitude towards the needs of children, even when the circumstances of mal-treatment of children are patently obvious. Treehorn found that parents, teachers and principals only pretend to care. His principal ignored his problem but was still able to say, “:You were right to come to me. That’s what I’m here for. To guide. Not to punish, but to guide. To guide all members of my team. To solve their problems.” And Treehorn kept shrinking.
When he started to turn green, his mother told him to comb his hair before the Smedleys arrived for bridge.

Stephen Breen : Features of GERM

I have been concerned about the high compliancy level of Australian primary principals since the 2008 introduced political control of the school learnings through NAPLAN, a product of GERM; and their too-casual disregard for professional ethics as applied to their care and concern for the rights of children at school. Indeed, as a former primary school principal, I have been bitterly disappointed. They destroyed a large part of my vision for the future of schooling in Australia, There seemed to be a total desertion of children’s rights to enjoy learning in a scrambled anxiety to trade ethics for cash.

Back in 2008, I was more than a little confident…I was absolutely sure…. when the storm clouds were gathering….that they would tell the more powerful [in schooling terms] politicians of the day – Nelson, Rudd, Gillard – that a primary principal’s professional knowledge and ethics would not allow high-stakes, fear-driven, low-level, one-size, immoral testing anywhere near their schools. I knew Aussie principals pretty well. I thought.

I was more that a little disappointed as a primary school teacher and extremely angry as a grandparent when principals’ associations were so easily corralled and press-ganged into blind acceptance of the Klein system of schooling [See Treehorn tomorrow] and of zombie functionalism [D.Well] that silently approves of various forms of gimmickry like charter schools, shifting grades around, fiddling with school time, without a murmur. I still have trouble comprehending why and how organisations, allegedly representing aspects of the schooling professions, were so easily and so comprehensively manipulated by political guile; and it is no consolation to know that principals in USA, England and New Zealand also accepted GERM’s diabolical changes, so timidly.

My hope and dreams are on the rise again, however.

I’ve started to sing that “Care for Kids’ song again.

Paul Drummond of the New Zealand Primary Principals’ Federation spoke out at the APPA-NZPF conference last month. Now, Stephen Breen of the West Australian Primary Principals Association has provided the general public with a run-down on the features of GERM. Listen to Stephen as he outlines them under the following headings….


1. Standardisation

2. A focus on core subjects

3. The search for low risk ways to attain learning goals

4. The rise of corporate management models

5. Implementation of test based accountability policies

Now let’s sing…… Click here …A celebration….things are on the up-and-up. I can see a smile starting to appear on Treehorn’s face, can’t you?


With No Child Left Behind ushered in at the beginning of the George W, Bush presidency, America entered into the cartographic reality and morbid morass of high stakes testing, the location on the chess board where the Wall Street financiers and seedy politicians wanted to put public education after years of neglect and underfunding. Why?  For not only is the attack on public education one aimed at destroying teacher unions and the public confidence in general, but is also an attack on what is taught in classes the actual methods  of instruction, what students are to be thinking about and the educational theories behind the ‘neo-functionality’ that reduces students to mere depositories of pre-masticated thinking. Testing is an authoritarian tool that regiments both students and teachers while at the same time serving as a rubric for investors who see the scores much like credit ratings.
[Danny Well: “Zombie Functionalism and the Return of Neo-Instrumentality in Education.”]

I’m A Primary Teacher & other things

The Treehorn  Express

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

 Treehorn is the hero of a masterful children’s book The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Heidi Parry that cleverly illustrates adult concerns for the welfare of school children. The little fellow kept shrinking and became so small that he could walk upright under his bed. Nobody – nobody – his parents, his teacher, his principal took any real interest in his well-being.except for an occasional nod. The message is a clear and simple one for all parents of school children, for less-than-ethical teachers and principals who just don’t care enough.

Naplan cannot predict anything nor reveal anything that teachers do not know already.

It only reveals that our national leadership is bankrupt. We have managers,not leaders.


I’m a Primary Teacher

I am a primary teacher. As well as teaching English, which includes reading, writing, spelling, punctuation, phonics, grammar, handwriting, speaking and listening. I teach maths, social studies, science, art, health and technology.

I teach children to sing, dance and act so they can be part of a school musical. I teach children about healthy eating and the need for exercise.

I teach children to communicate and get along with others, to value others’ opinions, to treat others as they would like to be treated, to use manners, to respect the property of others and to be fair. I teach children to cross the road safely, to ride their bikes safely, to  walk safely on the cement. I teach them to wash their hands, to blow their noses, to wear hats in the sun and to sit on their chairs safely.

I teach children to want to go to school, to want to learn and to develop a love for learning. The children I teach know that I will do my best for each one of them, that I like them, that I value their opinions, that I want each of them to succeed and that I  proud of their achievements.

Who am I? Just an ordinary teacher. There are thousands of other teachers just like me out there. Thousands of them pick up the newspaper or turn to television daily to be told what a bad job they are doing.

I love my job. I love my children. I love the buzz I get when they make me feel proud and I love the noise of 52 of them beating down my classroom door at 8.15 am every day.

That’s what will get me through these turbulent times. I hope that all of those teachers just like me get through them too. Have a great day today. teachers.

[ Bundaberg Teacher, Catriona J.Mc  – Letter to Editor C.M.1 Oct., 2008]


Australia – A Testucator’s Disneyland

[Definition – TESTUCATOR:  One, usually in an education job of some sort with a passing knowledge of schooling, who approves of or supports forms of national blanket testing, aimed at blaming someone or other.]

Australian education’s Deen Brothers have swung their assessment hammers again !  Saturday’s [27 Oct. 2012] press revealed that “Aspiring teachers will be tested in literacy and numeracy at the beginning and end of their education degree under a national plan to drive up teacher quality.”  [Courier Mail]

School Education Minister, Peter Garrett told the Eidos Institute in Brisbane, yesterday, that preparation for this was under way. State Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek welcomed the announcement.

