Strategies for Teaching Special Education

A whiteboard with letters and shapes.It takes a special type of teacher to teach special education in schools. It is one of the most demanding jobs, but also one of the most rewarding. Unfortunately special education teachers commonly report feeling stressed out by their jobs and unsupported by their school community. This means that it can be a very lonely job, which is the number one reason why special education teachers quit. The following are some strategies we recommend for implementing a special education program that has a good chance of succeeding. (more…)

Why Reading to Your Child is Important

A father reading a picture book to his daughter.One of the most important things you can do to help the development of your children is to start reading to them at a young age. Every study and report written on this topic shows that reading to children at a young age will improve both their ability to learn and their use of language. It is never too early to start reading to your child and most research suggests the best results will occur if you begin to do this before one year of age. The following are some of the main benefits you will see from reading to your child. (more…)

How to Spot and Prevent Bullying as a Parent

A young bully poking out his tongue.The fear that your child is being bullied at school is one of the top fears of parents around the country. We all know that we can’t protect our children from everything, but we are also aware that schoolyard bullying can have a lifelong effect. This is why it is important that parents are aware of the signs of bullying and are prepared to do something about it if it is occurring. We will take you through some of the warning signs and what you can do to prevent bullying in the school.

The warning signs
The following are some signs that your child may be suffering from bullying at school. Please be aware that this is a general list and you will need to talk to your child to confirm. It is not a complete list and there may be other signs you will be able to detect. Your child may show these signs:

  • Loss of enthusiasm for school, afraid of attending school and/or repeated attempts to avoid school (eg. faking illness).
  • An unexpected drop in school results or reports of trouble from school. You may also notice your child is getting into more trouble at home.
  • Unexplained moodiness, depression, anxiety and/or sadness. This can also manifest as other symptoms such as an unexplained loss of appetite, bed wetting, trouble sleeping and signs of low self esteem.
  • Have very few or no friends and is not invited to events outside of school (eg. birthday party)
  • Unexplained injuries – especially in areas where an accidental bruise/cut would be uncommon.

What you can do
If you have confirmed that your child is being bullied it can be hard to resist the temptation to head straight into the front office and demand answers and threaten to remove your child from the school. However, this can actually be counterproductive to what you were trying to achieve. The following are some ways that you can tackle bullying as a parent.

  • Start by talking and listening to your child. Allow them to tell you anything and create a healthy dialogue at home. It is a well-known fact that most children never tell their parents about bullying at school.
  • Volunteering to spend time at school is a great way to find out what is happening in the classroom and schoolyard. The presence of another adult can also be a deterrent to bullying.
  • Teach your child to cope with bullying by giving them alternatives to fighting back and prepare them with an action plan. A simple method is to teach a child to say “Stop, I feel like you are bullying me.” Research shows that most bullies will stop when asked.
  • Volunteer to work with or start an anti-bullying program in the school. When these programs are run effectively they can reduce bullying by up to 90%. Once children learn that bullying will not be tolerated and how to stand up for themselves if they are bullied the whole school environment can change dramatically. You don’t even have to come up with your own ideas because there are some great anti-bullying programs out there that are free of charge for schools.
  • Start a dialogue with the school and/or teacher without accusing them or becoming angry. Explain that you understand they can’t watch your child for 100% of the day, but you are concerned that your child is being bullied. At the very least you can be sure that the school and/or teacher will keep a closer eye on what is happening to your child through the day.

Unfortunately, bullying is a fact of life in most schools and your child will most likely be subject to bullying at some point. It is important to know the signs and then know what to do once you have confirmed that this is happening.

Our Three Step Plan to Improve Our Schools

A school blackboard with the word urgent written on it.In 2012 a study was released that showed Australian schools were falling behind world standards. This is a major concern to us here at Education For Australia and we believe if something isn’t done soon then we will soon have a second-rate education system. We believe that this would be devastating to our country and the future workforce. We believe in supporting children to be the best that they can be and the only way we can do this is with a world-class education system. The following is our three step plan that we believe will make some important changes in improving the standards of education in Australia.

