Sunday, March 20, 2022

NAPLAN: Pandemic lockdowns have widened the wealth gap in our schools

Less intelligent students need more help to achieve so reducing that help has serious consequences. Highly intelligent students by contrast do well in any system. And intelligence is both hereditary and a major precursor to wealth. So private schools on average have smarter kids with richer parents

A learning gap between rich and poor students is widening as literacy and numeracy tests reveal schools in disadvantaged suburbs have fallen behind during the ­pandemic lockdowns.

Educators have warned of higher dropout rates and social scarring without intervention to help students from poorer families catch up on their lost learning.

Fresh NAPLAN data, to be published on Wednesday, reveals patches of poor performance in suburbs blighted by high unemployment, poverty or large numbers of students whose parents don’t speak English.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe warned that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds were being “left behind’’.

“These deep-rooted education inequities have widened in recent years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Morrison government has done nothing to address them,’’ she said.

Across Australia, the average NAPLAN score for year 9 reading fell by 4.5 points to 577, while writing scores rose by 1.8 points to 551, between 2019 and 2021. Numeracy performance dropped by an average of 4.6 points to 588.

At Chifley College’s Mt Druitt campus in western Sydney, where three out of four students live in the poorest 25 per cent of households and half speak a foreign language, the year 9 writing results fell by 18 points, while writing scores dropped 35 points.

Bucking the trend is Sydney Adventist School in Auburn, in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs, where old-school teaching methods have driven success.

Despite 80 per cent of children being from non-English speaking families, the school lifted the reading and writing scores for year 3 students in 2021. The school’s deputy principal, Jenny Hahnel, said the school expected high academic standards from students, whose migrant parents value education and respect teachers.

The school uses “explicit teaching’’, providing clear instruction until each student has mastered the content of a lesson.

Reading is based on phonics, and children learn their times ­tables, as well as hands-on learning such as measuring objects in the playground for maths. “Explicit teaching focuses on a lot of repetition,’’ Ms Hahnel said.

“Every day we start the lesson revisiting content we’ve already taught. We’re consistently checking for understanding during the lesson, and we focus on student engagement.

“You’ll never see a child sitting at a desk and not knowing what to do. Not one child went backwards during Covid.’’

The Smith Family, a charity that is helping 58,000 disadvantaged children attend school through its Learning for Life sponsorship program, warned that more children had fallen behind as a result of lockdowns.

Anton Leschen, the charity’s Victorian general manager, said he knew of a single parent home schooling seven children, using one smartphone with a cracked screen and limited data.

“Living in disadvantage is a matter of chaos and survival,’’ he said. “Access to digital resources is always a major issue.’’

Mr Leschen called for targeted learning support for children who had fallen behind at school. “Some of them are very bright and hardworking,’’ he said. “Others have arrived at school with low initial literacy and cognitive and social skills. They’re not write-offs, but targeted support and help to catch up is all the more necessary.’’

At Kurnai College in Morwell, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, reading scores dropped by 38 points, writing by 43 points and numeracy by 17 points. On the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, half the students attending Western Port Secondary College live in the poorest 25 per cent of households.

Year 9 students’ NAPLAN results dropped 15 points for reading, 56 points for writing and 15 points for numeracy.

Punchbowl Boys’ High School in NSW enrols 72 per cent of its students from the poorest households – virtually all from a non-English speaking background. Its results in year 9 fell by 19 points for reading and 23 points for numeracy, but rose six points for writing.

At Durack, one of Brisbane’s poorest suburbs, Glenala State High School’s year 9 students performed 10 points lower in 2021 than the crop of year 9s in 2019, before the start of the pandemic.

Writing scores fell 15 points and numeracy scores 19 points.

Australian Secondary Principals’ Association president Andrew Pierpoint said many poorer families could not afford computers or tablets for home schooling and online lessons.

“They might have a phone shared between siblings,’’ he said.

“The students have to read a document and type on a phone.’’

Mr Pierpoint said the pandemic had made the gap between poor and wealthy students “wider than we’ve ever seen before’’.

He called for more funding for the most disadvantaged schools. “Some schools need more money because life keeps running over the top of them, and it’s not the kids’ fault,’’ he said. “We need to address this as a nation.’’

