Monday, April 14, 2008

Surge in children taught at home in NSW

Given the low standards and bullying at many government schools, it is a wonder that there are so few homschoolers. I guess most parents don't have a choice

The number of students registered for home schooling has jumped by 15 per cent in the past 12 months as more parents desert the NSW Government education system. More than 1630 students were registered for home schooling in 2007, up from 1417 the year before and 1419 in 2005. However, experts say the real number of students being home schooled across the State is more than 3000 as thousands of families are unwilling to register and join the State Government's teaching syllabus.

Home Education Association vice-president Cathy Chisari said she estimates the real number of students being home educated could be double the official figure. She said parents didn't want the State Government involved in the education of their children, so they refused to sign up. "A lot of parents don't want the NSW Department of Education involved," she said, "so they just don't register."

Ms Chisari, whose two children are home schooled, said parents involved in home education were dissatisfied with the State's school system. She said some parents refused to register their children as they don't want to have to follow the Department of Education's curriculum.

Ms Chisari's lessons don't involve a classroom and often include a trip to the park, the local library or the city's museums and galleries. "The biggest reason parents do this is because they're not happy with the school system," she said. "People are feeling like they want to be in charge of their children's education. They feel they can home educate without the State Government telling them what to do. They don't want someone controlling when and where things are taught."

State Opposition Education spokesperson Andrew Stoner said parents had lost faith in public education and were turning to private schools or home education as an alternative. "The main problem is that public schools have been starved of funds for infrastructure and resources," Mr Stoner said.

Ms Chisari, who withdrew her son from a government school after he was bullied. said home education had lost its stigma and was no longer associated with "hippies".

The above article by ANDREW CHESTERTON appeared in the Sydney "Sunday Telegraph" of 13 April, 2008

Rainwater tanks 'full of lead and aluminium'

Pesky for the Greenies. Greenies love tanks. It gives them a feeling of independence and gives them a rationale for opposing dams. So if they all get lead poisoning, why should I care? They deserve it. I favour much safer tested, filtered, chlorinated and reticulated water from dams. It's just a great pity that Greenie opposition to dams has created a shortage of such water in many places. The study below does not in fact tell half the story. The bacterial load from birdshit and other droppings in tank water is not mentioned at all!

RAINWATER tanks have been found to be commonly contaminated with lead and other heavy metals, a study to be presented this week has found. The joint Melbourne Monash University and CSIRO research found the use of lead in roofs to join surfaces and channel away water elevated the risks, pushing the lead content in tank water as high as 50 times Australia's drinking water guidelines. But even across a broader range of roof types and tanks, one-third of those surveyed contained lead concentrations in the water exceeding safe drinking levels by up to 35 times. "Concentrations of aluminium, cadmium, iron and zinc were also found at levels exceeding acceptable health and esthetic levels," the study reports.

Australians have increasingly embraced rainwater tanks, pushing the share of homes with water tanks to nearly 20 per cent last year from 15 per cent three years earlier. Of the remainder, 60 per cent of homes are considering installing rainwater tanks, amid escalating water restrictions because of the drought, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But while most homes with tanks install them to save water, the second most common reason for buying them is to service properties that are not connected to mains water. In South Australia, almost half of households use some water from tanks, and more than a fifth use them as their main source of drinking water.

Study co-author Grace Mitchell said some people also simply preferred the taste of rainwater, or considered it more natural. "It is more natural in the sense that it's not treated but in some cases that's not a good thing," she said. The Monash University senior research fellow said the surprisingly large incidence of contamination reinforced the need for people to stick with drinking mains water, or to get their tank water tested for heavy metals.


Film flops cost taxpayers $90m

What a misuse of taxpayer funds! Why is the government in the business at all? It's absolutely typical that government involvement in industry is a huge flop

AUSTRALIAN movie flops cost taxpayers $90 million over the past seven years with up to 85 per cent of projects getting Australian Film Commission grants never returning a cent from box office receipts. A Daily Telegraph investigation into film handouts can reveal globally successful directors such as Philip Noyce, maker of blockbusters Patriot Games and Sliver, glamour couple Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward, and The Piano producer Jan Chapman have lined up for funds. But documents show that six years after many of their projects received the grants many have not repaid them - with some not even getting past script development stage.

Taxpayers have invested $104.36m since 2000 on film and documentary projects through the Australian Film Commission, its financial statements show. Just $12.29m has been returned. The AFC money supplies part of the handouts with millions of dollars in other grants available through state agencies, including the NSW Film and Television Office, which last financial year spent $6.749m and got returns of $948,000.