Australia is about to hang out a sign: “We test everything.”  In small letters the sign will say. “It doesn’t do any good. We just like doing it. The salt mines if YOU object.”

Don’t stand still for too long, Mums and Dads, Grandpa and Grandma. You’re next.


Best Wishes to Kevin Pope

Principal hero and child-advocate, Kevin Pope of Meadow Heights is expecting a visit from either a ‘Fed” or a ‘Ted’ officer sometime soon. [Ted Baillieu is Victoria’s premier]. It is to be hoped the officers are able to learn something from Kevin. In an earlier time, an officer reckoned that Ted was being ‘political’, because he had candidly described “NAPLAN’ and its effects in a professional manner.

There is a word for ‘back-to-frontness’, but it escapes me.

An issue such as this is not so much about Kevin or Ted or Fed. It’s about his stand-out REGARD and CARE and LOVE for kids at school. In another GERM-free time, Kevin would not stand out as a hero.

In case you missed it, for more information, see See Article 12 in “Say NO to NAPLAN” at

You might like to send a short ‘best wishes’ to him. He deserves a little support, a pat on the back and a  sincere ‘fairy clap’.  {See Kevin. I remember.}

[Coming soon : A story from Paul Thomson, the independent-school principal of a school where parents refuse to do the damaging/degrading NAPLAN tests]


It’s October

It wasn’t so long ago that school vacations consisted of a six week period in mid-summer, a week in May and a two-week period during the winter months. In Queensland, the two-week period was arranged to coincide with the Brisbane Show aka Exhibition. There was a long unbroken period between mid-August and mid-December, with the pre-Christmas period devoted to examinations of many kinds. It was a really tough slog. Departmental statistics showed that there were more parental complaints about teacher behaviour during the month of October than the whole of the rest of the year. It was understandable. One did not need to have a Ph.D. with a background in psychology to know the reasons why.

AND……It was extra-extremely tough for those teachers serving in remote areas [of WA & Q’ld especially], a long way from their boy-friends, girl-friends, family members, friends and the kinds of sporting interests and cultural pursuits that their home-town offered. Most Queensland teachers came from Brisbane and other cities tucked away in the south east corner. Teachers in remote localities sacrificed a lot to provide schooling for those children whose folk had chosen to live where they lived. It is over 1800 kms from Brisbane to Mt. Isa and 1700 kms to Cairns [both stepping stones to far-away places]; so week-ends visits to home are out of the question. It was also a long tough period for parents as well who listened to ‘school stories’ for the tense period up to October, but, with thoughts similar to the teachers, relaxed about November in anticipation of a long break.
I was Regional Director and Inspector for the north-west schools district, an area that was marginally bigger than Texas….just a little bit, but larger. I was ably assisted by a senior clerk and two typists in the office at Longreach. The district stretched the full length of the Northern Territory border from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the South Australian border, east to places like Hughenden, Barcaldine and Tambo. I was obliged, at the time, to inspect every teacher in the area and provide them with a numerical assessment of their abilities [Believe it]. I wrote a report on every state school and convent in the area every year; later adding ‘mission’ schools at Mornington Island and Doomadgee. I used to send out an occasional professional newsletter for every teacher written by their regional colleagues, willing to describe some interesting activity that I might have noticed during my visits; and included many professional articles as well, sourced from the giants of the era. It was the period of [mistakenly called ] open area schooling. It was an exciting time for me, professionally, and I learned a lot from the young enthusiastic teachers and principals of the outback. We had a saying,”Only the best go west.”I didn’t want to have to listen to too many parental complaints at any official inquiry that were usually acrimonious and from which no ‘winner’ emerged. Besides,it was a long way to some places where tensions may have got beyond breaking point. I wondered how I might alert all teachers in the region to be careful in handling the tensions and stress of this part of the school year. The October statistics were not generally known, so I sent out a one page, foolscap-size newsletter with “IT’S OCTOBER” in the largest print that would fit on the page. Nothing else – apart from my signature. Imagine the reaction in schools and staffrooms.What’s he talking about?Did it ‘work’? Who knows? Who cares? I know that I had no inquiries to endure.
naplancontrolsareevilnaplancpntrolsareevilnaplancontrolsareevilnaplancontrolsareevilnaplancontrolsareevilnaplancontrolsareevilSenate InquiryIf you take a look at the submissions to the enquiry received [before mine], then you will appreciate the extent of the issues with which the  members of the committee will have to cope over the next few months. You wont envy them their task. The variety of issues raised is enormous. Check out take a look from time to time.


Thinking in the Deep End

Patricia Buoncristiani, an Aussie with American citizenship shares a blog with her American husband  now listed in the links below. Both spend a  portion of each year in both countries.  Pat, in the latest one, expresses concern about “…the decline in the arts since the advent of GERM. It worries me greatly.”  She continues in her letter to Treehorn: “ The intriguing thing is that things are changing in Australia to more closely resemble what has destroyed education in the USA . Bizarre! “


Please note that  has also been added to the links below. It is one that points the way to issues that primary teachers will want to consider many times during the course of a school year. Thanks to Professor Alexander for indicating that “The ‘primary’ in the title might give encouragement to those in that sector.” Every primary teacher in every GERM country needs to be familiar with this review. Every testucator in every GERM country who can read-for-content, as unlikely as that is, needs to read about what is necessary [See above as well]


When Is A Charter School Not a Charter School?

The Queensland Minister for Education etc. John-Paul Langbroek, has assured Bruce Jones, former Primary School Principal, that Q’ld has ‘…no intention of introducing charter schools based on the U.S.A, or N.Z. models….Over the next four year 120 Independent Public Schools [IPS] will be rolled out across the state [Queensland] with 26 IPS to commence in 2013.”

One can now expect U.S.A. and N.Z. to change their charter school names to Independent Public Schools….if they like to use oxymorons in public. It’s a game called ‘Having fun with gimmicks’.”

