Gillard blames Howard for skills drop

EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard has blamed the Howard government for a decline in the literacy and numeracy standards of Australian students. Fair enough. Her team won the election and thus have sledging rights but I do think it's a bit simplistic. The Federal Government's main input into education is funding the states who then apply the funding as they see fit. Or, rather, as the Teachers Union see fit. This left wing union and the state Labour Government's have more say in class room teaching than the Federal Government and until Julia speaks of setting the agenda herself then there will be no change. To be quiet honest, even if she does set the agenda herself I'm willing to bet there will still be no change. True, Howard tried to influence the school system, the suggested History curriculum comes to mind, but he didn't get far. It will be interesting to see where the ALP go on education. "Lap Tops for everyone, lunches for free" type of policy does need some fleshing out.


  • Blame is a waste of time, but I’m feeling encouraged simply by the fact that education is where it should be – at the centre of national political debate. If the new government does nothing else, getting it up front is an accomplishment.
    Back in the nineties, When Borbridge was in power, there was an initiative in Queensland called “Leading Schools”. It was decided that the best way to improve schools was to make them self managing. Schools were offered extra cash to sign up, and many did, especially high schools. At the same time as this was happening, research was commissioned which was supposed to show that self-managed schools would get better results for students. When the research was completed a few years later, it showed absolutely no correlation between how schools were managed and results for students. What it did show was a strong link between teacher performance and student results. “Leading Schools” was abandoned after two years.
    This is a long winded way of showing that the best way of improving results for students is by improving teacher performance. So far, no administration has tackled this, except for the ill-considered notion of performance pay for teachers which has been shown time and again to be counter-productive.
    Some suggestions from a teacher since 1968 –
    Increase teacher pay by 25% immediately.
    Transfer any teacher who has been on the same class or in the same school for more than three years to another teaching posting.
    Mandate – by affirmative action – a minimum of 25% male teachers at every school.
    Put the best teachers on the most difficult classes.
    Fine parents whose children are suspended for bad behaviour – $1000 a throw.
    Make TE scores for teachers 5 or better.
    Mandate a post graduate qualification for all newly graduating teachers.
    Introduce a statewide internship programme, so that graduating teachers spend their last year of training in schools day by day – same as medical graduates.
    Provide realistic bonuses for teachers who work in difficult and challenging situations. I’m talking thousands monthly.
    Make teacher registration dependent on continuing study – in other words, if you’re not studying, you can’t teach.
    The unions would probably accept this conditional on the first suggestion (the pay rise).
    I’d give it five years, and you’d see major improvements. Let’s see what Rudd does once the Trojan Horses (the laptops) are sorted.

  • “Mandate – by affirmative action – a minimum of 25% male teachers at every school.”

    So better female teachers don’t get the job?

    “Fine parents whose children are suspended for bad behaviour – $1000 a throw.”

    Sure! The tax payer would end up paying.

    Why is it the parents fault when the children are under the teachers control?

  • Add

    Make report cards readable by parents – if the kid’s good academically, say so and if not, say that as well. A,B,C,D and E or something similar. Every kid isn’t equal and they need to know. Uni, trade or checkout chick waiting for hubby – nothing wrong with either but everyone needs to know where they’re heading.

    Counter the ideology at Uni or wherever teachers get their bias. At the local college, with 200 odd staff, I’d be lucky to find half a dozen that vote Lib – there is rampant bias in the high schools and some of this creeps through into the classroom. Can’t be otherwise.

    I’m ok with paying more and likewise demanding ongoing professional qualifications.

    Male teachers will not increase by mandate while they are so likely to be charged for child abuse. Example – Teacher friend….single parent student….discipline problems…..standard discipline applied…mother and son accuse him of abuse….trial takes months to come up…..kid changed statement..never happened..shitty at teacher…Mum said so. Too late career ruined.

