Staples launches Back to School online ordering for 2015

Staples, which services more than 3900 Australian schools, will add a convenient new way to order supplies for the 2015 school year.

The new service comes with three options; bulk order; individual student packs; and home delivered student packs. To register for the new service, schools must first call Staples on 1800 268 625 to set up a Back to School account, which will be different from the school’s existing Staples account. A unique registration ID is created and sent to the school, along with a template letter that can be used to explain to parents how to use the ordering system

With the account set up, placing the Back to School order will be via a dedicated website at in October. Schools can place a bulk order for the whole school, for a school year, or for a class, with delivery made to the school. Individual packs for each student in a class or year level can also be ordered too and will be delivered ready to be handed out to the students.

For parents who prefer to place their own orders, Staples will provide a secure online ordering platform that lists all of the school’s requirements for the school year. Orders are placed and paid for online and delivered to the family’s home. Orders valued over $50 include free delivery and there’s a $6.50 handling fee for smaller orders.

Staples believes in ‘giving back to the community’ in Australia and elsewhere around the world. During 2013 the company contributed to the delivery of the Beacon program in 114 schools in low SES communities.

Staples has also partnered with the Children’s Medical Institute for the first time in 2014 to support Jeans for Genes Day through its ‘Staples Jeans for Genes Classroom Challenge’, donating over $200,000 to the organisation.

tel 1800 268 625

Low stress school camps challenge students, remember adults‘ creature comforts

If the principal’s: “I would like you to go on the Year 9 camp next year” brings back awful memories of sleeping on stones, tepid showers, leaky tents and bad food, you are not alone.
Paul Thompson, head of Quest Skills for Life (Quest sfl) says that, all too often, the complexities of planning and running a camp …and persuading teaching staff to go camping, can drop the school camp idea firmly into the ‘too hard’ basket.

But it needn’t be. He says: “When we organise an adventure excursion, Quest sfl takes on all of the paperwork, parent information evenings, planning, logistics, medical, catering and expert supervision. We look after the teaching staff too, with good coffee during breaks, a comfortable bed and a hot shower at the end of the day.”

While most of Quest sfl’s preferred locations are in Victoria and cater for Australian school groups, Paul Thompson and Operations Manager and nephew Joel organise adventures to any part of the country and host groups from China and Japan.

Based in Apollo Bay on Victoria’s beautiful south west coast, Quest sfl’s most popular camp locations are Brambuk National Park in the Grampians, historic Cape Otway Lightstation, Philip Island, and French Island in the middle of Westernport Bay. These unique themed journeys combine amazing stories and a variety of activities geared to the level of each student group.

For country kids, a city camp in Melbourne offers bike rides, orienteering days that take in the major attractions and for older students, a surprise at the end of a train ride on the Pakenham line to Officer, when the group is told that they will have to set up camp for the night and cater for themselves.

“It’s all about exposing the schoolchildren to new experiences and challenges, with the objective of building confidence and self-reliance,” Thompson says.

Quest sfl adventures can be as short as two to three days for young children to challenging Duke of Edinburgh treks. Groups can be as few as 10 and up to 150 at school induction camps. Grade 6 primary leadership camps are a recent and popular addition to the menu. Paul Thompson adds: “Contact us to hear how our school support team take the stress out of school camps.”

tel 1300 390 818

Primary Music Institute expands school music programs for 2015

When David Pointon and Bevan Watson became Co-Program Directors of Primary Music Institute (PMI) last year, they inherited a successful music school that had successfully taught more than 50,000 students over the 18 years since 1995, when it was established in Melbourne by the program’s founder.

Presently providing keyboard and guitar programs to close to 110 independent and state schools in Vic, NSW, Qld, SA and WA, Pointon and Watson have introduced a concert band program from Term 4 this year with lessons for brass, woodwind and percussion.

They have also introduced PMI Stars, a program structure that outlines a learning plan for each student, with each level passed by completing activities across six areas: theory, aural and sight reading, scales, practical/applied skills, a fun musical activity and performance.

Progress reports will prepared by PMI as students pass each PMI Stars level and will include specific insights for parents about how they can support their child’s learning as they proceed to the next level, a summer holiday practice plan and an annual ‘report card’.

“Our approach is to bring excellent music programs to schools that would like to have a music program but don’t have anyone on staff with music teaching skills or instrument skills… we can also supplement programs in schools where music is already part of the curriculum,” Pointon says.

All program administration is managed by PMI, including coordination of parent payments and timetables, relevant working with children checks and public liability insurance. Instruments can be provided by PMI or purchased or leased through the Institute.