Step one
We believe that efforts should be undertaken to reduce class sizes in public schools across the country. We believe that a reduction of at least four students per teacher in the classroom would be enough to significantly improve educational outcomes for children in this country. Most teachers and parents are in agreement with this idea, but there is strong opposition from schools and education departments. This opposition exists because cutting class sizes is an expensive undertaking. However, we do not believe that we should compromise on this point just for the sake of money.

Step two
We also believe that improving teacher effectiveness is an important goal. We believe that increasing the effectiveness of the bottom 15% of teachers will have a huge impact on the education system. These teachers should be strongly supported and offered every opportunity to develop their skills. We are not currently supporting the idea that financial incentives will create better teachers, but financially rewarding teachers who are willing to improve their practice may be an effective step to improving teacher effectiveness. We are against the sacking of any ineffective teacher, unless they show that they are incapable of improving their effectiveness. We believe that mass sacking of these teachers would lead to poor morale in the industry.

Step three
We accept the fact that more educational funding does not always lead to better results. However, we believe that federal and state governments should commit to more educational funding and that this funding should be marked for specific projects. We also believe that schools with poor results should be given extra assistance, including financial assistance, to increase their results. It is very important that we do not cut funding to schools during tough financial conditions. We must not let the future generation down because of our mistakes. The only way forward is for improvement in our education system.

Parents, teachers and education department officials are all concerned about the falling standards of Australian schools. However, we believe that with the right class sizes, funding and improvements to teacher effectiveness that we can have a world-class education system once again. Don’t let the Australian education system and our future generation be left behind!

Please feel free to comment on this article and let us know your thoughts. We are genuinely interested in your ideas for improving the education system in this country.

How to Survive the First Year of Teaching

A worried first year teacher.The greatest fears for teachers is that they will be underprepared for the first time they stand in front of a class by themselves. I am contacted at least once a day by a teacher who is not able to cope in their first year. The first thing I tell them is – you are not alone! Almost half of all first year teachers surveyed reported that their university education left them feeling underprepared for teaching. This feeling, often coupled with lack of support from the school or education department, causes stress, depression and may leave a teacher feeling abandoned. The following is my advice to any teacher worried that they are not up to standard.

Further Study
Further study is one of the best ways that you can improve your teaching skills. However, it is probably the last thing that you want to do after a university degree. Fortunately, there are some short courses and professional development programs that can be of great assistance to you. There is no need to try and get your Masters or complete intensive study to add to your already stressed workload. However, some basic extra training can really make a world of difference. Some teachers even find a TAFE training course to be of assistance in this area.

Colleagues
Your fellow teachers are the best resource that you have available to you and finding one who is willing to share their knowledge is invaluable. All of the teachers were new to teaching at some point and many will be willing to offer you some advice and assistance. You may even be able to find a teacher who is willing to allow you to come into their class during your release time or vice versa. You can learn a lot just by watching or having someone watch your teaching. Your senior teacher or vice principal may be able to offer similar support for you during your first year. If you don’t feel like you’re getting any support you may be able to seek assistance from the education department in your state.

Talk to your students
Talking to your students can be a great way to assess your teaching style and quality of your teaching. Even young children will be able to offer you some advice and give you a general idea of how you are travelling. Older students are very capable of giving you advice (although sometimes it is not overly helpful or kind advice) and can be asked to complete a questionnaire or similar type of evaluation of your teaching to give you some ideas to improve your teaching style and delivery.

There is no doubt that the first year of teaching is the hardest. At least 67% of new teachers entertain thoughts of quitting within the first year. However, there is help available and by utilising this help you can be sure that you will become a better teacher and survive through those early stressful terms. Always remember the old saying “it can only get better from here.”

If you are a new teacher I would love to hear about your experiences. Please leave a comment below.

The Disadvantages of Private Schooling

The entrance gates of Scotch College in Melbourne.We are constantly bombarded with the message that private schools are better for our children. We hear about smaller class sizes, individual attention and specialist programs that these schools run. It’s easy for parents who cannot afford the cost of private education to feel very guilty that their child is missing out. However, there is no guarantee that a private education will benefit your child at all. In fact, they could actually be worse off in some cases. The following are some of the main disadvantages of sending your child to a private school.

