Three parts to the education partnership

KBates-tn.jpgRecent media stories have reinforced the fact that education is not solely the responsibility of schools.

The major stories so far this week have been about monitoring social media, and calls by Royal Lifesaving Australia for compulsory swimming and water safety training in primary schools.

The first needs some clarification. The original story focused on the rise of social media as an influence on students and a platform by which trouble can quickly spread, whether the targets are students, teachers or school property.

The note written in the classroom has gone viral, and questions are regularly being asked on how school communities can grapple with the implications. Yes, schools do have a role in promoting responsibility and respect in any communication, and they do as part of their positive behaviour codes and day-to-day teaching in the classroom. Yes, parents have a role in monitoring what their children are up to, and largely they do as part of their broader parenting responsibilities.

However, the spread of handheld devices with independent internet access creates increasingly complex challenges for schools and parents. Just banning the use of such devices does nothing to teach responsible behaviour.

This is where the Government could step up as the third part of the education partnership. While media headlines and short news grabs said the QTU is calling for “taxpayer-funded school-based police to monitor social media”, that’s not the case.

What the QTU would like to see, on behalf of its teacher and principal members, is more central departmental support to harness the virtual eyes and ears  that can alert school communities and, if necessary, the Queensland Police, to online threats. It’s the kind of “non-frontline” work that could provide invaluable support to help keep schools safe in the contemporary environment, and that deserves allocated Government resources.

Similarly, enhancing water safety is a shared responsibility. Schools do what they can, either in their own swimming pools if they are fortunate enough to have such facilities, or by taking students by bus to public facilities – a cost often borne by P&Cs in their ongoing efforts to make up for Government funding shortfalls. Parents too do what they can, depending on whether their family has the resources to access swimming classes.

Many schools and families simply don’t have the resources to do more. There again is an opportunity for the State Government to step up and find ways to shoulder its burden of responsibility as a service to all Queenslanders.

Kevin Bates