Monday, March 12, 2012

Wage bonus for top teachers planned under NSW education shake-up

THE greatest revolution to hit NSW education in 50 years will mean teachers are paid for their performance.

In a massive power shift from bureaucrats to principals and teachers, not only will high-achieving teachers be paid more, principals will be able to hand-pick staff and control school budgets from Kindergarten to Year 12.

The sweeping set of O'Farrell government reforms will be announced today, Sunday. Implementation will begin in April and be complete by 2015.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said principals would receive salary incentives to work in remote and disadvantaged parts of the state and would take charge of 70 per cent of school budgets, up from the present 10 per cent.

The moves are likely to spark revolt from education unions because the government is dumping the old formula of setting teachers' pay by years of experience.

Instead, pay will be linked to professional standards - so a brilliant 23-year-old teacher could earn more than a 40-year-old colleague. The reforms cover Kindergarten to Year 12.

Director-General of Education Michele Bruniges said the reform was the biggest in at least 50 years and would result in NSW schools moving from being the nation's most "centralised and bureaucratic" to the most "progressive and innovative".

From next month, principals will have unprecedented control of school budgets, and staff will be paid more to teach in remote and disadvantaged areas, under the reforms, which Education Minister Adrian Piccoli will have fully implemented by 2015.

The reforms are separate to the federal government's proposed changes to the funding models following a report by businessman David Gonski.

The reforms cover all schools and all students from Kindergarten to Year 12 and will mean the Education Department will allocate school funding on a wide range of factors - including the school's location and students' special needs - rather than the present formula where funding is determined simply according to the school's number of students.

Principals will control 70 per cent of their funding budget rather that the 10 per cent they are responsible for now.

They also will be able to source school supplies locally rather than from head office.

School funding will be simplified from 600 separate streams to just two - one for staff and one for equipment. Principals will have the flexibility to take funding from the equipment budget and use it to hire additional teachers if they are required, but they will not be permitted to use funds meant for staffing to purchase other items.

The reforms will start to kick in following the Easter Holidays, for Term Two of the school year, and be gradually phased in for all schools over the next three to five years.

A pilot study of 47 schools is already underway and that will be expanded to 229 schools next year.

Director General of Education Michele Bruniges said the reform was the biggest in at least 50 years and would result in NSW schools moving from being the nation's most "centralised and bureaucratic" to the most "progressive and innovative".

Work on the reforms began in April 2011 following Mr Piccoli's appointment as education minister.

They follow consultations with 1800 principals, as well as the close examination of successful models in countries such as Finland.

Ms Bruniges said the reforms were designed to put teachers and principals front and centre in the education of the state's children.

"The reforms give principals the licence to innovate and their passion for teaching will drive that," she said.

"The situation where the principal of a school must take all direct responsibility, but have no control, is not a good place to be when you are in charge of the teaching and learning of other people's children."

Mr Piccoli said he had formed firm ideas on the best way to drive the state's education needs forward after meeting with more than 200 principals.

"I'm convinced on the feedback from principals and the advice from the Director General that this is in the best interests of students in public schools in NSW," he said.

The state's 2242 principals will have to adhere to new leadership capabilities and standards for principals, and teacher salaries will be based on meeting professional standards that are already in place.

Ms Bruniges said the government expected some resistance from the Teachers Federation, but said the position was non-negotiable from the government's point of view.

"The alignment to salary is a really big item, it's a big change," she said. "Just because you've spent time in the job doesn't mean you deserve a pay rise. You have to achieve certain standards."


The GFC refugees heading for Australia

Representatives of Australia's Portuguese, Spanish, Greek and Italian communities told The Sun-Herald that in recent months they have fielded a rush of inquiries about job openings and migration to Australia.

"There is an increasing interest from our nationals in Portugal writing to us, inquiring about jobs," Antonio Gaivao, first secretary of the Portuguese embassy in Canberra, said.

Many of the Portuguese citizens who emailed the embassy were young and well educated, he said. Some were doctors and lawyers.

Spanish, Greek and Italian chamber of commerce officials echoed the sentiment, saying rising numbers of lawyers, doctors, architects and other skilled professionals had contacted them about jobs.

"I would say 95 per cent of the CVs we get are from qualified professionals. They have qualifications be it in engineering, architecture, law, whatever it may be," said Lillian Ajuria, an immigration lawyer and spokeswoman for the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Australia.

The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne last year received "three to four thousand emails" from Greek citizens looking to move to Australia, the group's president, Bill Papastergiadis, said.

