4 Feb. ’10 Article – Tweed Echo


Nick Williams letter to The Echo of January 28 was timely- printed on the same day that Ms. Julia Gillard spread her curious website in her ever-persistent desire to dismantle the public school system. Watch for her next trick. I am told that the poorer schools are red flagged so that we can blow raspberries at anyone associated with them, and, if our kids go there, shift them.

National Testing [NAPLAN] was introduced in a Ruddy-blush with obvious ‘malice-before-thought’. The introductionof fear-driven testing was encouraged by a lawyer from New York, who instructed Gillard not to brook any adverse comment from teachers or the public. Naomi Wolff calls this a ‘fascist shift’, but let’s not go there.

Then the normally timid, passive, pussy-footed teachers dared to vote unanimously on a professional [non-industrial] issue, prompted by their concern for kids and their curriculum. This alone is a miracle as it has never happened before in our history. Another miracle will be required for them to stick to their resolve. There will be pressure.

School timetables are about to be reorganised, but one can wager that she-who-must-be-obeyed will not tell schools which subjects to throw out and which to steal time from. This shedding of the non-testable  is easiest in a primary school where the three Rs – Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – can be conducted during the time presently given to languages other than English, music, art, physical education and other more vulnerable, non-quantifiable subjects.

If you want your children to like learning things, don’t set your hopes too high. Bang, crash methods are the quickest, even if the kids come to hate the subject. They’ll do better on the test. Schools have to try. Their reputation is at stake. Who wants a red flag?

It will be more difficult in secondary schools since the allocation of time is more finite. Something will need to be done to increase time allocations. After all, the more one practises a task, be it hitting golf balls, kicking goals or swimming faster, the better one gets.

This year will not be a good year for teaching. Controlled by a domineering Minister and abetted by folk who know little to nothing about what happens in school classrooms, she will try to have her way. The month of May, when the national tests are scheduled to take place, should be a tumultuous month. Will the teachers stick to their guns, or will they by controlled in some fashion that we may never learn about?

Gillard herself already has the Primary Principals Association where she wants them, when they should be leading the professional opposition. Some who are on her committee, are also members of the APPA, much like having a developer on a shire council. Principal’s professionalism is about to be truly tested.

As Nick Williams says, the league tables are fundamentally flawed. Prismatically rotten, no matter which direction one looks at them, they have already been used to demonise schools and some schools have felt extreme shame at having been red-flagged. “League tables neglect unique school achievements, inter alia, brilliant creative arts activities, innovative remedial learning and welfare systems, or a fantastic sport program’ as Nick says.

One can be sure that movements are being made to make sure that subject associations don’t say anything about their area of expertise. Claims for adequate time will happen if professionalism at all levels of schooling activities is revisited, but, again, don’t hold your breath.

Parents’ associations are upset. Save Our Schools, Canberra suggests “…the government has been totally hypocritical and intransigent on reporting school results. It made false promises. It has refused to acknowledge the harm done by unfair and simplistic comparisons between schools.

Parents should join with teachers in boycotting the national literacy and numeracy tests next May by withdrawing their students from the tests” [SOS media release, January 29]

Some hope.

Mary McKillop, where are you when we need you?