I hope this Leadership Update finds you well and that you managed to find time for reflection and an opportunity to recharge over the Easter break. This week marked Global Intergenerational Week which focuses on promoting and celebrating the economic, social, health, learning and wellbeing benefits that come from participation in intergenerational activities. Some of our schools and early years services are actively involved in these programs and have witnessed the improvement in student engagement, wellbeing, behaviour, language and empathy that comes from participating in well designed, intentional intergenerational learning programs, aligned to the curriculum. I will look to organize an information session in relation to these opportunities for those interested in the near future.
Consultation on the revised General, Applied (Essential) and Short Course syllabuses has commenced. Please bring this important feedback opportunity to the attention of your curriculum leaders. Draft 1 syllabuses, review reports, a copy of the survey questions, and a link to the online survey are available here.
With the federal budget fast approaching, I have focused on providing a brief overview of two key policy documents which along with other key data, will inform the Australian Government’s funding decisions in the lead up to the May 9 budget – the OECD Education Policy Outlook for Australia and the Report from the Interim Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee. Whilst the Government has already stated that it cannot fund all the good ideas, these reports provide some insights into what will shape the Government’s thinking as it contemplates what measures will also deliver on the objectives of a new National School Reform Agreement, the Teacher Workforce Action Plan and the findings to come from the Teacher Education Expert Panel. Where funding and policy decisions can deliver on multiple objectives, they will be more attractive to government in terms of funding priorities. I hope you find the following information of interest.
OECD Education Policy Outlook in Australia: The Policy Outlook provides an overview of Australia’s education challenges and policy responses based on six policy levers that support improvement:
- Students: How to raise outcomes for all in terms of 1) equity and quality and 2) preparing students for the future;
- Institutions: How to raise quality through 3) school improvement and 4) evaluation and assessment; and
- System: How the system is organised to deliver education policy in terms of 5) governance and 6) funding.
The OECD found that students in Australia view their teachers positively and teachers themselves have comparatively high levels of job satisfaction. Nevertheless, learning environments are comparatively less favourable in terms of disciplinary climate, intimidation or bullying, and student truancy. It also found equity concerns in early childhood education and care (ECEC) participation, literacy and numeracy outcomes across schooling and upper secondary completion for certain population groups and in certain geographic locations. OECD also noted challenges related to student well-being in the Australian lower and upper secondary classroom, with rates of bullying reported by principals three times higher than the OECD average.
The OECD found more was needed to be done to develop the pre-service training, preparation, and retention of Australian teachers. Of particular concern was the high level of teacher attrition. The OECD identified that although progress had been made in professionalising and structuring the teacher career pathways, the extent to which the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) was used as a guide in teacher formation or applied in evaluation remained uneven. Keeping quality teachers in classrooms longer would allow the Australian education system to consolidate gains from having more experienced teachers on average. The establishment of the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) (2020) was one important step identified towards establishing an evidence base that supports improvement in teacher practice, contributes to system improvement, and guides policy development. Need for actors at school level to have the resources and training necessary to make use of the data and put observations into practice.
A snapshot of some of the identified strengths and challenges are set out here.
Key recommendations include:
Aim for an effectively student-centred system
• Prioritising access to quality ECEC – increasing the number of target hours and going beyond the standard year of delivery before entrance into primary education.
• Identifying and harnessing the strengths of the education system at pre-primary and primary education – particular attention to strengthening transitions from primary to secondary education, and during secondary education, to prevent gaps from widening.
• Empowering learners to shape their own learning experiences through adequate supports, – adopting a learner-centred approach through greater attention to specific needs (e.g. Indigenous, rural, with disability) to examine how children and young people, through their diversity, experience learning within and beyond education institutions, and how they can be better empowered to make those experiences their own.
Advise and provide learners with relevant and multivalent education and training options
• Elevating the quality (relevance) and status of VET – strengthening the foundational skills of students in VET so they can succeed as the quality bar is raised, and access further education and training options as their contexts evolve.
• Strengthening the connection between HE and VET – enhancing and clarifying the relevance of the different education offer, and addressing potential structural or process-oriented barriers to collaboration.
Develop a trusted and empowered school leadership and teaching profession
• Supporting a stronger school leadership profession, as school leadership comprises a group of (shared) tasks that include instructional leadership and human resource and financial management. At school level, it can improve teaching and learning by developing the right school climate; at local level, the sharing of experiences and collaboration among schools can support greater equity across schools, and at system level, school leaders are essential for the success of education reforms, as they are the first catalysts of change in education institutions.
• Strengthening teaching by examining barriers faced by teachers to balance change and innovation in teaching with time available and workloads, but also to ensure the attractiveness of the profession for the longer term. The former includes strengthening communities of practice clustered by similar contexts within or across States and territories (e.g. on diagnostic or formative assessment, powerful pedagogies, or classroom management), while the latter includes revising strategies to address teacher shortage, such as by revising workloads to prevent burnout, but also to help them focus better on pedagogical quality.
- Interim Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee Report: The Committee has been established to provide advice to the Government ahead of each federal budget focusing on boosting economic inclusion and tackling disadvantage, including policy settings, systems and structures, and the adequacy, effectiveness and sustainability of income support payments. The economic participation and adequacy of support payments for those with disability and access to quality early childhood education and care, are some of the many challenges directly impacting on families that seek to enrol in our Lutheran schools and early years services. Therefore, government subsidies for students and parents with disability, access and costs of early childhood education and care, as well as access to safe housing and food, all has a direct or indirect impact on our children, students, families, and an increasingly number of staff. It is for these reasons and the fact the recommendations from this Committee will inform the upcoming budget, that there is value in being aware of what has been proposed. A brief summary of some of the recommendations are listed below:
- Recommendation 21: The Government use the Early Years Strategy to explore how it can partner with States and Territories, philanthropy and other stakeholders to expand holistic child and family models across community, school, primary health, early learning and other relevant settings, including by creating common infrastructure, workforce and standards to support these at network scale.
- Recommendation 24: The Government work with the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) and other First Nations stakeholders to re-invigorate, re-fund and expand the Aboriginal Child and Family Centre model, learning the lessons of past successes and challenges. This should include a robust evaluation strategy and funding which is linked to outcomes.
- Recommendation 26: The Government progress all actions from the Closing The Gap Implementation Plan relating to early childhood.
- Recommendation 27: The Government commit that Measuring What Matters (a new national framework focussed on wellbeing measures) reporting includes legislated measures on economic inclusion and poverty, and an expansion of the Intergenerational Report to include forecasting, benchmarking, tracking and modelling of savings from the alleviation of disadvantage, with a specific focus on outcomes in places of persistent disadvantage.
- Recommendation 31: The Government abolish the Activity Test on the Child Care Subsidy and commit to guaranteeing all Australian children access to three days of early childhood education and care. All children benefit from access to early childhood education and care, and government policies that ensure affordable access can lift female participation.
- Recommendation 36: The Government establish a multidimensional poverty index to supplement legislated measures, to provide a more comprehensive picture of the nature and extent of poverty, and to enable monitoring of trends and targeting of effort by population and dimensions such as health, education and living standards.
- Gold Coast Intergenerational Networking Breakfast, Thursday 4 May, 7 – 9am | Robina Qld
Deputy Executive Director Education