‘Postcode’ shouldn’t shape education outcomes, awards fellow says

Principal Craig Skinner, Adam Spencer and deputy principal Louise Hughes (Calista Primary School/Facebook)
Principal Craig Skinner, Adam Spencer and deputy principal Louise Hughes (Calista Primary School/Facebook)

A school’s location alters the impact a teacher can have but that can be a good thing, according to an award-winning principal from Perth’s southern suburbs.

Calista Primary School‘s Craig Skinner, who was named one of the winners of the Commonwealth Bank‘s Teaching Awards on Friday, said location shouldn’t change the quality of education children receive and should instead be seen as an opportunity for teachers.

“I’ve mostly worked in schools that are in lower socio-economic areas and I think that’s where education can have the greatest impact,” principal Skinner said in a WA Department of Education release.

“My vision is that all students have a right to be literate and numerate. A postcode should not determine a student’s achievement.”

Principal Skinner is one of 12 recipients of the bank’s $45,000 fellowships to fund student wellbeing and achievement programs at their schools.

The bank said the awards were established last year to recognise teaching excellence and provide inspiration for Australian educators, “especially those working in challenging and socially-diverse communities,” the bank said when announcing the winners.


Enter the 2017 Australian Training Awards

Australian Training Awards

The federal Department of Education and Training alerted us to the fact today that entries are open for the 2017 Australian Training Awards. So if you’re a brilliant VET teacher, you know an outstanding VET teacher, or you’re particularly proud of a VET student, get on over to the Australian Training Awards website for details on how to enter. Applications close on May 31 and the awards are held in Canberra on November 23, which is, unfortunately, a school night.


Reading to dogs improves child literacy: academic

Girl reading to dog (iStock)

Therapy dogs, assistance dogs and family dogs have established roles in the lives of their humans, but would you consider introducing a pack of audience dogs to your class? Well an assistant professor of education in the UK reckons children can benefit from reading to their canine friends and she’s not alone.

“Reading to dogs is gaining popularity as a way of addressing concerns about children’s reading,” the University of Nottingham’s Gill Johnson writes in the Conversation.

The academic value of children reading for their own pleasure is well known, she acknowledges, but there are benefits to reading to others, and particularly pets.

“A dog creates an environment that immediately feels more relaxed and welcoming,” Johnson writes.

“Reading can be a solitary activity, but can also be a pleasurable, shared social event. Children who are struggling to read benefit from the simple pleasure of reading to a loyal, loving listener.”

The strategy isn’t completely unprecedented, Johnson argues. The US Intermountain Therapy Animals and UK Kennel Club‘s programs with animals trained to listen to readers have reportedly been met with enthusiasm.

And while the evidence hasn’t proven to be conclusive just yet, Johnson says a 2016 PLOS One survey of the literature suggests the literacy skills of children reading to dogs do indeed improve.

Cats, however, are another matter.


Our spelling bee winner

Chrissie Swan

We have a winner in our Great Australian Spelling Bee comp! Congratulations to Victoria from WA for her awesome spelling tip.

“I work at a school with struggling literacy levels so spelling is always a challenge,” Victoria says. “The best spelling tip I give my students is to methodically go through four things to work out a spelling. They chant, ‘syllables, prefixes, suffixes, roots’. It’s not foolproof but it covers most bases!”


The Pronouncer: Resilience, homework and teaching

Chris Edmund

Chris Edmund might be better known as the Great Australian Spelling Bee‘s “Pronouncer”, but the 2016 Logie nominee also taught acting at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts for 30 years. We asked him what he thought parents should know about teaching.

The challenges of being a teacher
“I think there’s a perception out there that teachers take long holidays and have short days,” Chris says.

“But actually the reality every teacher knows is that it’s becoming increasingly stressful to be a teacher. There’s more accountability, more pressures from parents and unreasonable demands on personal time that go unseen. It distresses me that so many teachers worldwide are leaving the profession. People really need to start appreciating the stresses and the difficulties that teachers face day-to-day before the situation gets worse.”

The importance of resilience
“Parents need to teach kids about having the right temperament if they want to get ahead in life,” Chris says.

“Kids need to know that they should be able to deal with rejection sometimes, to recover and to pull up their bootstraps. So my advice to students is that is takes a certain courage to succeed and you should really, really work for whatever it is that you want in your heart.”

Is homework overrated?
“I’ve been reading quite a lot about this lately,” Chris says.

“It’s interesting because countries like the Netherlands are setting almost no homework and still achieving the same results. It’s a vexed issue — studies have shown that if there’s too much homework it can lead to all sorts of unnecessary stress for children and I think that can be a very dangerous path to set kids on.”