Wednesday, 15 June 2011

POLITICKING IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

New readers start here

Events in Western Australia have been moving fast. Follow them on Conductive World's Facebook page:


This has the advantages of (nearly) real-time reporting but is not good for catch-up and analysis.

The story so far

Western Australia has take pole position for CE in Australia in recent years but, hardly surprising in these tough times, the way has not been smooth, with sustainable reliable funding being an especial problem. One of the services presently available in WA has been the preschool programme at Carson Street School in Perth, the success and vulnerability of which relate to a government grant of Aus$200,000 a year to the Conductive Education Centre of WA. the charity providing this.

Liz Constable, the Minister of Education for Western Australia, acting upon the recommendation of an as-yet-unread report by officials, announced that this grant will cease, then took a half-step back –
The school has received a letter saying that the $200,000 in government funding would be withdrawn from next year. Under pressure from the Opposition in Parliament today, Dr Constable says she will review a report about the program before she rules on the department's decision.
'I've only received the report today, clearly I haven't read the report and I received a recommendation from the Director General which I'm considering,' she said.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/06/14/3243748.htm
Immediate parental action has included public demonstration and involvement of opposition MPs. Yesterday, Alistair Jobling, Vice-President of the Conductive Education Centre of WA led a contingent of parents, children and staff from the centre to the steps of Parliament House. Lucy Rickard reports –
A report issued by the Department's acting deputy director general David Axworthy, which was only given to Education Minister Liz Constable this morning, has recommended the program be done away with.
Dr Constable said the "highly experimental" program was not proven to be effective, but said she would be willing to visit the centre and meet with parents before making the final call.
'It has been evaluated, and that evaluation does not really support conductive education,' she said.
'It does not support the anecdotal evidence from parents... there is no evidence to suggest that this is a program worthy of our continued financial support.'
The Education Department made a three-year commitment to the centre in 2006, funding an early life intervention pilot program for disabled pre-kindergarten students. It requires annual funding from the state government of about $220,000.
According to Mr Jobling, the department launched an investigation into the centre's viability nine months ago, the results of which are still not public.
He said that given the report has not been released, he was mystified as to why the program has been cancelled given all feedback to date had been positive.
http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/parents-children-appeal-to-education-minister-for-their-funding-back-20110614-1g1df.html
http://www.optuszoo.com.au/news/breaking/wa-today/parents-children-appeal-to-education-minister-for-their-funding-back/381138
The plot thickens. There is more. As Lucy Rickard went on to report: there had been another research report, three years ago –

Associate Professor Heather Jenkins from Curtin University spent 10 months independently evaluating the education centre, and said that with a growing waiting list, the state government simply could not afford to cut the program.
She noted in her evaluation that students attending the centre had 'in gross motor skills and functional mobility ... improved communication ... decreased dependence on caregiver support and great independence'.
'It is unrealistic to expect families or [the school] to fund the continuation of this program beyond 2012 from their own pocket,' Associate Professor Jenkins said.
'Families and the school can't be expected to fund pre-school programs from the funds provided for school-aged kids.'
http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/parents-children-appeal-to-education-minister-for-their-funding-back-20110614-1g1df.html
On Facebook

These goings-on down under have generated a couple of discussion threads on Conductive World's Facebook page:


For example, concerning the earlier research report, Natalie Fitzpatrick writes –
That was from an independent researcher. We received 3 years of funding from the Dept of Educ, they said that continued funding would depend on their own research which we are waiting to see. :)
Norman Perrin points out CE's ever-besetting research-problem of sauce for the goose –
What always fascinates me about these "does-it-doesn't-it-work" evidential reports is that the same rigour is rarely applied to mainstream schools...
I myself cautioned –
Better watch out Dr Constable You should know how vicious Australian politics can be. You probably do not know what happened in Canberra .Best to take the easy way (which is not going to be easy) and publish your report NOW.
I was referring to the bitter and destructive row over an earlier official report on CE in Australia, fifteen years ago. Most instructive.

