Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ban kids from starting school until they turn five to ensure they don't fall behind, experts say

This is ridiculous:  A "one size fits all" approach.  In fact some kids may be ready at 4 and others not ready until 6.  All kids are not equal.  Mental age (IQ) is what matters and IQ is not equally distributed

CHILDREN should be banned from starting formal education before they turn five, with experts warning students who begin too young are falling behind and calling for a standard national school age.

Amid a new international push towards later school entry, early childhood teaching experts and peak bodies warned many Australian children were too little to learn in classrooms.

"There is considerable international research showing that children who start school when they are older tend to do better," said Associate Professor Kay Margetts, from Melbourne University's Graduate School of Education.

"But there is no evidence that suggests that starting school before the age of five is of any benefit to children."

States and territories control what age children must be before starting school and that age varies widely across Australia. In some states there can be a gap of 17 months, or a third of a kindergartener's life, between the youngest and oldest in a class.

In NSW children can start as young as four years and six months, but they must be in school by the age of six, while in Tasmania they need to have turned five before they enter their first year of primary, which is known across the country by various names including prep, kindergarten and reception. Prof Margetts said children should not be able to start school before turning five.

"It is well documented even with only a 12 month gap, those older children were doing better than the younger children," Prof Margetts said.

More than 120 leading educators in Britain this month launched a new "too much, too soon" campaign calling for formal schooling to be delayed until children turn six or seven because most four year olds are not ready to study in a structured environment.

The Australian Primary Principals Association said there should be a national uniform age for the foundation year of school.

"We believe all states should have some consistency in the starting age of students, and also the naming of that starting year, given that it's known by so many names like reception and kindy," said APPA deputy president Steve Portlock.

"It would certainly help for families who travel between states, but it would also mean that when test like NAPLAN are sat then students who were older and possibly more ready wouldn't have an advantage over younger students."

The Australian Parent's Council also argues for a standardised age and title for the foundation year, but executive director Ian Dalton said an enforced cut-off for those under five would not be appropriate.

"There is no doubt one of the main mistakes parents will make is to start their children at school too young, but that age varies from child to child," Mr Dalton said.

"You are probably better off to start them a little bit older because it can be difficult for a child when all through their schooling they are younger than their peers. But I don't know that there is any hard and fast rule that will suit all children - I think that parents are in the best position to know when to start their at school."

Prof Margetts said what age to start was one of the most vexing issues for parents of younger children, and a uniform age would make the decision easier.

"What we typically find is that the children starting younger in Australia are the children of parents who don't necessarily have a choice about it," she said.

"It's often people with financial difficulties because it's much cheaper to send a child to school than to keep them in preschool or early childhood services. It's also often children from immigrant families who don't realise the flexibility of the rules.

"We know that younger children in the class are at risk of falling behind and if they come from families who are having financial difficulties, then those children are doubly disadvantaged."

Some states have previously implemented a staggered start to the school year for later birthdays, but this practice is currently being wound-back in South Australia amid concern children with less formal schooling were being disadvantaged in standardised testing.

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the Federal Government supported a move to a standard age for starting school but it was up to the states and territories to administer it.

Mr Pyne would not comment on whether children should be banned from starting formal schooling before they turn five.

"The Federal Coalition supports national uniformity of school starting ages where possible," he said through his spokesperson.


Qld: New measures restore principals' right to crack down on unruly students

PRINCIPALS say tough new school discipline measures will help restore a respect for authority in students.

A Parliamentary committee yesterday held hearings into legislation introduced by Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek which will allow principals to crack down on unruly students.

Changes include longer periods of suspension and detention as well as the ability for a principal to compel a student to perform community service or suspend them if they are facing charges.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association spokesman Jeff Major told the committee he hoped the changes would restore respect for authority.

"Respect for authority and for the principalship over time has diminished," he said.

"We believe that the Bill and some of the work that's done in promoting this Bill will help to reinstate the principal's position in the community and their authority.

"Over time we hope that will lead to better discipline and better behaviour in our schools."

Mr Major said principals did not set out with a desire to issue suspensions or exclusions.

"Unfortunately this has become part of our role in dealing with some of the pointy end behaviours that occur in our schools so we can set high expectations and set good tones in our schools so that all students can benefit from good learning," he said.

"Principals do strive to have very positive cultures in their school to ensure students are engaged."

Several submitters raised concerns with some of the more controversial aspects of the changes including Queensland Law Society children's law committee deputy chair Damien Bartholomew.

He told the committee the society had concerns with the decision to allow principals to suspend students who have been charged with an offence before they have found guilty.

"This appears to be inconsistent with the presumption of innocence," Mr Bartholomew said.

"These changes would also empower the principal to make a decision based on behaviour that occurs beyond the school grounds and may be entirely unrelated to conduct affecting the school."

Mr Bartholomew said the society was concerned those students affected would become further isolated as a result.

"One of the primary concerns of the society in making a representation in relation to this Bill is that we know that young people who are disengaged from school are far more likely to be engaging in the youth justice system," he said.

Mr Major said people who had not had the benefit of schooling were more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

He said the decision to suspend a student who is facing charges would also undermine bail conditions which usually include that a juvenile continue to attend school.

The parliamentary Education and Innovation Committee also heard from other groups including the University of Queensland school of Education, the Queensland Teachers' Union, the Brisbane Youth Education and Training Centre Parents and Citizens Association and teacher Jack Dacey during almost three hours of hearings yesterday.

It is due to report back to State Parliament on the Education (Strengthening Discipline in State Schools) Amendment Bill 2013 by October 9.


When mandarins turn into lemons

DESPITE the predictable bleating from the ABC collective and the Fairfax cooperative, no one inside the Canberra beltway is surprised that the Abbott administration is showing Labor-aligned federal bureaucrats the door.

