Sunday, May 06, 2018

'They all support the bullies': Primary teacher says there's no way school could have saved suicide girl Dolly because education officials rarely step in to help tormented children

A primary school teacher claims he experienced first hand the Queensland Education Department favouring bullies over teachers trying to help their victims. 

Grant Elmsly, 56, said he was filling in at Bribie Island State School last year when he allegedly saw a student stab another in the lower back with a pencil.

After several attempts to report the incident through the correct channels, he identified what he believed to be a massive flaw in the system.

He said he ended up reporting what he saw to police and the Department of Education's ethical standards unit, but the department ultimately sided with the bullies.

Mr Elmsly claimed the children made stories up about him, which resulted in him being suspended from work.

His claims followed backlash from parents in the wake of Amy 'Dolly' Everett's death, with many pushing for more to be done to put an end to bullying in schools.

The 14-year-old took her own life in January after enduring years of relentless bullying at her Queensland boarding school.

'I read with amazement the story about Dolly,' Mr Elmsly said. 'But I don't know that teachers could have done anymore to help because we're not supported by the system to do so which makes us helpless to an extent.'

He said after witnessing the alleged incident involving the pencil while teaching a class in August last year, he couldn't file the incident in the school's OnePortal system because he was employed as a casual.

When he asked other staff to file it on his behalf, Mr Elmsly said they told him the victim had likely deserved it.   

'They all seemed to support the bullies in saying the kid who was stabbed deserved it. I couldn't believe it was normal to them. There was just no excuse for that sort of behaviour,' he said.

Mr Elmsly claimed his suspension, pending the outcome of an internal investigation, was an example of the department penalising teachers for standing up for bully victims.

'It's common for QLD principals to tell their staff not to write mandatory reports on OnePortal as it's available on request to parents and the regional education QLD office will think they are wonderful principals,' he said.

In a statement to Daily Mail Australia, QLD Department of Education said it could not comment on specific incidents but encouraged all cases of bullying to be reported.

'Bribie Island State School, like all Queensland state schools, does not tolerate bullying. 'Any situation that threatens the safety and wellbeing of any student is treated extremely seriously, and dealt with as a matter of urgent priority

'Students who engage in bullying behaviours at Bribie Island SS are dealt with under the school’s Responsible Behaviour Plan for Students. It outlines the standard of behaviour expected from students and the consequences when those standards are not met.'


Budget 2018: Morrison to deliver relief for low-income earners

Scott Morrison has confirmed that low to middle-income workers on less than $87,000 a year will be targeted for immediate “maximum” tax relief this year.

Tuesday’s budget will also map out a plan to reduce both the thresholds and tax rates paid by the “aspirational class’’ on higher incomes, including those on the top marginal tax rate.

These fundamental changes to the higher tax brackets are slated to kick in as early as 2024.

In an appeal to the Liberal Party base ahead of a budget that will define the stark contrast on tax policy between the Coalition and Labor, the Treasurer has conceded that salary earners on the highest tax bracket have had to bear the greatest share of the tax burden.

Treasury analysis of unpublished Australian Taxation Office data, released to The Weekend Australian, reveals the median personal tax bill for the 400,000 people earning more than $180,000 a year was almost $85,000 a year — an effective average tax rate of 36 per cent.

This compared with a tax rate of only 7 per cent for those earning less than $37,000 and a 19 per cent rate for those earning up to $87,000 a year.

The Weekend Australian understands that the $180,000 threshold for the top marginal tax rate of 45c is expected to be raised over the medium term.

Mr Morrison told The Weekend Australian that the figures showed that the greatest tax burden was levied against higher-income families and exposed Bill Shorten’s claim that the wealthy paid little to no tax. “I can say that our first ­priority is to maximise and target tax relief to low and middle-­income earners … it’s good for them and it is also good for the economy,” he said. “But the notion that somehow that comes at the expense of slugging others on the false pretext that they don’t pay enough tax is pure envy politics … it is nonsense.”

Mr Morrison would not be drawn on whether the budget would reveal an earlier return to surplus on the back of the revenue rebound and spending restraint, despite a senior cabinet minister telling The Weekend Australian that it was expected to be brought forward a year.

While not revealing the changes to tax thresholds to ­deliver what economists expect to be a maximum of $8 billion a year in personal income tax cuts, Mr Morrison said Labor’s plan to raise the effective top tax rate to 49 per cent would punish those who already paid the most tax.

The Treasury analysis of ­median taxable income revealed someone who had a taxable ­income of $190,000 in 2015-16 would ordinarily have faced a marginal tax rate of 49 per cent, comprising a 45 per cent headline rate, plus 2 per cent Medicare levy, plus the 2 per cent temporary budget repair levy. This resulted in a tax bill of $63,047, amounting to the equivalent of twice the wages of a low-income earner.

By contrast, the median personal income tax rate of the 5.2 million people earning ­between $37,000 and $87,000 in 2015-16 was just 19 per cent — or a little over $10,000.

