The annual  (Australia’s education system is f*cked) hand wringing began early this summer with the news that Australia had fallen in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rankings.  The *absolute shame*that even Kazakhstan had out performed Australia brought the usual calls for more funding (um…there is this little law of diminishing returns) even though said funding had increased by 50% since 2003.

Since 2011, TIMSS shows Australia plunging from:

  • 18th to 28th on Year 4 mathematics
  • 12th to 17th for Year 8 maths
  • 12th to 17th for Year 8 science

The TIMSS results perhaps were not a surprise to the education profession or anything new. (Let’s face it, it is a cut and paste summer story).  In 2015 the idea had been floated that perhaps maths and science should be compulsory in the final years of high schools.  (And Australia should address the other two elephants in the room 1. The foundation for further science education is not laid properly in primary school and 2. Australia may need to import STEM teachers).

That maths and science has long been neglected in the education system was not revelation.  The competition we saw as we flicked through the Woolworths catalogue was.


What? We recall the days when stationery competitions required a degree of skill.  Colouring-in perhaps? But scrawling your name with a particular branded pen becomes execution of a dying art???  The promoters helpful provide ‘facts’ about handwriting to fill any concern parent with fear. (Marketing 101).

 ‘63% of parents believe handwriting will be lost in 20 years time’ – Bright Futures are Written by Hand study, commissioned by BIC Australia, undertaken by Quantum Market Research. November 2015
• Almost Half of our adult population in Australia admit to having problems with literacy – Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia, 2011-2012
• 15% of children handwrite less than once a week – Bright Futures are Written by Hand study, commissioned by BIC Australia, undertaken by Quantum Market Research. November 2015
• Experts recommend at least 15 minutes of handwriting a day for students – Hanover Research (2012). The Importance of Teaching Handwriting in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Hanover Research. Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting

But it begs the question what are children been taught at school?  Doesn’t appear to be the basics of reading , writing and arithmetic. Science and Maths are not judging by the continued slide down international rankings. Swimming? That seems to have been jettisoned.  Literacy? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.  Handwriting would appear to be an extra-curricular activity now.


We do not know what is customary in other countries, but the chocolate fundraiser has always been a staple in the part of Australia that we live. Various times of the year you would see school children board a bus with their purple cardboard containers containing Freddo Frogs or Easter Eggs. Of course, there would be the parents that would take the box to work and sell to colleagues but alas that is to be no more if the Canberra Timescadbury-freddo-friends-funpack are to be believed.

We had to giggle that chocolate was considered a “red” food. (There is a whole post that could be dedicated as to why marking in red pen is detrimental. We are just waiting for the colour red to have its own safe space.)

Foods and drinks categorised as red – including cake, confectionery and soft drinks – are no longer permitted at fundraisers or as rewards and gifts.

Directorates and agencies have been given a year to become compliant.

A memo sent to staff on Tuesday explained the health risks of chocolate and confectionery fundraisers.

“Combining these high-energy foods with sedentary lifestyles can lead to unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, which increases the risk of developing long lasting health issues, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer,” the memo said.



Umm, chocolate isn’t a meal replacement. These days, the packaging even comes with its own health warning.  When will the demonising of sugar stop??????  There is a little thing called moderation.

As an alternative, it is suggested:

“If you are organising a fundraiser, try suggesting a novel approach like sporting equipment, fruit trays, movie tickets or store vouchers.

Ah, no.  Fruit Trays!!!!!!!!!  We would love to know how these “healthy” alternatives compare to the humble Freddo.

People need to take responsibility for their own dietary choices and not inflict their stupidity on to others.

Why?  Because the genesis of this blog is to document the mind numbing stupidity of the work-place.  A prohibited activity if we were a public servant.

Daniel Starr,Starr v Department of Human Services [2016] FWC 1460 a front line public servant first came to the powers to be’s attention when in April 2015 he contradicted posts by the Department of Human Service’s social media unit on the online forum ­Whirlpool.

The social media unit (Flick@HumanServices) posted youth allowance claims took at least 21 days to process but could be longer than expected.

Starr (mmmdl)responded by posting the benchmark was now 42 days and claiming that by giving incorrect information, it was “doing nothing other than giving people false hope, and increasing customer traffic”.

The department then trawled mmmdl’s various comments posted over the years and built a profile which they then ran against internal HR files to determine mmmdl’s identity.   Are you following?  A poster corrects the department’s erroneous assertions and they go on a witch-hunt!!!!

Of course there were the injudicious comments which hereto had not come to the Department’s attention. In 2012, Starr described appointments with long-term social security benefit recipients as “an appointment for the ­spastics and junkies.” It is Centrelink…

Starr was sacked as he breached the Code of Conduct (not for the post that first caught the Department’s attention) but the Fair Work Commission stated the Department had overstepped and should he should be re-instated.