Cost
The main disadvantage of private schooling is the cost of this type of education. It is not uncommon for a private school education to cost tens of thousands of dollars and this is well out of reach of many people. The elite schools in the capital cities may cost more than $100,000 over the life of your child’s education. This will put a serious strain on a middle income family and is the number one reason why people are put off private education. There are some private schools that offer scholarships or have fee subsidies, but the cost can still be prohibitive in these cases. Cheaper public schools are available, such as Catholic schools, and these are a good alternative if you are completely set on a private education for your children.

Diversity
The exclusiveness of private education may limit your child’s exposure to children from different backgrounds and socio-economic groups. Recent studies have shown that children from private schools have been found to have a narrower perspective when it comes to a variety of social issues. This may mean that they may not be able to mix well when they are faced with such a situation and not be as “world wise” as those from public schools. This research is somewhat controversial, and more study will need to be done in this area. However, it is worth taking into consideration if you are thinking about a private school education.

No guarantees
There are no guarantees that a private education will lead to better academic results. In fact, many of the highest scores for year 12 students are still occurring at public schools. Generally speaking, any student with the ability and willingness to learn will be able to achieve a high quality university entrance score at either type of school. It can be said that the staff at a private school may be able to work harder for those children who are struggling or lacking motivation, but there are programs in public schools that also attempt to do this.

A private school has some very key advantages and benefits for children and their education. However, parents should not feel bad if they cannot afford this education or decide to send their children to a public school for any other reason. There are no guarantees that a private school education will lead to success in the future.

I know that this subject is a hotbed for debate and I would love to hear from those who agree with me and those who have opposing views. Please leave a comment below.

The Advantages of a TAFE Course Compared With a University Degree

A square academic cap on top of textbooks.The vast majority of those who complete year 12th aim to attend university to acquire a degree. However, this goal has actually become a problem and there is now an oversupply of professionals in many industries. This means that the prospects of landing a job after university have substantially decreased and starting wages have not risen in many industries. We believe that more students should be encouraged to learn skills via TAFE courses because they require less time to complete and because they can provide many important skills. The following are some advantages of taking it takes course compared with a university course.

A cheaper alternative
No one would argue that a university degree is cheap and unfortunately it gets more expensive all the time. Even with government subsidies the cost of a university degree is substantial and may leave you in debt for many years. A TAFE course is far cheaper and if you have been out of work for some time it may actually even be paid for by the government. TAFE courses are also a good way to find out if you are suited to a particular industry. By completing a TAFE course you can always undergo a pathway to university study at a later date.

Current and potential earnings may be higher
The wage for TAFE trained skilled workers is much higher than most people realise. The earnings potential is also quite high for many industries and there is the potential to run your own business in the future (which can have considerable financial rewards). A recent study has shown that the majority of skilled TAFE trained workers will make more money than someone who has a university degree. The findings of this study shocked many people and we are hoping that it will change people’s minds. There is no shame in a TAFE education and this attitude must change!

Suitable for all
A university degree is only open to those with a qualifying entrance score. However, a TAFE course is open to anyone. Generally speaking, a TAFE course is an easier pathway to study and is suitable for those who find traditional learning difficult. TAFE courses often have more hands-on components and allow the students to get practical training in the industry. They are also able to challenge those who find study easy and enjoy learning new skills.

University life
Surprisingly, more than 21% of university students do not have a plan for the future and were simply attending university because of the lifestyle it offers. However, you don’t have to miss out on this if you enter a TAFE course. Many TAFE courses are actually run at a university and you can even live on campus if you want to. I feel that this would be a much better way for young school leavers to find out what they want to do with their lives.

I hope you can see the advantages in studying a TAFE course. It gives you a qualification, prepares you with the skills you need to work and still provides a pathway to future study if you desire.

Are Education Standards Really Dropping?

