Wednesday, July 26, 2017

'The education system is broken': Teacher who quit her job after 30 years reveals why she intends to home-school her grandchildren

Rather unclear what she wants changed.  More staff and less assessment is part of it but the rest is unclear. 

I think she fails to understand that continuous assessment is designed to circumvent reliance on a "sudden-death" examination at the end of the year.  That was once the system but was often protested against as being an unfair measure of a pupil's ability.  Lots of students who did poorly were said just to be having a "bad day".

And teachers "taught to the test" back then too.  It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

And she ignores the function of the NAPLAN (national) exams in detecting and hopefully improving failing schools.  There are many quite bad schools in the government sector.  That is why 40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools.

It is of course possible to have a school environment where students feel relaxed and learn in their own way.  I once taught in such a "progressive" school myself. It had a great staff/student ratio and friendly teachers  but, even so, one half of my pupils did well and the other half learnt nothing.  And the school did not survive that.  It closed down after a few years.  A school system meant to serve all just cannot be run that way.

The classic example of such a school, "Summerhill", still struggles on but it still has only 60-70 pupils and is too expensive for most parents -- meaning that most pupils come from rich homes -- and they are above-average pupils anyhow.  The school is also said to be "surprisingly strict" these days. The school has been around since the '20s but has few imitators today.  It is clearly not a viable model for government schools

She set the internet alight last year, after she penned a damning essay about the state of the Australian education system and why she was quitting after 30 years in the profession.

And now the Queensland-based teacher, Kathy Margolis, has said she has absolutely no intention of letting her grandchildren into the school system either: 'The education system is broken,' she said.

'I have said to my three sons, "If you guys one day have kids, and I haven't managed to get the system changed, then I’m going to home-school every last one of them",' she told Mamamia on Monday.

In her latest statement, Ms Margolis has said that one of her biggest concerns about the school system is the fact that kids are being expected to read and write in their first formal year of schooling.

'There are kids who are saying, "I'm stupid, I can't do this,"' Ms Margolis said.

'They can see their friends who know all the sight words. Not only that, we're giving them report cards that are telling these parents, "Your child hasn't met this standard," when really, what we should be saying to the parent is, "It's okay, they're just not ready yet, don't stress." But they're not hearing that and they're going out and getting tutors.'

Ms Margolis added that she would have 'lost her job' if she had told parents that their child merely needed an 'extra year'.

'Parents want their kids to do well and to be okay, so they're coming from a place of helping their kids. Really, the kids just need extra time,' she said.

Since Ms Margolis quit teaching, she has started working for the organisation, Protecting Childhood. 

This stands for play-based learning till the age of six, no set formal homework until the age of eight, and no standardised testing which is used to 'pass or fail' kids.


Education in Australian schools is in crisis and someone has to listen to those who are game enough to speak up. I have been a primary school teacher in Brisbane schools for over 30 years. This year, after much thought, I have decided to look for another job, not easy for a woman in her 50s. I cannot continue to do a job that requires me to do what is fundamentally against my philosophy of how it should be done. I love my students and they love me. I know how to engage children in learning and how to make it fun. It’s what I do best.

Teachers have very little professional autonomy anymore. We are told what to do, how to do it and when it has to be done by. Never have I experienced a time in my profession where teachers are this stressed and in real fear for the mental health of not only themselves, but the children that they teach. The pressures are enormous. And before we get the people who rabbit on about our 9 to 3 day and all the holidays we get, let’s get some things straight. No teacher works from 9 until 3. We are with the students during those hours. We go on camps, we man stalls at fetes, we conduct parents/teacher interviews, we coach sporting teams and we supervise discos. And of course there is the lesson preparation, the marking, the report cards. Full time teachers are paid 25 hours a week. Yes you read that correctly, 25 paid hours a week. In any other job that would be considered part time. So now that I have justified our holidays, many of which are spent doing the above, let’s talk about what is going on in classrooms across this great nation of ours.

Classrooms are overcrowded, filled with individuals with all sorts of needs both educational and social. Teachers are told we must differentiate and cater to each individual. Good teachers try desperately to do that but it is near impossible and we feel guilty that we are not doing enough to help the children in our care.

