Oxford immunologist on coronavirus vaccine: our early results look highly promising



Numstocker/Shutterstock

Rebecca Ashfield, University of Oxford

A vaccine against COVID-19 is urgently needed if we’re to stop the virus spreading and prevent potentially millions of further deaths. We’re now one step closer to that goal.

Today, we published early results from our clinical trial of the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (also known as AZD1222), designed by the University of Oxford and developed in partnership with AstraZeneca. The preliminary data shows that it is safe and induced a strong antibody response in all vaccinated volunteers, suggesting that an effective vaccine could be within reach.

This trial was the first time that the vaccine had been given to humans: 543 healthy adults aged 18-55 were vaccinated with a single dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. A further 534 people were given a control vaccine that gives similar minor reactions, including injection site redness and mild pain. Volunteers are having their immune response (both antibodies and T cell levels) monitored for at least 12 months, and will also be observed to see whether or not they develop COVID-19.

The preliminary data from the trial clearly demonstrates that the vaccine induces an antibody response within 28 days. This response is in a similar range to that in individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, providing encouragement that the vaccine will be able to protect the majority of people against infection.

Ten volunteers were also given a second “booster” dose of the vaccine. This increased the antibody response to even higher levels, and 100% of blood samples from this group showed neutralising activity against COVID-19 infection in a laboratory setting.

The vaccine also induced T cells that specifically recognise SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s encouraging to see both antibody and T cell responses, as together this is the right kind of immune response that could lead to protection against the virus. Importantly, the vaccine demonstrates an acceptable safety profile, with no vaccine-induced severe adverse events – that is, no major side-effects.

We were confident testing the vaccine in humans after encouraging trials with mice and rhesus macaque monkeys. These had shown that the vaccine was safe and induced a robust immune response. Significantly, the vaccinated monkeys were protected from severe disease after they were challenged with a much higher dose of SARS-CoV-2 than humans would encounter through natural exposure.

How does this vaccine work?

Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise and fight off infectious agents (pathogens), such as bacteria and viruses. Vaccines do this by presenting the immune system with a readily identifiable part of a pathogen, which the immune system remembers so that it can quickly respond should it encounter that same pathogen in the future.

Most vaccines in development for SARS-CoV-2 – including this one – focus on presenting the spike protein that decorates the surface of the virus. It’s this protein that allows the virus into human cells by binding to a molecule on their surface called ACE2.

Illustration of the SARS-CoV-2, showing the spike proteins on its surface
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, with its spike proteins shown in red.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Wikimedia Commons

There is a broad range of approaches to vaccine design; ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is what’s known as a viral vector vaccine. To make this vaccine, particles of a different, harmless virus (called ChAdOx1) are loaded with the portion of SARS-CoV-2 DNA that instructs cells how to build the spike protein.

When these ChAdOx1 particles infect human cells, the coronavirus DNA is then “expressed”, building the spike protein for the immune system to respond to. Importantly for vaccine safety, the viral vector can’t replicate and cause an ongoing infection.

The ChAdOx1 viral vector has been used to make eight vaccines already in clinical trials for other human diseases, including Mers (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome), a coronavirus that is related to SARS-CoV-2.

What happens now?

Crucially, we need to demonstrate that the vaccine is effective – that it results in significantly lower (ideally zero) cases of COVID-19 in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccinated group versus the control group. Falling infection rates in the UK are an excellent outcome for the health of the nation, but may compromise the ability to show this.

If there are no cases of COVID-19 in the group receiving the control vaccine, comparing that group to the vaccinated group would be meaningless. Deliberately infecting people with the virus may be possible in future (after careful consideration of the ethical implications), but is not currently allowed.

For this reason, a second trial has been launched in approximately 10,000 UK individuals, focusing on health workers, and further trials are being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, where infection rates are much higher. The expanded UK trial will include children and older adults to estimate vaccine efficacy in these age groups. Immune responses in people over 70 are often lower than those in younger adults.

