Teachers suspicious of quota for skills checks

FORCING more than 2500 public school teachers a year to attend performance improvement programs would ”result in better teachers”, a state government review says.

The NSW Commission of Audit final report recommends the education department improve its management of poor performing teachers and specifically endorses reviewing the performance of ”something closer to 5 per cent”, a huge increase on the current level.

Currently, 100 teachers a year are directed into 10-week Teacher Improvement Programs each year. Half of them return to work and half leave their jobs.

The proposal was rejected by the NSW Teachers Federation president, Maurie Mulheron, as part of ”the great distraction of teacher bashing”. He said a quota made no sense.

”If there is a teacher who is under-performing there should be a fair and rigorous process to support them and if they don’t meet the standards they shouldn’t remain in teaching,” Mr Mulheron said.

Lila Mularczyk, the president of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, said principals were also opposed to something that sounded like a quota for low-performing teachers.

”I can’t imagine that would have a positive outcome for anyone in the education system, or for the system itself,” she said.

But the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, who released a discussion paper last week designed to lift the quality of teaching, said that ”nothing is off the table” and the report should be considered.

The audit report also offers strong endorsement of the school autonomy reforms initiated by Mr Piccoli and advocates placing even more responsibility on principals to achieve the government’s goals.

For instance, it says sick pay has been ”poorly managed” and says the system is being abused, with costs increasing because principals are not replacing sick teachers with other teachers or deputy principals, as they are entitled to do under industrial agreements. Principals should be given responsibility to manage the problem – backed by the incentive of being able to keep ”at least some of the savings”.

The report recommends principals be alerted to staff with ”atypical” sick-leave patterns. ”Principals should then undertake an investigation of sick leave in their school, to determine whether some individuals may be abusing their entitlement,” the report states.

They should then force their own staff to cover ”short term absences”.

But Ms Mularczyk rejected the proposal. ”We don’t believe it is the principal’s job to be managing salaries or leave conditions,” she said.

”It has always been a priority for us to make sure there is a quality teacher in front of every class every day. But that does not mean increasing the workload of someone who already has a role in the school.”

The NSW opposition education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt, said students would suffer.

”We don’t want to go back to the day where classes are combined because schools can’t afford to employ casual staff to cover for sick teachers,” she said.

Mr Mulheron said principals would be forced to pick up the work that had been done by public servants. ”This report confirms our worst fears, that education policy in NSW is being driven by Treasury,” he said.

The report also recommends the government consider buying out the long service leave entitlements of teachers.

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Ambassador may not be fastest during run, but he will be fasting


THE City2Surf is hard enough when you are fit and young, but the 14-kilometre race will be a hard slog for the 56-year-old ambassador to Australia from the United Arab Emirates, Ali Nasser Al Nuaimi, who is fasting for Ramadan.

His Excellency Mr Nuaimi, an ex-military officer, is joining other Muslims observing the month of fasting, during which no food or water is consumed between dawn and dusk.

The Islamic faith encourages followers to contribute to charity and do good deeds during Ramadan.

Mr Nuaimi is one of this Sunday’s top 10 individual fund-raisers, raising nearly $9000 so far for the [email protected]’s Galilee School, which helps high school dropouts attain their year 10 certificate in the ACT.

Organisers said yesterday the City2Surf race, presented by Westpac and the biggest race of its kind in the world, was on track to raise $5 million for more than 650 charities.

”Fund-raising for City2Surf doesn’t close until three weeks after the event, so we’re still feeling positive that we will reach this year’s target of $5 million, and we’re aiming to have raised $4 million by this Sunday,” a spokesperson said.

Among the other religions represented at the City2Surf are Sister Leone Wittmack and the 40-strong Nuns on the Run team, who should be easy to spot in bright orange shirts with a running nun logo. They are raising money for Gorman House, a detoxification unit predominantly for homeless, drug and alcohol dependent people.