“We want to make it as simple as possible for a school to have a top quality music program that will develop the students’ playing skills and, when our new concert band musicians are ready, to enjoy polished performances at school events.”

He adds: “Music in school shouldn’t be restricted by the school’s income demographic… we can design programs across all socio-economic areas with affordable group lesson options.”

Edval introduces online roll marking, EdvalDaily on the Cloud

Timetabling specialist Edval has launched a new cloud based attendance and welfare system, EdvalAttend. The new system brings the school’s timetable and daily changes, including exam timetables and supervision rosters together on the one platform.

The popular EdvalDaily package is in the process of being ported to the Cloud. When completed, all the benefits of this well-regarded system will be accessible through a browser. Beta testing will continue through Term 4 with the new version expected to be available in 2015. Meanwhile, the existing EdvalDaily application will continue to be available during and beyond this time.

In other developments, Edval has been working closely with the NSW LMBR development team on various integration elements that will see its timetabling and daily organisation modules be the first third party system to integrate seamlessly with the new LMBR System.

Edval has also received endorsement as a provider of Board of Studies, Teacher and Educational Standards (BOSTES) Registered Professional Development at the Lead Teacher level. This endorsement started on July 23 2014 and covers the company’s three days of timetable training.

To arrange a trial of EdvalAttend for the remainder of 2014 or to book a demonstration:

tel (02) 8203 5455

THRASS teaching the building blocks of English literacy and language

Once upon a time, children were taught to read, write and spell, then ‘learning by guessing’ took over. The thinking went: ‘They can learn to read words by looking at the pictures and matching the words underneath; expression is everything, spelling and grammar can come later’ …and a generation of children grew up that couldn’t read very well, couldn’t spell and struggled to construct a sentence, let alone a paragraph.

Fortunately, this theory has been discredited and children are once again learning the building blocks of spoken and written English as mandated by ACARA.

Over the last 16 years, The THRASS Institute has developed a Specific Pedagogical Practise (SPP), marketed as THRASS – ‘Teaching Handwriting, Reading And Spelling Skills’.

THRASS teaches that in spoken English 44 individual sounds (phonemes) are used and that these sounds are written (encoded) using various combinations of the 26 letters in the alphabet. It is designed to build both content, and pedagogical knowledge. THRASS is the only comprehensive phonetics teaching process designed specifically as a teacher training skill-base for the teaching of speaking, reading, spelling and writing skills in English, as a first or other language.

THRASS is fun, explicit and provides multi-sensory resources and activities to engage learners in the enjoyment of literacy learning, from the very beginning. It is a sustainable approach to literacy teaching that can be used across the school at any year level and as a remedial tool for those with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties.

It is also an effective adult literacy strategy for teaching ESL and EFL and is widely used by speech pathologists.

THRASS courses are Australia’s most attended phonetics PD. The Institute provides three levels of training in phonetics instruction. The two-day Foundation Level Course) in Term 1 2015 will be presented in NSW (Bankstown), Qld (Brisbane), ACT, WA (Leederville), Vic (Brighton, Frankston), NT, and SA (Adelaide) during January–April. Dates for the one-day Phonetics Instruction Course (follow-up to the Foundation level Course) and the Mastery and Lead Level Course will be announced during Term 4. A THRASS Accredited Certificate is issued on completion of each level.

The institute has recently launched a new website and has an active Facebook community., tel 08 9244 2119
thrass/research-press-archives/ thrass-research/

Parents’ portal helps schools to manage BYOD choices

Rapidly expanding Precision Industries, which has installed ICT and audio-visual systems in over 750 Australian schools in the last four years, has announced a new way for schools and parents to buy BYOD devices through participating schools’ websites. The BYOD Parents’ Portal has been launched in Term 4 this year to facilitate advance purchases for 2015.

In contrast to the typical ICT online store that stocks a bewildering selection of devices and specifications, each school’s BYOD Parents’ Portal will offer a range of laptops and tablets that the school has identified as suitable for use in the classroom and on the school’s intranet.

Feraaz Abrahams, General Manager Sales and Marketing with Precision Industries says: “For schools that have decided to go with BYOD, our parent portal guarantees that students will start the year with a device that will work efficiently in school and when they access the school’s ICT system from home.”

While prices are “highly competitive”, it’s the level of support over the lifetime of the device that really counts, Abrahams says. The purchase includes extended warranty, insurance against accidental damage and an equivalent device on loan when a student’s tablet or laptop needs to be repaired.

He adds: “We home deliver too, so each student has the fun of unwrapping and switching on their new device and becoming familiar with how it works before bringing it to school.”

