The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has agreed on a common framework for reform of education. At its meeting on 26 March 2008 COAG endorsed a comprehensive set of the aspirations, outcomes, progress measures and future policy directions in the key areas of early childhood, schooling and skills, and workforce development. COAG has also agreed to four additional high-level targets that it will use to measure the achievement of reform in Indigenous educational attainment and the vocational education and training sector. COAG has committed to several key strategies to strengthen early childhood education and care, roll out the computers in schools and the trade training centres programs, and provide additional training places under Skilling Australia. As an early priority, COAG has agreed to the development of a national partnership agreement focused on the particular educational needs of low SES school communities. This partnership will form part of the national education funding agreement to be introduced at the beginning of 2009. See COAG communique 26 March 2008 and media release by Australian Government Minister for Education, Julia Gillard. See also article in The Age 28 March 2008 and earlier report in The Australian 26 March 2008.
Victoria’s Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, has announced additional support for newly arrived refugee students, at the launch of a new resource, Strengthening Outcomes – Refugee Students in Government Schools. New measures to support refugee children include a pilot homework program, more transition programs and purpose-built relocatables to provide more English language classes. There will also be 100 tertiary scholarships for teachers to increase the number of fully-qualified ESL teachers in government schools. See Minister's media release 20 March 2008.
Victoria's Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, Maxine Morand, has launched Wise Choices: Safe Children, a DVD and fact sheet offering practical child safety tips and advice for parents from non-English speaking backgrounds. The materials, produced by the Child Safety Commissioner, are available in English, Vietnamese, Dinka, Farsi, Somali, Arabic, Mandarin and Cantonese. Copies of the DVD and fact sheets will be distributed to every child attending 15 English language schools and programs across Melbourne and rural and regional Victoria. See Minister's media release 13 March 2008.
The University of Southern Queensland has flagged cuts to academic positions in computing, maths and statistics. Meanwhile maths and statistics staff at the University of New England have expressed concerns about staffing. See report in The Australian 26 March 2008.
An online game which aims to prevent mental health problems is soon to be distributed to schools. Teachers who are members of the Reach Out! Teachers' Network will receive a kit containing the Reach Out! Central game, which helps to equip young people with the skills to confront real life problems. The network is free to join and open to all teachers. The game can be accessed from the Reach Out! website.
The ACT Government has launched a code of conduct for public schools to deal with incidents of violence and inappropriate behaviour. See media release by ACT Minister for Education and Training, Andrew Barr, and report from ABC News, both 26 March 2008.
David Zyngier, a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy in the faculty of education at Monash University, has criticised a paper by economists Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan, who argue that the productivity of schools and their teachers has declined sharply between 1964 and 2003. See article in The Australian 19 March 2008.
Literature academic Patrick Buckridge has urged more teaching of poetry in schools. He argues that the decline in poetry teaching 'may have accelerated in the last 10 years, as critical literacy has tightened its deadly grip on the English curriculum'. See his opinion piece on ABC News 21 March 2008
The Australian Government Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, has proposed that secondary students be allowed to undertake work experience at defence bases. However, concerns have been raised about the proposal. See report on ABC News 27 March 2008.