By ERWIN CHLANDA
The two-day “assessment” this week of Yirara College, embroiled in a scandal over rampant student misconduct, was a farce, according to a new source speaking to the Alice Springs News Online and currently employed by the college.
Meanwhile the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, which is understood to be providing $3.5m a year to Yirara, said this afternoon, after being contacted by the News: “The Commonwealth does not operate or licence schools, this is a state / territory government responsibility.
“Any questions regarding the operation of the school should be directed to school operators or the Northern Territory Department of Education.
“Any review would be a matter for the Northern Territory Government.”
This the the account our source provided of what took place this week:-
The Department of Education officials came to Yirara on Wednesday mid-morning. They flew out 24 hours later. So I think they were at school for the second half of Wednesday and Thursday morning.
The visit was announced to staff in advance. Maintenance worked incredibly hard to tidy the entire school. Windows that hadn’t been repaired for weeks were suddenly repaired. A courtyard near the classrooms had not been cleaned or tidied in 2015 until Tuesday. Lawns were mowed. Rubbish was collected.
The school flew the former Director of Business Operations Grant Lindsay down from Darwin for the inspection. Grant was the author of numerous policy documents such as Workplace Health and Safety. The policy documents would satisfy inspection.
But the school finds it almost impossible to follow the policies due to lack of resources and other impracticalities. Under Grant’s tenure, the policy documents improved but reality did not. He could, nevertheless, guide inspectors through the policies satisfactorily.
The head of Curriculum does not work on Wednesdays. He was instructed to be available by phone in case the department inspectors wanted to find something related to curriculum. Again, even if the curriculum documents exist the classroom reality is that teaching, learning and assessment are nearly impossible and don’t follow the published policies.
A number of students (4?) were put on the Greyhound bus on Tuesday night. Others were collected by the Bush Bus or family during the day on Monday and Tuesday.
Needless to say, these students were some of the worst at staying in class. They were regularly in the school yard during class time throwing rocks, running away from teachers and the security guard, interrupting other classes, and so on. I’m not sure that exiting students was done entirely for the benefit of the inspection, but there was a bit more urgency about removing some students.
Monday and Tuesday were awful for student behaviour. Roger [the principal] promised pizza for lunch for every class which had all its students stay in during lesson time on Monday. Only one class, the year 12s, managed to keep all students in the class room for the day. Every other class had students outside during teaching time without permission.
Two policemen spoke to students on Wednesday morning in the Chapel before classes began. They warned students to stay in class and not damage anything at Yirara. This was a good thing, but the timing does leave one suspicious.
One teacher had students in the class on Wednesday who have not been in class for more than 10 minutes this term. Barely any students left the class room. There was much less bad behaviour school-wide. More than half the students were taken off-campus on Wednesday afternoon for sport. This is normal but it does mean that it would be difficult for inspectors to get a true sense of what happens in academic classes.
The officials spent the entire time with the principal and administration on Wednesday. Roger took them on a tour of the school. I don’t know if they went into any classrooms while classes were occurring. They did wander through parts of the school during class time, with Roger all the time. They came to shared lunch on Wednesday with Roger. I don’t believe they interviewed any teaching staff one-on-one.
Overall, I thought it was a very rudimentary inspection. I don’t think much could have been learned. The issues aren’t to do with policy documents. The issues are to do with unworkable realities.
I’m left confused as to why administration wants to hide reality and give a different perception of the school to Department of Education officials. Certainly the head of Lutheran Schools [John Proeve] saw what happens when he was at Yirara. When he was there last Tuesday (March 3) behaviour was so bad the school cancelled the academic program from just before lunch time.
Most students were hoarded on to buses and spent the afternoon at the Telegraph Station. Some students were not allowed to go and they stayed at school, roaming unsupervised, breaking windows, throwing rocks, avoiding staff, and so on. At the Telegraph Station there was nothing for students to do except wander around, kick balls, chase each other.
Staff stood around and “supervised”. Some students went AWOL from the Telegraph Station. It appears [those in charge] don’t want to face up to reality.
Minister Chandler may have to wait until the end of the month but for a result of the “recent review” but, lo and behold, his inspectors have already told the college that all is honky dory. The following email has just been leaked to us:
From: Roger Ashcroft [the principal – ED]
Sent: Friday, 13 March 2015 11:36 AM
Subject: Fwd: Review Outcome
Please see below the result from the recent review. Well done everyone for the extra effort that you all put in. It is appreciated.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Grant Lindsay [deleted]
Date: 13 March 2015 11:56:16 am ACDT
To: Roger Ashcroft [deleted]
Subject: Review Outcome
Just to let you know that we’ve received a call from Kevin Gillan advising that the Review found no issues with the College’s operation and that in his view there remained no case to answer with regards the allegations etc through the online news. [That’s us, I take it – ED]
So all is good J
Cheers, Grant Lindsay
By ERWIN CHLANDA