School in limbo

I am a retired teacher living near The Forest High School and, like other residents, am concerned about a local development that typifies the state government’s disdain for our communities.

The Northern Beaches Council (recently amalgamated, still under the direction of the state government-appointed administrator) recently released a draft precinct structure plan for the Northern Beaches Hospital (next door to Forest High).

In this draft plan the current high school site has been set aside for the “Urban Core” of the hospital precinct. A new school is supposedly planned about a kilometre away. Local politicians (notably Brad Hazzard, state Liberal member for Wakehurst) have assured locals that the current school would not close until the new school was ready.

The government obviously hopes for a windfall from the school site being sold to developers for the Urban Core development.

My concern is that if the draft plan is gazetted unchanged there will be extraordinary pressure to commence work on the Urban Core.

It will take years to have the new school ready for occupation. One wonders whether Mr Hazzard’s was a “core” promise, and where the staff and students of The Forest High will spend the next few years.

Peter Dawes

Tokenistic training

Child protection is a very important issue. I am concerned that the Department does not take it seriously. This opinion is based on the poor quality of the compulsory online course that teachers must complete, which I found tokenistic and patronising.

I had to complete scenarios purporting to be based on real situations but none of them am I likely to find myself in: I am not and never will be either a primary teacher or a high school principal.

At a time when teachers are constantly under pressure to develop programs catering for very diverse groups of learners it should not be beyond the capability of the Department to provide suitable and relevant scenarios for high school teachers as well as primary school teachers, for classroom teachers at different levels and in different contexts as well as teachers in supervisory roles.

Showing a complete failure to understand statistics, the Department has provided two scenarios for teachers in supervisory roles but only one for classroom teachers.

And perhaps a little more realism and a little less saccharine?

Jennifer Killen
Inner West TA

Leave everyone in the class mix

Any educational system based on exclusion inevitably runs the risk of failing. Unfortunately, our country fosters a system based primarily on just that.

The criteria are many: income, religion, race, geography all promote some form of exclusion both intended and unintended. The very name, Selective Schools, provides just another example.

Much has been said about the impact of “hot-housing” and coaching on students in these schools. Less has been offered on the effect of taking students out of their own social mix and the consequent deleterious impact on the curriculum of local comprehensive schools.

Remove the higher-achieving, socially competent potential school leadership and local schools are the poorer. The curriculum is narrower, the student experience is shallower, and the cultural growth more limited.

A well-resourced, intelligently structured comprehensive school system can provide all the advantages of selectivity plus social cohesiveness, the promotion of understanding and tolerance within a community — and perhaps even save a bit on the government’s transport budget.

Gus Plater
Life Member

Loyalty program good

The idea of linking a loyalty program to the Teachers Federation membership is a great idea. I hope it will encourage more younger teachers who sometimes see the union as irrelevant to them, to join.

Congratulations on this initiative that is showing teachers that the business community acknowledges our efforts through offering us discounts on a range of products and services.

Rosalie Kyan
Hawkesbury TA

Don’t kill poetry

As a former manager of English for the NSW Department of Education and a passionate English teacher for more than 30 years, I welcome the continuing affirmation of the joy and power of the English language in the new Stage 6 English Syllabus (“HSC reforms pass the first test”, Sydney Morning Herald, February 22).

English teachers can continue to enthuse and inspire students about both classic and contemporary texts and teach the craft of writing. A closer examination of the new syllabus, however, causes me some alarm.

In the current syllabus, the text requirements make prose fiction and poetry mandatory.

In the new syllabus, at both Advanced and Standard level it is possible for students to complete their HSC year without studying a novel or poetry because of the altered arrangement of choices in the text requirements.

This problem was pointed out during the consultation period. I trust it is not too late to rectify it as fiction and poetry are the reflection of our humanity and culture and the pillars of our subject, English.

Deb McPherson

Great expectations, not

I was not jumping out of my skin with enthusiasm when I heard that Rob Stokes had been appointed NSW Minister for Education.

I cannot believe that an ex-Shore School student who says, “I’m no expert in matters of education” (Sydney Morning Herald, February 8) and who is calling on Catholic and Independent sectors to build new schools, is likely to enhance public education in NSW in any way.

Last year, the NSW Treasurer proudly announced a budget surplus of almost $4 billion. There is no better time to invest in government schools.

I was alarmed when Gladys Berejiklian became the third Premier of Sydney North since 2011. The likely consequences of an Education Minister for North Sydney should sound alarm bells for all public school teachers, especially in rural and regional NSW.

Brian Jeffrey

English as she is spoke

In those days correct spelling was an assumed, having been routinely driled since primary days.

Grammer was a part of the English exam in the Leaving Certificate and our teacher, affectionately known as Nobby, felt us boys needed extra practice so we began the day at 8:30 with a 30-minute session learning the rules of correct grammer.

Later. as a teacher of mathematics, I found the rigor of correct grammer and it’s rules somewhat helpful even if it ment being perhaps pedantic. I shall, no, I will be pleased to see a more rigoros HSC across all major subjects including with the learning of correct grammer.

PS: The Education people have my permission to use this letter as an exercise in “correct the errors in this opinion piece”. Its pleasing to learn that their are plans to include grammer in a revised HSC.

Tony Everett