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News Opinion/Commentary

Costs for school supplies set to skyrocket in 2020

Laptop and school bag with notebooks and a pair of sneakers
Image: iStock

I’m not a parent, so the costs of school supplies don’t affect me personally.

However, after reading this article, I feel sympathy for those who have to prepare children for the upcoming school year.

According to the Herald Sun, YouGov’s Annual Back to School Report, figures suggest that the cost of school supplies have risen in every Australian state. Overall, the rises in costs have been steep.

Victoria has seen the biggest  prices increase. Parents are expected to pay A$608 on supplies; up from A$503 last year.

You read that right: A$608 PER CHILD. That’s a rise of A$105. A 20.9% spike!

Costs in other states are slightly lower, but are still all higher than last year.

In South Australia, costs have risen by A$167 (from A$401 to $568).

Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia have also seen rises in costs. However the costs haven’t been so steep.

Biggest expenses for parents/ caregivers

Most things that a child needs to start off the new year has gone up in price. New school uniforms, shoes and technology are some of the biggest expenses. Shoes and school bags have gone up more than 10% since last year.

Technology alone has cost many parents over A$200. However, one mother who took part in the study said that her child’s school provided the technology needed.

It’s worth noting that the article didn’t say anything about school fees.

Tips for saving

Parents and financial experts offered tips on how to cut costs of school expenses. These include:

  • Plan and budget well in advance
  • Keep an eye out for discounts
  • Don’t allow your children to pester you into buying the latest/ most expensive items or gadgets. If possible, it’s best to shop without them
  • Set rules for children
  • Shop around

Why is it so expensive?

If the YouGov data is representative of what many families spend on children’s education, why? Why does it need to be so expensive?

I wonder if the need for computers, tablets, etc should have been scrapped when Julia Gillard’s ‘Education Revolution’ fell through in 2013.

That’s the problem with the Australian Labor Party. They throw money around on certain causes (schools, National Disability Insurance Scheme, etc) only for the schemes to collapse.

Then, the Liberal National Party (for those not in Australia, they are the centre – right party), has a habit of cutting out money that Labor have put into social programs to the extreme. And this is the result.

And why are schools charging so much for uniforms? I thought the whole point of a uniform was to create equality among students. I thought the whole point was so students weren’t judged on their clothes and their socio – economic status. Now, how many families will struggle to afford uniforms?

 

Will we get to the point where education will be too expensive for some families? Will secondary education become a luxury? That’ll create a massive underclass. I think it’s despicable. Education is a right and should NEVER be treated as a privilege for the wealthy. All children deserve a decent education.

 

Are you concerned about costs of school supplies this year? What tips have you adopted to limit these?

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Opinion/Commentary

Study suggests teachers suffer poor mental health

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

In March, I wrote about high rates of bullying, harassment and violence principals face. In the post, I speculated that teachers were being treated badly at a similar rate.

That’s  not the only issue that many teachers face.

According to the SBS, a study conducted by Associate Professor of Psychology of Bond University, Peta Stapleton suggests that teachers suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression than the general population.

166 teachers took part in the study.

Of those studied, 18% of respondents met the criteria for a moderate or major depression diagnosis. Over half (62%), met the criteria for moderate anxiety. 19.75% fitted the criteria for severe anxiety.

 

What is causing this?

The causes of mental illness can be complicated. Genetics, brain chemistry, personality traits and trauma can all increase one’s vulnerability to mental disorders.

Major stress, conflict with staff and lack of work  – reward balance were major contributors to mental decline of participants.

The Feed did a segment exposing struggles teachers have dealing with students with learning and behavioural problems. Not only were they frequently exposed to aggressive outbursts, time was taken from other students. This showed a lack of professional support in dealing with children with learning or behavioural disorders.

Importance of specialised support staff

This is why teacher’s aides and specialised staff are so important. Schools need staff that know how to calm down children with ADHD or severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Teacher’s aides can often offer one – on – one support for children who need extra help.

