Monday, July 14, 2014

Repeating school has no social or academic benefit

This is rubbish.  IQ increases with age among children so a kid repeating a year will have a higher IQ to do the work the second time around and will therefore be more likely to absorb it

Thousands of NSW parents are insisting their children repeat a year of school, despite warnings from education experts it could do more harm than good.

More than 15,000 primary school students have repeated over the past four years, with almost 7000 redoing kindergarten.

The second highest year level for students being held back is year 10, with more than 1130 students repeating last year.

In nine of the 11 school years from kindergarten to year 10, more boys repeated than girls in 2013.

Principals say they strongly advise parents against repeating because research overwhelmingly suggests students who are struggling academically are better off advancing.

Holding students back has also been shown to contribute to poor mental health, low self-esteem and feelings of shame.

Dr Helen McGrath, a leading Australian education and psychology researcher, said of repeating school years, there are few educational issues where the evidence is so damning, comparing it to “playing Russian roulette”.

“You need to be fairly sure that you’re prepared for the possibility that it may in fact set the child back,” she said.

There are also huge costs involved, with the OECD putting the annual cost of grade repetition in Australia at about $50,000 per repeater, taking into account the expense of an additional year of schooling as well as the delayed entry into the workforce.

In a report released last year, the OECD found about 7.5 per cent of 15-year-old Australian students had repeated at least once, which was less than the OECD average of 12 per cent.

Dr McGrath said she was glad Australian educators were starting to pay attention to the damaging effects.

New figures show the number of public school students repeating has been declining steadily, with the number of kindergarten repeaters dropping from 1,908 in 2010 to 1,485 last year, according to data from the NSW Education Department.

The president of the NSW Primary Principals’ Association, Geoff Scott, says students commonly repeat because of poor social skills or maturity levels rather than academic outcomes.

Australian kids start school younger than almost any other developed country in the world, up to two years ahead of students in top-performing countries such as Finland and Korea.

Mr Scott says it is always the priority of principals to progress students, unless there were extenuating circumstances such as missing considerable amounts of class time due to a lengthy holiday or illness.

“Going back some years, repeating was often the first port of call,” he said. “But now that we have more information about how children learn, the realisation from both parents and schools is that repeating isn’t going to make any difference, it’s only going to make them a year older.”

He said, while students might experience an academic bounce after repeating, the gains were minimal and short-lived.

“The reality is that the problem that’s caused that issue in the first place is still there and hasn’t been addressed by just repeating,” he said. We really need to intervene and tackle the issue, whether that be a learning difficulty, a socialisation problem or emotional issues.”

In high school, far more students repeat year 10 than year 7, 8 and 9 combined, with almost 5000 NSW students repeating year 10 between 2010 and 2013.

And the number of year 10 students repeating has increased over the past four years.

In 2013, 1139 year 10 students repeated, up from 1025 four years earlier.

The president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Lila Mularczyk, said the spike was “not a phenomena that I have experienced or heard of”.

The NSW government raised the school leaving age in 2010 so that any student under 17 who wishes to leave school has to either enrol in TAFE, undertake an apprenticeship or be employed full-time.

“I really can’t see why there would be an increase in repeating at that point,” Ms Mularczyk said. “Year 11 is more flexible than year 10, so students can choose subjects that best suit their needs and interests.”


Warmist ideas that don't work

Comment from Australia by a writer who likes Star Wars allusions

If Labor’s Jedi Council had had their way, Australia would next year be part of the European Emissions Trading Scheme. EU businesses received a massive over-allocation of free permits to protect them from financial harm. As a result of this generous subsidy program, there was no incentive to change behaviour, and emissions rose initially then fell on account of the financial crisis. Slower economic activity, including a fall in demand for energy intensive manufactured products and travel, kept emissions down around the world. Lower emissions added even more excess permits to those already sloshing around the system and now a surplus of around one billion of them means polluters have no obligation to take action.

In the EU ETS, the price of carbon has been less than €10 and as low as €2.75 for almost 10 years. At those prices, it’s cheaper to buy CO2 certificates than make investments in new technology and clean energy sources. Experts agree that the price needs to be $30 or more to spur such investment. Still, the Labor Green alliance would have linked Australia to the EU’s scheme, which was recently described by The Economist magazine as ‘‘worse than useless’’ and by the International Emissions Trading Association as an example of ‘‘what not to do’’.

The real Jedi Masters, outside politics, are investing in wind, hydro, geothermal power and solar as the most reliable instruments to help fight global warming and meet our international emission reduction obligations. Germany is the world’s leader in this area and is already generating a third of its energy needs with renewables (although carbon emissions in Germany are on the rise as they replace nuclear power with dirty coal)

The Renewable Energy Target is being reviewed and likely to be kept at a true 20 per cent by 2020. If Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s Direct Action plan goes ahead, $2.55 billion will be available through the carbon farming initiative that awards those on the land for efforts in revegetation and reforestation. Under the scheme, Australia’s 120 or so biggest polluters will also have their emissions capped and be required to buy carbon credits in order to remain under the limit. The Climate Change Authority has recommended the cheapest way to do that is to look at eligible projects overseas.

The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group prefer projects that increase energy efficiency at local mines or in the domestic transport sector. Some still believe that technology that captures and stores emissions deep underground is a worthwhile investment. Carbon capture and storage was supposed to help keep the climate clean while also preserving profits for the world’s big miners.

Kevin Rudd put $300 million in to setting up the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which has ploughed much of that seed money into overseas projects that have so far failed to prove that you can vanish emissions at existing facilities or at new ones.

