IN BRIEF

2015 membership fees

The 2015 membership fees were endorsed at November Council as per rule 2.5.

Rule 2.5: Contributions states:

2.5.1 The Council shall determine each year the annual membership fee payable by members for the following year.

2.5.2 The membership fee payable shall, unless otherwise determined in accordance with these rules, be calculated as follows:

  • for members not otherwise provided for in this rule, 0.76 per cent of the salary payable at Step 13 of the Common Incremental Scale applicable for teachers in the education teaching service of New South Wales at the salary level payable on or before 31st January of the following year of the council meeting at which the fee is determined.

The new membership fees are effective from January 1.

Teachers Health Fund praised

The Teachers Health Fund was named the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, a government statutory agency charged with promoting and improving gender equality in workplaces. WGEA Director Helen Conway said Teachers Health Fund is distinguished by a commitment to “doing” rather than simply “talking” and is driving lasting cultural and organisational change. The fund has a female chairperson and 66 per cent of its positions are held by women.

Swap homes for the holidays

With the Christmas holidays coming and the high cost of accommodation, members might be interested in joining Aussie House Swap, which has 1800 swappable homes in its books and is offering a short-term discount on its annual fee — $30 instead of $65. You register and list your house, check through the database for someone you’d like to swap house with for any length of time and lock it in, staying there free of charge. Both parties can swap simultaneously, swap and go at different times (assuming one party has somewhere else to go), or have someone come and share your home and enjoy the conviviality. Aussie House Swap, which started up in 2003, is hoping to form links with teachers’ unions in other states in the near future so teachers who prefer dealing with other teachers should watch the website for updates. On the Payments page, enter “austeach” in the Coupon Code field to get the discount rate for Federation members.

SAS roles queried

The Public Service Association will be calling on the Department to evaluate all School Administrative and Support (SAS) staff classifications with SAS members overwhelmingly saying they are overworked and functioning beyond their stated role in satisfying the requirements of the Learning Management and Business Reform (LMBR) and Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) programs. Following more than 50 meetings in October with some 400 staff, the PSA is seeking legal advice on a review of classifications. The Department has committed not to extend LMBR and LSLD beyond the 229 schools they affect until problems are ironed out. Staff at the 229 schools say the programs have had a considerable impact on their work. One SAS employee said, “We are already doing so much more than what we get paid for and our hours are longer than they have ever been. It’s all been changing so fast.”

Summer Reading Club

There’s still time for students to join the Summer Reading Club at the local library or online. The free national literacy program developed by the public libraries nationwide, the Australian Library and Information Association and Queensland’s State Library runs until January 1, 2015 and is designed to stimulate a love of reading and inculcate a habit of visiting the library, organisers said. Last year, more than 35,000 children joined the club, reading more than 230,000 books over summer. This year’s treats include 21 new books by Australian writers and illustrators, a “scavenge hunt” for answers in Encyclopaedia Britannica and a chance to write your own adventure short stories. Join up at your local library or online.

Inner west school art show

“Reuse and Sustainability” — what creative instincts can your students display to promote these concepts at an exhibition of collaborative art? Inner-west Sydney schools are invited to send in an expression of interest by week 10, term 4 this year for an inaugural exhibition, ProjectA, that will be held annually from term 2 next year. Organised by the Addison Road Community Centre (ARCCO) in Marrickville, the exhibition offers great scope for teaching — and will inspire the inner west community. Key learning areas are English, creative and performing arts, human society and its environment, science and sustainability. The artworks must be collaborative and include painting, sculpture, digital media, music, installation, photography, performance, short film and animation and murals. ARCCO can assist with sourcing materials. Students will be mentored through the installation and curation process and learn about events co-ordination. Expressions of interest should be emailed by the due date and a full submission must be sent in by March 2015; ARCCO will send you information on how to do that.

