Australia’s “Christian heritage’’ will be taught in a slimmed-down national curriculum that focuses on phonics to improve children’s reading. History and geography have been scrapped as stand-alone subjects in a back-to-basics return to traditional teaching. in the new curriculum, endorsed by Australia’s education ministers, computer coding will be taught in primary school, starting in Year 5. Indigenous issues have been cut from parts of the curriculum, and students will no longer be taught about Harmony Week, National Reconciliation Week, or NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week. Students will continue to learn about Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day. The Year 6 study of the contribution of “individuals and groups” to Australian society will no longer include a reference to indigenous people or migrants, and will be confined to the post-Federation period.

The existing requirement to study Australia’s connection to Asia has been deleted from the new curriculum. Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne says the changes would resolve ‘overcrowding’ in the primary school curriculum. Australia’s “Christian heritage” will be taught for the first time, in lessons on “how Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society’’. Teachers will instruct students that Australia’s democratic system of government is based on the Westminster system, although specific references to the monarchy, parliaments and courts have been removed from the curriculum. For the first time, children in Years 1 and 2 will be taught to “practise strategies they can use when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe’’. Students in Years 7 and 8 will be taught to “communicate their own and others’ health concerns’’.

But education ministers have agreed to change the curriculum again, to introduce teaching of “respectful relationships’’. Teachers will also be given training to identify students who might be victims of family violence. Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones, who proposed the domestic violence strategy, said a recent spate of violence against women showed that children needed to be taught about respectful relationships at school. “We believe there’s a real opportunity in the health and physical education curriculum in regards to teaching about respectful relationships, to reduce domestic violence and give young people a greater understanding of gender equality,’’ she said. “We also want to provide teachers with additional support in recognising signs of family violence.’’

Mr Pyne said the changes would boost the teaching of phonics and strengthen references to Western influences in Australia’s history. He said state and territory ministers would develop a national strategy to get more students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school. Ministers also endorsed a digital technologies curriculum, that will start teaching students about computer coding in Year 5, and have them programming by Year 7. But Ms Jones said the states and territories had not agreed to make STEM subjects compulsory in high school. “Even if we wanted to, we don’t have the teachers to do that in Queensland right now,’’ Ms Jones said. A national curriculum for languages — Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese — was also signed off by ministers.

They also endorsed historic reforms to teacher education, prepared by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. From next year, new teaching graduates will not be allowed into classrooms until they pass a test ranking them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy. Universities will also be forced to publish the academic and other “backdoor’’ requirements for entry to teaching degrees, to raise standards in the teaching profession. AITSL chairman John Hattie — who took part in the ministerial meeting — said the changes would bring teaching closer in line with professions such as engineering and medicine. “We have to make it very clear to people considering a teaching career that if you’re dumb you can’t be a teacher,’’ he said.

“We need to worry considerably about the students in the classroom and the quality of the person standing up in front of them.’’ Mr Pyne said he was “abso­lutely delighted’’ the states and territories had backed the reforms, which have been driven by the federal and NSW governments. “The national literacy and numeracy test will provide greater employer and community confidence that beginning teachers entering our schools have the literacy and numeracy skills necessary to carry out the intellectual demands of teaching,’’ he said. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Author­ity chief executive Robert Randall said the new curriculum would give teachers more time to teach the basics of maths, literacy, science and history in primary school.

“We’ve strengthened the focus on the basics and in early years put in detail about phonics because of its importance in developing young people’s reading ability,’’ he said.  Mr Randall said the existing curriculum had so much detail that “teachers were feeling they had to do everything’’. “It’s important to be able to focus on the content and teach it in depth — we don’t want cramming,’’ he said. “This gives teachers the flexibility to identify what young people need to know, and are interested in.’’ Mr Randall said the new curriculum had a greater focus on Western civilisation. “Historically, the influence of the Christian church has been important,’’ he said. Mr Randall said that references to indigenous culture, environmental sustainability and Asia — which are included throughout the existing curriculum, had been cut back to “where they naturally fit’’, with an emphasis on history, geography and art.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Civil partnership affirmation ceremonies could be restored in Queensland for couples who want legal recognition of their relationship without getting married. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Attorney-General Yvette D’ath would introduce a bill to allow couples of any gender and sexual orientation to register their partnership with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. “We are restoring this right — which was first permitted under a Labor government and then taken away as one of the first acts of the former LNP government — because every Queensland couple should have this right,” she said. “It’s time to again allow heterosexual couples who might want to affirm their relationship but not take the step of actually getting married the right to do so.

“It’s also time — once again — to allow same-sex couples that same right.” The bill would require cross bench support if it was not supported by the LNP, which in 2012 altered the law so relationships were recognised not as civil partnerships but as registered relationships. “My government is committed to restoring the civil partnership ceremony provisions so couples of any gender can participate in an official ceremony and declare their dedication to each other,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “These ceremonies and the symbolism they represent are important, particularly to people in same-sex relationships.” The head of the lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome, said the move would provide same-sex couples with greater legal certainty.

“The Queensland Government’s initiative reflects the desire of a majority of Australians to provide dignity where it is denied in the Federal Marriage Act,” he said. “It will increase pressure on the Federal Government to provide that dignity through marriage equality.” But Mr Croome said civil partnerships were not a substitute for same-sex marriage. “Marriage is a universally recognised institution that guarantees equal respect and equal rights in a way civil partnerships cannot,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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NSW Premier Mike Baird announced recently that he opposes alcohol advertising appearing on the uniform of Australia’s cricket team. “Mr Baird has said that more should be done to address alcohol-fuelled violence, and he certainly seems to get things done,” NSW Council of Churches Public Affairs Director, the Reverend Rod Benson, said. “His discussions with Cricket Australia appear to have resulted in a commitment to lessen alcohol-related advertising at cricket matches. We hope similar gains can be made in other sports,” Reverend Benson said. The NSW Council of Churches strongly supports efforts to curb alcohol advertising on sport uniforms and in televised sports broadcasts. We support public health and harm minimisation measures aimed at reducing alcohol-fuelled violence, such as earlier pub closing times, lock-outs, and raising the legal drinking age.

The Council also endorses the findings of a recent wide-ranging NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the gambling industry, and has urged the NSW Government to press ahead and implement all of the recommendations contained in the inquiry report. The NSW Council of Churches believes that gambling regulations should be framed with the core goals of public health and harm minimisation. “Laws and regulations relating to gambling should be crafted in the best interests of NSW citizens. Public interest must trump private profit. The time has come for action,” Reverend Benson said.

Source: NSW Council of Churches Press Release

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