Documents detailing the present status of "investment" grants awarded by the AFC in 2002-03, obtained under Freedom of Information, show there were 332 grants to projects in major script and film development categories. The funding - which can range from $5000 for scripts to $200,000 or more to finance production - is required to be repaid from first cash flow after release. But just 41 of the 332 grants that year have been since fully repaid to the AFC, a success rate of 12 per cent. Twenty seven of the projects given money have not even progressed to their next stage of development.

Mr Noyce's company Rumbalara, which produced Rabbit Proof Fence, first received seed development funding for the project Obelia in August 2001 and has since had funding worth $61,000. It has yet to be released. He also has other projects, including Years of Wonders and Dirt Music also receiving $40,000 and $24,000. Neither has yet returned money to the AFC.

Earlier this month Sydney-based couple Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward publicly condemned the NSW Government for failing to help finance their next project. But documents show the couple's New Town Films has yet to pay back AFC grants for their 2003 short film Martha's New Coat, which received at least $18,250 in 2002. The 50-minute production was directed by Ward, produced by Brown and their daughter Matilda made her film debut in it.

The production company of the producer of The Piano, Somersault and Lantana, Jan Chapman Films Pty Ltd, is also yet to pay back money for the feature Dreamtime Alice.


Complaints against doctors to go public in NSW

Long overdue. Better something than nothing. The public have had only the illusion of protection so far

Complaints against doctors will be aired at open hearings chaired by lawyers under landmark legislation to smash the code of secrecy surrounding rogue operators such as the "Butcher of Bega". In the fallout from the Bega case, where Dr Graeme Reeves is accused of mutilating hundreds of women, the NSW Government will today announce an unprecedented overhaul of the medical regulatory system. It means doctors will no longer be able to escape scrutiny by appearing at closed and confidential hearings presided over by fellow medics. The laws will include:

* A "guillotine provision" that automatically bans any doctor who breaches conditions on their practice;

* New powers for the NSW Medical Board to urgently suspend a doctor to protect the lives or health of patients;

* Making Professional Standards Committee (PSC) hearings open to the public and publishing findings;

* Employing non-medical personnel to help decide on disciplinary action against doctors, with a legal representative as chairperson;

* Forcing doctors by law to report colleagues they believe have engaged in sexual abuse, drug or alcohol intoxication or other serious misconduct;

* Requiring the NSW Medical Board and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) to consider all patient complaints, even after a doctor has been struck off;

* Ordering professional disciplinary bodies to examine doctors' overall "patterns of conduct" rather than on an individual complaint basis.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher said doctors will face more scrutiny than ever before. The new legislation will be presented to parliament early next month. It comes in the wake of revelations about Reeves, the disgraced ex-gynaecologist and obstetrician who allegedly mutilated and abused hundreds of women across NSW without detection by authorities for more than a decade. "The Reeves case challenged public confidence in the way the medical profession was being regulated and disciplined," the minister said.

But the proposals have met a lukewarm response from the medical profession. Dr Andrew Keegan, president of the Australian Medical Association (NSW), doubts they will make a lot of difference and is concerned about practicalities. "Frankly, lay people and legal people are not going to understand (medical details at PSC hearings), so you need a medical person there," he said. "Doctors need to have guidance on reporting colleagues - you can't work on hearsay. "The other thing we know is what we are told by patients is not always reliable." But Dr Rosanna Capolingua, president of the Federal AMA, supported the laws, which she said "enshrine existing professional and ethical obligations".

For the first time, anyone will be able to attend PSC hearings into alleged professional misconduct by doctors. "At the moment, it's assumed the (hearings) will be heard in private - we say it's going to be the other way around," Ms Meagher said. Legal and non-medical representatives will be introduced in a bid to overturn the system of "doctors regulating doctors" and improve objectivity.

Doctors who fail to raise the alarm about colleagues who have committed serious misconduct may face "failure to report" penalties themselves,ranging from counselling to being suspended or struck off. Those who make a report must have good grounds and will be granted immunity from defamation but will not gain anonymity. Under the "guillotine provision", the Medical Board will be able to immediately suspend or deregister a doctor who breaks rules of practice. It took the Board 20 months to deregister Reeves after discovering he was breaching an obstetrics ban - during which time he was able to treat other patients.


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