Drive from top for equity in science

The Science in Gender Equity (SAGE) Forum, an initiative led by the Australian Academy of Science, has called for universities, medical research institutions and research agencies to “beta test” a successful program, originally developed in Britain, to address female under-representation and retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some UK research bodies now tie grant funding to participation in the program. Speaking on the Athena SWAN Charter at a two-day workshop in Canberra, Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt and Australian Laureate Fellow in mathematics Nalini Joshi said this was a game-changing moment for Australian science. “Each year we train and then lose huge numbers of women from Australian science,” said Professor Joshi. Professor Schmidt said the change “will be resisted by some” but “organisations that fail to address gender equity will find it harder to attract the best and brightest”.

Landcare in studies

Landcare will enter the Australian Curriculum in primary schools, with resources developed by Landcare and the Primary Industries Education Foundation that include full lesson plans. The resources — available on the Landcare website and Scootle — were launched in late November at Beauty Point PS which has a flourishing food garden funded by a Landcare grant. Relieving principal Kevin Gallagher said the resources would be welcome in linking formalised lessons to the Landcare activities the school enjoys as recreation. Mr Gallagher is happy for Beauty Point PS to be a demonstration school should others wish to start up or extend their food gardens. “It’s up to us to link the dots and excite the younger generation about the things that sustain us all, of which soil health and the science behind it is key,” said Major-General Michael Jeffery, Landcare Patron and the national Advocate for Soil Health.

Dorothy Hoddinott nominated for medal

Dorothy Hoddinott, principal of Holroyd HS in Greystanes, has been nominated for this year’s Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and with three other nominees “represent the triumph of people power over indifference, inequality and institutional blindness”. The commission noted that Ms Hoddinott established the Friends of Zainab trust to allow young asylum-seekers to complete high school. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2008 for her career-long contribution to social justice. AHRC President Professor Gillian Triggs said the candidates demonstrate “a life-long belief in taking personal action to achieve positive change”. The other nominees are actor and author Noel Tovey, an advocate for Indigenous and GLBTI Australians; Michael Traill of the non-profit organisation, Social Ventures Australia and interim chairman of Australian Schools Plus who works to improve education and employment outcomes for disadvantaged people; and Dr John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society, who writes widely on the structural causes of inequality. The medal will be presented on December 10.

Preschool pluses in US study

Childcare workers in the United States earn on average less than animal care workers — $US10.33 compared to $US10.82 per hour — pointed out columnist Nicholas Krystof in The New York Times, urging US authorities to invest more in early education. He found surprising benefits, quoting studies collected by Nobel Prize-winner Professor James Heckman, the leading US scholarly advocate of early intervention. Heckman published a study in Science magazine that found that adults who as disadvantaged children had gone to a good preschool were much healthier than those who had not gone to preschool. The first group had average blood pressure of 126/79 compared to 143/92 for the non-preschoolers. They were less than one-third as likely to be severely obese, and because they were doing better in life, were more likely to have private health insurance.

Play or pay

A Labour government in Britain would remove up to £700,000 in tax breaks from private schools if they did not join government schools in sport and other activities such as debating. British shadow education secretary Tristam Hunt condemned the “Berlin Wall in our education system”. He added: “It baffles me that we can have private schools loaning a sports pitch to the local comprehensive once or twice a year, yet completely refusing to play them at football or opening up their halls and amphitheatres, yet unwilling to engage in a debating competition.

Teachers leave $900,000 to school

An unexpected bequest of $900,000 left by two teachers to help students at the public school they taught at in the 1960s was greeted with astonished joy by their local community. “The staff and myself were blown away, astounded,” said Richmond River HS principal Dave Harvey when executors of the estate of Margaret and Peter Carr visited the school last week with news of the bequest. The Carrs had a real appreciation of public education and what it tried to achieve, Mr Harvey told the Northern Star newspaper. The couple want the money to help five graduating students with getting established at university — paying for fees, books, accommodation etc. with grants of $10,000 each. Peter Carr, who taught English at Richmond River High, retired in 1990 but continued helping at the school until his death in 2012. Margaret Carr, who died last year, taught home science.