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Hands Up is a podcast from the Public Education Foundation about the complexities, challenges and unique advantages of Australia’s public school system. It’s for parents and carers, families, teachers and educators, and anyone with an interest in how we can best serve kids in our public schools.

Listen to Hands Up wherever you get your podcasts.

Pasi Sahlberg 0:02
When I went to school, the promise of the system to me and my parents, and many other adults, was that if you have a good schooling, if you do well in school, you’re going to get a good job. You’re going to retire once and be a happy, happy guy.

David Hetherington 0:14
But is that still the case? Welcome to ‘Hands up’ the podcast to answer all your burning questions about our public schools. I’m David Hetherington from the Public Education Foundation. Join me as we tackle the big debates about schooling. Have you ever asked yourself, why we send our kids to school in the first place?

Pasi Sahlberg 0:34
Doesn’t really matter what type of degree or credentials you have from school, how your life is going to end up.

David Hetherington 0:41
If you’ve got kids in school, or you’re trying to decide when and where to send them, this podcast is for you.

Barbara Barker 0:47
The first thing I would be saying to parents is you matter. You matter a whole lot, and you know your child better than anybody else.

David Hetherington 0:54
If you work in a school…

Denise Lofts 0:55
The library. Some year twelves working hard…

David Hetherington 1:00
…or if you’re just interested in education, this podcast is for you too.

Pasi Sahlberg 1:04
For any significant change to happen have better conversations, better informed conversations about what’s happening in schools.

David Hetherington 1:11
And that’s what we’ll be doing. The last two years have seen big disruptions to schooling.

Child 1:16
I had to do so much homework!

Michelle Powell 1:18
She missed out on so much like, like socially and so much learning. She’s still not reading. She’s now seven, and she’s in year one, and she still can’t read really hardly at all.

David Hetherington 1:27
What does this mean for their education? And for their wellbeing?

Jenny Gore 1:30
And heroic stories of teachers, you know, hand delivering packages to homes and providing devices to families that didn’t have them and so on.

David Hetherington 1:39
And how are teachers going?

Alice Leung 1:41
You know, we often joke that we don’t have time to even go to the toilet or drink water. I think because a lot of teachers feel like, they don’t have the time to teach well.

David Hetherington 1:50
And amidst the endless debates about curriculum, what do students think about what should be in there?

Student 1:55
It made me realise that well, there’s something really, really wrong going on. Something needs to change. We need to be taught younger and better about consent.

David Hetherington 2:06
And in a wealthy country like Australia, how can we accept that some students are still at risk of missing out, despite the best efforts of teachers and principals, and charities like the Public Education Foundation, which provides scholarships for disadvantaged students.

Denise Lofts 2:19
Their uninform they kind of had to share, because some do share. They probably don’t have lunch. That’s pretty common.

David Hetherington 2:26
So how do we address this so-called education gap? Public education is one of the best investments society can make.

Alice Leung 2:32
I would like to see public education as the best schooling system. It should be. It is the one that attracts the best teachers. It is the one that our politicians care about, because it is the system that welcomes every single child regardless of their circumstances.

David Hetherington 2:48
So please, put your thinking cap on, grab your headphones, get your questions ready. And join us for hands up a podcast by the Public Education Foundation. It’s like a podcast version of the school parents WhatsApp chat, with a lot more facts, a lot less rant. You can find hands up wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 1 – The Future of Teaching

Did you know some teachers are too busy to eat lunch during a typical work day? Teachers’ wages haven’t increased in line with extensive new workload and requirements placed on them. So what does this mean for the future of teaching? Why are both experienced and new teachers leaving the profession in droves? In this episode on the Future of Teaching, we meet Alice Leung, a high school science teacher who takes us through a typical day and we speak to former principal and education expert Lila Mularcyzk. We also hear from former WA Premier and author of the Gallop inquiry into the State of Teaching, Geoff Gallop.

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Episode 2 – Teach us consent

In this episode, we speak to the founder of the campaign, Chanel Contos, who collected thousands of signatures and testimonials from school students who had experienced sexual harassment or assault while at school. How has consent been taught at school and why is it so important to teach consent earlier and in a more comprehensive way. And what are students and young people calling for? We’ll also hear from former Dolly Doctor, Dr Melissa Kang, who has recently co-authored a book for children and parents called ‘Welcome to Consent’.
*Trigger warning: This episode talks about sexual assault and sexual violence and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

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Episode 3 – Tackling disadvantage

Every child should have access to a high quality education but in Australia, many of our most vulnerable kids are missing out. Children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are up to three years behind the most advantaged students. So how do we close this education gap? In this episode we meet students and their principal Denise Lofts from Ullladulla, a regional south coast NSW town. Despite its low socio-economic status, the school has above average education results. We also speak to Pasi Sahlberg, a world-renowned Finnish educator with big ideas about how to overcome disadvantage in schools.

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Episode 4 – Pandemic!

The Covid19 Pandemic saw the greatest disruption to traditional schooling since world war two. How has this affected childrens’ learning? What about their social development and well being? And are teachers ok? In this episode we meet a mother of six who juggled working from home and learning from home during lockdown. We speak to Professor Jenny Gore from the University of Newcastle about her research on the surprising academic outcomes during Covid and we talk to Malcolm Elliot from the Australian Primary Principals Association about student well-being.

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Episode 5 – Why parents and carers matter

Have you ever helped out a school sausage sizzle, bought a tray of lamingtons, or attended a P&C meeting? Whatever your involvement, research shows that strong family engagement with a child’s school can actually improve educational outcomes? As our guest Barbara Barker says, “Parents and families matter.” But how do we improve and strengthen these partnerships? In this episode we visit one school that has a unique “School as community centre” program that creates strong relationships with families well before their children start attending school. We speak to Di Giblin, the CEO of the Australian Council of State School Organisations and Barbara Barker, a researcher at ARACY into the benefits of increased family and community engagement.

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This podcast was produced on the land of the Gadigal people, the first and original teachers and knowledge holders of this land.

Production credits:

Executive producers: Jennifer Macey and Olivia Rosenman

Research and production: Melanie Morrison

Audio editing: Holly Forrest and Emily Perkins

Sound engineer: Jason Nicholas

We’d like to acknowledge our former colleague Jannine Miguez Shaw, who was a source of inspiration for the podcast.

Thank you to the New South Wales Teachers Federation for their support and for allowing us to record in our excellent podcasting studio.

A big shout out to the students and staff in the Instrumental Music Program at Fort Street High School in Sydney for composing, performing and arranging our wonderful theme music.