Thursday, March 07, 2013

Most trainee teachers fail benchmark

Fewer than one in three of school leavers starting teaching degrees this year would meet the O'Farrell government's new benchmark for teachers, part of a suite of reforms designed to lift the standard and status of teaching in NSW.

Teaching students will have to pass new literacy and numeracy exams to gain their degrees, while new teachers will be supported by mentoring and support initiatives to strengthen their skills.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli described the plans as the "most significant reforms around quality teaching ever undertaken in Australia by any jurisdiction".

While he admitted that some of the reforms would incur "significant" cost, he did not commit new funding nor suggest any reversal of the recent $1.7 billion cut to the education budget.

High-school leavers who hoped to do a teaching degree would have to score a minimum of "Band 5", or 80 per cent, in at least three of their HSC subjects, one of which had to be English. Of this year's intake of teaching students who were high-school leavers, only 30 per cent achieved that standard.

Premier Barry O'Farrell said he did not believe the new requirements would discourage people from entering teaching.

"Quite the reverse," he said. "I think the fact that we're seeking to raise standards, to raise the status of teaching, will encourage more people to enter the profession."

Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias said the new standards did not translate to an exact ATAR cut-off, but he said 70 was a rough estimate.

Under the proposed reforms, all teachers would also have to register and be accredited by the NSW Institute of Teachers, and those who had been out of the profession for more than five years would have to do a refresher course, which would be available by 2014.

Unions and the non-government school sector welcomed the reforms on Wednesday but stressed financial support would be crucial to their success.

"I'm confident and hopeful the government realises how resource-intensive this is," the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said.

But the universities said the stricter benchmark could lead to a teacher shortage.

"Introducing entry requirements such as this ignore the well-documented fact that input measures are very poor predictors of graduate success and teacher quality," chief executive of Universities Australia Belinda Robinson said.

The Australian Council of Deans of Education warned the moves could add "significant layers of complexity, review and costs" to initial teacher education courses.

New measures would also be put in place to remove more quickly and de-register teachers who did not meet the professional teaching standards.

Mr Piccoli said the government's response had not been prescriptive about how this would take place, as different sectors had different industrial-relations arrangements.

"Within the government sector I can say it is something of a difficult and cumbersome process for principals so there are things we need to do to make the process shorter and more predictable," he said.

Laura Robinson, a primary teacher at Croydon Public, did not rely on HSC marks to become a teacher, but studied a master of teaching as a mature-age student.

She said raising the bar for high-school graduates entering teacher education "can't be a bad thing". But, she said, it was not the solution to lifting education standards. "Funding is the answer. We need to raise the bar within schools before we focus on graduates," she said.

The year 3 teacher was in her fourth year in the job and said it was a balancing act. "You're trying to do your best but, if you've got a budget of $150 a year for your class, that doesn't really work."


PM gun figures shot down by statistics chief

The Prime Minister's campaign to tackle criminal gangs is wobbling, with three state governments unhappy about her idea of national laws and a crime statistician saying she has exaggerated NSW's gun problem.

As part of her five-day campaign to win back Labor votes in western Sydney, Julia Gillard has talked tough on law and order.

On Sunday, Ms Gillard announced a $64 million "national anti-gang taskforce".

Ms Gillard said: "When we look at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, we see that, over the past 15 years, shootings in public places have soared."

But NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics director Don Weatherburn said the Prime Minister was wrong to claim that shootings have "soared".

According to Dr Weatherburn, the number of non-fatal shooting offences in NSW peaked in 2001 and then began to fall.

The only type of shooting to increase during the last two years has been guns "discharged into premises" but even those declined late last year, Dr Weatherburn said in a statement.


Coalition decries union 'whitewash'

Unions say they have been vindicated by a report into union governance commissioned after the Health Services Union scandals.

The report to the ACTU executive on Wednesday made 13 recommendations to improve how unions operate, including the use of credit cards, financial transparency and disclosure of senior officials' pay.

But none of the recommendations are mandatory and it is up to individual unions how, or if, they implement them. While the report said the general picture of Australian unions was that they are ''honestly run'', the report did not investigate that issue itself.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz described the report as a whitewash.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said unions should ''feel proud'' of the report, commissioned by the ACTU last year. Its panel of experts was headed by former Federal Court judge Rod Madgwick.

