Verity, please verify

I should not pollute my blog with this, but it matters. The Minister of Education for NSW, Verity Firth has posted a political video on the NSW Department of Education website and YouTube.

Firstly, she claims that ‘140 million people have visited MySchools website’s pages’ in 3 months (Australian population is only 22 million – the real time clock is here). It is great to see so much of the world are interested in looking up Australian schools by postcode.

However she may have this very confused with 140 million hits – which is not the same thing at all. Here’s something I Googled to explain the MASSIVE difference in the metrics.

This seems symptomatic of the way the Minister likes to bandy around numbers. There is no evidence to support this claim, and indicative of the way the government likes to report on education, not by outcomes. Its easy to spend money and build websites, much harder to provide effective professional development and support.

Let’s look at some of the other issues with this video.

Firstly, that the message is clearly, but not suprisingly political, and only the last few seconds gives any information about the new ‘hotline’. I called the line, it was closed.

Various statements are made about how they will not ‘allow teacher action to damage a child’s education” … that the “Federation has banned the NAPLAN” … blah … adding more details about how important NAPLAN is. Again, the Minister seems confused – it is the supervision of it that teachers are not providing, they are not banning the test itself. You can read today’s update here from John Nixon, Teachers Federation.

Assurances are given of 3,500 qualified people poised to administer the test. You can apply for one of those jobs here, they pay $19.08 an hour.

The Minister seems quite triumphant that not listening to teachers is the best way to ensure quality public education – as well as keeping your place at the Kings table.

It seems the Minister is missing some detail. The Federation cannot ‘ban’, but only act on the advise of members – who are teachers. Teachers are not against the test, but increasingly worried about the accuracy and point of the data that ‘parents want’ – given that all the results are given directly to parents, available in the school annual report etc.,

The Minister then claims this is vital information communication between parent and teacher. Parents do attend open days, interviews and contact the teacher anytime, so again I don’t see any evidence that schools or teachers are inaccessible to parents. I’m off to the P&C tonight – all welcome, the principal will be there.

Now lets look at some more serious issues.

This video is inaccessible and there is no transcript. The breaks the Departments Code of Practice, and probably the Accessibility Legal Requirement of a Government Department. There are no closed captions on the video – though YouTube seems to interpret it’s own version – to a somewhat amusing end.

As the Minister mentions how keen the Department is to do the best for children, I wonder then exactly why my children are being disadvantaged by the Building the Revolution – as the entire school cannot currently meet its ICT outcomes. You see, the builder, Hovis – has blocked off the computer room and made no alternative arrangements. Since the beginning of the year, they have had zero hours logged. That Minister, is direct EVIDENCE.

It will be interesting to see the ‘views’ on the video – given that it logs them from YouTube and the Dept Website – stats that they can’t fudge. 151 and counting … it’s going to be a while until we get to 140 million.

While we wait for that – have a look at the UK experience of league tables and data base reporting. Post re-election, the inspection of schools seems inevitable here too. The government seems to be very selective about what it calls ‘data’.

To save parents the hassle of using the myschools database – the Top 100 schools have already been listed here.

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