Sunday, November 18, 2012

Principals say teachers forced to do risk assessments for things like painting and drawing, children too frightened to "have a go"

PRINCIPALS say children are becoming too frightened "to have a go at things" as teachers are forced to do risk assessments for activities including painting and drawing.

Principals say common sense has been abandoned in "the litigious age", with society's risk aversion starting to have a visible impact on children.

They warn risk-taking is "absolutely crucial to learning and development", with some students visibly frightened of making mistakes.

Tiggy [tag], handstands and running on bitumen have all been banned in some schoolyards over the past few years.

State schools now keep a Curriculum Activity Register recording all approved high and extreme-risk activities and some medium ones.

In one of the 134 Curriculum Activity Risk Assessments (CARA), painting and drawing is considered as dangerous as ice skating.

Teachers are told the use of toxic material in painting and drawing activities including glues, pigments and solvents require them to document controls or complete a curriculum activity risk assessment.

"Consider obtaining parental/carer permission," teachers are told.

It comes after the Queensland Association of State School Principals (QASSP) warned a senate inquiry "risk management is no longer left to good old 'common sense'."

QASSP president Hilary Backus said workplace, health and safety issues now gobbled up budgets and time, but there was no turning back from the CARA requirements because of fears of being sued.

She said while people once walked around uneven pavers or underneath branches, they were now pointing them out and expecting principals to deal with them immediately.

She said helicopter parenting and a desire to protect children was hurting learning. "We are starting to see children actually frightened to have a go at things and frightened of making mistakes - it does hinder the learning process," she said.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said people were now looking for someone to blame when accidents occurred.

"In this day and age the (CARA) forms are necessary," Mr Fuller said. "I believe that we have gone past the area of common sense and we are now seeing a trend of relying more on legal interpretation of risks . . . these days everything must be written down and signed."

Education Queensland assistant director-general Marg Pethiyagoda said parents expected their children would be safe at school.

"The department is working to streamline the curriculum activity risk assessment process to reduce the administrative burden on schools while still ensuring schools are safe places for students to engage in a range of learning activities," she said. She said painting involving toxic materials such as glues could result in students being exposed to dangerous fumes, but general art classes in primary school would use non-toxic materials and were considered low risk.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the register and CARA guidelines were in line with community expectations and brought schools in line with the private sector.

He said people might decry any suggestion a game like tiggy could be dangerous but children could be seriously hurt.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Leary said she was worried children were being "bubble-wrapped", but CARA was a result of "the litigious nature of society these days".

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the top priority for all schools should be student safety, which is why CARA guidelines existed. He encouraged staff to take "a commonsense approach" to decisions on playground safety.


$100m off power bills after solar credits scheme axed early

The Gillard Government will phase out its solar credits multiplier because a massive surge in panels fitted to roofs was driving up electricity costs. Source: The Courier-Mail
HOUSEHOLDS will avoid up to $100 million in power bill increases next year because a green scheme is being axed early.

The Gillard Government said it would phase out its solar credits multiplier in January, six months ahead of schedule, because a massive surge in panels fitted to roofs was driving up electricity costs.

The multiplier effectively provides double payments for solar energy created by homes with photovoltaic panels.

But Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said households had borne the brunt of those payments, through higher power bills, and the multiplier should be scrapped early.

"This will lower the impact of the high uptake of solar PV on electricity costs for homes and businesses," Mr Combet said.

"Phasing out the multiplier early will strike the balance between easing upward pressure on electricity prices and supporting households and suppliers who install solar PV. The overall reduction in 2013 electricity bills is estimated to be in the order of $80 million to $100 million."

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the Government had "finally admitted its solar phantom credits scheme has driven up electricity prices".

"The Coalition warned the Government for over three years that the creation of so-called 'phantom credits', where people were paid for solar energy they didn't generate, would drive up the cost of the scheme for everyone else," he said.