It’s essential to follow the vaccine-induced immune response over a period of at least one year, to estimate whether booster injections will be required, and if so how often. My personal prediction – based on decreases in antibody levels in individuals infected with other types of coronavirus, rather than data from the current vaccine trial – is that we’re likely to need yearly boosters, similar to annual flu jabs.

Finally, if the vaccine proves effective, rapid manufacture of potentially billions of doses would be required to supply the world. To facilitate this, AstraZeneca has already initiated a large-scale vaccine manufacturing programme, aiming to have hundreds of millions of doses with delivery starting by the end of 2020. Agreements are in place to provide the vaccine to low-income and middle-income countries and also to the UK, Europe and the US.The Conversation

Rebecca Ashfield, Senior Project Manager, Jenner Institute, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Got a COVID-19 test in Victoria and still haven’t got your results? Here’s what may be happening — and what to do


Hassan Vally, La Trobe University

Stories are emerging of Victorians who have followed advice and sought a COVID-19 test, only to find they’re still waiting to hear results more than five days later.

The scale of testing underway in Victoria — and Australia’s testing rates are among the highest in the world — means it’s likely this will happen from time to time. It’s unclear if this is happening to many people or to just a handful.

Nevertheless, it’s evidently happening to some people and we can piece together some information about what may be contributing to this problem, and what you can do if it happens to you.




Read more:
Eradication, elimination, suppression: let’s understand what they mean before debating Australia’s course


What to do if it happens to you in Victoria

Firstly, if you are showing symptoms and still waiting on results of a test, it’s important you do not go out. Of course, that will grow increasingly difficult the longer you wait for a test result but self-isolating while awaiting test results is a crucial part of the pandemic management strategy.

Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos said on Twitter results are usually available within 1-3 days or “sometimes longer” and referred people to a health department fact sheet.

The factsheet says:

Victorian and interstate labs are working around the clock to process all the tests, but with so many coming in every day, sometimes it takes a little longer to confirm the results.

It lists phone numbers to try if you haven’t got your result within the expected time frame.

Information from a Victorian health department factsheet.
DHHS

The factsheet doesn’t say what to do if you did the test using a home testing kit but the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services later tweeted to say:

Of course, if all else fails it might be simplest just to go and get another test.




Read more:
Australia’s coronavirus testing rates are some of the best in the world – compare our stats using this interactive


Why might this be happening?

Again, we must acknowledge the enormous scale of the testing program underway in Victoria.

On Wednesday alone, 28,607 tests were undertaken in Victoria, and the total number of tests undertaken since January 1 is now at 1,225,999, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said in his Thursday press briefing.

Widespread testing is one of the best things we can do to control the spread of coronavirus, and these numbers are very impressive.

Many of these tests will be processed at laboratories in other states, as it is not possible for Victorian labs to test so many samples on their own.

A health department factsheet dated June 25, 2020 said:

Laboratories in Victoria, with surge staff capacity, can process 18,000 tests a day, noting that turn-around times are adversely affected when there is sustained testing above 14,000 tests per day.

New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have agreed to provide surge lab capacity of over 4,000 tests a day. Private laboratories can also provide surge capacity of around 13,500 tests a day through their interstate operations. This will allow for at least 25,000 Victorian tests to be processed a day. There are currently sufficient test kits to meet this level of demand.

In addition, private pathology providers can draw on interstate supply chains. Safeguards, including repeat testing, will manage the risk of false positive tests.

So if you’ve got a test but haven’t heard back, it’s possible the delay is caused by test samples needing to be taken to interstate labs (which adds time) and the huge scale of testing underway.

It’s also possible there may have been some other problem with the test, so make sure you double check at the testing centre.

Who should get tested and why testing is important?

The Victorian health department says on its website:

Testing is currently available for people with the following symptoms, however mild: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, and loss of sense of smell or taste. The test takes around a minute and involves a swab from the back of your throat and nose.

The less invasive saliva test may also be available for some people in certain places and circumstances, the department has said.

