The Educator Weekend Wrap: Top school refutes ‘church takeover’ claims, govt probes Safe Schools

Leading education news this week, The Scots College in Bellevue Hill, Sydney, rejected claims that its entire governing council has been dismissed, following a claim by Fairfax Media that the school’s ruling council had been sacked and taken over by the Presbyterian Church. In a statement, the general manager of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, Jeoffrey Falls, said: “to be clear, there are no plans to change the ownership or governance by the trustees or the operations of the college”. He added the Presbyterian Church “had always owned, governed and operated The Scots College”. Falls also denied the trustees decision was connected to disquiet over fee increases. “Regardless the fee increase for this year has been held to just 2.5% while the education CPI is 5.5%,” he said.

In other news, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week requested an investigation into the taxpayer-funded Safe Schools education program following concerns by some of his MPs that its teachings may be inappropriate for children. The program, which is run by Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA), is aimed at raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and/or intersex (LGBTI) school students and includes a strong anti-bullying focus. Coalition senator, Cory Bernardi, told the ABC that children were “being bullied and intimidated into complying with the radical program” and has called on the Government to axe its funding. “It's not about gender, it's not about sexuality. It makes everyone fall into line with a political agenda. Our schools should be places of learning, not indoctrination,” Bernardi said.

Finally, Ron Bamford, president of the Australian Principals Federation (APF) Western Australia branch, told The Educator that one “quick solution” to principals’ rising administrative workloads would be to create a CEO-like role to free up principals’ time. “This role would need adjustment in the various acts to give the CEO, under the direction of the principal, power to sign off on all things non educational,” Bamford said. For example, the CEO could be the worksite manager under Occupational, Health and Safety laws, as well as the person responsible for final sign off on budgets and accounts. The same could apply to the person responsible for risk management, Bamford said. Brett Webster, principal of Ormiston College in Brisbane, agrees that the job of leading a busy contemporary school should be “a shared responsibility”.