The curriculum is so overcrowded. Prep teachers who used to run lovely play based programs (which might I add work beautifully) are teaching children sight words and how to read and write alongside subjects like history and geography. As a teacher and a mother of 3 sons, this scares the proverbial out of me. We all know that boys this age need to be moving around doing things that interest them, not sitting at desks. And what about the notion of readiness? I fear those little ones who are not ready are going to be left behind. And here’s the problem with our crowded curriculum. There is not enough time to consolidate the basics. Every teacher on this earth will tell you that the early years should be about the 3 R’s. My own children went off to year one after having had a lovely, enriching play based year of learning back in the days of pre-school. They didn’t know any sight words; they could write maybe a few letters and guess what? They learnt to read and write without being pushed at such an early age.

In my teaching career I have never seen so many children suffering from stress and anxiety. It saddens me greatly. Teaching at the moment is data driven. We are testing them and assessing them and pushing them so hard. I get that teachers need to be accountable and of course we need assessment but teachers have an innate ability to know what kids need. A lot of it is data for data’s sake. Don’t even get me started on NAPLAN. Teachers wouldn’t have a problem with NAPLAN if it wasn’t made out to be such a big deal by the powers that be, the press and parents. It has turned into something bigger than Ben Hur.

So why am I writing this? I’m writing this because teachers need to speak up but we are often afraid of retribution. We need to claim back our profession but we are powerless. Teachers teach because we love children and are passionate about education. Our young teaching graduates enter the profession bright eyed and bushy tailed, energetic and enthusiastic, ready to make a difference. So why I ask are they only staying for an average of 5 years? Of course that question is rhetorical. I know the answer. They are burnt out and disillusioned. Older teachers like me have seen better days in the classroom so in a way it’s harder for us to see all the joy slowly being sucked out of learning. But we also have a wealth of experience to draw from and we know which hoops you don’t necessarily need to jump through. We occasionally speak out. We are not as easy to “control”. But we are tired and also burning out with disillusionment.

I write this in the hope that we can spark a public discussion. We need the support of parents, who I know agree with us. I write this because I love children and I can’t bear to see what we are doing to them. Last year, as I apologised once again to my class for pushing them so hard and for the constant barrage of assessment, one child asked me “if you don’t like the things you have to do then why are you still a teacher?” That question got me to thinking long and hard. I had no answer except that I truly loved kids and it was with a heavy heart that I realised that wasn’t enough anymore.

The teacher's original 976-word essay was published on her Facebook page last year. In it, she said the system was in 'crisis' and added that she wrote the post in the hope of sparking public debate.

'Classrooms are overcrowded, filled with individuals with all sorts of needs both educational and social. Teachers are told we must differentiate and cater to each individual. Good teachers try desperately to do that but it is near impossible and we feel guilty that we are not doing enough to help the children in our care,' she wrote at the time.

'Teaching at the moment is data driven. We are testing them and assessing them and pushing them so hard. I get that teachers need to be accountable and of course we need assessment but teachers have an innate ability to know what kids need. A lot of it is data for data's sake.'

The post swiftly went viral and was shared thousands of times online.

Daily Mail Australia has reached out to the Queensland Department of Education for comment.

In a recent statement issued by the state's education minister, Kate Jones, to ABC Radio, she said: 'I have to ensure that early year teachers feel that they have the flexibility to do the appropriate age learning for students in their class.

'Also in the recent budget we announced that there will be a fully funded prep teacher aide in every classroom in Queensland.

'The statements will identify any issues they believe the prep teacher should have and we will provide that directly, and this is something prep teachers have asked for.'


More than 68,000 people risk having their power cut as electricity prices skyrocket - forcing the government to step in with emergency financial help

Australia used to have some of the cheapest power in the world -- until the Greenies got involved

Tens of thousands of Australians are at risk of having their power cut off as they are unable to afford their bills.

A report by the Daily Telegraph has revealed 68,400 residents across New South Wales are set to lose their electricity as energy bills continue to skyrocket.

The state government are having to step in with emergency funds, with Western Sydney suburbs the hardest hit.

New South Wales homes pay more for power bills than any developed nation in the world.

The Energy Accounts Payments Assistance was implemented in 2012 as a measure to prevent an eletricity bill crisis, with each home to receive $50 in vouchers towards their energy bill. The new report suggests the average household needs five vouchers.

The suburb of Campbelltown is in need of the most help, with an estimated 1,619 homes needing financial assistance to continue their access to electricity.