Despite any difficulties you may be experiencing in getting tested or in getting your results, it’s vital to understand how critical getting tested is to protecting the community from this coronavirus. By being tested you are helping limit the spread of COVID-19. You are potentially helping save lives. The Conversation

Hassan Vally, Associate Professor, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Final 2019 election results: education divide explains the Coalition’s upset victory


The most important reason for the Coalition’s victory was that Morrison was both liked and trusted by lower-educated voters, while Labor leader Bill Shorten was not.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At the May 18 election, the size of the lower house was expanded from 150 to 151 seats. The Coalition parties won 77 seats (up one since the 2016 election), Labor 68 (down one) and the crossbench six (up one). The Coalition government holds a three-seat majority.

Owing to redistributions and the loss of Wentworth to independent Kerryn Phelps at an October 2018 byelection, the Coalition notionally had 73 seats before the election, a one-seat advantage over Labor. Using this measure, the Coalition gained a net four seats in the election.

The Coalition gained the Queensland seats of Herbert and Longman, the Tasmanian seats of Braddon and Bass, and the New South Wales seat of Lindsay. Labor’s only offsetting gain was the NSW seat of Gilmore. Corangamite and Dunkley are not counted as Labor gains as they were redistributed into notional Labor seats.

Four of the six pre-election crossbenchers easily held their seats – Adam Bandt (Melbourne), Andrew Wilkie (Clark), Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo) and Bob Katter (Kennedy). The Liberals narrowly regained Wentworth from Phelps, but independent Zali Steggall thrashed Tony Abbott 57%-43% in Warringah. In Indi, independent Helen Haines succeeded retiring independent Cathy McGowan, defeating the Liberals by 51.4%-48.6%.




Read more:
Scott Morrison hails ‘miracle’ as Coalition snatches unexpected victory


The Coalition easily defeated independent challengers in Cowper and Farrer.

While Bandt was re-elected, the Greens went backwards in their other inner-Melbourne target seats of Wills and Cooper. Only in Kooyong did the Greens manage to beat Labor into second.

The final primary votes were 41.4% Coalition (down 0.6%), 33.3% Labor (down 1.4%), 10.4% Greens (up 0.2%), 3.4% United Australia Party (UAP) and 3.1% One Nation (up 1.8%).

The final two-party vote was 51.5% for the Coalition to 48.5% for Labor, a 1.2% swing in the Coalition’s favour from the 2016 election. It is the first pro-government swing since the 2004 election.

It was expected the Coalition would do better once the 15 “non-classic” seats were included; these are seats where the final two candidates were not Coalition and Labor. However, 11 of these seats swung to Labor, including a 9.0% swing in Warringah and a 7.9% swing in Wentworth. Eight non-classics were inner-city electorates that tended to swing to Labor.

The table below shows the number of seats in each state and territory, the Coalition’s number of seats, the Coalition’s percentage of seats, the gains for the Coalition compared to the redistribution, the Coalition’s two-party vote, the swing to the Coalition in two-party terms, and the number of Labor seats.

Final seats won and votes cast in the House for each state and nationally.

Four of the six states recorded swings to the Coalition in the range from 0.9% to 1.6%. Victoria was the only state that swung to Labor, by 1.3%. Queensland had a 4.3% swing to the Coalition, far larger than any other state. Labor did well to win a majority of NSW seats despite losing the two-party vote convincingly.

Official turnout in the election was 91.9%, up 0.9% from 2016. Analyst Ben Raue says 96.8% of eligible voters were enrolled, the highest ever. That means effective turnout was 89.0% of the population, up 2.6%.

Education divide explains Coalition’s win

Not only did Steggall thump Abbott in Warringah, the electorate’s 9.0% swing to Labor on a two-party basis was the largest swing to Labor in the country. Abbott’s two-party vote percentage of 52.1% was by far the lowest for a conservative candidate against Labor since Warringah’s creation in 1922; the next lowest was 59.5% in 2007.