Principals of IPS in Q’ld will be able to ban the use of all forms of external blanket testing, I suppose.


Shop Big W

Ken and Suesie Woolford, Toowoomba, of Home-schooling fame, found a splendid book at Big W for $22: The One World Schoolhouse – Education Reimagined by Salman Khan. They enjoyed it because, says Ken: [1] You can pick it up at Big W; [2] it is NOT a book above gloom, boom and guilt; [3] It is obviously aimed at non-specialist readers; [4] It is positive and exciting to read, referring to the same research and ideas that Treehorn highlights. Keep alert next shopping trip, kids, and slip a copy in the trolley.


“Having a top-five PISA goal as the centre of the nation’s educational ambition is clearly at odds with the Gonski panel’s view that ‘An excessive focus on what is testable, measureable and publicly reportable carries the risk of imbalance in the school curriculum.” [David Loader and Simon Whatmore in The Age :’Why It’s Time for a Class Revolt. ]

G.O.N.S.K.I : Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently

N.A.P.L.A.N. :  Never Allow Pupils Learn Anything Necessary

Recommended Links


[Gold Medal :ACEL]

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point 2486

07 5524 6443

Ethical Depravity

The Treehorn  Express

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

 Treehorn is the hero of a masterful children’s book The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Heidi Parry that cleverly illustrates adult concerns for the welfare of school children. The little fellow kept shrinking and became so small that he could walk upright under his bed. Nobody – nobody – his parents, his teacher, his principal took any real interest in his well-being.except for an occasional nod. The message is a clear and simple one for all parents of school children, for less-than-ethical teachers and principals who just don’t care enough.


“Testing should be seen as an essential dimension in the process of teaching, not a parasitic growth upon it.”

 [The Bullock Report. 1975 – ironically the report of a Committee of Inquiry, appointed by Margaret Thatcher, concerned about ‘declining standards’ .]

Ethical  Depravity

I’m so proud of what I do.  I’m so pleased that Althea Hurley introduced me to Treehorn. I’m pleased  to have named The Treehorn Express after a school child who represents every school child in the world now suffering from debilitating school experiences and macabre class-room practices, because few adults care; and such children are forced to attend schools where classes have to tolerate the indignity of arrogant  political corruption of professional practices. I hope to see the dignity of Treehorn and his friends restored, one day soon.

I am so proud to share the newsletter with Allan Alach who maintains this blog which is being read by hundreds of folk in a number of countries. The biggest daily ‘hit’ of 240 readers was made on

There has been no challenge to the claim of Australia leading the world in GERM practices.  This means:  We lead the world in the disgraceful treatment of school children.

I am so proud that I once quoted a teacher, in an official state department document [June 1983]: “If I have to test my kids to see how well they are doing, I ought to quit my job.” then went on to say,” It’s the children’s business to evaluate their progress and to gain confidence from their accomplishments. It’s the teacher’s business to teach them how to evaluate purposefully…”

I am so appalled by the Stalinisation of democratic processes that treats our children as robotic measurement tools in a most contemptuous manner, for political purposes. Since all of Australia’s major parties support the imposition of state-controlled theories of learning based on fear and shame and competition, they have seriously restricted my franchise. How can I vote for any candidate who supports such policies?

How can I trust a political party that once espoused democratic principles but now demeans such principles, fully conscious that they are being manipulated by  under-hand lobbying of media conglomerates? I mean Liberal and Labor and National parties. The Brer Fox parties just don’t bother much about kids. If they had more gumption, I suspect that they might. They  haven’t found the breath to announce their views on blanket testing yet.

I am surprised and disappointed to learn that state education department officials, catholic education and independent school  authorities do as they are told so willingly. When they feel that they have to use Gestapo-type tactics on child-caring professional, curriculum-oriented principals [e.g. Thomson and Pope] they demean their office. They should celebrate the presence of such people in their vicinity.  When they ‘come the raw prawn’ with ‘heavy’ treatment of their hierarchical subordinates at the same time as they support and encourage wide-scale cheating practices, they lower the dignity of the teaching profession, including their own office,  even further.

[e.g. NAPLAN protocols indicate a lack of tolerance for ‘cheating’ which it defines as ‘gaining an advantage over another’. Then, ignoring its own ‘code of conduct’ aka ‘code of control’, it hypocritically encourages schools to practice and even makes practice tests available.  In its cheating report, it does not mention the number of hours each class spends on practice routines, at the expense of other curriculum imperatives. It probably doesn’t bother to check.

Some regions publish NAPLAN results to massage their competitive boasting, such as listing the “TOP TEN” in regional newsletters. One such region includes in the top 10, the name of a school that follows the sport of giving the current Year 9 NAPLAN test to its Year 8s and then suggesting to parents of the low achievers that their children should not do the test in Year 9. In this case, the practice is widely known in the region because the cluster of primary schools in the vicinity are blamed for the low achievements of the Year 8s.  It’s a National Partnership School  and the principal’s c.v. notes his abilities as the head of a ‘high performance school’. It’s an ironic twist to the Literacy Educators’ “Say NO to NAPLAN” campaign, but it is widely known that more and more schools around Australia are offering such advice to the parents of low achievers. That’s NAPLAN in action.That’s NAPLAN know-how.]

I am professionally sickened by the ethical depravity of Australia’s principals associations and teachers unions, who used to believe in children and used to encourage teaching/learning experiences according to the most effective classroom  techniques known. I used to believe in them. I held primary principals in the very highest regard – the greatest of all professions – and was always proud to say that. They now openly subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ publishers’ beliefs and to the ‘state-controlled-theory’ of fear-promotes-learning and pupil-stress-focused-attention, best inflicted through didactic techniques. I’m ashamed. Even worse, they subscribe to the belief [despite 2012 NAPLAN results] that blanket testing and rigid supervision produces positive learning outcomes and higher test scores. I am very, very sad and disillusioned.

