xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Friday, 20 December 2019

The 2019 Bourke Christmas Chronicle

     THE BOURKE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLE 2019.                         Merry Christmas everybody.

Christmas Eve 2018. Kai, Jack, Cisco at rear. Sophie next to Lesley Sari,  Havana and Luc in front.

Of course we all knew Christmas was coming because those big department stores started telling us way back in August that it is Christmas time.                                                                                                                        

Now, four months later, it really IS Christmastime.                                                                                                                                   
 2019 flashed by in a blur of happy birthdays, sad funerals, grandchildren’s swimming carnivals, weekend football and netball games, class and graduation assemblies as well as Thursday Morning Symphony Concerts, Morning Melodies at His Majesty’s, Eagles matches, Test Matches at Perth stadium and lots of fun and enjoyment with family and friends.                                                                              
 Noel and Lesley continue to thrive at the Ocean Reef Country Club where Noel produces a monthly newsletter and Lesley is the honorary Librarian. This year Noel received a Service Award from the Principals’ Association for contributing articles to its publications over 25 years.                                                   
 They both keep in touch with old schoolmates and friends from university days. This well travelled duo did not stray too far from home in 2019, but they did stray frequently. Trips to Donnybrook, Busselton, Geraldton and to their many friends and relations across Perth allowed them to retain membership of the Freewheeling Travellers Association.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             On the occasion of their 52nd wedding anniversary in August, they even took a nostalgic trip to where it all began…the bus stop outside the Guildford railway station. 

52 years later. At least one of us is still beautiful.

August 26, 1968. The way we were.

 Then they stopped at the Guildford Arms for a celebratory meal. They even made a return journey to Tranby Primary School where, in  February 1965, Noel and Lesley first met…discounting the many times, four years earlier, when Noel used to enjoy the daily sighting of the beautiful mystery girl sitting  at the bus stop outside the Guildford railway station as he drove by on his way to Koongamia Primary school. Sadly, that nostalgic drive back to Tranby School revealed that it no longer exists. Somebody has changed its name to Rivervale School.
 It was Sunday, June 2nd, the second day of Winter.                A perfect day for morning coffee with the family at Trigg Beach.


                                                                                                                                                               Not only are Noel and Lesley enjoying good health, they feel privileged and so happy seeing their grandchildren growing up so splendidly and that their families are all happy and healthy. They feel blessed to have been part of so many  family milestones.                                                                                                    

 All the grandchildren received very pleasing reports. Cisco and Sari both graduated from their respective primary schools. Sari also earns some handy pocket money delivering advertising leaflets two nights each week.  Havana and Kai, in years 6 and 4 next year, are the last remaining grandchildren at primary school. Sophie, Jack and Luc are all progressing well in secondary school.  Sophie completes Year 12 next year. In November, Sophie obtained her driver’s licence. Congratulations, Sophie! She also works part time at Boost Juice at Whitfords Shopping Centre. That should help pay for the petrol. 

Graduate Sari

Graduate Cisco.

                Noel and Lesley enjoyed attending school assemblies, grand parent days, sports days and concerts throughout 2019. One of the highlights was attending the Massed Choirs Festival in the Concert Hall as Cisco and Havana helped 500 children make beautiful music. Havana has also completed her first year of trumpet tuition. She has progressed really well and played with confidence and distinction at a recent school music assembly.                                                                                                                                                        
Jane and Ian  continue teaching with the WA Education Department. Jane is still at the School of Isolated and Distance Education. Occasionally her job takes her to Broome, Esperance and other places to meet with students and their prospective employers. Some BIG events for Jane in 2019 were gaining her Certificate 4, gaining permanency at SIDE and hitting the BIG 50, which she celebrated with family in September. Congratulations on achieving all these milestones, Jane.                     

Other family highlights in 2019 were Sarah walking halfway around Western Australia. Well, maybe not that far, but she walked a huge section of the Bibbilmun Track in the south west over a five day period. In her “spare time”, Sarah works four days a week helping in a friend’s business, making and supplying delicious cakes and desserts to Perth cafes and restaurants. Denis is busy building his new business and website, Discovery Development Partners, a consultancy concerned with business efficiency and effectiveness plus staff and organisational wellbeing. He is also writing songs, producing CDs and appearing in gigs with his band at the Indie Bar and other Perth night spots.                                                                                                                                                      

Emily and family went to the Melbourne  ANZAC footy game earlier this year, after Carl had completed his swim to Rottnest. She and Carl then enjoyed  a holiday in Bali, sans children.                          
Emily enjoys working  three days a week in Year One at West Morley Primary School. She also did a great job as Team Manager of Sari’s netball team. This year Carl and Emily will be spending Christmas with Carl’s family in Dunsborough, so the usual Christmas Eve family photo will be three grandchildren short.                                                                                                                                                                                                Noel, Lesley, Jane, Ian, Cisco and Havana will enjoy Christmas dinner at Chateau Belliveau with Sarah, Denis, Sophie and Luc, where they will also be celebrating Noel’s birthday with family and friends on Christmas Eve.  To all our family and friends, MERRY CHRISTMAS!                                                                  
 May the peace and joy of Christmas stay with you all through a healthy and happy New Year.                                                              

Merry Christmas from Noel, Lesley, Jane, Ian, Cisco, Havana, Sarah, Denis, Sophie, Luc, Emily, Carl, Jack, Sari, Kai, Sadie, the Wonder Dog and Billy, the Big Black Cat.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Pasi Sahlberg has the right idea about fixing Australian education.