The government are setting aside $404,750 for Campbelltown alone.

Auburn is not far behind, with 1,270 families needing assistance at a cost of $317,650.

The report estimates Blacktown and Bankstown are the next suburbs with the most risk with 1191 and 1156 homes in trouble respectively.

Western Sydney suburbs have been the worst effected because of the large number of fibro homes combined with uncommonly low winter temperatures.

Don Harwin, the NSW Energy Minister, has approached the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal over the crisis to ask whether the continually increasing prices are the result of a fair and balanced market.

'We are concerned about national energy rises and we are pushing our federal counterparts hard to ensure there is a sensible plan to fix the broken national energy market,' Mr Harwin told the Telegraph. 


Father battling Christian school after they banned his son, five, from wearing his traditional Sikh turban because it breaches uniform policy

He likes the school enough to pay money for his kid to go there but then disrespects what has made the school a good one -- an insistence on standards

A Sikh family in Melbourne is taking action against their son's Christian school - after they banned the five-year-old from wearing his traditional turban.

Sagardeep Singh Arora is fighting on behalf of his young son Sidhak, five, believing that he is being denied a basic human right outlined in the Equal Opportunity Act because he can't wear his 'patka' - which is the turban for children.

'I believe students should be allowed to practice their religion and should be allowed to wear their article of faith,' Mr Arora said, ABC reported.

'I was very surprised in an advanced country like Australia, they are still not allowing us to wear patka in the school,' he said.

Sidhak was enrolled to begin school at Melton Christian College, at the start of the year however the school's uniform policy does not accept his head covering.

The principal of the school David Gleeson said that multiple Sikh students go to the school but none are given an exception to wear the religious head covering.

'I think one of the real strengths of the college is that we're blind to … everyone is blind to religious affiliations,' he said.

Mr Gleeson likened the situation to a child who likes to wear a New Balance cap but is not permitted.  

He said anything additional to the uniform is not acceptable and this policy does not breach the Equal Opportunity Act. 

Mr Arora's son is now on the class list at another school but hopes the Christian school will change their minds so Sidhak can attend school with his cousins, who do not wear the turban. 

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.


Liberal Party members support Abbott’s ‘Warringah motion’ for plebiscites to decide candidate preselection

A TRIUMPHANT Tony Abbott last night declared the Liberal Party was finally wrenching power away from “factional hacks”, after his one-member-one-vote push scored a decisive victory.

The former prime minister last night insisted the move was “not about me” after rank-and-file members overwhelmingly voted at a special party reform convention in favour of his “Warringah motion”, which would allow ordinary Liberal members a say in who gets to run for office.

The proposal would mean preselections for candidates would be decided by plebiscites in which each member would get a direct vote in deciding who stood at the election, including for seats occupied by sitting MPs.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph after his charge to water down the influence of factional bosses within the party proved a success, Mr Abbott said it was time to steer away from the current “insiders club” that involves “rorting, racketeering and factioneering”.

“We won’t have factional stitch-ups putting factional hacks into safe seats,” he said.

“This is a huge rebuff to the faction bosses. It’ll mean a bigger, stronger Liberal Party and it will mean more talented, more representative people going into Parliament as Liberals.”

Asked if the victory could be seen as a big win for the former prime minister, Treasurer Scott Morrison this morning extended the congratulations beyond Mr Abbott.

“You can read it as a win for everyone who thinks that plebiscites are a good idea and that includes Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and a whole range of other members,” he told ABC radio.

Those on the other side of the argument, such as federal MPs Alex Hawke and Julian Leeser, attempted to put up alternative motions at the convention, which were effectively diluted versions of the Warringah motion.

“The people on the other side wanted a few tentative steps in the right direction and the party said ‘let’s embrace it — let’s go all the way to being a party that the members can be proud of’,” Mr Abbott said.


ASIC boss Greg Medcraft struggles with sums

It is astonishing, really quite extraordinary and more than a tad disturbing that we have as our top corporate regulator somebody who apparently doesn’t understand the financial system and the most basic operating realities of our banks.

This in itself might seem an extraordinary observation, but how else is one to interpret some of the key remarks made by outgoing ASIC chief Greg Medcraft in an interview, purportedly to “mark his 6½ years as chairman”, in itself a somewhat odd milestone.