This was before the Internet age. I was personally involved, as was Mária Hári, but my extensive paper files on this are not at the moment readily available to me. Gary Prigg and Claire Cotter who let the successful fight against what was being swung on CE can doubtless inform. And of course one can always trawl back through Hansard for the Parliament of Australia, and the Internet archives of the Australian press. Here's what a quick check find:

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;page=0;query=%22conductive%20education%22;rec=14;resCount=Default

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;page=0;query=%22conductive%20education%22;rec=13;resCount=Default

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;page=0;query=%22conductive%20education%22;rec=12;resCount=Default
Very nasty that all was. You can almost feel them squirming. At least in one respect the discussion has moved on since then, from health to education, so some progress has been made at least, but talk is still on unquestioned research confounded by official  stonewalling.

Meanwhile, look out on Facebook for further updates on the current struggle

Secrets

What is with all this secrecy anyway? And what about Dr Jenkins' report from three years ago? Reporting this at the time, Conductive World commented –


Evidence-based grant

Last year the school received an official grant of A$200,000 over three years to promote and develop Conductive Education in the early years, a program described as ‘applying the principles of Conductive Education’. It will be interesting to see sometime what these are and how they are applied. Such a grant apparently is not usual in Western Australia, having been made following publication of the ‘strong evidence-based recommendations’ of a study by Heather Jenkins of the Curtin University of technology that recommended that ‘the program of Conductive Education is continued for children with motor disabilities’.

Many people around the world would be very interested to know how to collect the sort of ‘evidence base’ strong enough lead to a A$200,000 grant so that they might arrange for their own. The report is unpublished: for further information, contact the author direct at h.jenkins@curtin.edu.au 
Did anyone ever write? Has that report ever been published? It might not only have contributed usefully to the wider world of Conductive Education but even help avoid or at least ease the present situation in WA. What is it about Conduction Education that fosters this climate of secrecy, such that it is almost expected that things are kept out of the public domain, whatever the long-term cost?

Dr Elizabeth Constable

Elizabeth Constable, the Minister of Education for Western Australia, is a former schoolteacher who took a PhD and has helped train educational psychologists. The subject of her PhD thesis was gifted children and it may not have been lost to the attention of people in Western Australia that their big Gifted and Talented program continues to expand:


Geese and ganders?

References

(2011) Funding for severely disabled children reconsidered, ABC News, 14 June

Carpenter, L. (2011) Gifted and talented program offered in country WA for the first time, 1 April

Rickard, L. (2011) Parents, children appeal to Education Minister for their funding back, WA Today, 14 June

Sutton, A. (2008) Expansion in Western Australia, Conductive World, 20 August

1 comment:

  1. I have received this comment in my email in-box three times but it has not appeared here. Andrew, with your permission am posting it for you. Google-Blogger seems to be playing up again.

    Andrew has left a new comment on your post "Politicking in Western Australia":

    If you have difficulty in using the Comments facility on this post, then do please send your comment to me direct for posting, as Norman Perrin has done.

    Email address is: conductive.world@gmail.com

    Norman writes to follow up on his Facebook comment (see above) on how evidence argues how it suites one that it should. Ofsted, by the way, is Englnd's school-inspection system. He writes –

    Apparently Ofsted share my doubts. "Some 45 per cent of schools inspected by Ofsted in the last eight months were ranked no better than "satisfactory", it was disclosed. More than one-in-20 primary or secondary schools were declared inadequate – the watchdog's lowest possible rating.

    Or maybe not? Apparently Ofsted say that these appalling results were "skewed" ... "by a new hard-line inspection regime – implemented for the first time in 2009 – which ... places a greater emphasis on classroom teaching and pupils' results."

    How interesting that Ofsted (or anyone) would regard an inspection regime that focuses on teaching and learning as "hard-line". One can only wonder, along as I suppose would Liz Constable, the Minister of Education for Western Australia, why we continue to fund them.

    ReplyDelete