Sr Leone, the group mission leader of St Vincent’s Health Australia, has done the City2Surf 13 times, once in 92 minutes. She prepares by trying to keep fit. ”I do my bit of running and go to gym, do group classes, like Body Attack and a spin-bike class.”

Does she offer up a special prayer before the race? ”Dear God, help me to get to other end and make it up Heartbreak Hill.”

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That was then, this is now: Swans are ready to clip Collingwood’s wings

Stretched, not stressed … yesterday’s training session for the Swans at the SCG.What has been the difference in the past?

The Pies match the hard-nosed Swans at the contest – contested possessions and clearances – and then blow them out on the spread. But one forgotten factor has been Sydney’s poor starts. The streak stands at 10. Collingwood’s winning run in first quarters of those games also stands at 10. On average, the Swans have given up a three-goal head start. In games decided by just four goals, it is a massive advantage. Last year’s game aside, you have to go back to round 14, 2008, to find the last time Sydney kicked more than two goals in an opening term against the Pies. Sluggish starts have been of no concern this year, however. Sydney top the AFL for first quarters. The only problem is, Collingwood are second.

What has changed this year?

The Swans are better. This will be only the second time since 2006 that Sydney go into a game ahead of Collingwood on the ladder – let alone on top of it. As former coach Paul Roos highlighted this week, his old team has addressed the spread problem. With players such as Lewis Jetta, Kieren Jack and others stepping up this year, the Swans have benefited from more outside run, and it has shown up in their uncontested possession numbers. Last year they averaged 16 fewer per game than their opponents. This year they are +8. Although, when assessing Sydney’s rise, nothing has been more pivotal than their rock-solid defence. In the 10 previous losses, the Swans have leaked an average of 14 goals to the Pies, with Travis Cloke getting hold of them last year with six goals. This year, they have conceded just 9.8 goals to their opponents, making the Sydney’s back six the most reliable and settled combination in the AFL right now. They have to stand up again tomorrow night.

What can’t the Swans afford to do?

Let Collingwood launch their attack from the back half. The Swans top the AFL for long kicks to a contest, and last for short kicks. It has meant they are also last for marks. They are good at the contest, but bombing the ball in long has also meant they rank 16th for turning forward 50 entries into goals. Against the Pies, indirect ball use inside 50 can allow the likes of Nick Maxwell and Harry O’Brien to go third man up on the Swans’ main forwards, one of whom, Sam Reid, is out injured and another, Adam Goodes, still searching for his best form. Collingwood’s Heath Shaw is second in the AFL for rebound 50s. O’Brien is 13th. Both won’t need to be asked to kick start the Pies’ running game.

No Swan against the Swans?

History says it helps Sydney … big time. Dane Swan has a good record against everyone. His numbers against the Swans are no different. He averages 27 disposals in his past eight games against them, thriving in the intense midfield battles. His influence in those contests makes his absence due to a club-imposed ban so significant. The ball magnet has polled two or more Brownlow votes in four of his past six outings going back to 2008. No Pie has given John Longmire and his predecessor more grief. Sydney, though, will simply turn their attention to Dayne Beams, who has had more disposals than any other player since round five and, more importantly, more uncontested possessions. The only man to have had more outside ball than Beams in the past month is Swan himself.

What mental edge does the streak give Collingwood, and do Sydney need to end it before the finals?

The Swans will say no on both counts. And former Collingwood premiership captain Tony Shaw agrees: ”Blokes like [Luke] Parker, [Alex] Johnson, [Craig] Bird, Jetta, they haven’t been brought up on this. Their personnel and the way they play has changed that much that I don’t think it makes a lot of difference,” he said.

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Bring it on: hungry Goodes keen for his slice of the Pies

SYDNEY might still be weeks away from kicking off their September campaign but Adam Goodes says the Swans will receive a sneak peek of what to expect during the finals in tomorrow night’s blockbuster clash with Collingwood.

