Sydney High now… Proud!

While checking the school archives for the previous post, I noted that the 2017 Record was now online. Over 60 years ago I was a student on the Record Committee; happens it was the 75th anniversary of the school. I am now as old as the school was then, a fact I am only just coping with! Last year I posted about my delight in the way the school has progressed in recent years under the watch of Dr Kim Jaggar. This year same again in spades! Get your own copy! A sample:

Screenshot (186)

Now an extract from Dr Jaggar’s 2017 Presentation Night address:

This evening I would again like to share some thoughts with the graduating Year 12 group about the world High alumni are moving into. One doesn’t have to be a Marxist historian to understand, that first social, and then political movements, have their genesis in changes to economic conditions. The globalisation of economic activity made possible by improved transport and the very rapid growth of technology, particularly in data storage and manipulation in devices, from mobile phones to mainframe computers servicing the cloud, has created international winners and losers. In developed countries, the winners are in services industries and those trading in the internet of things, the losers are in manufacturing. The proliferation of robotics in manufacturing has made many jobs redundant. Companies outsourcing and offshoring have benefitted developing economies by relocating labour intensive tasks to where there is cheap labour by global standards. Nowadays, our economic realities are grounded in interdependence and interconnectedness.

There have emerged political movements led by people who purport to represent the interests of those disadvantaged by globalisation – workers in traditional industries like steel making, car manufacturing and whitegoods. Populist leaders champion pushback against the effects of globalisation, appealing to nationalistic sentiment. They argue that the inexorable changes to economic life, occasioned by globalisation, can somehow be stopped, delayed or at least lessened, in their effects on the forgotten workers, who were the backbone of the superseded industrial economy. People who don’t want the world to be the way it is are finding voice through politicians who say they have a solution – they can fix things and bring back the good old days. They scapegoat minorities and play to xenophobic tendencies….

The Trump presidency might prompt a ‘rebirth of freedom’ style backlash, with republican values reinstated: a renewed reverence for truth, a more sober patriotism, leaders more grounded in duty, a renewed respect for law, a greater commitment to tradition, and a deeper knowledge of US history. Alternatively, Trump might become ‘a subject of horrified wonder in our grand-children’s history books’.

Whatever happens in the USA, Australia needs international free trade and open borders. You will be entering the workforce at a time of great uncertainty and heightened tension…


Changes that time brings…

Back in 1993 I was given the task of researching the way reading was taught K-12 in the southern Sydney region of Botany. My report is available in the National Library. Among the schools I visited over a three month period was La Perouse Public School. La Perouse is on the north side of Botany Bay and is home to a famous Indigenous community. At the time I was visiting there was excellent work being done there and the school appeared to be thriving.

But since then 25 years have gone by! I hardly believe that! In today’s Sydney Morning Herald there is a story of decline and renewal at the school.

In one part of La Perouse, there is an Aboriginal mission. In another, the fancy new apartments of Little Bay. And in the middle there is a school where, for many years, neither community wanted to send its kids.

In its heyday, La Perouse Public taught 300 students. Yet when Matt Jackman arrived almost two years ago there were about 24 kids, seven empty classrooms and a reputation that made parents scramble for out-of-area schools.

He could have let the school struggle on, a victim of the area’s gentrification and years of bad press. Instead, Mr Jackman hatched a plan to win over the trust of two very different communities. And his efforts have been rewarded: in 2019, La Perouse’s numbers will almost double.

That conclusion is good to hear, but I wonder what went on in the 25 years since I was last there.

La Perouse Monument

La Perouse monument, La Perouse. Photo by Jim Bar.

Nineteen years of blogging!

Beginning offline, if that counts. See some of the earliest here.

These entries have been pasted from Angelfire. There may be some oddities in presentation here.

I first got a real (borrowed) computer in late 1999 and didn’t go on the Internet until a few months later. My first site on Talk City came about in around April 2000, and the first internet diary entries soon after. The earliest entries here were written in a Brother PowerNote (memory 32k!) which I still have and sometimes use.

Go to Found — a whole stack of my old entries! [January 14 2008] for an index to what is available still on the Wayback Machine.

And a sample, strangely relevant today:

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Notorious hypocrite Howard rants about ‘values’.

I am so bloody angry that I have put this entry to record how personally insulted I feel, and disgusted on behalf of all my colleagues, by John Howard’s recent gratuitous attack on state schools in Australia. As far as NSW state schools are concerned, what the PM has said simply reveals that he has not done his homework:

NSW public schools teach essential values for life to children and young people.

