Friday, May 27, 2011

Fast-track teaching program gets green light for WA schools

A version of "Teach for America" -- but anything that exposes the usual ludicrous four-year "teacher training" courses is welcome. I was a successful High School teacher without one minute of teacher training

A program that launches top-ranking university graduates into teaching positions within months will be rolled out across WA next year, addressing shortages the state government has struggled to fill.

The Teach for Australia program is in its second year in Victoria and the ACT, with dozens of graduates placed in low socio-economic and disadvantaged schools across the states.

The program has previously drawn criticism from the State School Teachers Union of WA, which claimed the fast-tracked program was undermining those who had completed traditional teaching degrees, and would place the already-disadvantaged students into a further vulnerable position.

However, the founder of the program has defended the high quality graduates accepted into TFA, which only places its graduates in schools where teachers refuse to go.

It had previously been reported that the TFA graduates would not have the authority to teach in local schools, but the WA College of Teaching has confirmed that they can work in WA after being issued with a Limited Authority to Teach.

This permits the graduate to work in a particular area, only when there is no registered teacher for that position, and where no teaching graduates will go.

Successful applicants will be placed in schools in term one next year, after completing a six-week intensive course through the University of Melbourne. This will mark the start of a two-year degree at the school, through which they will continue to teach at an 80 per cent load, allowing one day per week for studies.

TFA chief executive officer Melodie Potts-Rosevear said that ideally there would be between 25 and 30 new graduates in the program next year who would be ready to be placed in a WA school.

With the aim of the program to put the graduates where no other teachers want to go, she said it is a balancing act ensuring the school was big enough to accommodate at least two graduates, and that there was adequate support in the form of a mentor based at the school.

"We'll recruit as many as we think that are suitable and can fill genuine vacancies," she said. "We just respond to what the school's needs are, and it just becomes a bit of a matching process. "The school really has to be big enough to have two vacancies that we can fill, along with a mentor that can support them on a day-to-day basis. "Schools where there's only two or three classrooms are probably not suitable to the program."

She said they tried to get a minimum of two graduates at a school, and that they tried to "cluster" the graduates among schools in a close vicinity so that they have a support network.

TFA has been a success in its short two-year history in Victoria, with dozens of graduates among the best in their field choosing to take up the program.


Malaysia treats illegals harshly

Australia's Leftist government intends to send middle-class illegals from Iraq and Afghanistan there. If that happens, most will stop coming

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who is visiting Australia, claimed yesterday the Gillard government risked breaching international laws with the proposed swap of 800 boat arrivals for 4000 refugees from Malaysia.

While Immigration Minister Chris Bowen insists the deal complies with the UN Refugee Convention, that document does not cover torture, cruel punishment or conditions in detention centres that are dealt with under other international covenants and UN guidelines.

His office could not guarantee covenants or guidelines would be part of the agreement, which Mr Bowen said would be signed within weeks. Pressed on whether canings and the caging of pregnant women or children would br prevented, Mr Bowen's spokesman said negotiations were ongoing.

Ms Pillay was critical of the government's proposal. "If checks and balances are not made there's a huge risk of violations," Ms Pillay said.

Amnesty International's Dr Graham Thom toured three Malaysian detention centres last year, hearing how detainees had died of leptospirosis contracted via rat urine.

He photographed women and a baby caged in squalid conditions at Lenggeng Immigration Depot, near Kuala Lumpur, and hundreds of men in a tennis court-sized enclosure.

"We went to three different centres and each was equally appalling," he said.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said he had assisted asylum seekers who had been in Malaysian detention camps which were overcrowded and rife with malnutrition. "There are very poor sanitary conditions, serious systematic abuse, beatings, whippings, canings," Mr Manne said.

A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, said "safeguards" were needed in the agreement to ensure any detention of asylum seekers was for a limited initial period.



Four articles below

The electronic Dick gets carried away

Dick Smith is rightly one of Australia's most popular people and I agree with his view that Australia should aim for a stable population rather than an expanding one. But he seems to have fallen under the influence of Greenie myths. The idea that a major food exporter like Australia could run out of food is absurd. To gain perspective, consider the case of another major food exporter -- post-Communist China

PLANS to massively boost Australia's population are a bad idea and must be stopped, entrepreneur Dick Smith says.

'The Federal Government favours a "big Australia" and wants to increase the country's headcount from 22 million to 35 million by 2050, largely by immigration.

