LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

It ain’t Gonski

The federal government’s new schools funding scheme is scarcely Gonski as it was originally envisioned. It is certainly not a major increase in funding to NSW. It yields over 10 years what was supposed to be given to education in the next two!

It is also full of the usual rhetoric about funding never having been greater, better teaching, sector-blind etc. I have just listened to the NSW Premier say it will mean that $1.7 billion “savings” in education will have to be found if the current funding agreement is not honoured. Isn’t that a euphemism for funding cuts? No prizes for guessing where the biggest cuts will be made.

Augusta Monro
Life Member

Divide funding, subtract results

Kevin Donnelly’s comment piece, “Private colleges big losers under misguided plan” (The Australian, 3 May) belies the inescapable issue at the core of education funding in Australia. Our country boasts its egalitarianism yet our federal government spends 80 per cent of its educational funding supporting a non-government system that fundamentally reinforces the divisions of wealth, class and privilege.

Australia also continues to profess its multiculturalism. Yet our governments actively and tacitly support a pluralist system that segregates Australian children based on their ethnicity, culture, religion, race and gender.

For up to 13 years, those children’s views of themselves and the way they relate to others of different persuasions are shaped by the cultural paradigms that underpin their respective school systems.

Kevin Donnelly’s claim that the government is inept simply because the Catholic system, of which he is a product, might suffer under Gonski 2.0 reveals the depth of his cultural conditioning and the bias it produces. It really is time to end this “debate”, but not as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggests. Federal funding of non-government schools started with successful Catholic lobbying in 1970. It has proliferated into a Jabba the Hutt-like-leviathan that is not only socially and cultural divisive, it is also grossly inefficient.

Donnelly sprouts OECD statistics. The one simple fact is that countries that spend all or most of their funding on government schools (e.g. Finland) perform highest on any OECD scales. Australia will continue to decline on those scales as long as it divides its limited educational resources.

Chris Dockrill
Retired

$5 billion won’t do it

Introducing a new school layout for new schools in NSW is not the issue but reconfiguring established schools is. The way Sydney’s housing market has become, $5 billion might only build a handful of schools. Let’s do the math: 160,000 students at an average of say 800 per school equals 200 new schools, $5 billion divided by 200 equals about $25 million per school. I’m not sure you can build a school for that when you also factor in a 25-40 per cent mandatory government budget cost blow-out.

Peter Miniutti
Georges River College

Grab for Indigenous funding

Will we never learn? So the publicly-supported independent system wants to initiate Indigenous-only campuses (“Private schools push for separate Indigenous campuses to cash in on federal funds", Sydney Morning Herald, 19 April). Even in the public system selectivity can ensure bright potential decision-makers can make their way through the education pathway without rubbing shoulders with the Indigenous, the disadvantaged, or community neighbours of any sort. Chasing more education dollars, the private system already has a patronising, selective approach to its Aboriginal scholarship students; just imagine the implicit segregation that will flow from this hare-brained scheme.

Gus Plater
Life Member

Input on new model

The NSW government has committed $300 million to schools in regional NSW to provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a new model of secondary education via school mergers or facility upgrades, dependent upon the outcome of community consultation processes.

As a past president of three NSWTF associations and the first head teacher to undergo the realities of the school merger and resulting transfer process at Ballina, I offer the benefit of my experiences over the past 18 months to any Federation worksite that would appreciate my insights. I can be contacted via DET email.

Mark Ippolito
Ballina HS

Unethical investment

It’s appalling that our own First State Super, with Hastings Funds Management, has purchased Land Property and Information (LPI).

This purchase is unethical. The privatisation of essential public services undermines the wages and conditions of fellow public servants. It is alarming that the board of First State Super is comprised of numerous current and former union leaders.

The privatisation is surrendering $112 billion in state revenue over 35 years, money that is being taken away from the people of NSW that could be used for schools, hospitals and other essential services.

LPI protects our property, ensuring land ownership is secured and preventing it from being stolen through fraud. This privatisation means liability of ownership will ultimately be passed to individual homeowners. Financial institutions will likely force owners to take out title insurance against fraudulent property claims. The sale is a fundamental abrogation of government responsibility.