He said the positive response to the report from union leaders on Wednesday meant that he expected them to make changes, where needed.

Mr Oliver said the review was never meant to investigate corruption itself, but he was confident the problems had been limited to a ''couple of individuals in one union''.

He said the report found many unions were ''well advanced in modern governance and management practices'' and that present laws around union rules were ''some of the most rigorous in the world''.

The Coalition has been pushing for tougher rules to force greater disclosure. It also wants unions regulated in the same way as corporations.

Senator Abetz said unions had not taken the issue seriously.

''When you have a handpicked reviewer making voluntary recommendations, you have got to wonder if it was something prepared in anticipation of the Melbourne Comedy Festival.''

Senator Abetz said problems were not isolated to the HSU. The opposition has also highlighted allegations that Electrical Trades Union officials from NSW pocketed $1.8 million in directors fees that under union rules should have gone back to the ETU. And last december Fairfax Media also revealed the existence of a union ''slush fund'', Industry 2020.

Cesar Melhem, Victorian secretary of the Australian Workers Union, was the sole shareholder of Industry 2020, which has raised about $500,000 since 2008 used to support the political activities of his Right faction sub-group within the ALP.

Mr Oliver said its recommendations would relate only to unions themselves, not separate funds created by officials.


Three doctors suspended from WA government hospital

Andrew Allan, 16, died in November 2010 a day after presenting at the hospital feverish, weak and struggling to breathe. The cause of death was swine flu and a bacterial infection.

Andrew Allan, 16, died in November 2010 a day after presenting at the hospital feverish, weak and struggling to breathe. The cause of death was swine flu and a bacterial infection.

Three doctors have been suspended from a regional West Australian hospital over the deaths of five patients who died after being discharged.

WA's Department of Health revealed on Wednesday that the three doctors from the Northam Hospital would be referred to the Medical Board of Australia following an investigation by the state's chief medical officer Gary Geelhoed.

They were also suspended from practice at Northam's emergency department.

A damning report pinpointed a lack of medical leadership in the emergency department, poor communication and uncertain roles in and between medical disciplines as major issues at the hospital.

"After reviewing the cases, I felt that some of the medical practitioners had questions to answer regarding their practice in specific cases," Professor Geelhoed said.

The hospital first came under scrutiny after the death in 2010 of 16-year-old Andrew Allan, who was sent home with Panadol after the hospital failed to diagnose swine flu.

That led to a scathing coroner's report on his treatment.

Earlier this year more worrying cases came to light, including the death of 53-year-old woman Eva Dimer. She was sent home with headache tablets after collapsing in July 2011 but collapsed again within 30 hours and died in Perth two days later.

The report said: "Inadequate history taking, poor communication between disciplines and lack of appropriate medical examination resulted in [Mrs Dimer] being denied appropriate medical care".

Tamika Ullrich, a 23-year-old nurse, died after being sent home from Northam Hospital on December 29 last year with painkillers for a severe headache.

The report said inadequate medical history taking, the absence of physical examination and almost no medical documentation "did not give the best chance to detect a potentially treatable condition".

The review found the management of Ms Ullrich "was not consistent with best medical practice".

Lachlan Hughes, a 12-day-old baby, died in 2010 of heart failure after the hospital sent him home twice.

Janice Saulys, 69, visited the hospital last June with a broken arm and returned after vomiting and was found to have the onset of renal failure.

She was treated but sent home, only to return a week later, fall into a coma and die two weeks later.

All of those cases are being investigated by the WA coroner.

The report said some of the problems had arisen from the hospital growing quickly from a 'country practice' to a busy regional centre in recent years - but the issues should have been addressed.

"The problems encountered in the Northam emergency department could have been anticipated and avoided by medical leadership with appropriate authority and experience," it concluded.

Prof Geelhoed also recommended the employment of an emergency medical specialist to provide medical leadership and the establishment of a formal link with a metropolitan emergency department, with the possibility of sharing staff and shifts.

WA's Director General of Health Kim Snowball said work was under way to carry out the recommendations as quickly as possible.


1 comment:

Paul said...

So the point of the Madgwick enquiry was.....??