School teacher groups should have told Ms. Gillard at the outset that their support for such pupil-demeaning, injurious, exotic and unusable Big Apple practices infringed our professional ethics – which they plainly do; and which are presently having an obvious and proven deleterious effect on children’s learning. Perhaps it is too late for the present occupants. They have been corralled and branded, unfortunate enough to have to ply their craft during this crazy moment in history.  For now they MUST do as they are told. Over the past five years, compliance and moulding to the will of politicians and sciolists have invaded their ethical space and GERMed it. Ethically principled principals are in short supply. Those who do what sterling leaders do, are stand-outs.

[Should  Gillard-Garrett GERM operators recommend Joel Klein for an Order of Australia?] 


“Educational standards should be redefined as the quality and outcomes of learning in the entire curriculum to which children are entitled by law.”

Prof. Robin Alexander , Chairman: Cambridge Primary Review

Recommended Links

[Gold Medal :ACEL]
41 Cominan Avenue
Banora Point 2486
07 5524 6443

Principals Speak Out?

The Treehorn  Express

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]
“Learning preceded assessment by 3 million years. Testing leads to celibacy of the intellect.”

Treehorn is the hero of masterful children’s book The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Heidi Parry that cleverly illustrates adult concerns for the welfare of school children. The little fellow kept shrinking and became so small that he could walk upright under his bed. Nobody – nobody – his parents, his teacher, his principal took any real interest in his well-being.except for an occasional nod. The message is a clear and simple one for all parents of school children, for teachers and principals who just don’t care enough.. Wake up! Testucation in our schools is shrinking the intellectual capacity of our children… big time……and YOU don’t care enough.


When Will Principals Speak Out?

In the “Say NO to NAPLAN” No. 2 booklet of short readings being launched this evening [15 Oct.2012] in Melbourne, there is an account of an interview with a principled primary school principal of a school that he calls a ‘Gold Mine’ where all of his pupils “deserve to shine.” 80% live below the poverty line, 75% from non-English speaking backgrounds and 75% are of Islamic faith. There are 80 refugee families. His responses to a number of interviewer questions that might be asked of all principals, is No.12 paper in the series available now on , a series of diverse papers by down-to-earth practitioners. Click now if you want to learn more about the treatment of our children by testucators.  It is a wonderful series.

“We used to hand out the official Test Exemption forms at parent-teacher interviews and interpreters could help parents understand their rights. The Regional Office told us that we were being too political and we had to stop doing it.”  said this principled principal.

Such actions must seriously damage the integrity of the office and the department it represents. The effrontery to describe the school as ‘political’ as it uses its own gestapo-like heavily-political tactics to control democratic freedoms and well-based professional attitudes, is scandalous. Even more scandalous is that this story is repeated in a number of states….whispered behind closed doors…until now. State governments are expected to wield heavy stick on the commonwealth’s behalf.

Such a state of affairs is part of  GERM conditions. Professional behaviour is controlled by sciolistic non-professional measurers and imposed by a heavy-handed departmental political force. Kelvin Smythe tells it as it is,  in his critique of a position paper produced by the NZ Assessment Academy [‘quantitatives’ as he calls them].

“Let me give it to you straight. The truth does not lie in you; the answers do not lie in you; for goodness sake, you do not even know the questions. Your ignorance for one so credentialed is a thing to be marvelled at.
You and your academic kind hold sway over most western countries because you provide the academic justification for governments to impose managerialist structures over education systems to the power benefit of politicians and high bureaucrats and, not incidentally, yourselves. You have become ideologically corrupted as a result of your close association with governments. You have taken mana from classroom teachers with your condescension and crushing of their knowledge. You command the spotlight allowing a place for teachers only in relationship to yourself.
You whisper the poison of such a credo, as you label it, into the ear of the powerful, promising them fabulous power over the minds of the young. I will give you the ideological theory and means, you whisper, all that remains is for you to work with us as a cabal of the powerful; a cabal excluding teachers, the community, and parents; though taking in others of power like corporates and member of right-wing think tanks….
You say : ‘If data are to be used for accountability purposes they must have a high degree of integrity and reliability.’
You are, of course, now waist deep into self-serving muck.”


Our Founder Tells a Porkie

The founder of the Australian high-stakes test-based schooling system is Joel Klein. He claims this and is justified in his claims. He now flogs testing and ed-tech material as well as ipads to all GERM countries on behalf of Rupert Murdoch. He influences the learning behaviour of every school child in Australia and has done so for five years. The Murdoch empire makes a packet out of our state-controlled consumption of testing material and its associated paraphernalia.

Embarrassingly, our great lord and master was recently found to have told a porkie in the description of his sad young life that inspired him “…to launch a life-long crusade against teachers.”  The author of says, “To be fair to Chancellor Klein, he is only the latest reformer to be caught wandering deep into phantasy land. In fact, the #edreform world [aka GERM] is so riddled with serial truth stretchers, edu-exaggeraters and outright fabricators that whole archetypes of misleading-ness have emerged.”

And Australia bought that sort of system. It is such a  dreadful way of encouraging children to learn that it needed totalitarian political tactics to force schools to accept the GERM-ridden level of testucation that our schools now have.  It should never have got to this stage.  State control of learning-oriented proud principals like Mr. Kevin Pope of Meadow Heights Primary School, Melbourne is shameful. He makes it clear in a very Aussie sort of way, foreign to NAPLAN- Kleinish- New York copy-cats: “Every child has the right to the best resources. Why waste money on useless testing? NAPLAN is an obscene waste of public funds.”  Where have all our principals gone? Why aren’t you all saying this?

He continues :“Principals should be shaping change in education – not responding to it. Several decades ago principals were the educational leaders in schools.”

Finally :“There is no professional trust any more – just useless tests that are meaningless in the life of a school.”

“Educators must reclaim education.”

Sincerely, may every blessing go to Kevin Pope [ ] and principals like him who are standing up for children, un-ashamed to express their views to parents and communities. There is a new dawn. When you read and the forthright friends of parents who are encouraging them to “Say NO to NAPLAN.”, you will be so pleased to have joined the crusade of caring for kids.