It takes 10 years to train up the specialist staff in LPI. These specialists ensure world's best practice when it comes to the security of our homes. This sale will affect all homeowners in NSW. Lawyers and surveyors have said this sale will only serve to pour petrol over the housing affordability crisis in NSW.

The privatisation is tantamount to privatising the right to issue passports. The Berejikilian government has sold off the crown jewels to rebuild Parramatta and ANZ Stadium.

Ms Berejikilian had no industry support for the privatisation and endured months of protest from the Law Council of Australia, Law Society of NSW, Real Estate Institute, Public Service Association and Institution of Surveyors. So broad was the opposition that even surveyors who are Liberal Party members spoke against the privatisation at a Martin Place protest last April.

It is mindless that union members’ money has been used to destroy our services and security.

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants School

Selective Catholics

So the Catholics are prepared to consign the majority of their secondary schools to the status of second-class institutions (“Catholic schools act to stop drift to selectives”, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 April). Selectivity is inimical to real pedagogy and education.

Gus Plater
Life Member

Union must stand against Year 1 testing

As a K–2 teacher of 17 years qualified in reading recovery and special education, a member of the Australian Literacy Educators Association, and holding a Master’s research degree from the University of Sydney and currently a PhD candidate there, I wish to convey my complete opposition to the introduction of national testing for Year 1 students.

Early literacy and numeracy attainment is a complex process that cannot be assessed by a reductive test of some skills that develop as part of rounded learning programs. Focus on these skills will inevitably lead to precious time wasted on teaching to the test as occurs during Year 3 and Year 5 in primary school. It also generates an educational culture where students understand learning as a matter of passing tests, along with the attendant anxiety that surrounds tests.

National testing regimes also undermine and invalidate the learning objectives of the National Curriculum and the Quality Teaching Framework. Creative and critical capacities, intercultural understanding, deep knowledge and substantive communication to name a few cannot develop in a learning culture focused on narrow, isolated skills.

Students who have strengths in other areas apart from those tested develop negative self-concepts around their learning capacity.

As a long-term Federation member, I hope to see strong and active opposition from our union on this matter.

Katrina Kemp
Manly Vale PS

Oppose Westconnex

Recently, well-respected journalist Wendy Bacon spoke to Federation’s Peace, Environment and International Solidarity Special Interest Group (PEI SIG) and shared her insights into how the public interest has been corrupted in the case of Westconnex. This motorway project has resulted in the massive demolition of huge swaths of Sydney.

Wendy Bacon’s talk reinforced to me how Westconnex is both an environmental disaster as well as an insidious privatisation policy — but she gave some hope. After strong and united protests, the NSW government has shelved plans to open a Westconnex tunnel site next to Leichhardt High School.

Other public schools across Sydney, including Arncliffe, Auburn, Haberfield, Kingsgrove and Beverly Hills, remain affected by the menace of noise and air pollution from this new motorway.

Instead of investing in public transport, public money is being transferred into privately owned and managed roads who expect profitable returns through charging exorbitant tolls. I encourage all Federation members to stand in solidarity with school communities affected by Westconnex. I ask them to pass motions at their associations to oppose Westconnex.

Janine Kitson
Life Member

60 years of friendship

In 1957, the ’57-’58 session began its two-year training at Armidale Teachers College. At an average age of 17 years each, the students had the opportunity to grow up together and to forge special friendships; some even married.

Over the years, they have met regularly, and in recent times they have spent two days together in Port Macquarie, but this year was special!

Fifty-nine people enjoyed two 60th Anniversary dinners at the Mercure Centro plus other day-time activities when stories were told of life experiences since college days and the many amusing incidents that occurred while teaching. Some members travelled from as far away as Canada, Hobart, Albury, Dubbo, Wollongong and the far north coast of NSW. Also remembered, with a minute’s silence, were the 25 members of the session who have died. So keen are we to spend time together that the same venue has been booked for 2018.

Anne and Michael Egan
Retired