The television ads for children’s shoes and stationery tell us it’s back-to-school time, bringing with it the thorny perennial public wrangling about equity and government funding.

There will also be much time and attention devoted to the growing debate about the role of selective schools. If NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes intends pursuing changes to selectives he can expect fierce resistance from self-interest groups and political opponents.

But by far the greatest challenge to schools this year will be the growing application of technology, despite the fact that it will probably receive little attention in media and political circles. Although It is already well accepted in the “adult world”, schools will grapple with this multidimensional problem.

All families and schools are battling with how to afford the new technology and retain their currency over time; how to make effective use of these devices, equal access for all, and how to help control and balance the school and home application. The approaching pressure of online NAPLAN, at ever younger ages, is just one stress.

Easy access to online gambling and pornography affects our children and therefore our schools. How to manage and effectively respond to online bullying and the crushing mental health effects is a deep concern.

Where does the responsibility of the school and that of the family start and finish? The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is stretched to the limit and schools and families find it difficult accessing helpful support and advisory services.

How far do we go in allowing student access to smartphones and laptops in the playground – during recess and lunch breaks? What about in the classroom – recording science experiments, creating art works, photography and video recording on excursions with hand-held devices? How do we protect the interests of those who, for good reason, don’t want to have their photograph taken?

– William McKeith

Read more: Schools Grapple With Technology

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