Many held university degrees and were highly skilled but had been battered by Greece's austerity program, Nick Mylonas, president of the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

Last month, however, the federal government rejected a call by the Greek community to provide a special working visa for Greeks caught in their country's worsening financial crisis.

Ms Ajuria said Spanish citizens have it even tougher than Italians, as Spain is not part of the working holiday program with Australia. Italian nationals under the age of 31 can at least get a working holiday visa and work in Australia for six months without being sponsored, she said.

Australia's working visa program is open to Irish citizens but not Portuguese; Italians but not Spanish; Cypriots but not Greeks.

Ms Ajuria said working visas would open doors for young Europeans but would also help employers who would be able to "put [the visitors] on the job, test them for three or six months and then decide whether they are worthy of being sponsored".

Of the many Europeans turning to Australia since the financial crash, it has mostly been the Irish who have scored visas. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship counted a 68 per cent increase in Irish visa grants for last financial year over the previous one. However, there has been no significant rise in visa grants to Ireland's neighbouring "debt crisis" countries.

Given the high youth unemployment rates in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, embassy officials believe the situation may soon change.

If these new batches of Europeans were granted visas, they would be unrecognisable from the migrants who arrived in Australia half a century ago, said Tim Harcourt, a trade and migration expert and fellow at the University of NSW's school of economics.

The Greeks and Italians who emigrated after World War II were mainly blue-collar workers who drove taxis, ran shops and worked on building sites, Mr Harcourt said. Yet, he said, a disproportionate number of these migrants became entrepreneurs and exporters. He believes that if the latest inquiries turn into visas, then Australia will benefit handsomely.

"According to Sensis data, 50 per cent of Australian exporters were born overseas," Mr Harcourt said. "The inquiries … are like a canary in a coalmine. If successful, these economic refugees could well be among the ranks of future Australian exporters."


Some kids just need to be flogged

It worked for many years but is no longer allowed

THE victims aren't the only people affected by bullying. Katrina worries for her son, but also for his victims.

"Seth has been involved in a number of different situations, which are disturbing," she said. "Only a few weeks ago, a situation at school escalated where my son strangled a disabled girl, leaving hand marks on her neck and slapped a Year 1 child."

Katrina said she doesn't know what to do about her son's behaviour, which is ruining the lives of her family. "I have tried everything, counsellors, psychiatrist, pediatrician, and no one has the answer," she said.

"Seth is 10 years old and has been to four schools. He is now in a special school, best equipped to deal with his behavioural problems and we are having the same issues."

Seth said his actions come from frustration. "Kids pick on me, they poke me and hit me and that's when I respond," he said. "The other week, a boy was hitting me in the back of my head and kicking my chair. I hit him back and I got in trouble. I don't mean to do it, I just get so frustrated and do things."

Katrina said she feels her efforts to help her son have been a failure. "I feel like many of the professionals I have sought guidance from have simply liked my money," she said. "One doctor said straight to my face, 'Your son's problems are too difficult to be solved'."

Katrina has tried to get Seth involved in sports at the advice of a counsellor but his behaviour has seen him excluded from these facilities as well.

"I have four other children, who all miss out because of one child," Katrina said. "I am lucky to have a husband I can lean on. I feel sorry for anyone who is out there trying to do what I am on their own."


An amusing retrospective about Warmism in Australia

Imagine my chagrin when I read today about the impending doom of the Australian Wine Industry due to Man-Made Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Chaos. Here's what they said in the Prague Post this week:

"Predictions are that if temperatures rise another 2 C, growing vines will become untenable in many of the world's more renowned wine regions by 2050. One such case is Australia, whose vineyard area could disappear entirely... in such an event, water, not wine would become the overriding priority."

A quick web search yields other dire predictions for the Land Down Under. Australian Professor and Government Official Ross Garnaut , told a crowd in Western Australia in 2011: "The drying of the South-West has been predicted by climate change scientists, and climate changes in the region are directly attributable to carbon levels in the atmosphere."

Other predictions preceded Doctor Garnaut's. In 2005, during a decade of severe drought, Australian Climate Change Commissioner, Tim Flannery predicted Sydney’s dams could be dry in as little as two years because global warming was drying up the rains, leaving the city “facing extreme difficulties with water.”

In 2007, Flannery predicted cities such as Brisbane would never again have dam-filling rains, as global warming had caused “a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas” and made the soil too hot, “so even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and river systems."

