December 2011

This clipping is from the December 31 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald Digital Edition. To subscribe for $4.50 a week, visit

Faulty system in class of its own
SMH – Saturday, 31 Dec 2011 – Page 31

With government funding both public and private schools, new arrangements must be made for fairer results.

It was a deep, bitter and long sectarian divide that gave Australia its dual system of schools.

Over the past halfcentury , Australia has been conducting a radical experiment with schools funding. This has resulted in changes to schooling in Australia that now requires more than financial tinkering to fix.

This experiment has changed the student profile in our public schools and left them to take on the ‘‘ heavy lifting’’ , but without the commensurate share of resources, particularly for the schools most affected.

Along with their other admission criteria, non-government schools have been able to continue charging and setting the level of their private fees, and to combine this income with high levels of public funding driven by enrolments. This has increased the number and range of private school providers, generally religious.

The focus of school funding policy since the middle of the last century has largely been on arrangements for the public financing of disparate types of nongovernment school. For public schools, it has been concerned largely with what can only be called dabbling with the financing of the schools serving the least advantaged students. These schools have become progressively concentrated in the public sector.

It is high time to reprise the original rationale for public funding of schooling and to consider the role of government in providing it from here on.

When the former Australian colonies moved towards a democratic system of government in the late 19th century, schools were run mainly by churches and other private agencies, assisted by various forms of public funding. These arrangements were unequal to the task of delivering the mass education required for democratic citizenship.

Like the Mother Country itself (and other emerging democracies), the Australian colonies introduced systems of compulsory public schooling. By the middle of the 20th century, the case for public investment in compulsory schooling was further strengthened by recognition that economic growth was fuelled by investment in human as well as physical capital.

In funding public education, the critical resource governments were providing was teachers. Teaching remains the key cost driver in schooling . Most other countries have put their public investment into public school systems that are universally free or affordable. Some of these public systems include schools catering for religious or other cultural differences . Australia, by contrast, went in very different directions, with a heavy public investment in schools outside the public sector.

The main reason for Australia’s relatively large private school sector lies in the past willingness of the Catholic population to generate religious teachers, who donated their services to staff the religion’s own nongovernment schools for more than a century. The rapid evaporation of this low-cost teaching force for Catholic schools provided the educational rationale for state aid.

Though not widely known or acknowledged, a key feature of changes to Australia’s school funding policy has been the progressive transfer of the salaries of teachers in non-government schools to the public purse. Largely bankrolled by the federal government, this has been accompanied by a shift in the balance of enrolments from the public to the private school sector.

The total salary bill for nongovernment schools in Australia in 2009 was $7 billion. In the same year, their total recurrent grants from federal and state/territory governments was about $9 billion, well in excess of this salary bill.

What has our radical experiment achieved? For a start, we have managed to produce a school system that sits oddly with our own image of our national character and temperament.

It was a deep, bitter and long sectarian divide that gave Australia its dual system of public and private (mainly Catholic) schools. But the experience of the past half-century has produced a more complex mix.

Human beings are herd animals. In this country, we seem to have an instinct to buy a house in the best location we can afford, partly in order to live among those who can afford to do the same. The same instinct applies when it comes to schooling. The recent HSC results in NSW demonstrate the tendency for parents of high socio-economic status to congregate their children in schools, public and private.

What we have learnt is that it does not take gross intolerance or sectarianism to produce a stratified, hybrid school system where wealth, class and cultural (including religious ) differences are overlaid on underlying neighbourhood and geographical inequalities.

All that is needed is for parents to exercise what may be mild preferences and for schools to have a differential capacity to select their student intake.

This capacity may be based on schools’ overt or covert selection by academic ability, or their real or perceived status in a highly uneven market ; and for one set of schools only, the public schools, to carry the legal obligations that are necessary to ensure universal access to schooling.

Much of this sifting and sorting will happen whatever governments do. The question is whether governments should use public funding to fuel these tendencies or to temper them.

The evidence from across the world is that putting public effort and investment into producing highly stratified systems does little to improve outcomes, and possibly depresses them overall. However much we sift and sort our children and transport them across towns and cities to schools, we still have to teach them all. And the countries that produce the best educational outcomes are those that concentrate on this reality.