Ask yourself:-

Why would a democratic regime not allow  school principals to express their opinion to their community. Why are they forbidden?

Why are P&C members required to testify that they will not discuss NAPLAN business in public…and no parent nor principal nor union organisation does anything about it?

Why aren’t parents given the chance to ‘say NO to NAPLAN’ on the enrolment form?  Why aren’t  they told that they have a choice?  They are lied to.

Why have state governments of different political persuasions complied so meekly with the wishes of a central government with whom they are usually at loggerheads?  Is there any other force somewhere?

Why must state governments force their professional officers in regional and state offices to ‘persuade’  principals and teachers to suspend their professional ethics? They do. See above.


SENATE INQUIRY – Teaching and Learning

Did you know about it?  It was promulgated on 11 September and submissions close on 26 October….10 days time.
Its terms of reference are wide as you will see.

I missed the announcement. Did you?  Makes we think of Darwin. The press has been very, very quiet about teaching and learning issues and the recent APPA-NZPF conference on Leading-Learning; and about this momentous opportunity.  Why? Will this be the fate of the inquiry?

Very perplexing. 

 “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school rather than at home”  said Francois Hollande the newly-elected French President as he declared a nation-wide ban on homework


Recommended Links

[Gold Medal :ACEL]
41 Cominan Avenue
Banora Point 2486
07 5524 6443

Principals’ Commitment – Post Conference.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

“When the effective is secure, the cognitive is inevitable.” [John Settledge]


Principals’ Commitment


GERM or Leading Learning


The grey matter has been stirred. We principals now ask ourselves some serious questions. Which do we support?  What can we do? Do we believe in child development based on the maintenance and extension of a child’s natural love for learning; popularly called LEARNACY – or  – do we adhere to the consuming, politically imposed 3Rs GERM-inspired testing programs such as NAPLAN ?  There is no evidence in existence that shows that GERM techniques work for any positive progress. When do we return to helping children to learn how to learn?  When will politicians note that if they want school children to climb the PISA scale, learning-love is the only way to go? Such learning needs learner leaders of ethical learning calibre.

[The acronym GERM for Global Education Reform Movement was first used by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland to describe the differences between test-focused countries and his own country. His original  highlights of the differences have been enlarged in the table above – to describe contemporary Australian schooling  on the left   –   compared with what it could be  on the right.]

Australian schools are now the world’s most ardent followers of the GERM techniques, soft-lifted from New York.

Parts of the United States share the crown, while many states have forsaken the strictures of the failing NCLB  [Bush, 2000: ‘No Child Left Behind’] illustrated best by the Klein fear-based New York model, and there is growth in the number of states now encouraging learning-based schooling.  After five years of NAPLAN, Australian test scores are going backwards as expected and teaching-learning acts deteriorate. The New Zealand government is trying to force its schools closer to the GERM ideals but there is sincere and determined child-oriented resistance [see Drummond address at APPA-NZPF Conference] from primary principals. East Asian countries, eternally known for enthusiastic dedication to schooling accomplishments while once renowned for a heavy ‘disciplined’, long hours, hard-work approach to learning,  have been concentrating on the ‘leading learning’ approach illustrated on the right-hand side of the table above for about fifteen years. Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea are now proud of their PISA accomplishments.

The only two western countries in the Asian galaxy, thanks to NAPLAN and National Standards, should continue to head  backwards.

Finland cares little about PISA [the OECD’s ‘Program for International Schools Assessment’ test for 15 year-olds] accomplishments. It disapproves of the GERM high-stakes testing model and happens to do well at such tests because of its attention to LEARNACY; and it allows PISA testing whenever the random choice of schools is made, just for the heck of it.

Don’t Australian and New Zealand politicians, measurers, supporters. teacher/principal/parent organisations, media reps and school-based testucators believe in the power of learning?

Such GERM adherents must find it difficult to explain how Finland can achieve so well in PISA tests when its school children have had up to 4 years less formal schooling at 15 years-of-age than Australian and New Zealand children.

Its starting age is 7 years-of-age compared to our 5 years-of-age; it’s school year and school day are considerably less, no homework, no extra time of test preparation; so, all told, about 4 years difference. Check Pasi Sahlberg’s talk to APPA-NZPF principals on if one has any doubts on the figures.

Do you think that LEARNACY and the leading of learning might have something to do with it?

Yes. It’s a time for deep thinking for primary principals and their school teams and parents. They might consider their commitment –  to political force? – to test publishers who pocket the proceeds of testing programs? – to children ?


As John Kuhn  says { }, “I believe fervently that Michelle Rhee {= Julia Gillard] and an army of like-minded bad-school philosophizers will one day look around and see piles where their painstakingly-built sandcastles of reform once stood, and they will  know the tragic frame of Ozymandias.  Billion-dollar data-sorting systems will be mothballed. Value-added algorithms will be tossed in a bin marked History’s Big Dumb Ideas. The mantra ‘no excuses’ will retain all the significance of “Where’s the beef?”  And teachers will still be teaching, succeeding, and failing all over the country, much as they would have been if Michelle Rhee [and Julia Gillard] had gone into the foreign service and Bill Gates had invested his considerable wealth and commendable humanitarian ambition in improving law enforcement practices or poultry production.”



You are all invited

Monday, October 15

AEU Building, 112 Trenerry Crescent  Abbotsford  Victoria

Launch of ‘Say NO to NAPLAN’  –  Mark 2

5pm for 5.30pm – Tea, coffee. refreshments provided

The response to the original set was astounding…headlined in all major newspapers.

Papers will be made available, free of charge from the Literacy Educators [see LINKS below]

Please rsvp your indication of attendance at the function, at your earliest


“GERM has become the way of thinking for a number of countries. Australia is hot and strong on this, so is New Zealand.” [Pasi Sahlberg]

Recommended Links

[Gold Medal :ACEL]
41 Cominan Avenue
Banora Point 2486
07 5524 6443

Paul Drummond – President NZPF.

