Monday, October 23, 2017

NSWTF – NAPLAN online testing cannot proceed

NAPLAN online testing cannot proceed: Maurie Mulheron President

The teaching profession is indicating that the NSW public education system is far from being ready to offer NAPLAN testing online.

Those closest to the conduct of the Department’s NAPLAN Online Readiness Trial — teachers and principals — recently shared their experiences with Federation’s NAPLAN Hotline.

The union has conducted a qualitative evaluation of the many hundreds of responses, revealing that while a small minority of respondents reported the trial went well, overwhelmingly, teachers had poor experiences.

NAPLAN Hotline responses revealed that preparing for the trial represented a significant demand on schools’ time, money and resources from the outset.

The initial response of the profession reveals:

Prior to and during the testing, significant and widespread disruption to the normal functioning of schools was reported.

Principals and teachers in executive positions commonly remarked on the reality of the trial being conducted on the backs of school budgets and many were not pleased to note the passing on of these costs to schools. The figure for teacher relief costs borne by the school communities were commonly in a range from $1200 to $4000 per school. No offers were made from authorities or the private company behind the trial to meet the relief costs of schools.

In addition, schools were often required to use their own funds to purchase hardware items and peripherals to allow the assessment to be conducted.

Very often, schools were compelled to buy large numbers of headphones for their students and system support materials.

Feedback from the teaching profession identified a vast range of logistical problems and issues arising from the conduct of the test (see box, below).

These issues were reported from every part of NSW, in primary and secondary school sectors and across categories of schools and socioeconomic backgrounds. The pattern of responses was consistent, overwhelming and widespread.

The vast majority of respondents felt their school was not ready to deliver NAPLAN Online.

Teachers also expressed concern that such testing cannot mutate into a de facto assessment of digital literacy, social background or resourcing but should be true to its original and stated diagnostic purpose.

Federation’s initial evaluation of responses from the profession show schools have vastly different capacities to conduct such high-stakes testing and there is nothing approximating equality of opportunity for students to do NAPLAN Online. Some of these problems arise from the conceptualisation of NAPLAN Online while other hurdles exist because of endemic inequalities in educational, socioeconomic and geographical circumstance.

Proceeding with NAPLAN Online would vastly exacerbate educational inequality in NSW. Responsible authorities need to commence real analysis of the needs of students from lower socioeconomic status areas, students with disabilities and students in regional NSW to identify and address the huge issues of inequality this evaluation has identified.

Federation’s final evaluation will be made public in Term 4.

The initial findings of Federation’s evaluation are consistent with the NSW Auditor-General’s recent Performance Audit Report on information and communication technology (ICT) in schools for teaching and learning:

The average age of devices in NSW schools is more than four years. Older devices are less reliable, require greater maintenance and support and cannot run demanding applications.
Many school wireless networks are beyond the end of their useful life and this limits the number of teachers and students who can access online content at the same time.

There is a growing gap in the provision of contemporary ICT between schools caused by differential access to funding sources.

NAPLAN Online already has huge and innate problems, including the spectre of introducing robot marking to extend student writing.

The Term 3 trial establishes that there are urgent problems in its logistical, technical and ethical framework, rendering it unfit for implementation in the foreseeable future.

Some of the difficulties arising during the testing process

  • Browser software problems
  • Inability to conduct bandwidth tests
  • Logging-on is slow and complex
  • Screen size varying between devices causing uneven legibility
  • Frozen screens
  • Inadequate regard for the specific needs of students with disabilities
  • Differential testing time caused by delays and technical failures
  • Constant dropouts
  • Limited school Wi Fi capacity
  • Students focussing on keyboard skill performance rather than the best answers
  • Disruptions to the test
  • Need to supply headphones to students
  • Lost earbuds
  • Use of different devices within and between schools causing great inequality of opportunity
  • Clatter of typing in the room was disruptive to some students
  • Widespread compatibility issues for technology
  • Disadvantaging of students without keyboard skills
  • Inadequacy of the ACARA server
  • Students going “off-task” when dropouts and problems arose
  • Difficulty in maintaining test authenticity as student attention could wander and confidentiality of responses was jeopardised
  • Significant safety issues as electrical cords often criss-crossed the testing spaces
  • Disparate technology
  • Failure of audio files

ACTU – Private sector wages hit new low due to outdated bargaining system

23 October 2017

Wage growth has hit a 26 year low in the private sector, and the number of approved agreements has collapsed to the lowest in 22 years, according to data from the Department of Employment.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Australian workers are suffering record low wage growth, and working families living standards are going backwards.
  • “The figures demonstrate that our system of bargaining is out of date and that our system does not give workers the power they need to make bargaining fair.
  • “Our laws are meant to balance the power of employers and employees, they are failing in this task and need an overhaul."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

ANMF– Show compassion & courage in supporting Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

Thursday 19th October, 2017

Nurses and midwives are urging Victorian MPs to show “compassion and courage” in supporting the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, which will reform current State laws for assisted dying for the terminally-ill.

Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the Federal ANMF, in collaboration with the ANMF Victoria Branch, had long campaigned for an overhaul of the laws, to ensure that “no one is left to die in intolerable pain, any longer.”

  • “Our members witness the physical and emotional suffering that terminally-ill people, their families and loved ones are forced to endure because current Victorian laws don’t allow them to die with dignity,” Ms Thomas said.
  • “The ANMF and our members are supporting the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, as it empowers people suffering from terminal and incurable illnesses, giving them a choice about the timing and manner of their death.
  • “The proposed changes to the current Victorian law are based on recommendations from a panel of health experts - safe, ethical and humane and importantly containing strict safeguards.
  • “The ANMF is now urging MPs in the Lower House to display compassion and courage in supporting these long-overdue Legislative changes.
  • “As a humane, civilized society, we need to ensure that the terminally-ill will are not forced to suffer beyond their wishes.”

The ANMF, with 270,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia

ANMF media inquiries: 0411 254 390

ACTU – National Disgrace: LNP force Holden to close after 150 years

20 October 2017
Workers special ceremony as the last car rolled off the production line (Photo: AMWU)
Today, Australia’s last major car manufacturing plant closes its doors – putting the final nail in the coffin of an industry that has employed hundreds of thousands of Australians.
Holden began in Adelaide over 150 years ago, and is an Australian institution that has employed thousands of workers, yet it is also part of an industry that successive coalition governments chose to walk away from.

The decision to abandon an industry which was a source of good, steady jobs for generations, is devastating.

For a sitting Government to allow the collapse and closure of an industry that has formed part of the backbone of our nation is a slight against not only industry workers, but all Australian working people.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “Today is a sad day for the workers of Holden’s Elizabeth factory. These workers have been abandoned by a Government clinging to broken neo-liberal ideology.”
  • “Holden and the car industry have been a major part of Australian culture, providing jobs and skills to hundreds of thousands of working Australians for generations.”
  • “Workers in our automotive manufacturing sector have been abandoned by successive coalition governments. The way they have been treated is cruel and negligent.”
  • “The Turnbull Government’s decision to desert our car industry takes our entire country backwards. The loss of jobs and industry is devastating to our country and our economy.”
  • “We stand with all the workers facing an uncertain future. We will support them, help them retrain, and become reemployed. We will not abandon these hard working Australians.”
  • “The Turnbull Government urgently needs to come up with a proper plan to support the future of manufacturing and working people in Australia.”

Friday, October 20, 2017

Brussels – Jeremy Corbyn Met With Standing Ovation

Jeremy Corbyn was met with a standing ovation by Europe’s centre-left parties as he addressed delegates at the Europe Together conference, just hours before prime minister Theresa May was scheduled to meet her EU counterparts at a European leaders’ summit.
  • “We’re here to make sure that negotiations get on track, that we defend jobs in Britain, and that we make sure there is trade access to Europe in the future,” said Mr Corbyn, who was introduced as Britain’s “future prime minister” as Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime” played in the background.

  • “The prime minister seems to have managed to upset just about everybody and have a warring cabinet around her. It’s up to her to get the negotiations back on track,” said Mr Corbyn. The Labour leader, who was a fierce critic of the EU during his decades as a backbench MP, said the possibility of a “no deal” would be “catastrophic” for the UK economy. 

  • “We cannot countenance the idea that we rush headlong into a no deal with Europe. No deal would be very dangerous for employment and jobs in Britain,” he said. “We are clear in our priorities: a jobs-first Brexit which maintains free access to the single market.”
Mr Corbyn met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden on Thursday in Brussels.

Mr Corbyn’s popularity among young voters makes him an exception in Europe. Socialist parties in Germany, France and the Netherlands have all suffered historic defeats this year.

The Labour leader told his European allies that they needed to come up with “radical alternatives” for Europeans after years of austerity, rising job insecurity and falling living standards. 

“The neoliberal economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people,” he said, adding: “Our broken system has provided fertile ground for the growth of nationalist and xenophobic politics.”

Mr Corbyn’s enthusiastic reception was in stark contrast to Mrs May’s arrival in Brussels on Thursday. The UK prime minister was rebuffed from attending a meeting of Britain’s traditional European allies — including the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic countries — on the sidelines of the summit.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, was invited to that meeting, said: “We are all small northern European states with open trading economies, similarly values, very similar economies. That is going to be particularly important when we lose our biggest traditional ally, Britain, in a year or two.”