After disposing of Carlton last week, John Longmire’s men are bracing for a step up in intensity at ANZ Stadium against a side many believe are one of Sydney’s greatest dangers in this year’s premiership race.

Interest in the match is soaring with a crowd nearing 55,000, including more than 5000 of the black-and-white army making the journey north of the Murray, expected for one of the highlights of Sydney’s AFL calendar.

The clash with the powerhouse Magpies kick-starts a treacherous four-week stretch for the Swans in which the ladder leaders also take on flag favourites Hawthorn and reigning premiers Geelong in the run to the finals.

”This is why you play football, for the big games,” Goodes said. ”Every game now is an eight-point game, they say. If we want to be successful as a group, we’ve got to beat those teams and produce our best footy at the right time. There’s no better time than to start now.

”You’re going to have two teams that are going to be hungry, [apply] fantastic pressure on the ball-carrier and people up here are going to get a good insight into what finals footy potentially could look like.”

The dual Brownlow medallist agreed with suggestions the match would be played at a finals-like tempo. ”I think when two teams want to win so much and it’s a big stage, Saturday night, lights are on, big crowd, that’s what happens,” he said.

Goodes used to look forward to clashes with the Magpies early in his career but has sketchy memories of recent matches against the club he supported as a child. It’s not hard to see why. The Swans have not triumphed since round 13 of their premiership year in 2005.

Goodes, Jarrad McVeigh, Nick Malceski, Ryan O’Keefe and Lewis Roberts-Thomson are the only Swans remaining from that game.

The Sydney champion deflected talk of a supernatural curse or hoodoo but the club’s run of 10 consecutive losses to Collingwood is one of the longest ongoing streaks in the league. ”They’ve just played better on the night, they’re a fantastic team,” Goodes said. ”They have been and they’ve showed that over the last seven years.

”It’s another opportunity for us to play a team that is around about where we think we are. It’s a good opportunity to get a win over them.”

And there is good reason to believe the Swans can snap their losing run against the Pies tomorrow.

They pushed Collingwood to a kick last year but were derailed by dominant performances from Travis Cloke, who bagged six goals in a best-on-ground effort, and Dane Swan, who polled two Brownlow votes for his 33 possessions.

Dogged by speculation over his contractual impasse, Cloke has thus far not reproduced the form that earned him an All-Australian centre half-forward spot last year, although he still leads the competition this season for contested marks.

This time he must contend with arguably the competition’s best key defender, Ted Richards, and a back line that has conceded 22 fewer goals than any other team.

Swan won’t even lace his boots courtesy of his late-night escapades last weekend that earned him a club-imposed two-game suspension.

”That’s their issue, we don’t buy into another club’s issue,” Goodes said. ”I don’t think it will change too much on Saturday night. They’ve got a lot of fantastic players in the midfield that we’ve got to look out for.”

The Swans are also closing in on some enviable records. Victory tomorrow would be their 16th of the season and equal the most wins by the club in their 115-year VFL/AFL history. It would also take their winning streak this season to 10, leaving them just two wins shy of matching the club record of 12, achieved three times, in 1918, 1933 and 1935.

For omen punters, the Swans were premiers in 1918 and 1933 but beaten in the 1935 grand final.

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Darley bags gold at US sale

The performances of three of Darley’s gun shuttle stallions – Medaglia d’Oro, Street Cry and Bernardini – were the standouts at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga premier sale held near New York this week.

A total of 107 yearlings changed hands over the two days; 55 failed to meet their reserves. The average of $US299,065 ($283,124) was a healthy return but down $US20,275 on the previous year’s trading.

The sales were important from an Australian viewpoint because Darley plays such an important role in southern hemisphere racing and breeding. Darley also had yearlings sell by its other high-profile stallions – Street Sense, Street Boss and Hard Spun.