Heading the queue at the exit was Don Russell, the secretary of the department of Industry and Climate Change.

It was no secret that Russell enjoyed special status within the Labor administration. He was joined at the hip to Paul Keating both when Keating was Treasurer and later Prime Minister. For his faithful service, Russell was rewarded with the plum post of Australian Ambassador to the US from 1993 to 1995 where his portrait now hangs in the Washington Embassy along with others including such giants as Richard Casey, Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Percy Spender all of whom history might view as rather more illustrious than Keating’s sherpa.

Russell’s Labor connection didn’t seal his fate however. There was also the widely held perception that he didn’t do a brilliant job with the Industry portion of his brief.

As for the department of Climate Change, Abbott and his Environment Minister Greg Hunt had long foreshadowed its extinction and it shouldn’t have taken a fortune teller to discern that those who public servants who had aggressively promoted Labor’s global warmist fearmongering would be unlikely to enjoy a warm reception after the change of government.

The department, headquartered in a new environmentally friendly Canberra building leased for 15 years in a $158m deal, was a $1.6 billion a year boondoggle renowned for waste.

With more than 1000 public servants spread across Australia and the Pacific, it spent more than $1.7m on travel in the first four months of the 2012-2013 financial year and $45,000 on coffee machines.

Blair Comley, also ousted, was another former secretary of Climate Change, as was Martin Parkinson, the current Treasury secretary, who will depart next year.

Axing the whole department and its equally wasteful subsidiary and associated agencies, the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Energy Security Council and the Climate Change Commission, had long been foreshadowed.

With the Climate Change Commission will go Tim Flannery, who history will record as one of the most hysterical of the global warming scaremongers along with Canadian David Suzuki.

Another shown to the departure lounge was former Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe, and again, no surprise. Metcalfe went along with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ill-fated Malaysian Solution to the extent that he held an off-the-record briefing for the Canberra media on its purported virtues just hours before he was scheduled to provide a briefing on the soon-to-be-scuttled plan to the Opposition leader, then shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and shadow Attorney-General George Brandis in Brisbane.

Metcalfe’s role wasn’t meant to be leaked but he must have been na├»ve to believe that he could hold a background-only briefing in a Parliament House meeting room barely 50m from the Opposition rooms and expect Labor’s cheer leaders in the press corps to keep his identity secret.

Labor dug a hole for him and he jumped in. His role in providing the off-the-record briefing was revealed by the ABC which is no respecter of such journalistic conventions.

In 2007, the ABC’s Michael Brissenden spilt the beans on an off-the-record dinner with then Treasurer Peter Costello, and also dobbed in The Bulletin’s Paul Daley and The Age’s Tony Wright.

Another who will be joining the queue of those soon to sling their hook is the Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, who has also been prominent among the climate change barrackers.

Labor and the Greens have made much of the Abbott government’s decision not to name a separate Minister for Science but the coverage this has received has not mentioned the fact that the last Chief Scientist, Penny Sackett, quit in 2011, midway through her five year term, and revealed that she had never once been asked to brief then Prime Minister Gillard.

Chubb was supportive of almost every Labor policy but when the Gillard government slashed university funding in the last Budget he was impossible to find and curiously, when the ABC’s Fran Kelly did interview him on Radio National, the cuts weren’t canvassed.

After Abbott revealed the makeup of his Cabinet Tuesday, Chubb was once again seen hurrying through the Ministerial corridors briefing against the new government.

Labor’s politicisation of the public service was scandalous.

It debauched the notion of an independent and fearless public sector, though given the Green-Left voting record of the People’s Republic of Canberra, it would seem that little coercion may have been needed.

Those public servants who joined in the political game cannot be surprised they are now paying for their partisanship.


Coalition targets ARC’s weird and wonderful grants list

The Australian Research Council has been getting some attention recently. Days before the election, the Coalition announced it would redirect some $900 million worth of funds from some weird and wonderful research projects, “to deliver funds to where they’re really needed.”

WasteWatch is no stranger to the joys of reading through the ARC grants list (which can be found here and here). We have previously brought you news of one project’s tax-payer funded South Pacific trip, and also a handy $300 000 spent on ‘enhancing the Australian theme park experience‘.

Philippa Martyr over at Quadrant recently ran through a further list of interesting ARC grants from last year.

WasteWatch is pleased to be able to add a few more examples from this year to the list.

A personal favourite is the $750,000 of your money given to UNSW for “the Australian naturalistic driving study.” Apparently:

"This revolutionary new approach will investigate what people actually do when they drive…It will provide Australia with answers to some intractable, high priority, road safety problems that cannot be answered using current methods."

What people ACTUALLY do when they drive? Phew. WasteWatch wonders what the current methods are of investigating how people drive.

Another good one is the nearly $140,000 given to Deakin University to investigate “the legacy of Tim Winton.” Mr Winton, who was alive and well last time WasteWatch checked, may feel this is slightly premature, but academia and their pursuit of knowledge must not be constrained by simple good manners.

Finally, WasteWatch enjoyed the nearly $240,000 given to RMIT University for an investigation entitled “Agile opera,” which opens up all sorts of great ‘fat lady’ puns.

However, concerns over the politicisation of the ARC process are fair enough. ‘Re-prioritisation’ ought not to become short-hand for targeting investigations into Immanuel Kant, for the benefit of incomprehensible projects like Sydney University’s “Asymptotics in non-linear cointegrating regression: theory and applications”, or UNSW’s “How symbiotic bacteria manipulate the phagocytic behaviour of their eukaryotic host.”

While Joe Hockey may feel more comfortable judging philosophy than phosphorylation, all projects ought to be assessed by whether they meet the ARC’s guidelines of “delivering cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all Australians.“


No comments: