Sent to Age, Australian and Herald-Sun
It is disappointing that NAPLAN results in recent years show no overall improvement. I am now a grandparent at an inner-suburban community school that scored (for 2015) around 100 points above average in all areas. (The sitting of the NAPLAN has been overseen by an official.) The school does not select students and operates on an average Australian school budget.
Classroom help often comes from parents and grandparents who are approved by the principal and invited by the teacher. The closer adult-child ratio seems to make discipline issues disappear. The children routinely join in group conversation about school life and subject content. There is often running around the local park to get the circulation going again. And outings every week.
Regarding classroom methods, they don’t do a project on kangaroos, and hope to incidentally gain in reading, spelling, punctuation, grammar, handwriting, maths and science. No, each essential skill is tackled head-on.
If it’s spelling, they descend on a word-part like “tion” and write up all the “tion” words they can think of. Then, they do a test where everyone writes out a dictated list of “tion” words. The children seem to enjoy it. If it’s handwriting, they focus entirely on forming letters more legibly. If it’s creative writing, it’s all about writing short stories with ideas and style, and showing respect for each other’s original texts. If it’s grammar, they discuss how to change a present sentence into a past one and then attempt to rewrite a given list of sentences in the other tense.
These simple, logical, traditional methods seem to work wonders.
This web site contains a selection of Philip’s letters to the editor which cover Australian and global issues. Any of these letters may be published with author’s name or web address shown.
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Philip with his wife Faye founded the Fitzroy Community School in 1976. This innovative school takes 65 children aged 5 to 12, emphasising self-confidence and communication skills.
Philip and Faye have now, 39 years after the founding of Fitzroy Community School, written the book of the school, sharing their experiences of creating and operating a community school, and their ideas for a better education system for Australian children.
The school has a very high standard of English and has contributed to national literacy levels by publishing its own reading materials, known as the Fitzroy Readers, and supplying them to over 3000 Australian schools.
Philip also founded COBBERS, a movement to counteract the growing stranglehold of bureaucracy on the modern way of life.
Philip responds with an Open Submission to the Review of the RSB. The RSB (now called the VRQA) is the agency of the Victorian Education Department which registers (permits to exist) and reviews (inspects) non-government schools.
Philip summarises the case for Reform of the School Funding System in Australia, giving parents greater choice and children greater access to both state-run and independent schooling.
Philip also responds to the 2012 School Funding Review, urging this Review to prioritise higher standards in schooling, and equal opportunities for all Australian children.