Attitudes need to change

I expressed in the post linked above that I think the way teachers are snowed under by bureaucratic red tape and are vilified by the media is appalling.

I can’t believe the number of times I’ve heard teachers being accused of ‘indoctrinating’, or worse  ‘grooming’ students in the media. Frankly, I find it disgusting. Even if you don’t 100% agree with  the information children have been given, I think that sort of inflammatory language is uncalled for.

Teachers don’t ‘groom’ children, (most don’t anyway). They inform, challenge and inspire students. They equip them with knowledge and skills to enter and hopefully thrive in the world.

Teachers need to be able to assist all students achieve their full potential.

Most importantly, teachers, along with all professionals, should be able to work in a physically and mentally healthy environment. No one should have to endure physical and verbal abuse, nor should they have to feel under valued or bullied bt other staff.

 

Let an education revolution begin. No, not more theories, frameworks or paperwork. Not more tests that just stress everyone out. Let’s start an education revolution of nurture; for both students and staff.

Let’s start an expectation that teachers, principals and other staff will not have to put up with threats, intimidation and violence from anybody.

Let’s start treating teachers like human beings, They need care, rest and recognition, just like the rest of us. They deserve a much better work – reward balance than what they are getting.

And lastly, get off their backs. Most are trying to do the right thing by their students, regardless of how many students get Band Sixes in NAPLAN (National Assessment  Program for Literacy and Numeracy) and other tests/ exams.

 

 

Anyone who is suffering from any mental health issues/ concerns can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

 

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Opinion/Commentary

Violence towards principals shows an attitude overhaul is needed

Principal at desk with pen and paper
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Last Wednesday, the ABC reported a frightening spike of attacks on principals. Australian Catholic University revealed through their annual Australia Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing survey that 45% had experienced threats from parents and students. 37% claimed that they had been physically attacked. These figures from last year were higher than 2011 – 2017.

This is clearly unacceptable. No, that’s not strong enough. It’s appalling. And I don’t doubt that school teachers are receivers of abuse, too, probably at a similar rate. So, what is going on?

 

 

Discipline

Let me say from the outset that I don’t propose bringing back corporal punishment in schools. It was banned for a reason, probably the risk of teachers going overboard.  But principals have slowly begun to lose powers to expel or suspend disruptive or dangerous students.

Last year, the Victorian government introduced a process that allowed principals to plead their case on why a student should be expelled. This move was slammed as, yet more red tape.

 

Physical discipline is another issue. I’m not talking about corporal punishment, but rather, using physycality as a restraint. Earlier this year, principal of Manor Lakes P – 12 College, Steve Warner, was suspended after footage showed him dragging a nine – year student by the arm across the playground. To their credit, other staff defended Mr. Warner, arguing that he was trying to prevent the student from attacking a pregnant teacher. (The sister of the nine year – old deny that he hit or kicked anyone and said that he suffered anxiety and ADHD).

Will the fear of controversy prevent principals or teachers intervening in the future? Only time will tell. I could understand why they wouldn’t want to risk it.

Undermined at every turn

When I was growing up, I often heard how past generations were expected to respect authority, including teachers. Disrespect was not toledated.

It’s not only students that seem to have lost respect. As the ABC article pointed out, parents have, too. Also, the media has a lot to answer for. How many times have you heard commentators smearing teachers as ‘socialists’ and accusations of them ‘indoctrinating’ children as if they are some sort of sociopathic cult leaders?

 

Teachers are also expected to perform magic; keep on top of paper work and red tape, and make sure students in years Three, Five, Seven and Nine all top the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

 

Anti – bullying is another losing battle. I get that bullying rates shouldn’t be exaggerated, but they shouldn’t be ignored, either. Teachers doing their best to address bullying should be applauded. Teachers should not have been painted as predators when Safe Schools was implemented across multiple schools. Could people offer a different perspective? Sure. But teachers who want to support LGBTQ+ youth should not be unjustly smeared.