Special guest.            

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

“I am often asked if I approve of compulsory education. The answer is that ‘I do’ and I wish that we had it. All we have is compulsory attendance.” [Heil ostman]




 20 SEPTEMBER 2012


President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation and co-host of the recent APPA-NZPF Melbourne Conference, Paul Drummond presented this forthright speech at the opening of the conference. There was no report of the conference nor the papers presented by distinguished guests, in any section of the Australian media.   This blog provided extracts from Paul’s speech. Here is the original.

“Around the globe, particularly in the west, governments are adopting an economic agenda for education. That means increasing privatisation and reducing state support of quality public education.

Wherever the economic agenda has been implemented we can see common features of economic reform. These include:

  1.  The introduction of a ‘managerialist’ culture where good management means implementing goals set outside the school within constraints also set outside the school.
  2.  Introducing national assessment in literacy and numeracy, and creating a focus on these to the detriment of the wider curriculum.
  3.  An obsession with making assessment data public and creating a high stakes environment.
  4.  Pushing league tables based on national data.
  5.  Using the data to reward so called ‘high performing’ teachers.
  6.  Expecting teachers to lift achievement for all students irrespective of their socio-economic status.
  7.  The closure of ‘non-performing’ schools according to the data.
  8.  Involving privately owned and operated American type charter schools to replace public schools.
  9.  Increasing central control, more accountability, target setting and undermining of principals’ voices.
  10.  Increase in the proportion of private schools undermining the quality public school system.
  11.  And finally we get an increase in social inequalities.

The economic agenda is  not supported by any theory of learning or teaching, nor any theory of assessment and evaluation. Academics are as bewildered as we are about how this agenda can possibly be good for education. International experts tell us that top of the list for 21st century learning should be skills to encourage innovation, creativity, critical thinking and entrepreneurship. These are expansive concepts. They won’t be achieved in a narrowly focussed high stakes environment.

Countries have tried these ‘standards’ systems before. We had one in New Zealand in the 1880s. Let’s take a stroll —back…to the future!

Paul then presented illustrations of the ‘Standards regulations’ of 1878-9 and the responses to them.

We could easily believe that our current Minister had raided the archives and just hauled out this 140-year-old plan and called it National Standards. The likeness to what we’ve got now is breath taking! And for what?

Right now, New Zealand enjoys a very high position amongst OECD countries for educational achievement in literacy and numeracy and science. Those countries still up there with us have not adopted an economic agenda for education. Finland, Singapore, the city of Shanghai and Korea have all resisted. So have we, until now.

It is with great sadness that we watch the foundations of what has been one of New Zealand’s great triumphs, its world class education system, unravel before our very eyes. We have had a system of education based on principles of fairness, justice and equity which has long recognised the right of every child no matter what their circumstances, to have access to a free, secular and compulsory education that is best suited to their needs. We developed a curriculum in partnership with our parent communities that is the envy of the rest of the world. Its breadth and richness allow multiple pathways to learning and this is has been a major factor in maintaining our position at the top of the OECD rankings. It allows community ownership of children’s learning, individualised instruction and a close partnership between parents , professionals and the children we teach. Successive NZ governments have not invested in our education system at the same rate as most other OECD countries, but our professional culture of collaboration, cooperation, team teaching and sharing of resources has ensured our children get the very best out of what we do have. We are not perfect and we want to do better especially for the 14% of kids who are not enjoying success like the rest. Too many of these faces are Maori and Pacific Island.

Our current government has used this group as a lever to introduce system wide reform. The current catch phrase is that we must have five out of five children succeeding and the way to achieve that apparently is to take a one hundred years leap backwards. To have a complete system wide change beginning with the introduction of national standards in literacy and numeracy,followed by a drive to have this information made public. That has already happened and shortly the first national standards data will be placed on a public website.

We expect within the next couple of years the rest of the agenda will kick in. It has already been announced that next year’s assessment data will have to be entered into a specially mandated electronic table which will make it easier to collate the data for comparative purposes, after which we can expect regular publication of league tables. By 2015 an online moderation too will be fully effective to give further credibility to the assessment data, and beyond that we can expect performance pay. As a preliminary step, this year the Ministry is posting school assessment data on a public website. It is of no concern to the Minister or Ministry staff that the data is unreliable, inconsistent and in dozens of different formats.

The American model charter schools have already been announced with politicians not wanting to waste an opportunity like the Christchurch earthquake to establish their first example. Indeed Christchurch has been redefined by politicians as ‘The sandpit of opportunity’ – in other words politicians will experiment as they please. This project is being led by a former far right wing ACT [ a political entity allied to the National-led government]  party president. Part of the announcement is that it would be acceptable to have unregistered staff teaching in charter schools and there would be no need for charter schools to pay teachers at current rates. This is in stark contrast to the government’s position earlier in the year which was that the quality of teachers is the number one factor if we are to make a difference to the underachievers. In fact the government planned to invest additional funds to ensure our teachers were trained to postgraduate level and were the best quality people. But six weeks later, quality doesn’t matter, at least not for charter schools anyway! Further, the opening hours of charter schools would be flexible and may well extend into the evening. Maybe these extra hour would be used for homework, and for drilling kids to pass their national standards. Beyond the teaching of literacy and numeracy,there would be no requirement for charter schools to teach to the NZ curriculum. They would have infinite flexibility to ‘innovate’. Ironically, this announcement comes as the public education system is becoming less flexible in its autonomy and in it ability to make choices. Accountability would come in the form of literacy and numeracy targets which if not met could result in the closure of the school.

There is interest in the charter school concept particularly from religious cults such as the Destiny Church and Maharashi,Transcendental Meditation group, other Christian groups that subscribe to creationist theories and American ‘for profit’ charter school chains.