Vattenfall is one of Europe’s biggest mining and power station conglomerates. In 2006 at the Schwarze Pumpe power station in Spremberg, east Germany, the world’s first full-scale CCS demonstration site was built. Eight weeks ago, it was quietly decommissioned after failing to achieve regulatory support to store emissions. Officials in Berlin saw buried CO2 almost as dangerous as nuclear waste. No state government in Germany will now even consider the idea of pipelines carrying CO2 across their land.

After ten years of investment, the Swiss giant Vattenfall announced that it was abandoning all research in to carbon capture and storage. It had proven too costly, and the high amounts of energy required to capture the emissions made the endeavour pointless.

With that in mind, perhaps the European Union’s climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard was possessed by some alien force this week when she awarded €300m ($435m) for a carbon capture and storage project in the UK. Drax is the UK’s largest power station and currently produces 7 per cent of the nation’s electricity. The company will use the funds to build a coal-fired plant next to its existing power station in Selby, North Yorkshire, which is the largest single source of CO2 emissions in Britain. The new plant would be capable of powering 630,000 British homes, with some 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the facility being captured and pumped annually into a depleted gas field in the North Sea.

The European Commission is confident that the new plant’s emissions will reduce greenhouse gases by an amount equivalent to taking more than one million cars off the road. Let’s hope the force is with them. History is not.

As well as the investment in Yorkshire, Commissioner Hedegaard has earmarked €1 billion for 19 other clean energy projects across Europe, including a facility that will generate electricity from wave and tidal movements off the west coast of Ireland, a solar project in Cyprus and a geothermal power plant in Malta.

Greg Hunt supports a renewable energy target but doesn’t think governments should be investing in ‘‘speculative’’ renewable energy projects. He’s much more comfortable with safer bets, like trees.


Brisbane hits coldest temperature in 103 years

Global cooling arrives in my backyard

Brisbane has hit its coldest temperatures in 103 years.  Not since July 28 1911 has Brisbane felt this cold, getting down to a brisk 2.6C at 6.41am.  At 7am, it inched up to 3.3C.

Matt Bass, meteorologist from BOM, said the region was well below our average temperatures.  “If it felt cold, that’s because it was, breaking that record is pretty phenomenal for Brisbane,” Bass said.

“The average for this time of year is 12C, so Brisbane was about 9C below average, it is pretty impressive really, to have the coldest morning in 103 years is a big record.”

Brisbane wasn’t the only town hitting landmark temperatures with Clermont breaking its coldest record two days in a row.  "Clermont in the coal fields got down to -4.5 which is a new record for them, their previous record was -3.7, which was set yesterday, so they’ve re-broken their record two days in a row.”

All these cold temperatures are being brought on as cold air moves up from the south, combined with clear nights.

“We are seeing a series of cold fronts push really cold air across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, which has brought low level snow.

“Which is good for the ski fields down there, but once all that air moves up towards Queensland it is still very cold and it loses all that moisture that drops all over Victoria and those other areas.


Teaching of Latin to be revived in classrooms under Federal Government push

LATIN is being dragged out of ancient history and into classrooms as part of a federal push for the return of the classical language.

At least one private school, Brisbane Girls Grammar, will make the study of Latin compulsory for Year 7 students next year as the Federal Government pumps up to $1.8 million into five new languages.

The extinct language - rarely used outside of the Vatican and in legal documents - will be elevated to the national curriculum on par with languages such as Mandarin and Indonesian.

The decision bemused education groups who yesterday said it was ‘patently absurd” to promote Latin ahead of modern languages.

Under the Australian curriculum, schools can offer 11 languages, such as Spanish, Arabic and Italian, which are spoken by billions of people around the world.

Approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population - or about 950 million people - speak Mandarin, while Spanish is spoken by about 400 million.

The number of fluent Latin speakers is thought to number only in the thousands worldwide.

From July 1, the Abbott Government will fund the expansion of the curriculum to include classical Latin and classical Greek. Hindi, Turkish and Auslan (Australian Sign Language) will also be added to the curriculum.

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the Minister supported the teaching of ‘historically significant” languages.

‘The Government is working towards 40 per cent of Year 12 students studying a second language in a decade, the more language options available for schools, the more likely students will be attracted to language study,” the spokesman said.

He said it was up to schools and state governments to determine which languages were taught. Classical Latin was spoken by the ancient Romans and extracts of the Latin language are used in legal circles and the Roman Catholic Church.

Modern Language Teachers’ Association of Queensland president Cynthia Dodd said she preferred it if her children first learn a living language.

P&Cs Qld chief executive Kevan Goodworth said it would be ‘patently absurd” to teach Latin rather than a language like Mandarin.

But Latin advocates say it is linked to higher academic performance in English, maths and science and has a ‘wonder” element for students . The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority recommended the inclusion of Classical Latin and Greek to the curriculum in 2011, and it has been discussed at a federal and state level.

This move was funded by the Abbott Government in the Budget, with $1.2 million to be provided in 2014-15 and $600,000 in 2015-16 .

BGGS Dean of Curriculum and Scholarship Bruce Addison said Latin provided a deeper understanding of English grammar and was a great foundation for other subjects.

‘Part of the strategy is so we can reinvigorate links with the past and links to the social sciences as well, because we have lived through an era whereby a lot of kids are moving away from that,” Dr Addison said.

Year 11 student Josephine Auer said the language had been incredibly useful, including in her biology and German subjects.


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