 

I’m not saying teachers are perfect. I’m not saying that improvements can’t be made to the education system. But I can’t see how we can expect students get the best results when teachers and principals are abused and their efforts denigrated by societty. We, or rather the next generations, will reap the results.

 

 

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Opinion/Commentary

Asexual Awareness Week: Is asexual awareness still needed?

Asexuality flag in shape of heart
Image: iSock

In June 2013, I started my blogging journey with Asexuality In A Sexual World. In it, I explored what it meant to be asexual and attitudes towards asexuality, particularly in the media.

While it’s not the first time asexuality was talked or written about (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network started up in 2001), it was still a fairly new in the mainstream. The media just started to talk about and interview people who were asexual, like Jo Qualmann. Some attitudes towards were just plain wrong, presumptuous and, frankly, quite narky. (I remember exploding on my blog after the segment on The Project).

 

Five years later, I feel asexuality has become more visible in the mainstream. More media outlets are doing interviews and publishing articles on asexuality and how it affects individuals. Just recently, women’s site, SheSaid published an article about a woman who identified as asexual and how it affected her religious upbringing and her marriage.

I think that’s something that has changed over the last five years; more media outlets are hearing from non – aromantic asexual people and the complexities that often arises. In the beginning, very few media outlets explored how asexuality affected romantic relationships.

 

I’ve also noticed that there are many LGBTQ+ spaces, at least online, are becoming more inclusive and welcoming to asexual/ ace – spec people. When I first started learning and writing about asexuality, I realised that there was a disconnect, even a bit of hostility between LGBTQ+ groups and asexual people. I remember doing a post in my first blog asking people’s opinion about asexual people being apart of the LGBTQ+ community, and I got somw comments from people not feeling like a part of the LGBTQ community (unless they were allies). Now, the acronym itself has often being extended to include asexual people; (LGBTQIA+).

Where to from here? 

I’m amazed and pleased at how asexuality visibility has come since 2013. However, there are two areas where I think there can be improvement: entertainment and education.

Needless to say, there is a lack of mainstream shows and movies that have asexual characters or where sexual/ romantic relationships aren’t at the forefront. Last year, Netflix’s Riverdale, let asexual fans down when Jughead came out as asexual, only to enter a straight relationship. A similar thing happened on Neighbours  earlier this year, when Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor) suggested that Jack (Andrew Morley) was asexual when he was resisting Paige Smith (Olympia Valance). Paige an$ Jack were mutually attracted to each other. Asexuality hasn’t been mentioned, let alone explored, since.

A more important area where I think asexuality has been absent is education, especially in Personal Development Health and Physical Education (PDHPE). Asexuality, or romantic orientation or relationships without sex was never spoken about when I was at school. The program, Safe Schools did have resources that mentioned asexuality and did distinguish romantic and sexual orientation, but, due to political controversies, the program has been scrapped by most of the States and Territories and the Federal Government has ended its fundin* of the program. I doubt whether the Coalition or Labor will replace it with another LGBTQ+ support program or curriculum anytime soon.

I think asexual awareness has come a long way and there are many individuals; ace and non – ace that should be commended.

 

 

 

Question to asexual/ ace – spec readers: where do ypu think improvements can be made? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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Opinion/Commentary Politics

Should private schools be able to discriminate against a staff member or student for being LGBTQ?

From top: Christian cross in circle, bottom right, school students taking exams, bottom left, LGBTQ pride flag
All images are from Canva

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been spooked and vowed not to extend anti – discrimination exemptions to allow private schools to expel and discriminate against LGBTQ+ students. Instead, he’s promised to scrap the existing exemptions written into laws, including New South Wales’ Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

I think there are two reasons why Prime Minister Morrison reacted the way he did. First, last week, Sydney Morning Herald wrote an article about leaked information regarding private schools being given permission to expel LGBTQ+ students. Morrison initially lashed out on The Bolt Report, slamming the article as “false” and a “smear”. Also, a by – election in Wentworth, New South Wales will happen on the 20th of October and the result will determine whether the Coalition can hold a majority in the House of Representatives (a.k.a the Upper House).