For schools, having a BYOD Parent’s Portal will reduce the time spent talking to parents about what to buy. And, even if the parents don’t order through the portal, they will go shopping knowing the school’s minimum specifications and how much to pay.

 “One of the biggest risks facing schools is running the risk of buying unsuitable equipment that didn’t do the job it was expected to do and so wasn’t good value for money,” Abrahams says.

“Currently, we are offering a free technology review, plan and consultation to give schools the opportunity to discuss their ideas with us and have one of our team give an accurate assessment of the time and likely cost of a technology upgrade.

“The audit includes a review of current technologies, a plan for improvements and upgrades, a review of how staff are using the existing technologies, a discussion on how to get the best out of new technology, budget options… and a project implementation plan.”

tel 1300 369 927

ClassCover automates casual relief teacher bookings

Business partners Peter Carpenter and Ben Grozier pooled their experiences of working as casual teachers to develop ClassCover, the rapidly expanding casual relief teacher booking system. Launched in mid 2012 with 12 pilot schools registered, over 350 have since signed up and there are 13,000 teacher profiles online.

Quoted on the ClassCover website, Ian Tapuska at Liverpool Public School says:  “ClassCover’s SMS feature has completely changed my morning routine. No more calling casual after casual to secure a booking. A simple text message confirms my booking requests and I arrive at school with an email listing my all my replacements for the day. Life has never been simpler!”

Carpenter says that ClassCover has solved the age-old problem faced by schools: how to find casual teachers to cover unexpected staff absences at short notice.

“It’s a genuine win-win,” he says. “Schools can save hours of time by using ClassCover to contact their preferred list of regular casuals, in seconds, or expand their existing list. There is a huge oversupply of casual teachers [estimated to be as high as 140,000] so finding more teaching hours is a daily worry.

“It’s also financially attractive because they [teachers] do not have to surrender a slice of their daily pay to a recruitment agency.”

Each school that joins invites its list of casuals to the pool so month by month ClassCover is growing – more schools, more teachers. The cost for schools is from a very affordable $1.00 per student per year. And it’s free for teachers, plus they can access a range of extremely cost effective and conveniently timed Professional Development courses as part of the Casual Teacher Network.

Registered schools save time-wasting phone calls by checking the availability of their regulars online, via the website or mobile apps before using ClassCover’s automated SMS messaging function to contact all of their selections simultaneously, or one by one in order of preference. If a teacher does not respond within a defined number of minutes, the system automatically messages the next on the list; when a teacher accepts a booking, the school is sent a confirmation SMS… and that’s one less thing to worry about.

To date schools have used ClassCover to make more than 50,000 bookings and Peter Carpenter is confident that this is only the start. “It’s been estimated that Australian schools make upwards of six million calls each year to fill casual vacancies, so the benefit to schools and teachers is enormous. Some schools using the system have reported that their phone calls have reduced from 60 on some days down to nil.

Schools and teachers can register at the ClassCover website:

Education beyond borders at CSU

For educators wanting to expand their horizons beyond the walls of the classroom, Charles Sturt University (CSU) offers two Masters courses that will either extend their knowledge of education in a broader physical environment, or into virtual worlds.

The Master of International Education (School Leadership) focuses on a global perspective and was developed through collaboration between academics and professional educators from Australia and Canada. The program is delivered through distance education and students communicate with faculty and other students from wherever they live. The internationally diverse student body provides course participants with insight into the differences, and similarities, of education around the world.

“The program brings global perspectives to the study of educational issues that are important to school leaders,” said recent graduate Derek Haime, principal at a high school in a small town in Ontario, Canada.

“It made me realise that the issues, challenges and success we experience are not unique. This will benefit the learning process for students by informing local policy and practice within schools.”

As some educators look at global challenges to, and solutions for, our education system, others delve into the less tangible digital world. “Literacy and information fluency in digital environments is our contemporary challenge,” Judy O’Connell, Course Director, Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) at CSU’s School of Information Studies says.

Students are no longer limited to learning material available in their schools but can to draw on almost boundless resources on digital devices and online.  “They need guidance from teachers with expertise in navigating diverse information pathways within their personal and creative learning environments, socially connected networks, and globally enriched contexts.

“There’s a plethora of flexible teaching tools for teachers, but using them can be challenging and, at times, intimidating. The CSU Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) course is designed to help educators make the most of the digital revolution, enabling them to better understand the implications of rapidly changing technology and how the learning environment can move beyond schools into a virtual space that they might not yet be comfortable in.”