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Schools need to prepare for a period of change

By David Robertson - posted Thursday, 20 March 2014

Change – "to alter or make different"

Educators often raise the issue of "reform fatigue" in the face of constant change in school education in recent years. There is no doubt that changes in schooling have been constant, often complex and demanding, placing considerable pressure on school leaders and teachers. Most often changes result from government policies and priorities but the demands of the community, including parents, for improved educational outcomes, and for schools to be the vehicle to address an increasing number of social issues, cannot be ignored.

It is often frustrating for schools to deal with change as it is not always easy to see clear outcomes in the short term. Many of the large systemic changes to education are about meeting longer term goals and as a result are not particularly well suited to the electoral cycles of government. Changes in government policy can come as often as every three years, whereas significant educational changes may take a generation to show full results.


Therefore, it might be of some relief to note that the Federal Government has nominated two Parliamentary repeal days every year to cut unnecessary and costly legislation and regulation. The first repeal day will be in the House of Representatives on Wednesday 26 March where Parliament will be asked to repeal some 8,000 redundant legislative instruments.

While this might be some good news, a scan of the education environment would suggest that schools should be preparing for a period of significant change over the next few years. Change is likely to take place across a wide range of areas including curriculum, assessment and reporting, and operational aspects of schooling.

Of significance to independent schools will be likely changes to public funding arrangements. There has already been uncertainty and instability over the past two years as the "Gonski" school funding reforms were debated, shaped and finally implemented through the new Australian Education Act in 2014.

It is now clear that the Federal Government is likely to implement a revised funding model from 2018. In the lead-up to 2018, schools face the prospect of continuing uncertainty about their future funding with the resultant disruption to longer term planning of their programs and master plans.

This will be in addition to possible immediate changes to the Australian Education Act with the Federal Minister Christopher Pyne committed to addressing the "command and control" of Canberra over schooling. Some technical flaws in the new funding model will also require legislative change in the short term, ensuring that the ongoing debate about schools funding will continue to feature in education policy.

Perhaps more significantly, changes in curriculum, assessment and reporting will dominate the work of Queensland schools for the next few years.


Since 2012, independent schools have been implementing the new P-10 Australian Curriculum (English, Mathematics and Science in 2012, History in 2013 and Geography this year). The final six learning areas of the Australian Curriculum for Prep to Year 10 are to be implemented in 2015 and 2016 – The Arts, Health and Physical Education, Civics and Citizenship, Technologies, Economics and Business and Languages.

A key difficulty for schools is that the planning for the implementation of these Phase 2 learning areas (some of which have multiple subjects such as The Arts with Visual Arts, Media, Dance, Music and Drama) has to be undertaken in the context of an Australian Government initiated review of the Australian Curriculum expected to report in mid-2014.

It has now become apparent that the Australian Curriculum has too much curriculum content for the primary and early secondary years. This issue has been raised by many education groups in submissions to the review, including Independent Schools Queensland. It would be surprising if the review recommendations did not include an "uncluttering" of the overcrowded curriculum, and while this would be a positive move for schools, it will involve another element of change.

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About the Author

David Robertson is Executive Director of Independent Schools Queensland.

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