When I first heard about this in the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review, I was really worried. I don’t think children should be discriminated against for being LGBTQ+ and, as I’ve written before, I think that LGBTQ+ students should be supported by school staff openly. The self – hatred is hard enough without the fear of being expelled or the confirmation that teachers and other staff think you deserve to be treated differently because of it.

In the past, I have also written that teachers and other school staff should be educated on how to support LGBTQ+ students, and be aware of students who may be questioning their sexuality (or gender identity) or who are bi, pan or asexual. Teachers and other staff should be aware that sexuality may not be able to be labelled and that’s OK. This is why I initially supported Safe Schools and was disappointed when it was politicised and ultimately scrapped in New South Wales and will eventually be de-funded by most States and Territories across the country.

 

Next push: no discrimination against LGBTQ+ staff

According to The Guardian Australia, Labor has now vowed to push for protections for LGBTQ+ teachers by making it unlawful to fire or not employ a teacher or staff member due to their sexuality, gender identity or relationship status. While I’m not against the proposal, this is political opportunism. In fact, it was the Labor Government who sided with groups like the Australian Christian Lobby and made it legal for private schools to be able to sack or not hire staff because of one’s sexuality, gender identity or relationshi status clashing with a school’s religious values. The Coalition are split, with Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg welcoming moves to eliminate discrimination of LGBTQ+ teachers in private schools, while former Prime Minister and Member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, being against it, warning of “unintended consequences” (oh please, not this again).

It’s ideal that no one would be discriminated against. But, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the government stuck with the mantra of ‘religious freedom’ and continued to allow private schools to be exempt from anti – discrimination legislation in the name of religious freedom.

Even if the loopholes are closed, will that end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in education?

To me, the issues of discrimination and inclusion goes beyond mere employment. How will LGBTQ+ staff be treated by their employees and employers? Would a married lesbian, for example, be able to freely talk about her weekend away with her wife to other staff or would she be compelled to keep quiet about it, with her relationship being treated as a dirty little secret? How would it affect events like staff Christmas parties? Will she be able to bring her spouse and not be made to feel uncomfortable? All I’m saying, is that being paranoid that you’re not accepted is bad enough and it’s a fear that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I also think it’s a fear that can’t be merely legislated away.

Tell me what you think. Should a private school be able to discriminate against a staff member or student based on religious beliefs?

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Opinion/Commentary

Is going to TAFE instead of university still stigmatised?

Mortarboard graduation hat
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Some Queensland and New South Wales universities have come under fire for allowing teaching applicants with a dramatically low ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank).

ATAR scores of students that have been allegedly accepted into teaching courses has been as low as 17.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, exclaimed that these revelations set off  ‘alarm bells’.

Hearing and reading about this made me wonder whether paths other than university or being a mature – aged student (over twenty – one), is getting a bad rap again.

From the time I was in Year 10 in 2005, TAFE was becoming  seen as a reputable alternative to university. University pathways and using credits from TAFE was also being seen as a legitimate education and career path. Is that still the case, or are students pressured into thinking that university straight out of school is the only way?

 

I’ve got something to say to students who may have been told that message – university straight out of school is NOT the only way. TAFE is a reputable option. Being a mature – aged student isn’t aomething to be ashamed of. Working and travelling is another good path that many young people take. You don’t have to jump straight into a three or four year degree atraight away if your not ready. Allow yourself to grow, explore, gain real – world experience.

I went to TAFE a year after I left school and did Certificate II in Business Adminostration. I also did some volunteer work at a disability transport service in admin, at a preschool and a solicitors’ office (again, doing admin tasks). These experiences after school, among others (i.e. participating in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp in 2015), made me who I am today. All these experiences allowed me to grow as a person.