The West Australian Newspaper’s editorial call for education  to get Back to Basics in schools (10/12/2019), loudly echoes the many similar comments of politicians and media commentators after the recent release of the 2018 PISA scores.

These 2019 PISA results (of tests administered in 2018) show Australia to have apparently slipped behind. Or have other countries caught us up? Either way the media is screaming for the problem of Australia’s falling PISA ratings to be fixed. How? Well, teachers need to work harder. They need to be much better trained. Those wanting to be teachers must come from the very highest achievers with ATAR scores in the top range. And the renzied call for "Back to basics." 

It seems to me we have heard that song before.

Actually, the PISA test is a  test of a random sample of 15 year olds in about 70 countries. Well, Hong Kong and Shangai are not countries, They are economic zones. They always rank highly in PISA. If Canberra was used to represent Australia, we would be at the top of the PISA premiership table. Australia would also be ranked higher than it is if PISA only looked at the Western Australian results.

Unfortunately, in all the tumult and shouting about how to fix Australia’s education problems we do not often hear from educators talking about PISA results. Pasi Sahlberg is an educator. He was in charge of education in Finland when that country always appeared in the top four of the PISA rankings. He is currently  a professor of education at the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of NSW.

Speaking recently about the latest PISA results, Sahlberg reminded us that Albert Einstein said, ”We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Sahlberg suggested that when the various ministers for education met at COAG, in Alice Springs, last week, they needed to reflect on the research evidence and discover a new way forward to produce better schools. Well the education ministers met. They produced an Alice Springs statement which more or less reflected the Melbourne education statement which they had previously produced.

This latest statement contains many sound educational ideas aimed at developing knowledge, skills and habits in all students so that they may understand the environment in  which they live and their relationship to it. Not only that. They should be able to make a satisfying contribution to the society in which they live. In the Alice Springs statement particular stress was placed on the importance of teaching phonics and the history and culture of indigenous Australians.

It is a sound document. Apart from the attention to indigenous culture, it more or less reflects the aims of the Western Australian Education Department syllabus that I walked into at the very start of my teaching career in the mid 1950s. In those days of course Phonics was a major part of early childhood language education. Indigenous history and culture was not mentioned at all.

Sahlberg gave a clear idea of how Australian education could be improved. He made three points. They are in marked contrast to the fixes suggested by the loud and often sensational voices in the media. They are quite removed from the major thrust of COAG’s Education Statement.

Firstly, make equity in education a priority. Ten years ago the Gonski report identified the wide gap between high and low achievers in Australia. Sahlberg says, “Improving equity in education starts with high-quality early childhood education for all, individualised support for those who need it and valuing whole-child development throughout schooling.”

Gonski funding was supposed to eliminate the ever-widening education gap. Unfortunately, our politicians have not distributed those Gonski funds equitably or to where they were needed the most.
That is the basic problem with our education system. Sahlberg says that, “Equity is not only a social justice imperative-it is also a way to use resources more effectively.

Secondly, Sahlberg says we need to make health in schools another priority. I taught in a junior high school (years 6-10) in Toronto from 1962 to 1964. That Canadian school of about 300 students, had a full-time nurse, with quick access to child psychologists and social workers. More than fifty years later, how many Australian schools have a full-time nurse?

Twenty years ago I heard Professor Fiona Stanley inform a group of  principals and early childhood teachers that 20% of children have learning problems related to mental health issues.That is one in five children in each class. Dr Stanley expressed her admiration to the teachers present. She said that on a daily basis and with limited resources, they dealt with five or more children with mental health issues affecting their learning, while delivering an education programme to their mainstream classes. 

I remember writing in education journals at the time that our teachers were like soldiers, whose commanding officers had given them inferior weapons and insufficient ammunition while continuing to berate them for not winning the battle. When will the adequate and equitable distribution of resources be given to help teachers address these critical student health issues in our schools?

Sahlberg says the data shows “That the decline of youth well being has happened at the same time as  slipping PISA scores in Australia…a student that suffers from anxiety disorders, depression, sleep deprivation or suicidal behaviours is not likely to be successful in school.”

All teachers know that most of the social, emotional, psychological and behavioural problems, that they deal with on a daily basis, originate from outside the classroom. Low socio-economic status, domestic violence, drug, alcohol and  physical abuse all impact on a child’s school performance.

Finally, Professor Sahlberg warns against employing quick fixes. Pretty basic thinking, really. Quick fixes do not fix equity or student wellbeing. “It is the wrong strategy because it does not address educational equities and enhance students’ wellbeing, so that every student would have a fair chance to succeed.”

The evidence is clear. Schools in lower socio-economic areas generally perform below schools in the “leafy green” suburbs. Everyone knows that. Education Departments know it. They have known it for over fifty years!

Unfortunately, education policy over recent years has been determined by politicians who implement policies, not  based on educational research or need, but based on what is likely to gain them  the most votes. The popular media gives the politicians’ quick fix solutions a great deal of attention and often sensationalised support. It engasges in 'teacher bashing" while ignoring the rational, evidence-based solutions of  Sahlberg and a host of other teachers and educators.

These educators, like Sahlberg, suggest it is more rational to get back to the real basics. Instead on indulging in teacher bashing and school bashing we need to inform ourselves of the educational research and implement equitable resourcing policies that will close the achievement gap by providing equity and wellness for all students.

It’s pretty basic, really.