While Abbott did badly, other divisive Coalition MPs performed well. Barnaby Joyce won 54.8% of the primary vote in New England and gained a 1.2% two-party swing against Labor. Peter Dutton had a 3.0% two-party swing to him in Dickson, and George Christensen had a massive 11.2% two-party swing to him in Dawson, the second-largest for the Coalition nationally.

According to the 2016 census, 42% of those aged 16 and over in Warringah had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 22% in Australia overall. Just 13.5% had at least a bachelor’s degree in New England, 19% in Dickson and 12% in Dawson.

In Victoria, which swung to Labor, 24.3% of the population had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2016, the highest of any state in the nation.

The Grattan Institute has charted swings to Labor and the Coalition, taking into account wealth and tertiary education. Only polling booths in the top-income quintile swung to Labor; the other four income quintiles swung to the Coalition.

Areas with low levels of tertiary education swung strongly to the Coalition in NSW and Queensland, but less so in Victoria. There were solid swings to Labor in areas with high levels of tertiary education.

Some of the swings are explained by contrary swings in 2016, when the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull performed relatively worse in lower-educated areas and better in higher-educated areas. However, Queensland’s 58.4% two-party vote for the Coalition was 1.4% better than at the 2013 election, even though the national result is 2.0% worse. The large swings to the Coalition in regional Queensland are probably partly due to the Adani coal mine issue.

Morrison’s appeal to lower-educated voters

Since becoming prime minister, Scott Morrison’s Newspoll ratings have been roughly neutral, with about as many people saying they are satisfied with him as those dissatisfied. After Morrison became leader, I suggested on my personal website that the Coalition would struggle with educated voters, and this occurred in the election. However, Morrison’s appeal to those with a lower level of education more than compensated.

In my opinion, the most important reason for the Coalition’s upset victory was that Morrison was both liked and trusted by lower-educated voters, while they neither liked nor trusted Labor leader Bill Shorten.

Earlier this month, The Guardian published a long report on the social media “death tax” scare campaign. While this and other Coalition scare campaigns may have had an impact on the result, they did so by playing into lower-educated voters’ distrust of Shorten. Had these voters trusted Shorten, such scare campaigns would have had less influence.




Read more:
Labor’s election loss was not a surprise if you take historical trends into account


Labor also ran scare campaign ads attacking Morrison for deals with Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson. But I believe these ads failed to resonate because lower-educated voters liked Morrison better.

I think Morrison won support from the lower-educated because they are sceptical of “inner-city elites”. The Coalition leader emphasised his non-elite attributes during the campaign, such as by playing sport and going to church. Turnbull was perceived as a member of the elite, which could explain swings to Labor in lower-educated areas in 2016.

Parallels can be drawn to the 2017 election in the UK. Labour performed far better than expected in the election, reducing the Conservatives to a minority government when they were expected to win easily. Labour had adopted a pro-Brexit position, which may have sent a message to lower-educated voters that they could support the party.

This offers an option for Australian Labor to try to win back support from lower-educated voters: adopt a hardline immigration policy. Votes that Labor would lose to the Greens by doing this would likely be returned as preferences.

See also my similar article on how Donald Trump won the US 2016 presidential election.

The problem with the polls

The table below shows all national polls released in the final week compared to the election result. A poll estimate within 1% of the actual result is in bold.

Federal polls compared with election results, 2019.
Author provided

The polls did well on the One Nation and UAP votes, and were a little low on the Greens. The major source of error was that Labor’s vote was overstated and the Coalition’s was understated. Only Ipsos had Labor’s vote right, but it overstated the Greens vote by about three points – a common occurrence for Ipsos.

No poll since July 2018 had given the Coalition a primary vote of at least 40%. In the election, the Coalition parties received 41.4% of the vote.

As I said in my post-election write-up, it is likely that polls oversampled educated voters.




Read more:
Coalition wins election but Abbott loses Warringah, plus how the polls got it so wrong


Seat polls during the campaign were almost all from YouGov Galaxy, which conducts Newspoll. The Poll Bludger says these polls were, like the national polls, biased against the Coalition.