He said the decision to scrap the multiplier was welcome but "does nothing for the current high power bills which people have just paid this quarter".

Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes hit out at the decision, saying it had left the industry in a state of chaos.

He disputed Mr Combet's assertion that solar was driving up electricity bills, saying it would bring down generation costs and help ease demand on hot summer days.


Disability scheme will be The New Leviathan

In August, The Centre for Independent Studies broke the story that the National Disability Insurance Scheme would cost a lot more than what politicians and the media were saying it would.

Time and time again we heard (and are still hearing) that the NDIS would provide disability care and support to 411,000 people at an annual cost of $15 billion when it is fully operational in 2018–19.

These figures came from a comprehensive feasibility study by the Productivity Commission. However, there was a significant problem with the commission’s numbers that was not reflected in the public debate – they were 2009–10 figures and did not take into account nine years of price inflation, wage increases, and population growth to 2018–19.

The CIS requested under Freedom of Information laws a review of the commission’s NDIS costings conducted by the Australian Government Actuary that said the NDIS would not cover 411,000 people at a cost of $15 billion a year in 2018–19, but would in fact cover 441,000 people at a cost of about $22 billion a year when the scheme was fully operational in 2018–19.

However, those figures are for the first year alone. My report, released on 15 November 2012, shows that the NDIS will start big and get bigger rapidly, and grow to become the new leviathan of the Australian welfare state. In a nutshell, the NDIS is another Medicare.

A number of structural factors relating to increases in the pension age will drive growth in the NDIS-eligible population, and therefore NDIS expenditure, in the years after full implementation in 2018–19.

Combined with political pressure to expand NDIS eligibility to the 600,000 people aged 65 and older with a severe or profound disability and the 500,000 disability support pensioners who will not be eligible for NDIS-funded supports, there is serious potential for the size and scope of NDIS to grow beyond the government’s official estimates.

Looking at similar schemes in Australia and overseas, it is clear that once the NDIS is fully operational, government expenditure on the NDIS will grow rapidly at a rate of around 6% every year. By 2023–24, the NDIS eligible population will likely grow to about 500,000, and cost nearly $30 billion a year. The NDIS will need more than 8,000 public servants to administer the scheme.


SA Attorney-General  repeals internet comments law

THE State Government has moved to repeal the hugely controversial law it introduced before the last election that required people to give their real name and postcode when making comments online about the poll.

Today Attorney-General John Rau introduced changes to Parliament that will formally overturn the requirement applying to internet bloggers and others making a comment about an election on news websites or social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

The original laws started in January 2010, just months before that year's March election and sparked an immediate outcry over censorship when revealed by adelaidenow and The Advertiser.

The public response was so overwhelming - with more than 1000 critical comments posted on adelaidenow - that then attorney-general Michael Atkinson backflipped within hours and announced the law would not be enforced.

"From the feedback we've received through adelaidenow, the blogging generation believes that the law supported by all MPs and all political parties is unduly restrictive. I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively," Mr Atkinson said at the time.

The Right to Know Coalition, made up of Australia's major media outlets including News Limited, publisher of adelaidenow, labelled the requirements "draconian" while the Australian Council for Civil Liberties said they would have a "chilling" effect on free speech.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says his idea to censor internet blogs during the election campagin was "lousy".

Today, Mr Rau said the Government "has listened to community concerns over those provisions and will repeal the condition that obliges an online publisher to record the name and postcode of the person taking responsibility for political content".

He said the new amendments would also:

MAKE the Electoral Commissioner the sole distributor of postal vote applications.

REQUIRE authorised electoral material to disclose the political party affiliation, not just the name and address of the person who authorised its publication.

HARMONISE State and Commonwealth electoral roles.
Michael Atkinson

South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson will step aside from the Rann ministry Picture: Kelly Barnes

INVALIDATE ballot papers marked in a way that might identify the voter.

PROPOSE that how-to-vote cards must be submitted in advance to the Electoral Commissioner.


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