A Letter to Parents on NSW Teachers’ Strike

The following is a letter to parents from the NSW Teachers’ Federation on the forthcoming strike by teachers.

Every day across NSW, children are missing out because of a lack of teachers. It’s an unacceptable situation affecting public and private schools. Children can’t put their education on hold and wait for this to be fixed. They have a right to be taught by a fully qualified teacher today and every day. This is why teachers and principals have made the difficult decision to go on strike on Wednesday, May 4.

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Critical Pedagogy in the Age of Neoliberalism

The experience of the 21st century in education is dominated by the culture and language of neoliberalism. Since the mainstreaming of neoliberal values in the 1980s, a dominance of hyper-individualism, meritocracy, competition and conservative, nationalist values has been normalised in the day-to-day practices and culture of the British education systems (Angus, 2015). This has created a culture in which social problems have been reimagined as individual problems; in which the ‘tyranny of merit’ (Sandel, 2020) paints those who do not ‘achieve’ – where achievement is measured in purely quantitative terms – as disposable and wholly to blame for their own failures.

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Calwell High School: Whose Failure?

Calwell High School has featured in a number of articles in the Canberra Times, the words of which were repeated by other news outlets. Suffice to say, their editorial is a disservice to all, teachers and students foremost, and in equal measure, families, parents, and carers, and finally all of us as a community. Most of all the shoddy reporting has dumped widespread social upheaval onto the back of one school.

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NSW Public Education Deals With Student Behaviour – Déjà vu All Over Again

The release of the new Student Behaviour Strategy again demonstrates the disconnect between public schools, where teaching takes place and the accepted authorities the education bureaucracy and academia.  This current ‘policy’ is one of successive attempts to deal with severely disruptive student behaviour in schools.  Historically all have failed and, despite the best intentions nothing in this proposal is new and there is no reason to believe the outcome of this attempt will be any different. 

This new strategy is contained in another glossy document complete with the usual motherhood statements asserting the Department’s commitment to providing support for these damaged children and promises of increased resources.  It even has the obligatory illustration of the complex interactions of the promises as shown below.  Hanging a collection of these diagrams from all previous policies would have as much impact on changing the plight of these students as constructing a ‘dream-catcher’ of these to hang over their beds.  In this latest model, shown below the ten strategies at the core of the policy are not in dispute, they are motherhood statements but any experienced teacher who deals with the problems dysfunctional behaviour creates finds these pretty pictures quite hurtful, they are denied the resources to implement them.  Of course, no one can deny the importance of the ten strategies, they are stating the obvious but these promises are never kept.

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Misguided policies directly causing remote Indigenous students’ poor school attendance and literacy, and rising incarceration rates

The following is a media reslease from the Australian Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the Northern Territory. It summaries a submission to the Inquiry on Adult Literacy conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training.

Misguided Commonwealth and NT Government policies are directly contributing to remote Indigenous students’ falling school attendance and abysmal literacy levels, according to two scathing submissions by a teachers’ organisation to a current federal Parliamentary Inquiry.

“Applying the same education policies to students who are culturally and linguistically different doesn’t result in equity,” said Fran Murray, the ATESOL NT representative to the Australian Council of TESOL Associations. “In fact, it’s widening the gap, not closing it.”

The submissions explain why Closing the Gap targets for Indigenous education are increasingly out of reach: remote schools are in crisis. Meanwhile, the number of Indigenous young people in NT prisons has doubled in the past year.

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What it Means to be a Teacher

This article is reprinted from Larry Cuban’s blog on School Reform and Classroom Practice. Larry is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. It is an abridged version of a speech to graduates and their families in June 2001. It is just as pertinent today as in 2001.

I have thought a lot about the past 46 years I have spent in education. I have taught in urban high schools and Stanford for many years [in addition to being an administrator]. It is teaching – not administration or scholarship [however] – that has defined me as an adult….

Teaching has permitted me to be a lover of ideas, a performer, a lifelong learner, a historian, a writer, and a friend to former students and colleagues. For these reasons and because at this moment in our nation’s history teachers have moved to the top of the nation’s school reform agenda, I want to comment today on both the exhilarating and troubling aspects of teaching….

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Super-school Chaos

There needs to be a serious conversation about the direction being taken by state governments in Australia to close schools and merge into large single super schools. Parents need to band together and say enough is enough!

Every bad outcome you have imagined for your school merger of up to four schools will come true. You will see an increase and more violent bullying assaults occurring; you will see more wagging, you will have a lowering of expected and academic standards; your children will become numbers and get lost in poor administration; they will be offered more choices that can’t be delivered; many will not form lasting relationships with their teachers and peers; you will be ignored if you try and advocate for your child; students with special needs will be worse off; low-socioeconomic and disadvantaged students will fall through the cracks along with previously above average students; they will be treated like robots encouraged to perform to a level playing field and the ‘so-called’ new well-being programs will fail with teachers unable to cope with the problems the new systems create.

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Sweden: A Failure in Market-Based Education

Sweden is often seen as part of a homogeneous Nordic sphere; small cold countries with midnight sun, fair-skinned population, small social democratic idylls with equal free healthcare, good schools and a high standard of living. The reality is never as simple as our prejudices and one of the things that now characterizes Sweden is that we in important areas of society have left the common Nordic tradition of a cohesive school.

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Funding, Enrolments and Staffing in NSW Public Schools

The following is a summary of a submission to the Independent Inquiry on the Teaching Profession in NSW Public Schools. The full submission can be downloaded below.

The NSW public education system has undergone a huge expansion in bureaucracy since 2003. There was a massive increase in administrative staff in schools and in central and regional offices that is many times greater than the increase in students. Yet, there was only a very small increase in inflation-adjusted funding per student despite a large increase in disadvantaged students. Expanding the bureaucracy was prioritised over funding classroom learning and support. As one former principal told Save Our Schools, it reflects an “increase in roles orchestrating compliance not teaching, learning and curriculum”.

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