Analyst Peter Brent has calculated the two-party vote for all election-day and early votes. The gap between election day and early votes increased to 5.0% in 2019 from 4.6% in 2016. This does not imply that polls missed because of a dramatic late swing to the Coalition in the final days; it is much more likely the polls have been wrong for a long time.

Boris Johnson very likely to be Britain’s next PM, and left wins Danish election

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on June 14 that, after winning the support of 114 of the 313 Conservative MPs in the first round of voting, Boris Johnson is virtually assured of becoming the next British PM. Polls suggest he will boost the Conservative vote.

I also wrote on my personal website on June 6 about the left’s win in the Danish election. Also covered: a new Israeli election, the German Greens’ surge, and the left gaining a seat in the May 4 Tasmanian upper house periodical elections.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The DR Congo is bracing for election results and it’s likely to get bloody. Here’s what you need to know


Susan Hutchinson, Australian National University

When Congolese gynaecologist Dr Denis Mukwege received his Nobel Peace Prize a few months ago, he inferred responsibility for what happens in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to everyone who owns a smart phone. As well as diamonds and oil, the country is rich in the gold, coltan and cobalt vital to the production of the smart phone in your pocket.

But it is also rich in strife. The DRC is holding its breath while the electoral commission decides the results of elections held on December 30, 2018. The Congolese constitution limits presidents to two five-year terms. But current president, Joseph Kabila, has now been president for 18 years.

But that may be about to change. Martin Fayulu, the man supported by a former rebel commander who had been previously charged (but later acquitted) with allowing rape and crimes against humanity under his leadership, may have won the election away from the ruling party.

But though one of the most trusted institutions in the country, the Catholic church – which deployed tens of thousands of election observers – announced it knew of a clear winner, the results can only legally be declared by the electoral commission. And the commission announced further delays in the results over the weekend.




Read more:
Poll in the DRC looms. But the election is unlikely to bring change


In the meantime, however, the New York Times has announced Fayulu’s win. Anticipating violence and unrest, the US has sent troops to neighbouring countries to protect US citizens and diplomatic facilities.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Security Council met to discuss the issue on Friday. Although the meeting was closed to the public, it is known the Council was unable to agree on steps forward. There is to be another meeting in an open session in New York on Tuesday.

So, what is actually going on in the DRC?

Who were the lead candidates?

President Joseph Kabila had handpicked the government’s candidate to run in the elections. Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary had been Interior Minister and enjoyed the full resources of the government for his campaign, including unlimited access to state-run media outlets.

Shadary is subject to an EU travel ban, asset freeze and sanctions. This is due to his role in obstructing Congo’s electoral process and carrying out a crackdown against protesters angry over the vote which had been delayed for years.

The government is good at repressing political opposition. During previous elections, SMS communication was cancelled. But this year the government also turned off the internet. Key independent radio and television programs have been closed and reporters ejected from the country.

In turn, opposition parties have struggled to form coalitions or campaigns to topple the government democratically. In a landmark sign of cooperation, seven opposition parties banded together to endorse a single candidate, Martin Fayulu, to run against the ruling party’s pick.

But that agreement barely lasted 24 hours before the parties with the largest membership withdrew their support to run their own leaders instead.

After the pact collapsed, former warlord, Jean-Pierre Bemba maintained his support for Fayulu. Bemba had returned to the DRC after being imprisoned at the Hague for charges he allowed his troops to use sexual violence in war crimes and crimes against humanity when he deployed them to the neighbouring Central African Republic. Bemba’s conviction was later overturned on technical grounds.




Read more:
Bemba acquittal overturns important victory for sexual violence victims


Despite this record, he was a popular choice to run against the current president but was deemed ineligible by the electoral commission due to witness tampering charges that had been upheld by the International Criminal Court. So, Fayulu prevailed.

Fayulu is a wealthy businessman, a former Manager at Exxon Mobil who has been politically active in opposition for many years. He was even injured when government forces fired on opposition protesters in the capital in 2006.