But Mr Smith said this was ridiculous. "We need to do something about this incredible increase," he said at an Australian of the Year dinner in Parliament House today. "No one is allowed to talk about it ... I am."

Mr Smith said Australia did not have enough water or food to support millions more people. It was crazy that seawater was being desalinated for drinking water to supply a booming population. "I believe in 100 years time people in Australia will be starving to death."

The intake of skilled migrants should be slashed and women should be discouraged from having more than two babies, Mr Smith said. He believes nine out of 10 Australians do not want a population boom.

Mr Smith is working on a documentary on the issue.

The Government wants to increase the population because it means more young taxpayers to pay the rising health and pension costs of the ageing population.

But a recent poll showed most people did not like that plan and some green groups have voiced concerns about the environmental costs.


"Climate change" hits South Australia

ADELAIDE shivered through its longest May cold spell in 24 years, says.

The city's temperature failed to reach 15C from Monday to Wednesday - the longest consecutive run since 1987 - before reaching a maximum of 15.5C yesterday.

This was still more than three degrees below the long-term average.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said southerly winds and low cloud had persisted since last weekend, with cold air lingering much longer than usual.

Mr Dutschke said while the remainder of the week would remain cold, temperatures would warm to near 20C next Tuesday or Wednesday in a brief spell of northerly winds.


Threat of carbon tax blackouts

THE security of electricity supplies would be at risk and power prices would be likely to rise under a carbon price if assistance measures failed to prevent the financial collapse of coal-fired generators, a report has warned.

A tax on carbon emissions could undermine investments in new low-emissions generation, if the viability of generators was undermined, according to a confidential report by investment bank Morgan Stanley.

The report warns that energy retailers could face higher costs and increased financial risks.

It found it was possible that the introduction of a carbon price - given that it was a radical change in the cost structure of the entire generation sector - could result in some unpredictable shifts in electricity prices, as it could alter the behaviour of electricity generators bidding into the national electricity market.

The Morgan Stanley review, which was conducted in 2009 as the government developed its compensation package for Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme, has never before been released because electricity generators threw open their books to the investment bank for the analysis.

A summary of the report, prepared by the Department of Climate Change and obtained by The Australian, was circulated to generators this week for the first time.

The generators had demanded the information as they continued their talks on an adjustment package for Julia Gillard's carbon pricing plan, which is being negotiated with the Greens and the rural independents.

The report is relevant to the current negotiations because the government has made clear the CPRS is being used as the foundation for the new negotiations.

The report will intensify calls from coal-fired power stations, particularly the brown coal-fired Victorian generators, for financial assistance. It underlines the difficulties facing the multi-party climate change committee as it negotiates the final details of the carbon package. The government will need a concession from the Greens, who have opposed providing financial assistance to coal-fired power stations, if it is to be able to offer a package to the coal-fired power stations.

The Morgan Stanley summary emerged as business groups continued to eye a campaign against the carbon tax.

The Australian Coal Association has been sounding out advertising agencies as it examines a potential advertising campaign against the carbon tax.

The Australian understands other business groups are also considering the move.

Electricity generators are due to meet the government again today before the Prime Minister's multi-party climate change committee's weekend of negotiations on the details of the package.

The Morgan Stanley report - which modelled the impact of a carbon price on the Victorian plants of Hazelwood, Yallourn, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, South Australia's Flinders and Millmerran in Queensland - identified three primary risks to the operation of energy markets under a carbon pricing regime.

It warned of "physical threats to system security", weakened investor confidence and disruptions to normal operations in energy-contracting markets.

On the threats to the electricity supply, the Morgan Stanley report said "physical supply reliability could be affected by unco-ordinated plans across the market for the withdrawal of large amounts of generation capacity potentially in advance of when new generation capacity might be available".

It said there was potential for a steady decline in reliability if financially distressed power stations reduced maintenance, either because they were in the hands of their lenders or faced with investment difficulties for assets with uncertain economic lives.

The report also warned that significant reductions in asset values in a concentrated sector of the generation market "may make investors less willing and able to invest in new low-emissions generation and dissuade other investors (particularly foreign investors) from providing capital to provide such new investments".

"Such an outcome could jeopardise Australia's medium- to long-term energy security by delaying critical investments," Morgan Stanley found.

The ability of power stations to pass on the carbon cost would depend on whether there was unutilised capacity in the market.