Once again in the interview he attacked banks for so-called “out-of-cycle” rate increases on their property loans. He said banks that repriced their existing loan book without increases in the official (RBA) cash rate were “just profit-taking”.

And to drive this point home, he finished with what he clearly thought was a powerful rhetorical flourish, that the “recent rate rises did not pass the front-page test” — in effect, saying that “shock jocks” and overexcited media more generally should be the test of the appropriateness of rate changes.

There are two very simple points — in the sense, one would have thought one could have assumed that an ASIC chairman understood them — to be made about Medcraft’s assertion.

First, the RBA’s cash rate might well be the most important influence on bank funding costs, and so indirectly on their lending rates, but it is not the only influence.

Doesn’t the ASIC chairman understand that our big four banks fund their balance sheets broadly 60 per cent by domestic deposits and 40 per cent by a variety of others sources including shareholder funds and, most importantly, global capital markets?

Yes, domestic deposits might largely be directly priced off the cash rate, but even with them and quite appropriately, not entirely. But surprisingly perhaps to the ASIC chairman, investors on Wall Street do not price their interest rates off the RBA’s cash rate.

Then there’s the cost of hedging non-Australian dollar borrowings into Aussie dollars, which can fluctuate. In short, and keeping it simple for our ASIC chairman, bank cost of funds can change even when the RBA has not touched its cash rate. Goodness me, how radical.

Now yes, the mantra “passing on the RBA’s rate cut/hike” has got locked into the media culture — and the banks themselves have from time to time used it as an unfortunate and obviously not totally incorrect shorthand.

But that does not excuse the corporate regulator, who should know better from adopting it as the basis for a bit of egregious and misleading bank-bashing.

There is a very clear, very simple metric to judge the bank rate pricing: their NIM, or net interest margin. If they are raising their lending rates without a commensurate increase in their cost of funds their NIM will rise.

Guess what: it hasn’t. In the latest six months the NIM of three of the big four banks went down. The NIM of the fourth, NAB, was unchanged but it was also the lowest at 182 points, or 1.82 per cent.

On an unweighted basis the average NIM of the big four went from 202 points in the first half of the 2015-16 year to 198 point in the first half of the 2016-17 year: hardly evidence of rate gouging. We will see what happened in the second half.

To explain to the uninitiated — and, it seems, the ASIC chairman — the NIM is the difference between what a bank charges borrowers and what it pays depositors and other lenders; a difference that has been, obviously, the basis of banking for hundreds of years and of every bank’s very existence.

There are two further critical points to be made about the big four’s individual and group NIM.

It has been falling consistently over time. As noted it is now around 200 points on an unweighted group basis. Five years ago it was more like 215-220 points. A decade ago, before the GFC, it was closer to 250 points. And at the turn of the century it was around 300 points.

Second, it is very similar to the only rational international comparator. According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, the NIM of Canadian banks has run at around 200 points for most of this century, apart from an extraordinary spike up to 400 points briefly after the GFC.

It’s outside the scope of this column, but I’ll happily brief the ASIC chairman on why the NIMs of the major European and US banks are not a relevant comparison.

I would note an interesting chart in the speech yesterday by RBA assistant governor Michelle Bullock that showed the bottom line profitability comparison of banks from several countries.

First, Canadian and Australian profitability ran in lock-step year after year. Secondly, before the GFC those US and European banks were just as profitable as our banks. They haven’t been since: I wonder why?

Now, in his interview, Medcraft also went on to make one utterly ludicrous observation about bank hybrid securities and one basically silly observation.

The ludicrous one was that they would eventually cause problems for the financial system, the silly one was that they were a ridiculous product for retail investors.

Some gratuitous advice: get a grip Greg. There is no way they could cause problems for the system; they are just too small. The total on issue is less than $30 billion. The big four banks have balance sheets well in excess of $2000bn.

But what’s the worst that can happen? They are compulsorily turned into bank shares. How would that be a problem for the system? And trust me, we’d all have much bigger things to worry about.

As for their “ridiculousness”, Medcraft’s rejection/hysteria would also apply to ordinary bank shares themselves. Given bank gearing; given bank exposure to global capital markets.

To validate your claim on the basis they had been banned in other markets like Britain is hardly convincing: did Medcraft notice what happened to British banks in the GFC?


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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