He has promised to create an environment conducive to business and investment in the DRC, and to revise mining and oil contracts. This won’t necessarily improve the lives of the average person as oil is seen as a driver of conflict and displacement in the parts of the country with such reserves.

What happens now?

Many state functions fail in the DRC. The country ranks 176 out of a possible 189 on the Human Development Index. In the latest Reuters Poll, it came in as the seventh worst country in the world to be a woman. An estimated 70% of Congolese have little or no access to health care. Serious diseases are rife, with a current Ebola outbreak in the country.

The electoral commission has made questionable decisions about the election logistics in the years and months leading up to the poll. Early in December one of their warehouses was burned to the ground, including the thousands of electronic voting machines stored there.


An electoral commission warehouse in the DRC.

In the lead up to the election, more than one million voters who live in largely opposition-held areas (and those facing the Ebola outbreak) were told they would not be allowed to vote for health and security reasons. But mock elections were staged in the area to show they were able to do so.

The United Nations Security Council published a report of “major security incidents including attacks against civilians, security forces and United Nations peacekeepers in many provinces,” as well as illegal importation of military materiel. Human Rights Watch have reported violence, widespread irregularities and voter suppression during the election.




Read more:
What DRC’s flawed election means for emerging democratic culture in Africa


Given Fayulu is not the government candidate, further violence is likely. The President has shown his reluctance to let go of power. He and his party have the capacity to either announce Shadary the winner of the election, regardless of the count; or to simply refuse to give up power.

Either way, it is looking more and more likely it will get bloody.The Conversation

Susan Hutchinson, PhD Candidate, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

NAPLAN results show it isn’t the basics that are missing in Australian education



File 20170804 22508 ceo6pf

AAP/Dan Peled

Misty Adoniou, University of Canberra

The preliminary results of NAPLAN 2017 are out, and the news isn’t good. The annual test of our students’ literacy and numeracy skills shows that not much has changed since 2011, coincidentally – or not – when we began this annual circus of public reporting of NAPLAN results.

In fact, it seems our kids are actually getting dumber – at least as measured by the NAPLAN tests.

Going backwards

The year’s Year 9 students first sat the test back in 2011 when they were in Year 3, so we can now track the cohort’s performance over time.

It is particularly useful to track their performance against the writing assessment task, as all the grade levels are marked against the same ten assessment criteria. Depending upon how they perform against each assessment criterion, they are assigned a Band level – ranging from Band 1, the lowest, to Band 10, the highest.

The minimum benchmark shifts for each year level, because we would expect a different minimum level of writing performance for 16-year-olds than we would of ten-year-olds. So, in Year 3 the minimum benchmark is Band 2, and in Year 9 it is Band 6.

A gifted and talented Year 3 student could easily achieve a Band 6 or above, and it is conceivable a struggling Year 9 student may only reach a Band 2.

This year, a staggering 16.5% of Year 9 students across Australia were below benchmark in writing. Back in 2011, when those students were in Year 3, only 2.8% of them were below benchmark. Somehow we dropped the ball for thousands of those kids as they progressed through school.

The high-performing states of New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT cannot claim immunity from this startling increase in students falling behind as they progress through school. Their results show exactly the same trends. This is a nationwide problem.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/DF78j/1/

It gets worse

Not only are the numbers of low-performing students increasing, but the inverse is occurring for our high-achieving students: their numbers decrease as they move through school.

This year, only 4.8% of Year 9 students across Australia performed far above the minimum benchmark – that is, at a Band 10 level. However, back in 2011, 15.7% of those same students were performing far above the minimum benchmark for Year 3 – that is, at a Band 6 or above.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Ae5s3/1/

The trend is strikingly similar across all the jurisdictions. As NSW congratulates itself on improving its Year 9 results, it might want to look a little closer to see what the figures are really saying.

In 2011 an impressive 20% of NSW Year 3 students were far above benchmark in writing. But by the time they had reached Year 9 this year, the number of them who were far above the benchmark had dwindled to a depressing 5.7%.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/mrkEV/1/

What is happening?

