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Headlines for March 26 – April 8, 2022

Schools in Poland, Estonia and Finland brace to receive refugees from Ukraine; Ontario and Canada’s federal government will invest billions of dollars to lower the cost of childcare for families; Australian states and territories have approved the new national curriculum; and England is changing how schools across the country are managed and run.

Poland, Estonia and Finland Make Space in Schools for Ukrainian Refugees

Over 4 million refugees have fled the war in Ukraine to surrounding European countries, among them Poland, Estonia, and Finland. Poland has accepted the highest number so far, at over 2 million. The Minister of Education and Sciences suggested that this might mean up to 700,000 new students in schools. The government has already allocated US$42 million for psychological and pedagogical services and will allow Ukrainian teachers who know Polish to work in the schools. Still, many fear there are not enough teachers or support for the huge wave of new entrants to the system. About 7,600 school-aged Ukrainian children have entered Estonia as refugees so far. Its schools have vacancies at this point and are expected to be able to absorb the new students. The exception is in the capital city of Tallinn, where the Minister of Education and Research has suggested a need to create a new language immersion high school to serve both Ukrainian and Estonian students. The Ministry has already created 10,000 spaces in Estonian language classes this coming summer and has also directed teachers across the country, including the quarter of schools that are Russian-speaking, to explain the situation to school children objectively and not justify Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. Finally, Finnish schools are preparing to accept thousands of Ukrainian children as well but have raised concerns about adequate psychological support for the trauma the children have experienced. Finland’s quick moves to open space for Ukrainians in higher education has also led to other refugee communities raising questions about preferential treatment.

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Ontario Signs Onto Federal Plan to Lower Child Care Costs to CAN$10/day

Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Ontario and the federal government reached an agreement to invest CAN$13.2 billion (US$10.6 billion) in child care in the province with an aim of lowering the cost of care to CAN$10/day (US$8/day) by 2025. Ontario is the last of Canada’s provinces and territories to sign on to the federal plan, which was announced earlier this year. The new funding is for six years, with a guarantee of at least an additional CAN$2.9 million (US$2.3 million) in the seventh year. Ontario had been holding out for additional funding than was initially offered by the federal government, suggesting that the funding would not be adequate to reach the goal of CAN$10/day for all parents. Fees for parents will be reduced by up to half this year. The plan also calls for the creation of more than 80,000 new child care spaces and for hiring new staff for them with higher compensation. Premier Doug Ford said, “Today, we’re delivering a deal that will keep money in the pockets of hard-working parents.” For more, see Global News Canada and Ontario Government News Release.

Australian Education Ministers Endorse New Curriculum

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was tasked with updating the Australian Curriculum in June 2020. Education Ministers across all the states and territories just officially endorsed the revised version. The new curriculum was developed in consultation with expert teachers and curriculum specialists and was posted online for public comments. Major changes include making history compulsory rather than optional in years nine and ten; embedding Indigenous history throughout the curriculum; and emphasizing phonics-based reading instruction and mastery of basic math skills for primary school students. The curriculum will be ready for schools to implement starting in 2023. See the press release at the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment website, and learn more about the updates at the Australian Curriculum website.

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England DfE Proposes that All School Join Academy Trusts by 2030

EnglandStudent

England’s Department for Education (DfE) has proposed changes to how schools are managed and run. In a policy paper called Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your students released this month, the department suggested converting all schools to academies by 2030. Academies are independent but state-funded schools outside of the control of local councils, with higher degrees of autonomy in governance, use of resources, and curriculum than state schools. Currently, just over half of all students in England attend academies. The government intends for all schools to join multi-academy trusts (MATs) by 2030. MATs are groups of academies that are governed by the same board of directors. There will be new quality standards for MATs, and a unified system of oversight and regulation. According to the DfE, “We want all schools to be part of a strong academy trust so they can benefit from the trust’s support in everything from teacher training, curriculum, financial planning and inclusivity towards children with additional needs, to excellent behavior and attendance cultures.” However, England’s National Education Union opposes the move, claiming that there is not sufficient evidence that joining MATs has beneficial impacts on student performance.