The Australian experience has shown that, apart from the handful that serves students from wealthy backgrounds, schools are only viable in this country if their teaching costs are fully covered by government . And this creates a basis for consensus around future funding arrangements that recognise the mutual interest across the sectors in the supply and quality of teachers for all these schools.

The past decades have also shed light on the economics of different forms of schooling.

If we consider the public, Catholic systemic and independent sectors from the point of view of their total per-student expenditure and pupilteacher ratios, then the Catholic systemic schools look as if they are the most efficient. Like their public counterparts , they can achieve economies of scale through their systemic operation when compared with the standalone , independent schools.

But their apparent efficiency rests largely on the fact that they bear none of the obligations of the public system for overall demographic planning other than to suit their own financial considerations; and that they select their students from among families that can meet private fees out of their after-tax incomes. They now largely leave the costs of educating those growing up in the lowest income families – once over-represented in Catholic schools – to the public system.

While ‘‘ autonomy’ ’ has become the latest education policy buzzword , the independent school sector has been quick to argue that this non-systemic status constitutes, in itself, a disadvantage for which such schools now need to be compensated with public funding if they are to meet any obligation to enrol students with disabilities. They even argue that this need applies even for those independent schools that have grossly superior resource levels to most other schools.

The need for new public funding arrangements to enable provision of high quality and equitable schooling was recognised by the incoming Rudd government as a matter of national interest.

In April last year, the then minister for education, Julia Gillard, announced a review of the national school funding arrangements, to conclude in 2011.

The review panel, headed by David Gonski, handed its final report to the government on December 20. It will be released early in the 2012 school year.

Our national experiment with schools funding has demonstrated that public schools are essential to the operation of non-government schools as they are constituted in this country.

The Minister for School Education , Peter Garrett, has set the stage for new arrangements by formally acknowledging that public schools are the ‘‘ backbone of our education system’’ . He has also acknowledged the right of parents to choose nongovernment schools for their children . Public funding for these is now part of the fabric of schooling in Australia.

There are now many parents and communities that seek to express, through various forms of nongovernment schooling, what they see as different or special about themselves and their children.

We look to the Gonski review to provide governments with advice on how they can continue to do so without undermining the operation of a high quality public school system open to all, the provision for students’ common educational needs and entitlements, or the equality of educational opportunity that is a hallmark of democracy.

We also look to the Gonski review for advice on the distribution of public funds among schools that reflects differences in the teaching workload that they carry, largely reflecting differences in their student intake and in the communities they serve.

It is to be hoped that the Gonski review will point out to the federal government in particular the inadequacy of funding the most hardpressed schools though a plethora of ‘‘ special’ ’ programs that come and go; and the need for greater investment on a sustained and predictable basis to create the conditions conducive to successful schooling.

If moral arguments for increased funding are not enough, then it needs also to be recognised that the under-resourcing of the schools facing the greatest challenges is already undermining Australia’s productivity.

Jim McMorrow and Lyndsay

Connors formerly held senior

policy posts at federal and state


Copyright © 2011 The Sydney Morning Herald

Schools head hails ‘magic’ of learning via smartphone

Traditional textbooks will disappear in the age of electronic devices, says Girls Schools’ chief

Richard Garner

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The death of classroom textbooks is predicted today by the new leader of the country’s top girls’ schools. In future, pupils will access texts through smartphones and e-readers, Louise Robinson, the incoming president of the Girls’ Schools Association, said in her first interview.

“Taking on board the fact that textbooks will be on your mobile, whatever shape, name or type of fruit your mobile relates to… anywhere, any time, any place – it’s a huge possibility,” she said. Pupils could learn more from the “magic” of using smartphones and tablets than from simply reading a book, she argued.

In addition, they can access information in advance of lessons. “If you say: ‘The next lesson is going to be on the skeleton’, what you can see online now in terms of the skeleton and where you can go with it makes children have far more control over their learning that they ever could do before. One click and you’re into another world,” she added.

However, children would have to be taught how to access information properly online, she cautioned. “You and I wouldn’t send a child into a library and say ‘Go and have a look’,” Mrs Robinson said. “You’d actually help them, show them where the information is to access and which bits they should be looking at for their age and stage.”