Why do we start so well, and then lose both high performers and strugglers along the way? Isn’t school supposed to be growing their literacy skills, not diminishing them?

Well, the NAPLAN statistics not only illustrate the problem, they actually provide the explanation.

We don’t have an early years literacy “problem” in Australia. The percentage of students below benchmark in Year 3 converts to very small numbers. In Victoria in 2016, for example, there were around 450 Year 3 students below benchmark.

It should be very easy to locate those children, and provide intensive interventions specifically designed for each student. But apparently we don’t.

By Year 5, those low performers across Australia are simply treading water and our high performers start to slide. Then it all takes a dramatic turn for the worse in Year 7, with a five-fold increase in students below benchmark and a three-fold decrease in those who are far above the benchmark.

So, what is going on?

Well, reading and writing gets harder in Year 4, and every year after that.

The Year 3 test is looking for evidence that the children have learned their basic reading and writing skills. They can decode the words on the page and comprehend their literal meaning. They can retell a simple story that is readable to others.

However, by Year 5, the test begins to assess the children’s ability to infer from and evaluate what they read, and to consider their audience as they write.

In Year 7 it is expected that children are now no longer learning to read and write, but that they are reading and writing to learn. To achieve this they need deep and technical vocabularies, and to be able to manipulate sentence structures in ways we do not and cannot in our spoken language.

And the NAPLAN results suggest that many of them cannot.

Instead, they are stuck with their basic literacy skills, obviously well learned in the early years of school. They can read – but only simple books with simple vocabulary, simple grammatical structures and simple messages. They can write – but they write the way they speak.

What’s the solution?

Raise our expectations of our students. And raise the quality and the challenge of the literacy work we do with them.

There has been a misplaced focus on “back-to-basics” literacy education in recent years. The last ten years of NAPLAN testing shows us we are already exemplary at the basics. It is the complex we are bad at.

It’s time to change tack. Our attention needs to focus on developing the deep comprehension skills of our upper-primary and high school students. And our teachers need – and want – the resources and the professional learning to help them do this.

Teachers must build their own understanding of the ways in which the English language works, so they can teach their students to read rich and complex literature for inference, to use complex language structures to craft eloquent and engaging written pieces, and to build sophisticated and deep vocabularies.

It isn’t the basics that are missing in Australian education; it is challenge and complexity.

The ConversationAnd until we change our educational policy direction to reflect that, we will continue to fail to help our children grow into literate young adults – and that is bad news for us all.

Misty Adoniou, Associate Professor in Language, Literacy and TESL, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Infographic: what we know so far about the results of Election 2016


Emil Jeyaratnam, The Conversation; Fron Jackson-Webb, The Conversation; Michael Courts, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, The Conversation

Australians have voted, but with the result currently unclear, how are the numbers falling across the country? This post will be updated when we know more.

As at 11:45AM Sunday, July 3:



CC BY-SA


CC BY-ND

https://c311ba9548948e593297-96809452408ef41d0e4fdd00d5a5d157.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/2016-07-02-senate-composition/v2/senate-slider.html


Key seats

https://c311ba9548948e593297-96809452408ef41d0e4fdd00d5a5d157.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/2016-07-02-election-key-seats/v2/election2016-key-seats-v2.html

The Conversation

Emil Jeyaratnam, Multimedia Editor, The Conversation; Fron Jackson-Webb, Health + Medicine Editor, The Conversation; Michael Courts, Editor, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cricket: Some Odd Cricket Scores Over the Years


The link below is to an interesting article that takes a look at some odd cricket results and scores over the years. If you’re into cricket at all you’ll love this article.

For more visit:
http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/709383.html

Genetic Study Supports Genesis


An article posted at the Christian Telegraph provides a very interesting look at genetic signatures in the Jewish population. The report claims that the results of the genetic study seems to indicate support for a literal interpretation of Genesis.

Read the article at:
http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue13042.html