TAFE courses (when properly funded and maintained by the government, of course), offer valuable skills and knowledge in the relevant field. A fee years ago, I attempted to do the Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care and there was great information about the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and other frameworks that encompassed the National Quality Framework/ National Quality Standards. If I completed that course, I could have gotten credits if I wanted to do the Bachelor in Early Childhood Education. Could an aspiring future primary school teacher study early childhood first, gain experience and go in  as a mature age student? It’d help, wouldn’t it?

Also, what does this ATAR controversy say about teaching? Yes, it’s undervalued. Teachers often have to deal with so much, through both government expectations and parental demands. Too often, teachers perform tasks that are really beyond their role, like providing breakfast for students. Too many teachers are bombarded with bureaucratic red tape, so much so, that it can take away from the joy many teachers get in seeing students learn and grow.

 

To me this issue goes way beyond ATAR scores and what’s needed to become a teacher (either Bachelor or Master’s degree). I think what we really need is an overhaul in the way we view education. We need to value our teachers and allow them to perform the duties they are trained to do. Then, maybe some universities may require students have decent marks to be able to get in.

 

 

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Opinion/Commentary

David Leyonheljm comes under fire for offensive comments on early childhood educators

This week, New South Wales Senator David Leyonheljm came under fire for comments he made about early childhood educators on Ten’s “The Project” on Tuesday night. This came in light of the Coalition’s plan to put another 3 billion dollars into childcare subsidies for working families. Leyonheljm argues that the proposed packaged benefited the rich more than the poor. But what got people upset was his description of what childcare workers do. Leyonheljm argued:

Apart from the fact you want to make sure there aren’t any paedophiles involved, you have to have credentials these days to be a childcare worker. A lot of women, mostly women, used to look after kids in childcare centres. And then they brought in this national quality framework and they had to get a Certificate III in childcare in order to continue the job they were doing – you know, wiping noses and stopping kids from killing each other.

Despite the outrage, when appearing on Seven’s “Sunrise”, Leyonheljm dug his heels in and refused to apologise. One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson stood by Leyonheljm and said that he was “right”. Hanson then made the comparison between early childhood educators and her as a mother raising four children. 

 

Just to give a context of what Leyonheljm was talking about in regard to the National Quality Framework; back in 2009, the – then Labor Government overthrew the early childhood education system and introduced a National Quality Framework.  This, in part, mandated childcare (or early childhood educators), be at least Certificate III qualified to work in early childhood settings or be studying the course while working. This was to allegedly better the care and education outcomes of children who entered childcare services. The Early Years Learning Framework lists skills and awareness a child should be able to achieve by the time they start school. Some of the outcomes listed include: “Children have a strong sense of identity”, “Children are connected and contribute to their world” and “Children have a strong sense of well – being”. To read more about the Outcomes, read pages 21 – 44 here. The introduction of these new requirements have spiked up costs for childcare and neither the Coalition nor Labor have come up with a way to ease the burden on families -some of who are paying over $200 a day in fees in Sydney, with other capital cities not far behind. However, Labor have rejected the figures, according to the Herald Sun, saying the average cost was closer to $88.00 a day.

 

I have read comments on blogs from people who work in early childhood education who have said that they are snowed under with red tape and paper work. That could be looked at and it would be a benefit, I think to everybody, if that can be scaled back. But to say that they are just babysitters wiping kids noses and stopping them from killing each other is disrespectful, archaic and plain wrong. The vast majority of early childhood educators do so because they are passionate about the well – being and development of young children. They want to nurture children’s interests, culture and talents. They work tirelessly for the benefit of the children – sometimes even into the holidays. These people should be applauded, not given a smart alec comment about what they supposedly do – apparently by someone who has very little idea about what’s involved. These workers should be applauded for working along side parents (not taking their role!). to get the best social, emotional, physical and educational outcomes for the children they work with. They also work alongside specialists when children have physical or other disabilities or illnesses. They let local primary schools know if a child has any difficulties, either academically, behaviourally or in toilet training. They want nothing but the best  for the children they work with.

 

Again, the extent of the regulations in early childhood education and care can be debated and  modified to make life simpler for both educators and families. But denigrating what they do is not the way to debate or get anything done.