She continued: “When you see a young child on their tablet, or internet, the magic they are seeing in that information, the way that they absorb it and reflect it back at you is just wonderful.”

Mrs Robinson, who is head of Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Crosby, Liverpool, added: “I can understand the concept that there’s the real smell of a very old book – I’m not going to throw them on the bonfire at all. I do believe that there will be a time and a place for going to look at an old book – but when you’re doing class reading, why buy the hard copy?”

Seemingly unafraid of causing controversy in her new position, Mrs Robinson said she thought the AS-level exam would become increasingly irrelevant if students were able to apply to university after they had received their A-level results. Proposals to move towards applying post-results were outlined by UCAS earlier this year. The new system could be in force as early as 2016.

Mrs Robinson said that at present universities often scrutinise AS-level results because they are the only hard information available post-GCSE of a student’s ability. “From a student’s point of view, AS-levels are good in terms of a break in learning, and for finding out halfway through whether they’re on target,” she said.

“What I’m not so clear on is why universities are placing so much credibility on AS results. We are spending an awful lot of time making sure they do as well as possible in those exams.

“If we are going to move to post-qualification applications, it would take away not quite the need but the emphasis on AS-level results, and it would mean that we wouldn’t have to spend so much time preparing for them,” she added.

The Girls’ Schools Association represents most of the country’s leading independent girls’ schools.

via Schools head hails ‘magic’ of learning via smartphone.

Textbooks ‘being replaced by smartphones and e-readers’

(Sent from Flipboard)

10 tips to keeping your data safe | unsane

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This worked an absolute treat: the best turkey I have ever cooked or tasted (sorry, Mum).


the best roast turkey christmas or any time | Jamie Oliver Recipes (UK).

The Banned List: Top 100 | John Rentoul | Independent Eagle Eye – Breaking views from Independent commentators – Blogs.

Don’t normally quote in full, but this list is worth preserving for teaching writing!

1. It’s the economy, stupid.

2. A week is a long time in politics. Or variants thereof, such as, “If a week is a long time in politics then a month seems an eternity.”

3. What part of x don’t you understand? Although this one seems to have nearly died out already.

4. Way beyond, or way more.

5. Any time soon.

6. “Events, dear boy, events.” (Except as the name of anexcellent political blog, currently in abeyance.)

7. Learning curve.

8. Raising awareness.

9. Celebrating diversity.

10. In any way, shape or form.

11. Inclusive.

12. Community, especially a vibrant one.

13. Hearts and minds.

14. Celebrity.

15. Makeover.

16. Lifestyle.

17. Going forward.

18. A forward policy.

19. A big ask.

20. At this moment in time.

21. Not fit for purpose.

22. Hard-working families.

23. Apologies for lack of postings.

24. Black hole (in a financial context).

25. The elephant in the room.

26. Perfect storm.

27. Seal the deal.

28. A good election to lose.

29. Game-changer.

30. Beginning an article with “So”.

31. IMO, IMHO, LOL, ROFL and so on. I mean, whose opinion is it going to be? Genuinely witty abbreviations, however, are permitted, for example, QTWTAIN, YYSSW, IICRS (Questions to Which the Answer is No; Yeah, Yeah, Sure, Sure, Whatever; Iraq Inquiry Coverage Rebuttal Service).

32. Vibrant (when used to mean lots of non-English people).

33. Progressive.

34. Arguably, as in “arguably the most perfect village in the Siebenburgen” (Spectator, 24 July 2010).

35. Headlines beginning “Now”, as in “Now You Pay for Prison Parties.

36. We will take no lessons on x from y.

37. Beginning a report with “They came”.

38. Iconic.

39. “Action” as a verb.

40. Parameter.

41. The level of.

42. A sense of.

43. A series of.

44. The introduction of.

45. A package of. Especially measures.

46. A basket of.

47. A raft of.

48. A range of.

49. The prospect of.

50. (All) the hallmarks of.

51. “Leverage” as a verb.

52. U-turn as a verb.

53. Dislocate as a noun. Or disconnect.

54. Toilet, storyline or any other unsuitable noun as a verb.

55. Exponential or exponentially used to mean big or a lot.

56. Incredible or incredibly as intensifiers.

57. On a daily basis.

58. It’s in his/her/their DNA.

59. Let’s be clear.

60. At the end of the day.

61. Organic, to refer to anything unrelated to farming or to the chemical science that deals with carbon-based compounds.

