The Educator Weekend Wrap: Closing the Gap, PISA 2016 and combating hoax bomb threats

Leading education news this week, the Government’s 2016 Closing the Gap report found that there has been no progress in raising the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, further highlights the issue of growing disadvantage in Australia. Stronger Smarter Institute CEO, Darren Godwell – who has extensive experience in business and Indigenous affairs – told The Educator that by January 2018 more than 100,000 Indigenous children would arrive in schools, many of which are unprepared to cope with such a massive influx of new students. “The leading edge of the Indigenous population bubble is for this year. They will arrive in schools in January 2018, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop or defer all those students to show up at those schools,” he said, commending Malcolm Turnbull’s vow to redouble efforts to improve Indigenous living standards and education. “The days of experimenting and hedging bets are over. [The Federal Government] now knows that is really needs to redouble its investments into what works,” Godwell said.

In other news, an alarming report by Learning First, an Australian educational research group, found that our teenage students are falling even further behind their counterparts in reading, mathematics and science according to the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test scores. Socio-economic status, teacher morale and early childhood education were found to be important factors in how well a 15-year-old performed. Students with teachers who had low expectations and did not support them were 25% more likely to be low performers, the OECD report said.

Finally, in response to the recent spate of hoax bomb threats, some principals are now considering upgrading their phone systems to record calls so they can identify those responsible for the threats. ACT Principals Association (ACTPA) president, Michael Hall, told The Age that while CCTV and security fences did well to ensure student safety, more was needed to address the type of threats encountered last week. “If the government thought tracking technology of some sort was available to put into phone systems then they would obviously recommend that,” said Hall. A spokesman for the education department said that using CCTV cameras on school grounds was “not current education directorate policy”, but they had been trialled at two high schools over the December break. Melbourne principal, Henry Grossek – whose school was the target of a hoax bomb threat – recently told The Educator his school’s phone system will now be upgraded so that bomb threat calls could be recorded. However, he added the decision would not be “bullet-proof protection” against future hoax calls. “Recording phone calls is not a bullet-proof protection against future hoax calls – and certainly not computer generated or automated hoax calls,” he said. “For live phone calls it will provide voice detection which may be of added assistance to the police when investigating the call. It also provides an accurate transcript of the call.”