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Inside Teaching : April 2011
editorial state of the nation Many students across Australia were affected by natural disasters in recent months, while others have experienced vicarious trauma as a result of saturation media coverage, particularly following the massive 8.9 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami off the north-east of Japan on Friday 11 March. An estimated 550,000 people have been displaced, possibly 100,000 of them children, according to Save the Children. SchoolAid is working with Save the Children to support Japanese children directly affected by the disaster. Head of KidsHelpLine Wendy Protheroe said such support also helps children in Australia to cope with disaster-related trauma. Students and teachers at the Sydney Japanese School observed a minute’s silence on the Monday after the disaster. The earthquake and tsunami occurred as schools in New Zealand were reopening after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake devastated the Christchurch region on 22 February. Ninety schools reopened in February, while 24 remained closed, pending further assessment for structural damage. Eleven seriously damaged schools were relocated on sites shared with undamaged schools. The NZ Ministry of Education established nine ‘learning hubs’ to provide resources and further support for schools and students. Some 7,500 students have moved with their families and have enrolled in schools outside the Christchurch region. NZ Education Minister Anne Tolley said she expected many families to return. ‘Once the schools are open and... the city starts getting itself back on its feet, I’m sure some families will come back,’ she said. In Queensland, northern New South Wales and Victoria, teachers and students are also recovering from a summer of disasters following flood inundation and, in Queensland, damage caused by Cyclone Yasi. The Queensland Department of Education and Training and school staff readied 89 of 92 flood-affected schools for the new school year. Northern NSW was also flooded although schools were generally unaffected. Nine schools in Victoria’s north-east were closed at the beginning of the school year after floods there in February. In Western Australia, three schools south-east of Perth were closed under threat of bushfire and two schools in the state’s north-west were closed due to extreme weather, while 74 schools in the Northern Territory were closed due to a cyclone warning. LINKS www.schoolaid.org.au The Commonwealth government’s Review of Funding for Schooling chaired by David Gonski released its Review of Funding for Schooling: Emerging issues paper in December last year. That was followed by the panel’s third communiqué in March, which indicated that the panel had commissioned a comprehensive program of research to inform its deliberations. Members of the panel have also been busy since February, undertaking a series of school visits to hear more about the issues raised by key education groups during the initial consultations last year. The panel will complete those school visits by May, no doubt taking copies of submissions in response to the Emerging issues paper with them. There’s every sign of diligence in the panel’s activities, but one needs only to look at the media frenzy over funding unleashed when the revamped My School website was launched to see that funding is likely to be an ideological touchpaper.