30 March 2010


There is good reason why public school teachers and parents are concerned about the side effects of misinformation of Federal Government MySchool website.

In the game of blaming the victims the Government has not only passed the accountability and transparency buck down the line to under-resourced schools in economically depressed areas. They have also opened up the potential danger of cyber bullying as well as media bullying of teachers and pupils in these schools.

The internet is both a useful tool and a dangerous master. Gillard and her advisers think they can stay safely out of reach on the sidelines of the information highway and avoid consultation or even contact with teachers and parents of public schools – until election time. Whereas in the 1970s the Labor party had the sense to ‘buy off’ public school teachers and parents with representatives on ‘consultative committees’ which legitimated the alienation of billions of dollars from the public to the sectarian system of education, in 2010, they are ignoring their existence.

Since Gillard and her advisers are slavishly following the mistakes of the UK it is important to note what is now happening there. The Guardian of 28 March reports that Teachers are under attack by disaffected parents on school networking sites.

DOGS quotes from the Guardian of 28 March.  School staff in the UK report that they are suffering harassment from malicious campaigns organised by both parents and pupils

Parents are using social networking sites to form online campaigns targeting school staff. Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) say they are alarmed at the detrimental effect the sites can have on those working in education, from incidents of harassment to pupils wanting to be their "friend" online.

"The government is expecting us to use more and more ICT," she said.

The UK and Asustralian governments are forgetting that the internet cannot replace human contact. It merely complicates it.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the AEU has continued the campaign against League Tables armed with facts and figures.

A survey of over 1000 principals conducted by the Australian Education Union (AEU) has revealed the damaging impact of school league tables on students, teachers and schools. The survey results strengthen the call for the Federal Government to take action to stop the publication of league tables.

Conducted between February 26 and March 11 this year, over 90 per cent of respondents were concerned that no action had been taken by the Federal Government to stop the creation and publication of league tables using the average scores from the My School website.

In schools that were identified in league tables published in newspapers earlier this year, the responses were particularly disturbing, with 51 per cent of principals reporting that their school's appearance on the list would have a negative impact on their students. For those schools listed in the bottom section of a league table, that figure increased to 78 per cent. When the potential impact on the reputation of schools was looked at, 58 per cent of principals reported that publication would have a negative impact, rising to 84 per cent of principals in schools listed at the bottom of a table.

The survey revealed that many schools at the bottom of league tables were experiencing teacher shortages. Some 79 per cent of the principals in these schools also believed that the school did not have the resources needed to deliver the educational programs needed by their students.

The survey also reported concerns about the My School website, with 88 per cent of principals of the view that it did not present an accurate picture of school performance.

In a result that is likely to cause concern to many parents, as well as to teachers, 80 per cent of principals believed that the public comparison of test scores on the My School website would lead to more teaching to the test to the detriment of other areas of the curriculum.

When announcing the results of the survey, Angelo Gavrielatos, President of the AEU, emphasised that the AEU (and the NSW Teachers Federation) supported the provision of accurate, valid and meaningful information to parents and the community. However, he went on to say: "Unless the Federal Government acts to stop the misuse of data and protect students from league tables, teachers cannot cooperate with the next round of national testing in May. We cannot stand by and watch students, teachers and school communities being damaged by crude league tables created only for profit."

Unfortunately, the Federal Government continues to ignore calls for action on league tables, although in a curious move last month the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) took action against a private company that sold league tables online. The 854-page publication, Australia School Ranking, was available for download for $97. It ranked the more than 8000 schools across Australia from "top" to "bottom", and then provided various lists of the top 100 and bottom 100 in various categories on a state-by-state basis.

Apparently taking the view that publication of league tables for profit was not acceptable, ACARA forced the company to stop selling the publication. It did this by threatening action under existing copyright and trade practices legislation.

If one sets aside the hypocrisy involved in not taking similar action against newspapers, the move does demonstrate that the Federal Government already has the power to stop the publication of league tables. If it exercised this power, there would be no need for teachers to deny data for future league tables by not cooperating with the national testing program in May.

The Australian Education Union will determine on April 12 what action will be undertaken across Australia's public schools if the Federal Government fails to prevent the publication of league tables.

Federation Representatives in all schools have been provided with a campaign kit aimed at ensuring all members are aware of and understand the issues of concern. The kit contains material to be used to inform and gain support from your school's P&C and the broader parent community, and a "Declaration of Teacher Opposition to School League Tables" for all members to sign.

The kit also has a 12-minute DVD that addresses many of the reasons why Federation is campaigning to stop league tables. It is suitable to be used in meetings with both teachers and parent/community groups.

DOGS urge teachers throughout Australia to support the AEU in its opposition to League Tables. Our public system needs a funneling back of the public resources going out to prop up a sectarian system of education, not testing procedures designed to name and shame individual schools.



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