62. “The truth is…” before the peddling of an opinion.

63. End of.

64. Any journey not describing travel from A to B.

65. A no-brainer.

66. Pot, kettle.

67. What’s not to like?

68. Max out (in relation to credit cards only).

69. He/she gets it. They get it. He/she/it just doesn’t get it.

70. “All the evidence tells us” to mean “I’ve read something about this somewhere that confirms my prejudices”.

71. Fairly unique.

72. Paradigm shift. Or anything to do with a paradigm.

73. Quantum leap, except to mean a very small change of fixed magnitude.

74. Step change.

75. Sea change.

76. Real people and the real world. In real time.

77. Coffee, the waking up and smelling thereof.

78. Ongoing.

79. Project, except in the construction industry.

80. “No longer.” (Following a loving description of The Way We Were.)

81. Agenda, except to describe a list of things to be discussed in a meeting.

82. Out of the box (especially thinking).

83. Kick the can down the road.

84. Psychodrama. (To describe any tense political relationship.)

85. Radar, to be on someone’s, or to be under the.

86. Name and shame.

87. Does what it says on the tin.

88. Stakeholder.

89. Deliverables.

90. Key (adjective). Especially keynote speech.

91. Enough already.

92. Who knew?

93. Epic fail.

94. See what I/he/she did there?

95. Not so much.

96. Beleaguered, except of a city, town or fort with turrets.

97. Rolling out, except carpet, wallpaper or logs.

98. Forward planning (until invention of time machine allowing other kinds).

99. “And yet, and yet …”

100. The suffix -gate added to any news theme supposedly embarrassing to a government.

The original Banned List was, of course, George Orwell’s in 1946: dying metaphors (“Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed”); verbal false limbs (“Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of”); pretentious diction (“Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilise, eliminate, liquidate”); and meaningless words (his examples included “class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality”).

And Orwell’s six rules hold good:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

It should also be noted that the Committee has decreed that some phrases are compulsory.

Very over the commercial Christmas: the media are absolutely determined to hijack the reason for the sease for their advertisers’ purposes.

POPE-AUDIENCE Dec-21-2011 (390 words) With photos. xxxi

Highlight religious meaning of Christmas, pope asks Christians

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Christians to highlight the real meaning, the religious meaning, of Christmas as they celebrate the holidays.

“Celebrate a truly Christian Christmas,” he said, one marked by “the joy of knowing that God is close and wants to walk with us on our journey through life.”

“Let us make sure that even in today’s society our Christmas greetings do not lose their profound religious meaning and the celebration is not absorbed by exterior aspects,” the pope said Dec. 21.

With about 5,000 pilgrims and visitors gathered for his weekly general audience Dec. 21, the pope said he knows people today sometimes find it hard to begin a relationship with God, who they cannot see, and to truly celebrate the birth of Jesus, an event that occurred 2,000 years ago.

Yet the Christmas liturgy proclaims, “Today a savior is born for us,” he said.

The liturgy’s use of “today,” he said, means that “today, right now, God offers us — me and each one of you — the possibility of knowing him and welcoming him as the shepherds of Bethlehem did. He is born into our lives, renews them and transforms them with his grace and his presence.”

Christmas and Easter are closely connected in the life of faith, he said. Christmas celebrates the fact that God entered into history to bring humanity back to God, while his death and resurrection celebrate the fulfillment of his mission to vanquish death and sin.

“On Christmas, we encounter the tenderness and love of God who bends down over our limits, our weaknesses, our sins, and lowers himself down to us,” the pope said. Christmas is “a prelude to his lowering himself at his passion, the culmination of the story of love between God and human beings, which passes through the manger at Bethlehem and the tomb in Jerusalem.”

Among those at the audience were U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and his classmates who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their ordinations to the priesthood Dec. 20, 1961, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Before the audience, Cardinal Levada and Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland, Ore., the cardinal’s classmate, visited the Nativity scene in the audience hall and greeted members of a mariachi band from the University of Queretaro, Mexico.

– – –

Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English will be posted online at:

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at:


via CNS STORY: Highlight religious meaning of Christmas, pope asks Christians.

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