Love of learning

NSW public schools aim to create young Australians who value learning and knowledge and who relish the effort and possess the confidence needed to resolve problems, or to master a skill, topic or subject; who can compose clear and precise prose and construct well-founded arguments; who have mastered the art of talking with others as a route to better understanding; who are deeply interested in finding common ground with other people, other ways of life and ways of thinking and believing; and who are interested in imaginative and new ideas, and in seeking out truth.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • scholarship, accurate and extensive knowledge, wide reading and understanding of traditional and new fields of study, including information technology
  • rational inquiry and logical, well-founded argument
  • clarity, confidence and coherence in thinking, writing and speaking
  • curiosity and imagination as the basis for pleasure in learning
  • communicating with others as a way of establishing agreement and arriving at truth.

Aiming for high standards

NSW public school students are encouraged to achieve their personal best and to aim for excellence in everything they do.

They are encouraged to participate in sport and creative performances and to learn ways of winning and losing graciously.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • aiming for the best in academic, creative and sporting achievement and in all public performances.

Care and respect for ourselves and others

In partnership with parents and carers, NSW public school students are taught how to respect and care for themselves and others, in order to achieve self-discipline and physical and mental well being. They learn respect and care for others through the codes and practice of good manners, the give and take of friendship, the routines of companionship and the management of friendly rivalry. They learn respect for expertise, legitimate authorities, and leadership through acceptance of responsibility. They are taught ways of recognising right from wrong.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • recognising right over wrong
  • honesty and courtesy
  • health, fitness and well being
  • discipline, punctuality, reliability
  • experience, expertise and authority
  • friendship, companionship and friendly rivalry
  • self-discipline, independence and responsibility

Care and respect for families and communities

NSW public school students are encouraged to feel and demonstrate empathy and respect for those who are vulnerable and dependent. They learn to demonstrate the values of generosity and compassion and the principles of fairness. In turn they earn the right to expect to be treated by others with respect and fairness. As members of families and communities they learn how to treat others with consideration.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • kindness and helpfulness towards those who are vulnerable, or who are less able than others
  • the rights of individuals and groups to a fair go
  • sharing and equity as principles of personal and social relationships
  • different histories, customs, cultures and outlooks within home and school communities and in the Australian community

Respect for work

NSW public school students learn the need to grasp opportunities, the rewards of effort, and the value of work. They learn to see how work is changing and how new forms of work encourage experiment and resilience. They learn with new and evolving technologies and are taught to welcome innovation. Public school students learn to work well together with different kinds of people.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • paid, unpaid and voluntary work
  • opportunity, aspiration and enterprise
  • creativity, experiment and resilience
  • working together and in competition
  • skilled workmanship
  • productive habits and methods.

Proud Australians and citizens of the world

As young Australians, NSW public school students learn to understand and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of their land.

They learn about Australia’s creative arts, literature, and history, and the insights to be gained for the future good of Australia. They learn to appreciate the significance of Australia’s Indigenous people and of immigration to Australian identity.

NSW public school students are taught to respect the rule of law and Australia’s democratic institutions and procedures. They are taught their own rights and responsibilities, and those of groups and governments under the code of law and systems of justice.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • Australia’s democratic institutions and procedures
  • the rights and obligations of governments, individuals and groups under the rule of law
  • the contributions of Indigenous people to Australia, and their history and struggles as our country’s first custodians
  • the beauty and uniqueness of Australia’s landscapes and environments
  • the histories and cultures of all Australians
  • the role of migration in building Australia’s place in the world
  • the interdependence of human beings with each other and with the natural world

Values for Australia’s future

These values help each NSW public school student to take full advantage of new ideas and knowledge which characterise the social and economic environment emerging in Australia, and in the world community.

In conjunction with an excellent general and vocational education, this code of values enables young Australians educated in NSW public schools to freely choose and enjoy their paths through adult life, to master the complexity and variety of the contemporary world, and to contribute as citizens to making Australia a better, more prosperous and happier place.

Perhaps the PM regards some of these as “excessive political correctness”? There are probably some values there the PM would have a problem with — but that is his problem, and ours in having a neanderthal for a Prime Minister. I can understand someone who hasn’t had an original or really broad-minded thought in the past forty years thinking that way, just as I can find it quite remarkable that a man whose prime value is how to hang onto power, stifle debate, and lie to the Australian people whenever it seems necessary to achieve his goals is suddenly the mouthpiece for “Australian values.”