    Put the best teachers on the most difficult classes. Flogging a dead horse – the best teachers will wear out. Better get some control on the classes. Yes I know it’s a society thing but like in the Indigenous communities, kids need parental support and discipline and that needs to be addressed as well.

  • Gary

    “Why is it the parent’s fault….”

    Pretty simple – 5 hours per day at school, 19 at home – that’s a pretty fair influence. When little Johnny took to me with a pitchfork (as happened a few years ago) the parent blamed the Janitor Groundsman for having tools in the school ground – impeccable logic! I armed myself with a bin lid and took it off him – I was told later by a witness that it looked like something out of Spartacus.

    98% of parents are supportive of teachers, but the 2% who aren’t can wreck it for everyone else. Those who abdicate their responsibility need to understand the consequences. If it’s OK to garnishee the wages/allowances of Indigenous parents who are considered irresponsible – why not others? (Refer the Federal initiative in remote communities). Garnisheeing wages would spare the taxpayer.

    “So better female teachers don’t get the job?”

    Currently. in the administrative stream, where two applicants are of equal merit, the job must go to the female. It’s been thus for the past ten years because one of the system’s goals is to increase the proportion of females in positions of authority in schools. Another expressed goal is to increase the proportion of male teachers, but there’s no guidelines provided and no affirmative action sanctioned. All I’m saying is that affirmative action should apply to both situations.

  • Kev

    The report card thing is already happening. It was made a condition of federal funding early in 2007.

    It caused a lot of anger amongst parents of students with intellectual and other severe impairments until permission was given for these kids to have a second report which measures “distance traveled “. They still bring home the comparative one – which I understand has been forwarded by some of these parents to Julie Bishop annotated with brief and pithy messages.

    For some of my career I taught in a hospital school where we had kids with terminal illnesses. I wonder how this edict applies to them and their parents?

    I don’t know what you do about the ideology issue. We’ve discussed this before. A professional teacher should never let his/her political attitudes be identified by students. I’d like to see some research on this. This Canadian study is interesting, but it might cause apoplexy if you don’t like Teachers’ Unions –

    I’ve worked all over the state for nearly forty years in three sectors (primary, secondary & special) and haven’t detected this level of bias.

    “Male teachers will not increase by mandate while they are so likely to be charged for child abuse”

    You’re right – this is a major issue, and one that resonates because towards the end of my classroom career before I got into admin I was more often than not the only male teacher on the campus. I developed some personal strategies which I still use today in my mentoring of young teachers. It’s important to set up detailed strategies – never be alone with a student irrespective of age or gender – don’t touch unless it’s part of an instructional strategy and even then do it after asking permission – refuse to participate in certain activities (e.g. swimming) unless a female colleague is present etc. The issue really needs to be brought out into the open, and male teachers equipped to deal with it. The QTU is often the only form of support available to teachers who are accused. The system also needs to come down very hard on individuals who make malicious complaints – I’m talking civil action.
    If some kind of systemic initiative was taken and promoted in the media with support from the government, the union and the state P & C body, it might make it easier to recruit males. I’m sure the same issues are out there in the private schools.

  • I’m not arguing that bad parents are not to blame. But I’ve seen enough teachers (minority) who do not conduct themselves in a dignified manner or loose authority by being ‘mates’ instead of educators to children.

    Indigenous parents should face the same consequences as others if they don’t sent there children to school.

    Affirmative action is an easy track instead of looking at the conditions or just accepting that a particular job does not appeal the majority of a sex.

    Also it stigmatises the teacher that they only got the job because of gender.

  • Under the current climate a male who signs up to be a teacher (or junior sports coach etc) might as well tatoo ‘I’m a kiddie fiddler’ on his forehead – it is the basic assumption of our times.

    You’d be mad to spend years training for a job that, with one unproven accusation by a spiteful kid, can not only lose you your career, but ruin your life.

    I spent years volunteering at a local online access centre, with only minimal contact with children and I was required to have a police check every year, it was ludicrous.