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WA’s peak parent group has slammed a plan to test pre-primary students next year as a waste of money, saying it’s “ridiculous” to assess children as young as four.

As part of its strategy to improve literacy and numeracy across WA, the Education Department will start to roll out the 30-minute assessments in the first term in public schools. The Sunday Times can reveal some of the sample questions likely to be used in the so-called “on entry assessments”, which are aimed at picking up early problems.

Pre-primary students in public schools will be asked to: Speak about a certain topic, such as friends or favourite games, for two to three minutes. Estimate how many teddy bears are in a cup. Put objects, from smallest to tallest, in order. Count backwards. Match dots with a number on a page.

WA Council of State School Organisations president Rob Fry attacked the $2 million plan, saying he expected parents to be angered by the “ineffective” results.

“I just find this truly remarkable when you’re dealing with children of such a young age,” he said.

“If you get an exceptionally shy child, you’re asking a four-year-old to talk on a subject for two minutes and some of them won’t want to say anything at that age. Does that mean they’ve got a literacy problem? No, they might be shy.

“It’s ineffective and you are going to get such diverse responses between a child coming from an indigenous community to a child living in a Perth suburb with a highly socially active family.”

School Support Programs executive director David Axworthy said the Education Department based its tests on the Victorian model because it was the “best tool to meet the needs of WA children”. It would also enable shared resources between the states.

“It will leave WA well placed for the introduction of the national curriculum when it is produced in 2011,” he said.

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen supported the plan because it would allow teachers to set benchmarks and adapt their programs to suit children’s needs.

Education Minister Liz Constable said children at risk of falling behind would be identified earlier, allowing urgent action to be taken.

Under the plan, students in 50 schools will be tested in term one before all public schools will have access to the assessments in the final term. From 2011, each pre-primary student will be tested at the start of the year.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Parents of children at private WA schools should brace for fee rises up to four times the inflation rate next year, with new figures showing education costs leapt 37.5 per cent in the past five years.

Elite colleges said it was too early to set next year’s fees but they predicted rises between 5 and 8 per cent.

Principals said big pay rises to State schoolteachers last year in a three-year agreement were driving up fees at private schools because they competed for staff.

Scotch College principal Andrew Syme said fees at private schools had to go up at least 6 per cent to keep pace with teachers’ pay rises before any improvements in service.

Anglican Schools Commission chief executive Peter Laurence said fee rises at low-fee church schools would be similar to last year’s increases of between 6 and 9 per cent.

“Teachers’ pay is the number one driver that’s going to keep increases higher than they used to be a few years ago,” he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show education costs in Perth, comprising school fees and other miscellaneous costs, have jumped 37.5 per cent since 2004 – the biggest increase registered by any capital city. Canberra had the second biggest leap, with 29.4 per cent.

The rise was driven by a 55.9 per cent lift in fees associated with pre-schools and primary schools. By contrast, pre-school and primary school education costs in Sydney rose almost 23 per cent.

Pre-school and primary school fees have grown faster than the average wage of West Australians which, between 2004 and today, jumped 44 per cent – the biggest rise of any capital city.

The State Government has held down public primary school fees so the increase is mainly for private schools.

A private education in WA costs between $3000 a year for Year 12 tuition at low-fee Catholic schools and $17,000 a year at high-fee independent schools. Many private schools in Sydney and Melbourne charge more than $20,000 a year.

Association of Independent Schools of WA executive director Valerie Gould said the recent teacher pay rises and rising construction costs in the building boom two years ago may have been the big contributors to increased education costs.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolaou said the fact fees were going up so much in the private sector reflected poorly on the public school sector.

He said people were voting with their feet and going to the private sector even while fees were rising, which said something about what parents thought of Government schools.

WA Secondary School Executives Association president Rob Nairn said students in Years 8 to 10 could get an education at a State school for a voluntary contribution of $235 a year. Costs were higher in Years 11 and 12 but much less than in private schools.

Source  :   www.thewest.com.au

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A SET of ancient Aboriginal remains found during a clearout of a house in northern England are soon to be returned to Australia.
Workers stumbled across the two femurs, three skulls and an assortment of other bones while sorting through the Cheshire home of university professor John Kempster, a former Aboriginal Rights Association president, after he moved to New Zealand in 2008.

He had instructed auction house Andrew, Hilditch and Son to clear out his home and sell anything they thought valuable.

“After the removalists finished the clear-out they found a small wooden crate and jokingly said to me they were the dog’s bones in there,” auctioneer Tom Andrew said.

“I said ‘Let’s open it and see what’s inside’ and we found three skulls and one or two other pieces.

“I also found in another briefcase two femurs wrapped in newspaper.”

Not realising that Britain had an agreement with Australia to return indigenous remains, the bones and a selection of weapons given to Prof Kempster while he lived in South Australia in the early 1960s were put up for auction in November 2008.

But after about 20 minutes of frantic bidding, the remains were dramatically pulled from sale after the Australian High Commission telephoned to stop the auction.

A scientist was sent to examine the bones, which were confirmed as being of Australian indigenous origin.

They will be handed over on Thursday to two Ngarrindjeri elders who flew from South Australia to London to collect 16 individual remains held by three museums and the auction house.

Mr Andrew said he was happy to know the remains would soon be on their way to the National Museum of Australia, which will try to determine which indigenous community they came from.

“I’ll certainly be on the look out for more,” he said. “I think there are more around than we think.”

The Liverpool museum has two more sets of remains it plans to return to Australia at a later date.

Further south, the Brighton & Hove City Council has agreed to return two skulls and two femurs for further study in Australia.

However, it is still debating whether to give back a skull modified to be used as a water vessel and which has been stored at the museum since 1925.

www.news.com.au

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