The Coalition has already dropped a plan to increase the Medicare levy by 0.5 per cent for all taxpayers to help pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is also axing the 2 per cent temporary deficit levy, meaning the top tax rate will revert to 45 per cent, plus the existing 2 per cent Medicare levy, offering relief to higher taxpayers. Labor plans to keep the deficit levy, meaning the top rate would be an effective 49 per cent.

Mr Morrison said there were strong economic and political reasons for targeting tax cuts at the low to middle-income earners, who had been suffering from low wage growth.

“Tax relief of middle to low-­income earners underpins the economic policies that support stronger consumption from an economic view and from an em­pathy point of view,” he said.

Mr Morrison said many lower to middle-income earners could see from employment numbers that the economy was doing well but were saying “we haven’t felt that yet”.

National accounts measures of household consumption have been volatile but the overall trend has been only modest growth. Tax relief could help lift consumption, which represents almost 60 per cent of the economy.

Mr Morrison said low to middle-income earners, with wages of less than the $87,000 threshold where the second top rate of 37c in the dollar kicks in, were the government’s target in next week’s budget. They had the greatest propensity to lift spending in response to tax cuts.

Deloitte Access Economics has calculated that tax cuts delivering greatest benefit to these groups could be achieved by raising the tax-free threshold from $18,200 to $20,000 and the threshold at which people start losing 32.5c in the dollar from $37,000 to $40,000.

This would cost the budget about $8bn a year, and would represent a gain of almost 2 per cent for people earning $40,000, dropping to about 0.6 per cent for those earning more than $150,000.

Mr Morrison sought to allay concerns that the improved budget position was a flash in the pan, saying it reflected the strength of the economy and a structural ­improvement in company tax payments. “A lot of what we’ve seen in the last six or nine months has been what has physically come into the coffers of Treasury — it’s real money that’s turned up,” he said. “It is a structural improvement, even taking account of the enterprise tax plan which is in all of our numbers.”

Mr Morrison said the budget forecasts on commodity prices had been conservative and this would continue. Iron ore prices have ­averaged about $US65 a tonne this year (allowing for freight) or about $US10 a tonne above Treasury’s previous forecast.

He said the main reason for growth in company tax receipts this year was that companies had used up tax losses incurred in the years following the end of the mining investment boom.


New education plan skims over key indicators such as discipline in schools

“Not good enough.” That’s what Malcolm Turnbull said this week about Australia’s declining results in international school tests.

As noted in the Gonski 2.0 report, Australia has fallen in absolute performance and relative to other countries in the three Program for International Student Assessment tests run by the OECD. These assess the science, maths and reading abilities of 15-year-old students.

The factors linked to good outcomes are well known: they have to do with the quality of teaching, including classroom management. Yet they barely rate a mention in Gonski 2.0.

The OECD notes the five strongest factors associated with student performance, for good or for ill. Those associated with higher achievement are teacher-­directed instruction, adaptive instruction and school disciplinary climate. Those associated with lower achievement are inquiry-based instruction and perceived feedback.

What comes through loud and clear is that four of the top five factors influencing student achievement are about instruction: that is, methods of teaching.

The fifth factor is the level of disruption in the classroom, which indirectly is also associated with instruction. Gonski 2.0 has little to say about this well-established body of evidence.

The OECD factors in play need some explanation. Teacher-direc­ted instruction is defined as the teacher explaining and demonstrating ideas, leading whole-class discussions and responding to student questions. Consistent with decades of research, the OECD findings indicate that teacher-­directed instruction is highly bene­ficial for student learning.

Inquiry-based teaching, which in some ways is the opposite of teacher-directed instruction, is characterised by class-led learning activities and encouragement of discovery through group collaboration. This style of teaching is ­associated with less student achievement.

On the surface, adaptive instruction sounds similar to one of the main recommendations of the Gonski 2.0 report, adaptive learning. This refers to teachers adjusting their teaching to cater for the needs of their class and individual students.

Most teachers try to do this as much as they can, with varying degrees of success. For teachers to know the levels and range of ability in their classes, and to calibrate their teaching accordingly, is an important skill.

However, Gonski 2.0 went much further. It recommended students be assessed based on their growth in learning rather than according to age-based or year-based curriculums. The idea is to give teachers an online assessment tool to continuously measure learning growth, with the expectation they would provide “tailored teaching” for individual stu­dents depending on their ability.

Adaptive learning as described by the OECD is much simpler. It means teachers adapt lessons, provide individual help to struggling students and change the structure of lessons when covering difficult topics. It does not mean going to the great lengths of using a continuous online assessment tool or coming up with an individual learning plan for every student.

Taking the OECD data as a guide, the task of teachers adapting to the needs of students is much simpler than the Gonski panel’s proposal and Australian students think teachers are already doing this reasonably well.

This is where Gonski 2.0 could have made a valuable practical contribution — an objective and detailed investigation of the factors that have the biggest impact on student learning, and an analysis of how to deploy them in Australian classrooms.