The top two lots were by Darley sires: a grey filly by Medaglia d’Oro from Wait A While fetched $US1,575,000 to hall of fame trainer Todd Pletcher, while a colt by Street Cry from Serenading sold to Sheikh Mohammed’s representative John Ferguson for $1.2 million.

The only other seven-figure seller was a colt by Empire Maker which brought $US1.1 million, while southern highlands stud Waratah Thoroughbreds made the fourth highest price at the sale when Paul Fudge paid $US900,000 for a Dynaformer filly from Super Freaky, adding to his magnificent list of young fillies and mares.

Statistics from the Fasig-Tipton sale that will be of great interest to Australian breeders show that Medaglia d’Oro had five lots sell for an average of $US738,000; Street Cry had five sell at $US520,000 and Bernardini had six lots average $US350,000.

Of the other three Darley sires, Street Boss’s two yearlings averaged $US275,000, Street Sense had two average $US215,000, while the only Hard Spun to sell fetched $US145,000. Vinery’s More Than Ready also had a solid sale. His three yearlings to sell brought an average of $US136,666.

Galileo, the world’s most expensive stallion, had two fillies in the sale and they went for $US560,000 and $US450,000. Demi O’Byrne, Coolmore’s buyer, signed for just one lot, a War Front colt for $US675,000.

Sheikh Mohammed was the major player; John Ferguson signed for 10 lots for an outlay of $US3,325,000. All were by Darley’s sires.

Pletcher’s top-priced lot out of Wait A While was a special buy because the champion trainer won a dozen races with her, 10 at group level.

Fudge’s agent David Ingordo said the Dynaformer filly bought by Waratah Thoroughbreds was ”a superstar physical-wise who had the pedigree and as there aren’t many more Dynaformers, so she is special”. Ingordo also signed for Fudge’s buy in Japan in early July when they bought a Deep Impact filly for $1.8 million.

Form franked

The form of Black Caviar was franked when Moonlight Cloud, which got within a nose of the unbeaten Aussie mare in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, won a group 1 sprint in France last Sunday. Moonlight Cloud (by Invincible Spirit) won the Prix Maurice de Gheest (1300 metres), at Deauville by five lengths, taking her record to seven wins and two seconds from 11 starts. Trainer Freddy Head will continue to take on elite races with her. Head says Moonlight Cloud can continue her winning ways and he could back her up on Sunday in the group 1 Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

More than firing

It was a matter of time before Vinery’s shuttle sire More Than Ready notched a century of stakes winners worldwide; a pair of his two-year-old took his overall tally to 101. Maybe So was credited as his 100th winner when successful at Mountaineer Park in a 1200m listed race last Saturday and the following day Promise Me More won a listed 1500m race at Louisiana Downs. A wrap-up of More Than Ready’s stakes winners show he has had 54 in the northern hemisphere from 715 starters and 47 in the southern hemisphere from 603 starters. Nine of More Than Ready’s 11 group 1 winners worldwide have been recorded in Australia.

Enter the ‘Dragon

Pendragon was earmarked as a prospective staying sire when his retirement to Think Big Stud was announced and a city double at Kembla Grange on the final day of the racing season was a great fillip for the former Bart Cummings-trained galloper. It was fitting that Cummings prepared both winners – Dragonzone and Blazing Dragon – and the three-year-olds were able to stamp themselves as likely black-type contenders with their wins over 2400m and 2000m respectively. Dragonzone was able to notch a hat-trick of wins at the Newcastle (city) meeting on Wednesday when scoring over 2300m in a fine staying effort. Pendragon, the Gloaming Stakes winner and Champion Stakes runner-up, is a striking individual whose record stands at 11 individual winners from just 18 starters. For patient breeders, Pendragon’s $11,000 fee is not a bad way to go.

Dream foal

Connections of US horse of the year Rachel Alexandra have named her first foal, a colt by US horse of the year Curlin, Jess’s Dream in honour of late owner Jess Jackson, who raced both champions.

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