2015 is a significant year for Queensland education with the formal move of Year 7 from primary to secondary schooling.
This initiative, decided by the previous Queensland Government and supported by the current Government, will bring Queensland into line with every other State/Territory in Australia except Western Australia and South Australia.
If we look back over the past decade in Queensland, virtually every major aspect of our school education system has been reviewed and the subject of reform.
There has been a significant and deliberate transformation of Queensland schooling structures, including the introduction of the Prep year (in 2007), a change to the school starting age (also 2007), and the provision of kindergarten (with participation in kindergarten in the year before Prep increasing from around 29% of students in 2008 to 97% in 2013).
These structural changes to schooling have been complemented by other reforms under the banner of the Beattie/Bligh Governments' Education and Training Reforms for the Future initiative and the Newman Government's more recent reform agenda, including the introduction of Independent Public Schools and the reduction of red tape.
Even the senior assessment and tertiary entrance system, which has been in place since the early 1990s, is under review. The outcomes of this review being undertaken by the Australian Council for Education Research are expected to be presented to the Minister for Education, Training and Employment, John-Paul Langbroek, by the end of this month.
There are good reasons for the substantial changes to Queensland education: Queensland students have lagged well behind their interstate counterparts in educational outcomes.
However, the impact of the significant structural changes to Queensland schooling is already starting to show improvements to educational outcomes as measured by the annual NAPLAN, in the early years in particular.
The transition of Year 7 to secondary education is a sensible follow-on from the introduction of the Prep year in 2007. Without the change, primary students would be completing eight years of primary schooling.
Given the more rigorous Australian Curriculum now implemented in primary schools, the Year 7 cohort of students will be better suited to the educational challenges presented by the secondary curriculum.
Independent Schools Queensland has always supported the transfer of Year 7 to secondary, whilst recognising the issues raised by parents such as the need for excellent pastoral care. I can confidently say that independent schools are ready for Year 7 in secondary and are looking forward to welcoming more than 11,000 students into Year 7 in 2015. Our newest Year 7s will be part of the nearly 58,000 students across Queensland entering Year 7 in secondary for the first time.
Our political leaders are to be applauded for the recent changes to Queensland school education, but a lot more work is needed, particularly to meet the needs of an increasing student population.
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