In 2008, Australian Head of the National Climate Centre at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, David Jones told residents it could be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent: “There is a debate in the climate community, after … close to 12 years of drought, whether this is something permanent. Certainly, in terms of temperature, that seems to be our reality, and that there is no turning back."

In 2009, said this: "It’s not drought, it’s climate change, say scientists. A three-year collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed what many scientists long suspected: that the 13-year drought is not just a natural dry stretch but a shift related to climate change…

Scientists working on the $7 million South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative. To see what role greenhouse gases played in the recent intensification, the scientists used sophisticated American computer climate models. ‘’It’s reasonable to say that a lot of the current drought of the last 12 to 13 years is due to ongoing global warming," said the bureau’s Bertrand Timbal."

But, hold on. There's a problem. Australia isn't dry right now. Here's the headline in the UK Telegraph newspaper this week: "Hundreds more evacuated in Australian floods"

Floods? You mean the kind caused by excess water? Yes, it’s true. Australia is wet. This is from Reuters News Service, from February 3, 2012:

"Heavy rains shut four coal mines in eastern Australia on Friday as military helicopters evacuated stranded residents from inundated towns, and authorities warned of further flash flooding." There's more headlines:

"More than 11,000 people in Queensland State have been isolated by the flooding and thousands had been evacuated, emergency services authorities said. The town of Moree, the centre of the region's cotton growing, has been cut in half by record floodwaters, while authorities are using helicopters to relocate 300 people already at an evacuation centre in the outback town of Roma to another centre on higher ground. Whitehaven Coal said it had shut four mines due to heavy rainfall, but the mines were not flooded and no equipment had been damaged. Other miners and liquefied natural gas producers reported their operations had so far not been affected."

And its not just rain. It's record rain. Headlines from March 2 of 2012 read "Southeast Australia remains under water:" "(There were) heavy falls ... across parts of the state last night and because of the duration of the event some records may be broken as far back as 1886," SES Emergency Commissioner Murray Kear said on Friday."

More flooding news here: Flash floods across Australia's Queensland and New South Wales states killed around 35 people, swamped 30,000 houses, and wiped out roads, bridges and rail lines.

A further examination of reality shows that Australia actually has experienced a record amount of rainfall in the last two years. "Back-to-back La Niña events have created the wettest two-year period on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Its latest Special Climate Statement revealed a two-year rainfall total for 2010–11 of 1409 mm, surpassing the old record of 1407 mm set during 1973–74."

Here is the map of drought conditions in Australia. If we examine the records from the country's own Bureau of Meteorology, we see very good news. There is virtually no drought in Australia and hasn't been for the last 36 months. Only a small part of Southwest Australia has experienced drought in the last 3 years. Australian rainfall anomalies show above normal rainfall for the last 36-months across a large portion of the continent.

Now, keep in mind, Australia is now stranger to drought. Droughts on this continent are often measured in years, not months. Figure E shows rainfall anomalies since 1900 and many dry decades. This is the driest inhabited continent in the world; 70% of it is either arid or semi arid land. The arid zone is defined as areas which receive an average rainfall of 250mm or less. The semi arid zone is defined as areas which receive an average rainfall between 250-350mm. During the decade of the 2000's Australia experienced one of the worst droughts in its history. But, rainfall measurements since 1900 show no permanent drought across the continent.

It seems much of Australia's rainfall fortunes are linked to naturally occurring factors. The Bureau of Meteorology themselves admit the connection between droughts & ElNino events : "Many, but by no means all, droughts over eastern and northern Australia accompany the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon...On some occasions (such as 1914 and 1994) El Niño-related droughts may extend across virtually the entire country."

Research done in 2004* also points to natural climate variations as the cause for Australian droughts. Dr. Danielle Verdon and associates instead projected that drought and flood in Australia was cyclical and tied to natural cycles in the Pacific both short term and across decades. The authors investigated “the influence of the El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) on rainfall and streamflow regimes of eastern Australia. An analysis of historical rainfall and streamflow data for Queensland (QLD), New South Wales (NSW), and Victoria (VIC) reveals strong relationships between these indices and seasonal rainfall and streamflow totals. (h/t Joe D'Aleo)

Associate Professor Stewart Franks, of the University of Newcastle, thinks scientists should know better than to make incorrect statements about drought here. "The mistake that the numerous expert commentators made, was that they confused climate variability for climate change. The future impact of climate change is very uncertain, but when one “wants to believe”, then it is all too easy to get sucked in and to get it spectacularly wrong. In principle, these people should really know better."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Give me those Euro GFC "refugees" any-day over the third world illiterates we are being swamped with now.