Am I being disrespectful?

Bloody oath I am.

I have no respect for John Winston Howard, none at all.

Meanwhile any bigots or loonies who wants to gather half-a-dozen kids together to start a “school” advocating, say, “flat-earthism” as a parental value, are sure to get their hands on government cash these days.

Roll on the election!


Shire: Jannali, Cronulla, family

Is it really a week since I posted this on Facebook’s Sutherland Shire Heritage page?


That’s my sister-in-law Aileen and my niece Christine (Parkes) in front of The Cotton Shop, Box Road Jannali in 1959. My mother owned The Cotton Shop, a very successful dress shop — until she broke her spine falling over a vacuum cleaner in the shop. The business went on under a manager and in the early 1960s moved to Sutherland, but was never the same without my mother running things. In Jannali she had customers coming from all over Sydney, not just The Shire. On Facebook Mark Wright said: “Mum remembers it mate. She knew Mrs Whitfield.” That’s nice.

Couldn’t help reflecting that in 1959 I was in my final year as a student at Sydney Boys High, and that it was also the 8th term of Prime Minister Robert Menzies! He seemed to me then to have been PM forever, though I did dimly recall his predecessor. Menzies continued until 1966. They built them to last in those days!

1966 I began teaching at Cronulla High School, now in Scott Morrison’s electorate. My second HSC class there — and the second HSC ever! — have a reunion planned. I have been invited, but am not sure I can make it. Night-time events in Sydney are an issue for me these days, but I will surely be there in spirit.

Class of 1968 member Paul Weirick has also sent a list of those attending. Brought back lots of memories.  Fortunately, I had been able to attend a couple of events around the 50th anniversary of the school itself — so I haven’t totally missed out.


Naplan, apples and oranges?

I am somewhat of a NAPLAN sceptic: see for example This is the Naplan post that wasn’t… and NAPLAN craplan… And on M’s anniversary. This year NAPLAN trialled online testing. In their FAQ they anticipate an issue with this but respond rather blandly: “Following extensive research undertaken by ACARA, NAPLAN online and paper forms have been explicitly designed to be comparable. Results for both paper and online tests will be reported on the same NAPLAN assessment scale for each test. The use of a common assessment scale, covering Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in each of the areas of conventions of language, numeracy, reading and writing, allows for an individual student’s achievement to be mapped as the student progresses through his or her schooling.” Trouble, as I see it, is the cunning trick whereby student response in the online version actually adds to/changes the test: makes me suspect the concern about comparability hasn’t really been answered.

As the  Australian Education Union has said:

Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino said he was “extremely concerned” about reports that the results from the pen-and-paper version of the test and NAPLAN online version may be “not comparable”. NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said that while parents would be able to see how their own children scored, ACARA might not be able to compare system-wide student performance from this year to last year or previous years.

The AEU has led the call for a comprehensive review of NAPLAN. This has been joined by parent and principal associations around the country. The AEU has also called on Min. Birmingham to immediately give a full explanation of what went wrong with the NAPLAN online trial, and whether the data comparison issue can be rectified.

In the Sydney Morning Herald:

Almost 200,000 Australian students sat NAPLAN online this year and the rest did a pen-and-paper version, but state education ministers and directors general are concerned  the two sets of results are not statistically comparable.

Ministers in two states said they were considering withdrawing from NAPLAN online until their confidence was restored….

The Herald understands the main problem with differing results relates to the grammar and punctuation test.

One of the innovations of NAPLAN online is that the test adapts to the child’s ability. If the students get the first set of answers correct, the questions get harder. These tests give a more accurate diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses.

But this year, strong performers in the reading test were given difficult questions from the beginning of the grammar and punctuation test. They did not get the so-called “confidence building” questions, a key part of test design.

The students who sat the written version did have those confidence-builders. As a result, the top-performing students in schools that ran the test online did not perform as well as the students who sat the written version.

Because the online version is more accurate, it also more effectively separates the very top and bottom-performing students across all the tests, so some of the highest performers might appear to have not performed as well as they did last time….

Apples and oranges?

See also NAPLAN is dangerous and limited: expert panelists, and NAPLAN results delayed over concerns national data could be invalid.