This case is important  as it makes a distinction between senior and lower level public servants, and spells out how admin(front-line) workers are unlikely to derail government policy, no matter how critical they are online.

The Vice Commissioner found: I reject completely the proposition requiring all members of the APS to be respectful at all times outside of working hours, including in the expression of their attitude to the government of the day. It would require express and absolutely unambiguous language in the statute to justify the conclusion that such a gross intrusion into the non-working lives and rights of public servants was intended.’

It can be argued that APS Code of Conduct is being used to silenced Government critics but where does a public servant’s private life boundary begin?  Should you be sacked for something that was posted years ago?  Where does it leave employees in the private sector?

The Department intends to appeal the Starr decision to the full bench.



#86 (08.04.2016) Unfair Dismissal: Social Media Posts No Grounds for Dismissal




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January is traditionally a very slow news month and thus the same rota of stories are trotted out annually this time of year. Quelle Horreur! Hot Cross Buns are available for sale, High Achievers gain early acceptance into the University, Players at the Australian Open face 40+ degree heat and Australia’s literacy levels are at an all time low.

Today the Australian Industry Group released a Report advising that 93% of business are negatively impacted by staff unable to do simple sums or use a computer.  In other words, Australians don’t have the fundamental skills to engage in a digital future.

According to AIG, “Of the 300 employers surveyed, poor completion of workplace documents was the greatest frustration as a result of low literacy and numeracy- reported by 42% of employers, material errors and wastage (32%) and teamwork and communication problems (28%).

This supports recent international data – Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) – which found 44% of Australians have literacy proficiency skills levels below level 3 – considered to be the minimum to operate effectively in the workplace and society.  Worse still was Australia’s ranking in regards to numeracy proficiency, with 55% of adults below level 3″.

Three hundred business is hardly a representative sample but we do admire the organisation’s plug for additional funding, “we do need from federal and state governments a national foundation skills strategy and that we need to put more funding into the training of language, literacy and numeracy teachers, those who can go into the workplaces to assist employees, hone and develop their skills“.

No, trying to rectify poor literacy in the workplace is a little too late.  Resources need to pumped in at primary school level.  Nice try though.





By now, most new year resolutions have been broken.  The optimism of the new year has either been fried in 40 + degree heat ( we are talking Celsius) or washed away in the never ending torrent of rain.

Wading in the storm water aside,  the new year has not disappointed.  The strategy that the powers to be have taken with my continual complaint is to treat it as though it is my delusion. Such is the extraordinary scope of my imagination that it is conjured the misspelling of one word in seven different ways twenty times.  It is only in my universe that the alphabet and filing have any sort of relationship.  It is only through my boredom that postcodes are four number combinations.

So we thought, let’s apply my imagination to INTHEBLACK’S 2016 Office Trends:  As usual, the italics are mine.

  1. New Desks: ‘Sitting is the New Smoking’.  Nope, my imagination can’t stretch to accommodate a standing desk in the new 11 months.  Next!
  2. Activity-based working aka Collaboration. Hahahahahahahahahaha…ha.  Next!
  3. New Facilities: is the introduction of “end-of-trip” facilities such as showers, bike parking, changing rooms and lockers.  Google we are not,  Next! 
  4.  Diversity: believes businesses will start to encourage staff to travel and bring their experiences back into the business with them.  Not quite my definition of diversity.  We would call this minimising the annual leave liability. 
  5.  Co-mentoring: businesses are pairing senior staff, who have a wealth of knowledge, with younger staff with technological know-how in a co-learning relationship.  Didn’t they make a movie about this? The Intern?
  6. Flexibility: Work/Life balance.  A new trend for 2016??
  7. Wellness technology: Cloud + living green walls, sleeping pods or comfortable seating options for quiet activities. Sometimes, you can’t make this up.  Um, is someone going to break the news that plants and beds are not high tech or new.
  8. Social media rising:Businesses will be able to use data about how staff work to design better workplaces. For instance, if data shows staff routinely take work home to complete after hours, management will be able to use this information to manage workflow more appropriately, and to keep an eye on staff to ensure they are not overworking. We think this is called Data Mining not Social Media.  No, management will not redesign work processes if people will work overtime for free.
  9. Incentives:focusing on building an ongoing culture of growth and opportunity. “Create an environment where the assistant salesperson you hired today will quickly become a section manager, a floor manager or the manager of a new retail outlet. That is either a top heavy organisation or a toxic culture.
  10. Management: performance appraisals could well become redundant.  They already are.

Happy 2016!!!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 680 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.