Our greatest concern is that just like happened a hundred years ago a culture of competition will displace what has been a highly successful culture of collaboration and cooperation and before we know it our high performing public school system will be relegated to history. The changes have the potential to alter the entire social fabric of New Zealand with increased ghettoization and greater disparities between rich and poor. In fact, a recent OECD report concluded that the more choice we have in the types of schools we offer, the greater the social disparities in the country.

We are in the early stages of this shift to privatisation and as a profession we have resisted and argued against these reforms. The academic community has stood by us throughout but there is seemingly nothing that will stop the onslaught of this economic juggernaut and ideologically driven agenda.

We are well aware that the Australian teaching profession has been taken down this same road and that as a profession under siege you have experienced the low morale and despair that we are all feeling now. Despite the profession constantly reminding itself that our public school system is not failing and that the agenda is entirely economic and political and not educational, it is difficult to live through.

As a profession, we have been used as political pawns before. In the end it has been our strong sense of ethical responsibility that has pulled us through. We have refused to do anything that is not in the best interests of children and their learning. The challenge we face right now is in having the strength to pull together and collectively do what we know is right.

    • To keep on celebrating and teaching to our broad curriculum.
    • To resist the temptation to give credibility to national assessment and their accompanying league tables.
    • To refuse collectively to engage in performance pay systems that are linked to national assessment.
    • To rise above the competition being created around us and maintain our professional culture of sharing and collaboration.

It will mean strengthening our collective moral purpose and leading from the front to have any prospect of maintaining our world class education system.

We cannot do this alone. We will need to win the public support because the first rule of politics is to show that government policy is unpopular with the public and likely to shift voters’ loyalties. That means identifying the battles that will resonate with parents and professionals. We’ve done it once before when the government proposed to increase class sizes. We went to our boards and informed our parent communities. They responded vigorously and the policy was dropped. We must resolve to harness our parent communities again.

We are leaders of those communities. It is our ethical and professional obligation to advocate for what is good for kids. Sometimes, as history and experience have taught us, we have to be courageous and loud.

I suggest it is that time now. Our collective voice at local, national and international levels will be even louder and more effective. My challenge to you, colleagues, is to continue to stand up and speak up.


Paul Drummond


You are all invited

Monday, October 15

AEU Building, 112 Trenerry Crescent  Abbotsford  Victoria

Launch of ‘Say NO to NAPLAN’  –  Mark 2

5pm for 5.30pm – Tea, coffee. refreshments provided

The response to the original set was astounding…headlined in all major newspapers.

Papers will be made available, free of charge from the Literacy Educators [see LINKS below]

Please rsvp your indication of attendance at the function, at your earliest :


“Children need to shake hands with their brain and develop their emotional literacy in classrooms that are joyful.”  [Goldie Hawn]

Recommended Links

[Gold Medal :ACEL]
41 Cominan Avenue
Banora Point 2486
07 5524 6443

Principals Conference – Darwin Effect

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]



The Darwin Effect

I remember the day  when the first news came through that Darwin had been bombed. The Japs knew how to spoil my 14th birthday. We school kids mirrored the grim faces of our parents and teachers; another  ‘Pearl Harbour’ was right on our door-step. Things were very, very serious.

As far as almost all Australians knew, Darwin was bombed for a couple of more days after that …and all was clear. It wasn’t until the end of the war, over three years later, that the Australian population learned that Darwin was bombed over fifty times, but the news was hidden for morale purposes. Someone somewhere controlled the supply of news.


Over one thousand primary school principals from Australia and New Zealand gathered in Melbourne on 18-21 Sept. 2012 to discuss issues attached to ‘LEADING LEARNING’. It was meant to be huge and it was. It was meant to be forthright and meaningful and it was. For those who attended, it was a huge event. For many, it was a once-in-a-life-timer.

The conference had been advertised and marketed  with outstanding style for world to see, for the Australian and New Zealand public to learn more about the principal’s place in leading pupils through vital learning experiences during these tumultuous times; and press releases were made on Conference Eve and through the period. All sections of the media knew what the conference was about and where it was located.

For parents, grandparents like me, teachers, and for those interested in primary schooling, there was a promise of headlines in the daily press to inform us of the world’s best practices and what Australia and New Zealands’ pupils and parents could look forward to….especially the place of NAPLAN and ‘National Standards’ in the processes of leading learning in schools.

Things looked so promising. Treehorn and his overlooked, constantly-ignored school friends were optimistic that their school-learning conditions would change for the better, as a result of the conference.



Should we imagine that a covert embargo on expert-based professional comment is an extension of the overt government control of professional opinion and action at the school level?

Too close to a conspiracy theory isn’t it….but …it is weird, isn’t it?  How?. Why?


Thank God for Google. Here you can find audio clips, abstracts, a full text or two on a well organised site. Click…

I have listened to the learned presenters and authors on this site. An hour each spent on the provoking opinions, statistics  and anecdotal evidence with Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, Kishore Mahbubani and Yong Zhao means four hours well spent….and to then read their books! Trust me. Their cogent, thoughtful views should be of enormous assistance to those principals and officials, whom we trust to Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently.  One such person, a local keynote speaker, Tony Cook of the Department of Education etc., forewarned the unsure, however,  with his well-presented, well-organised paper illustrating that Australia principals will be required to get their NAPLAN scores up to scratch according to the 2025 Gillard Goals. They will! He concluded his address, “ And if you have done that, then you will truly have helped to make the world a better place, and your contribution will have been an immeasurable one.”        ?


Tony Cook’s viewpoint was unremarkably similar to that of Peter Garrett, the Australian Minister for Education and other things, who spoke of his government’s plans for the future. Peter boasted to our visitors:-

“We now have a national curriculum, national teacher standards and a national teacher performance and assessment framework.”

“And there is more to do – a second wave of reform is underway.”

“Between 2000 and 2009 our performance overall, declined relative to other countries.”

“ By Year 9, a student from the poorest quarter of Australian schools is, on average, up to three years of schooling behind a student from the wealthiest quarter of the population.”