Australian Primary Principals’ Association president Malcolm Elliott said many students had struggled when their parents could not help with home schooling, provide technology or pay for tutoring.

“Some of the maths that children get sent home with can look very complex for parents,’’ he said.

NSW Teachers’ Federation senior vice-president Amber Flohm said 3000 students had dropped out of school in 2020 and “never returned’.

“Students with disability or who are learning English are heavily reliant on face-to-face interaction,’’ she said. “English as an additional language is not something that lends itself to remote learning and teaching.’’


Bureaucratic nightmare for Northern Territory Aborigines

Many Australians would be understandably sceptical of the Greens’ call for a ‘Truth and Justice Commission’ to conduct ‘truth-telling’ with regards to human rights abuses of Indigenous Australians. However, such a commission may be valuable if it is used to lift the lid on Australia’s outback socialism that crushes Indigenous people to this day.

In January, the Greens called for ‘$250 million for a national Truth and Justice Commission to investigate human rights abuses against First Nations people’. Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said such a commission would ‘allow the truth to be told in this country and it will allow us to come together so we can come forward’.

The devastating legacy of Australia’s land rights system in the Northern Territory is not well understood by the general public. If a Truth and Justice Commission became a vehicle to rectify that, it would be more than worthwhile.

Since the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA) was passed by the Fraser government in 1976, governments have returned roughly 50 per cent of the Northern Territory and 20 per cent of the country to Indigenous communities. This has been popularly understood as Indigenous people ‘getting their land back’. However, it may surprise many Australians that for much of the last four decades, Chinese and Russian citizens have had stronger property rights than Indigenous people living on ALRA land in the Northern Territory.

It was not possible for an Indigenous person on ALRA land in the Northern Territory to own their own home until 2006. Even now, only a handful of the tens of thousands of people on ALRA land in the Northern Territory actually do so.

Alongside this denial of private property rights are weak and opaque communal property rights. To grant an estate or interest in their land, most Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory require the approval of the relevant regional Land Council – meaning decisions about land use haven’t been returned to Traditional Owners but reside with government bureaucracies often located hundreds of kilometres away.

Suffice to say, approval can be hard to get.

In its ‘Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia’ in January 2020, the Aboriginal Investment Group outlined the trials faced by a group of Traditional Owners trying to convert a vacated building into a youth drop-in cafĂ©. Under ALRA, Traditional Owners in these circumstances must present a proposal from themselves, to themselves, and be consulted on it by the Land Council, whose costs they must pay. Furthermore, it’s likely they have to charge themselves commercial rates of rent, otherwise the Land Council won’t approve the license or lease. And the whole approval process will take at least six months.

Property rights are human rights. The denial of private and communal property rights to Indigenous Australians on ALRA land is first and foremost a moral issue. However, the economic and social impacts are unsurprisingly catastrophic. A lack of property rights on ALRA land contributes to chronic underdevelopment and unemployment with the full gamut of socials ills that invariably follow: crime, violence, alcohol, drug abuse, ill-health, and despair. Not to mention parlous health and education outcomes.

Indigenous people on ALRA land don’t require protection from the broader Australian economy and culture. They require the freedom to pursue their destiny like Australians from all different races, religions and backgrounds have been free to do so.

Australia’s outback socialism has crushed Indigenous people on ALRA land. Their stories deserve to be told every bit as much as those of victims of the Stolen Generation, frontier violence and institutional racism.

Maybe a Truth and Justice Commission isn’t such a bad idea after all.


Radical gender theory starts in kindergarten

A recent research paper titled Parents’ perspectives on the inclusion of gender and sexuality diversity in K-12 schooling: results from an Australian national study published in the Sex Education journal illustrates how gender theory is motivated by Marxist-inspired ideology.

The authors argue Western societies like Australia are structurally and inherently heteronormative where LGBTIQ+ students are ‘mistreated’ and subject to ‘exclusion and discrimination’. Those who are not ‘heterosexual, cisgender, white, middle class, and male’ are ‘positioned as abnormal, immoral, problematic, non-contributory, and even socially perilous’.

Such an argument can be traced to Marxist authors like Antonio Gramsci and Louise Althusser who argue in Western societies like Australia, capitalist elites maintain power by privileging those in control and oppressing and marginalising any who fail to conform.