"If this spare capacity is able to be ramped up, then higher-emissions generators would have difficulty passing their full carbon costs through as lower-emissions generators will be able to profitably increase their output," Morgan Stanley found.

Generators might also be unable to pass on carbon costs if demand for power fell because of the higher electricity prices.

More rapid deployment of low-emissions technology would also lead to a lower carbon price pass-through.

And the closure of existing power plants could force up prices, the report said.

"As existing capacity is retired, the balance of supply and demand will tighten, which may lead to higher market prices and higher pass-through factors for the remaining plant for a period of time," it said.

The report said higher gas prices would require higher levels of carbon price to ensure the long-run marginal cost of new gas-fired generation was competitive with the short-run marginal cost of existing coal-fired generation.


Bid to stifle climate debate clouds history of scientific errors

The Climate Change Commission has released its long-awaited report saying the "jury is in" on the science behind man-made climate change. The verdict? "Humans are the problem."

So strong is the consensus, argues the climate ambassador Tim Flannery, that it is time for news media to cease giving space for debate over the science in view of the magnitude of the threat and the inability of non-experts to understand the issues.

With respect, that argument is not going to blow air into my balloon. Our system of government relies on non-experts making judgments. Our cabinet ministers are chosen from the ranks of elected members of Parliament, rather than external experts. Each year the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has to decide how much the federal government spends on 50 different vaccines to combat the risk of a pandemic. Roxon is not an epidemiologist. Wayne Swan has never had a cent of his own money at risk in a business he was running, yet he makes the judgments as the Treasurer on monetary policy, securities regulation, tax rates and foreign investment. We know that relying on non-experts involves risk but we regard it as the least-worst system, in part because we know how often the experts have made catastrophic errors.

In Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841), Charles Mackay chronicled the human tendency to be swept up in herd behaviour completely at odds with our goal of dispassionate, individual thought. Mackay looks at the great Tulip Bubble, sharemarket frenzies, the burning of witches and failed doomsday prophesies.

The scientific community is not immune. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) showed it behaving like any other group - with a dominant clique-building and defending their empires , while bullying and ostracising dissenters. Kuhn showed that in case after case, the orthodoxy defends the status quo long after the data shows its underlying thesis must be wrong.

We have seen how that bullying, data manipulation and discrediting of dissenters scandalised East Anglia's climate research unit, which put together the historical temperature data on which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based its warming scenarios. The most damning revelation was why the manipulation was necessary: because the earth is refusing to warm at the rates the models required.

Flannery trousers $180,000 a year from the Prime Minister to heighten community angst, and her re-election depends on his success. Panasonic, the producer of energy-intensive, carbon-rich electronic goods, sponsors his chair at Macquarie University. While that money does not go to him directly, he has boasted of "carrying the flag for Panasonic in everything . . . I do" before clarifying that "I have not advocated Panasonic as a company in my public engagements as chief commissioner, nor have I done so in my books or TV work." Clear as mud.

The criticism that "money talks" in policy debates about energy-intensive industries ought also to be directed at the academic and scientific establishment. If we were to remove all the scientists whose teaching and research programs derive taxpayer funds to pursue the anthropogenic thesis, I suspect the "consensus" would be weaker. It doesn't mean the thesis is wrong, but the transparency being practised by the scientists falls woefully short of that expected of journalists, politicians and company directors.

An eminent cereal biologist and board member of the then Co-operative Research Centre for Grain Food Products recently told me how he was called to Canberra in the 1970s to join a secret conclave of senior figures in the departments of agriculture and defence from the US, Australia and Britain. Their task was to consider how to ration food in the coming ice age. (In fact, the Earth has had no polar ice for 75 per cent of its 4.5 billion-year history and we are still in an ice age.)

The risks of making predictions about complex systems on the basis of computer models was graphically illustrated by the Club of Rome's famously discredited 1972 work The Limits of Growth, which argued that linear growth in food resources and exponential growth in population would lead to Malthusian famine and war. The model completely failed to account for the subsequent 400 per cent increase in agricultural productivity.

Remember Y2K? In 1999 governments spent millions enriching computer scientists for advice on how to manage the threats to our national security from the millennium bug.

When making decisions about our country's future, we ought not to be dismissive of the wisdom of the traveller on the Bondi tram. While public support for the man-made warming thesis is falling, it will not serve the cause of science to behave like a shock jock with a microphone for himself and a mute button for his callers.


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