A child with a large pencil making a tick mark.We are constantly hearing about the falling standards of education in this country. Of course, it is something that we should all be concerned about. At Education For Australia it is one of our primary goals to increase the education standards in this country. One alarming statistic suggests that only 64% of students entering high school can read at the appropriate level. However, is all the doom and gloom we hear about our education system actually true? Let’s take a brief look at our education standards and see if they have dropped in the last decade.

Different systems
One of the main problems with education in this country is that each state has a different system. This makes it very hard to assess the quality of the education in each state. However, there were once variation between schools in the same city. Now each state and territory now has a curriculum that is more prescriptive and allows teachers to better assess the students. In the future we will have a national curriculum which will make these assessments even easier. This can only be a positive step for a school system and we expect that this will help to increase the standards of education in this country. There are some that don’t agree with our hypothesis, but it should not take too long to find out the results.

Education standards
The general consensus is that the education standards in this country have remained fairly positive for the last 10 years. There has been some decline shown in the core areas (reading, writing and maths), but there have also been improvements in many of the secondary subjects. A push towards teaching students the “basics” has occurred in the last few years and this should see the standard of reading, writing and maths improve in this country. We would also expect the national curriculum to have a positive effect in this area as well. Studies have shown that education standards have been dropping slowly over 20 years, but with the right changes we can address this problem and make a difference in the lives of our children.

Ways we can make a difference
The most positive way that you can make a difference is becoming involved in your child’s education. This means taking an active interest in getting involved with the school where possible. Another positive step is to write letters to your local state and federal member of Parliament. Join groups or committees that have an interest in improving the education system in this country and connect with other like-minded people. It isn’t difficult to get involved, but it takes time and effort to get things done. If you are concerned about the standard of education in this country why not try and do something about it!

We now know that the standard of education is in somewhat of a decline, but there are steps being taken to improve this. If we join together we can all make a difference and return Australia to the top of the world education standards.

Why the National Curriculum is Good for Schools (and your children)

A school teacher pointing to the whiteboard.You may have heard that Australia is in the process of moving towards a national curriculum for all school students. There has been some discontent at this decision, but in general most believe it to be a good thing for our education system. We at Education For Australia are in full support of the national curriculum because we believe that it is the best way forward. However, we have found that some parents, and even teachers, are somewhat confused about what this means for children in school today. The following are the reasons we believe that a national curriculum is good for both schools and children.

Standardisation
The new model means that children in every state and territory will be learning the same skills and knowledge. This is a massive achievement and will mean that no child is disadvantaged just because of where they live. It will also make interstate school transfers much simpler and should allow the child to adjust far more quickly because, in theory at least, they should have the same skill set and knowledge. This is a major benefit to the schools as well, especially in regions where interstate transfers are common (for example, many Darwin schools have special workers to help integrate children of defence force parents). The schools should have less trouble integrating the interstate students and the teachers shouldn’t have to spend so much time on helping them catch up. Schools will no longer have to convert assessment scores from one state to another.

Assessment
Assessment is also made much easier with a national curriculum because there is one set standard. This makes teachers jobs much easier and allows parents to compare their child’s results with anyone in the country. Schools will no longer have to convert assessment scores from one state to another and children can be placed in remedial or advanced classes (where necessary) in a far more efficient manner. University entrance scores also have the potential to be standardised, which will make the process of applying for a university place far more easier. We may even be able to standardise a single high school certificate for all children completing year 12.

Outcomes
The outcomes for children are also better with a national curriculum and this is of particular benefit for those moving between states. The curriculum document makes it easy for teachers to assess their students and to easily find the skills and knowledge that they need to teach. Parents will also be able to use this to their advantage in assessing their child’s results and the results of the school. We will also be able to compare the results between states which is a very useful performance metric and will be a great way to study the education system in this country.

Hopefully you are now able to see that on that a national curriculum has many benefits for children, parents, teachers, schools and the education system in general. In my opinion it is the only way forward for the education system in this country.

We would love to hear your comments, questions or concerns about the new national curriculum.