“We are prepared to invest substantially more in our schools, but only if there is agreement from state governments to a National Plan for School Improvement.  Our plan will help us to see Australia ranked as a top 5 country in the world in Reading, Science and Mathematics by 2025. The Gillard Government intends to continue to work in good faith with state and territory governments, the Catholic and Independent school sectors to deliver our plan. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. It is an objective that has escaped us as a nation in the past.”’

“I know it’s an objective that you share.”

It is fortunate for Peter that he was not present for all of the conference, because he prefers hard evidence from tests and tends to ignore child-oriented provocations. Testees are children and they have no feelings nor thoughts….can’t vote. Classrooms teachers don’t care….and Principals are on side….as he indicated. The presentations by world reputed thinkers would have made him feel uneasy. But then…

He’s on a roll.   The objectives are shared with Australian principals [he said]. {Are they? That’s a worry.}  2025!  Here come the heavies!


 Preferring to trust the opinions and anecdotal evidence of experienced commentators, I went seeking through the papers to find some solutions for the needs of Treehorn and other maltreated, ignored present-day school children. I went looking deliberately for statements about leading-learning that might apply to NAPLAN [Aus.] and National Standards ]NZ] testing; and help such pedagogical purulence to be banned. The tests are so evil and nasty. I found a gem.

Paul Drummond   Paul Drummond, President of NZPF, said directly to both NZ and Australian politicians…to their face : ”You have unravelled a first class schooling system [NZ has always been near the very top on PISA]; you have removed the right of every child to follow the richness of a sound curriculum along multiple pathways; you have not invested wisely; you have replaced collaboration with competition; your adoption of GERM principles has caused great sadness; your gimmickry [e.g. charter schools] is unprofessional. You have altered  our children’s social future.”

He said to his colleague principals from both sides of the Tasman: “ Our profession has been under siege. We share the despair of working in a system that is entirely political and not educational. Morale is low in both countries. It is such a difficult time in which to live. We are being used as political pawns. We need to strengthen our moral purpose and stress our professional ethics courageously and loud.”

“Let’s stay true to our moral compass.”

This was the most profound address of the conference. Listen to it carefully. My summary does not do it justice.


Some extracts and quotable quotes from other distinguished visitors ….

Kishore Mahbubani [Singapore]

“ The West’s domination has been an aberration in world history, and all aberrations come to an end. Now that the west is receding, the two western countries left in Asia are New Zealand and Australia. They will have a positive future but they will need different mental images.”

“China is having a sputnik moment; the US needs one as well.”

“The most optimistic people in the world are young Asians.”

Andy Hargreaves [Boston College] 

“Globally, we are poised on the edge of a great transformation of what teaching and learning will look like and how schools will appear to us. It will be the greatest change since our present industrial model of schools started in the 19th century.”

“The issue is about Professional Capital. We need to promote the concept widely – Capital includes social capital, human capital, natural capital. It you want a return, you need to make an investment.”

“We cannot replace teachers with technology

“We must be proud of who we are and what we do. Teaching is the most valued profession in the world. BE PROUD.”

How does your government see you? Does it understand? Do politicians appreciate the joys of teaching and learning?”

How many years at the work-face does it take to become an efficient, experienced teacher?  [Listen to Andy’s statistics on this!]

“Unions need to become the agents of positive change as they used to be.”

Pasi Sahlberg [Finland]

“There has not been a miracle in the education system, in Finland.”

Equity rather than choice is the keynote of the system; co-operation rather than competition; individualisation rather that standardisation [the enemy of creativity].

“GERM Global Educational Reform Movement [market-based thinking about education]; competition [among schools], standardisation [setting standards and then measuring], school choice [private vs public], test-based accountability [high stakes testing] has become the way of thinking for a number of countries. Australia is hot and strong on this, as well as NZ.

                                GERM                                                             LEADING-LEARNING

                     Test core subjects only                                   Teach broad & Creative Learning

                     Standardise – same skill for all                       Customise – ‘each one is different’

                     Encourage pre-test panic                                Each at own pace – NBT [No Blanket Tests]

                     Adopt ideas of corporate world                       CHILD as inspiration for change

                     Rant measurement numbers                           Share evaluation as part of learning

                     Drill and skill                                                    Look to future, play & dare to dream

[Refer The Treehorn Express 20 May, 2012 for this version of GERM vs Learning]

“Does GERM work ? Maths results are declining in GERM countries. Finland’s results are up.”

“Students in Finland have less classroom time [190 days per year] and are given less homework, so they have more time to play [that’s what a kid’s job is – learning to understand how their mind and imagination and body work.”]

“When they take the PISA test at age 15, Finnish kids have had 4 fewer years of schooling all told than Australian and New Zealand kids. Finnish kids start school at age 7. Australia and New Zealand start at age 5.”

“People think that choice enhances equity and equality – it does the opposite. Highest performing countries combine quality with equity.

“Lessons from Finland:

  • More collaboration, less competition.
  • More trust-based responsibility, less test-based accountability.
  • More professionalism, less bureaucracy.
  • More personalisation, less standardisation.
  • More pedagogy, less technology.”

[By the way, Pasi recommended the movie ‘Detachment’ – the story of a supply teacher’s experiences with incompetent, unthinking school administrators and languid pupils. It disturbed Pasi..]

Yong Zhao [Oregon]

“Where are we? How did we get in this mess?

What do you want to do?

What kind of education do you want for your kids?”

“There’s a new middle class – the creative entrepreneurial class – filled with new ideas, confident, developmental, exerting leadership qualities with ease.

Global homogenisation is not the way to go. The drive for higher test scores does not produce confidence, energy nor passion to succeed. Why teach a fish to climb a tree?”

Fortunately for NZ and Australian politicians and testucators the Conference material has been kept secret and not made public!

Our children will be stuck with NAPLAN and National Standards.

Darwin will continue to be wrecked; and the public won’t know.


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