Discipline is the other key issue that Gonski could have tackled. School disciplinary climate is the factor that most clearly differentiates Australia from the top 10 performing countries, and not in a good way. According to students themselves, Australian classrooms are unsettled and disruptive to learning. The data is clear.

The “disciplinary climate index” is based on how often these things happen in class: students don’t listen to what the teacher says; there is noise and disorder; the teacher has to wait a long time for students to quiet down; students cannot work well; and students don’t start working for a long time after the lesson begins.

This PISA data on student behaviour and school discipline in Australia is corroborated by the most recent results from two other international education datasets — the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Teaching and Learning International Survey — which both indicate Australia has relatively high levels of student misbehaviour relative to other countries.

These results are not surprising, given a series of recent studies showing Australian university teacher education degrees in the main do not adequately equip new teachers with classroom management techniques based on evidence.

And recent research from Macquarie University researchers found school discipline is far more important than school funding in determining a country’s educa­tional performance.

The OECD has found that for developed, high-income countries such as Australia there is no clear relationship between school funding and student outcomes. This should give us pause for thought as the federal government puts an extra $23.5 billion of taxpayer money into schools across the next 10 years.

But on the factors that do make a difference — teaching method and school discipline — the Gonski 2.0 report stayed almost silent.

As a coda, some qualifications of our argument are necessary.

The PISA 2015 analysis of the factors in student achievement deals specifically with science classes — so we need to be cautious about generalisation — but the results correspond with similar analyses in previous years and with other educational research.

Also, the data is based on self-reporting, thereby limiting the conclusions that can be made.

However, the PISA result involves a large sample size and there are no obvious biases in the survey and assessment instruments.

It’s true that Australia performs above the international average on adaptive and teacher-directed instruction, which are both associated with high student achievement. But there are question marks over the categories and descriptions of instruction at issue.

Notwithstanding these caveats, instruction — or teaching method — is clearly the big-ticket item for student achievement and should have been a major focus of the Gonski 2.0 report.


Australia tipped to soon produce more than half of the world's lithium

Western Australia is tipped to produce more than half of the world’s lithium supply by the end of this year, as new mines come online and the world’s appetite for the materials used to make batteries for electric vehicles grows.

That forecast, made by Citi analyst Clarke Wilkins last week, came on the same day that the managing director of lithium miner Pilbara Minerals, Ken Brinsden, said Australia was in "pole position in lithium raw materials", and described one part of WA as "lithium valley".

But with Australia’s emerging lithium industry growing so fast, investors have also been reminded that there will be “bumps and curves” and twists along the way.

Most of the world’s lithium now comes from hard rock mining of spodumene deposits, or via the extraction of lithium from brine deposits in Argentina and Chile.

But given the handful of hard rock mines now operating in Western Australia or soon to start, Australia is well placed to capitalise on the rapid growth in the use of electric vehicles over coming years in major car markets such as Europe and China.

“If you look at all the hard rock (lithium) mines, WA is going to dominate. West Australia will be over half of the (world’s) lithium supply, effectively, by the end of this year. Because all of the world’s hard rock mines are basically in WA,” Mr Wilkins said.

“There are projects outside of Australia, but it’s unlikely that any of those will be really of material scale production until a number of years away. Because you’ve got infrastructure, you’ve got a mining culture, the biggest projects tend to be in Australia, so Australia does lead the world in terms of development of these hard rock mines."

Lithium is a key ingredient in the manufacture of lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles, large battery storage units, and electronic devices like mobile phones and laptop computers.

In an address to the Melbourne Mining Club on Friday, Mr Brinsden said Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora mine would be “one of the world’s largest lithium mines”, and that the company was only a week or two away from turning on its processing plant. The plant will crush and process rocks from the mine to produce spodumene concentrate containing lithium.

“We expect to make our first shipment of spodumene concentrate sometime in late June,” Mr Brinsden said.

Mr Brinsden said Australia was the world’s largest producer of spodumene concentrate with mines already in production, and with several more to come.

“Australia commands pole position in lithium raw materials, and will likely hold that mantel for many years to come as a result of the incredible mineral endowment we have in hard-rock lithia sources,” he said.

Despite this “pole position” for lithium held by Australia, ASX-listed lithium companies have experienced their fair share of ups and downs on the market, with some volatile stock price movements in recent months.

The share price of Pilbara Minerals itself hit an all-time closing price high in early January this year, of $1.22, but then retreated as concerns rose that the lithium market could in future years be in over-supply for a period. Pilbara closed up one cent on Friday, at 89 cents.

“I think the industry is going through a rapid growth phase, that is clearly with risk. And the risk here is around obviously project definition, project funding, customer off-take relationships, and critically - project execution. And then, ramp-up to steady state. All these things are not without risk,” said Lachlan Shaw, commodity strategist with UBS.

“I think that’s the first thing, the industry is going through very rapid growth, and there will be bumps and curves along the way,” he said.

Also, on the demand side, peoples understanding of the “battery chain” was still developing. “There’s a pretty wide range of views out there about demand growth, and about how the industry works. And because the range of views is so diverse, there’s added volatility,” he said.


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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