As a result of this capitalist, male-dominated hegemony schools are ‘socio-cultural entities’ made to promote cisgenderism – defined as ‘the idea that there are only two genders, that gender is determined on the basis of assigned sex… and thus the mistreatment of people on the basis of their gender is legitimate’.

This ‘culture of limitation’, the authors argue, is associated with society’s ‘underlying racism, sexism, homophobia and cisgenderism that intersects with neoliberal, neoconservative and patriarchal discourses that subjugate, limit and marginalise individuals and communities who do not fit the dominant, normative personage’.

Not surprisingly, the authors cite the French philosopher Michael Foucault to support their argument that in Western, capitalist societies how people self-identify and interact is driven by power relationships where those defined as the other are always oppressed and marginalised.

Roger Scruton in Culture Counts criticises this Foucauldian argument for suggesting ‘the traditional views of man, of the family, of sexual relations and sexual morality, have no authority beyond the power which upholds them’. Those championing Foucault argue when it comes to beliefs ‘there is no intrinsic validity of truth’ as what people feel and think are social constructs that have to be deconstructed and critiqued.

As well as contradicting human biology, radical gender and sexuality theory denies the word of God. As argued by Pope Benedict, ‘The words of the creation account: ‘male and female he created them’ (Gen 1-27) no longer apply.’

Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia also criticises radical gender theory arguing ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated’ and to ‘attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality’ is to be guilty of ‘trying to replace the Creator’.

Proven by the example of the Brisbane Christian Citipointe, where the school was attacked and the principal pressured to resign for arguing, ‘God created human beings as biological males (boys) or biological females (girls),’ the power and dominance of radical gender and sexuality theory should never be underestimated.

Australian schools, especially government schools, are awash with neo-Marxist-inspired gender fluidity programs. One example is a recent discussion paper informing a review of the government guidelines for kindergartens and pre-schools that mandates teachers force radical gender theory on young, impressionable minds.

The discussion paper argues kindergarten children ‘have multiple and changing identities’ and, as a result, they must be taught about ‘identity formation that encompass gender identity and gender expression (with a non-binary dichotomy) and family diversity’. Concepts most adults find difficult to understand, much less 7 to 10-year-old children.

A second example is the internet Kids Helpline which also promotes radical gender theory. Instead of accepting gender and sexuality are biologically determined the Kids Helpline argues, ‘Sexuality is about how you see and express yourself sexually – like who you have a crush on, who you want to go out with, and who you want to have sexual experiences with.’

While gender fluidity programs like Safe Schools, where children are taught boys can be girls and girls can be boys, are justified as anti-bullying and a way to ensure LGBTIQ+ students are not discriminated against, the reality is such programs are Marxist-inspired and directed at radically reshaping Western society, the family, and how individuals define themselves and relate to others.

As admitted by Roz Ward, one of the founders of the Safe Schools gender and sexuality program, ‘Safe Schools Coalition is about supporting gender and sexual diversity, not about stopping bullying.’ Ward also argues ‘only Marxism provides the theory and practice of genuine human liberation’.

Parents are their children’s first educators and moral guardians and international covenants and agreements protect their right to ensure schools do not indoctrinate their children with ideas and beliefs contrary to what they hold to be true.

What is occurring across Australian state and territory schools, whether kindergarten, pre-school, or primary and secondary, is a direct attack on parent’s rights and a calculated campaign by cultural Marxists to force their ideology on young minds and destroy the family and a Christian view of sexuality and gender. It must be stopped.


Home buybacks part of Qld floods package

Rocklea residents will be hoping that it actually happens. Floods are often financially disastrous without help

Up to 500 Queenslanders hit by the southeast floods will be able to access a home buyback scheme under a new support package released by the state.

The government has asked the Commonwealth for joint funding support for the $771 million package under national disaster recovery arrangements, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said on Saturday.

A key element of the package is giving affected Queenslanders the option to retrofit, raise or sell back their flood affected homes.

It includes $275 million to retrofit 5500 homes, $100 million to elevate 1000 homes and a $350 million residential buyback program.

"This is the biggest potential we've ever had available to us. We anticipate that will allow us to buy back 500 properties if people want to," Mr Miles told reporters.

Guidelines to determine which residents can access specific options still needs to be finalised.




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