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Another day, another reform

Thursday, 3rd May, 2018

Businessman David Gonski at Ermington West Public School in Sydney earlier in the week. PICTURE: AAP Businessman David Gonski at Ermington West Public School in Sydney earlier in the week. PICTURE: AAP

By Emily Roberts

Businessman David Gonski has put out a call to action after his most recent review of the Australian school system.

During the week, the document ‘Through Growth to Achievement - Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools’ was released by Gonski and a team of panellists.

The end game was to enable “all Australian students to realise their full learning potential, and re-establishing Australia’s education system as world-leading, is an ambitious but achievable goal, which requires a commitment to sustained, long-term reform,” according to the report.

“The strategy set out in this report, and articulated in the 23 recommendations, will transform Australian school education.

“The Review Panel recognises that the scale of these reforms is ambitious, particularly given Australia’s federated education model. 

“The challenges, however, cannot become an excuse for inaction. The evidence is clear; the reforms embedded in the strategy are necessary to achieve educational excellence in Australian schooling.”

The recommendations include focusing on individual student education, delivering evidence-based tools and resources to assist educators, revising the structure of the Australian Curriculum progressively over the next five years and reviewing the Australian Professional Standard for Principals to prioritise leadership of learning and make maximising the learning growth of every student every year the key focus; to name a few.

Barrier Teachers Association president Maureen Clark said the report was almost unnecessary.

“An initial reaction to the “new” Gonski 2.0 education report could well be, “what, again?”

“The two new best friends, Malcolm Turnbull and businessman David Gonski are joyfully offering up yet more reforms to our poor education system which seems to be suffering from a surfeit of reforms offering much of the same.

“Teachers are reform-fatigued and cynical. A new national curriculum, Naplan, the MySchools website and National Teaching Standards haven’t stopped a decline in student achievement. Gonski’s 2.0 ‘reform’ seems to be more of the same.”

Mrs Clark said that Gonski is revisiting his original report into education that resulted in the needs-based funding model underpinning education today. 

“He recognised then that public schools carried the major cost burden of education, catering for disabled students, Aboriginal students, students from income-poor backgrounds, students unable to speak English, students from schools in very remote areas,” she said. 

“The funding he said was needed for schools to cater for these variations ran out in 2017 when the Turnbull government won power and fashioned a less generous budget.

“No one argues with Gonski’s assessment of the necessity for needs-based funding to achieve some equity in educational opportunity.

“He has recognised what all teachers know: that no two students are the same.

“All teachers would like their students to be able to advance at an individual rate but when there are 30 students and one teacher in a limited teaching timeframe, then the individual attention necessary is difficult to maintain.”

Mrs Clark said it was hard to develop an easy-fix to any of Gonski’s recommendations.

“Major changes such as not progressing students according to age or school year will require a lot of discussion with both teachers and parents.

“It sounds like vertical streaming which could be a good idea for many students but maturity and social development are as important as academic ability. 

“Ensuring students can read by the age of 8 is a desirable outcome as is acknowledging that individual differences impact on learning.

“Children are not reading as much as they did 30 or 40 years ago and even their parents seem to be engaged more with technology than with literature. 

“Another part of the problem is the overcrowded curriculum teachers are supposed to cover with very young students.”

Mrs Clark said creating an individual education would require more teachers and smaller classes; neither which seem achievable on the current education budget.

Education Minister Rob Stokes welcomed the release of David Gonski’s review of Australian school education and its discussion of how to maximise very student’s learning growth.

“I agree with Mr Gonski’s view that all Australian school systems need to ensure teaching and learning is tailored to the needs of every student,” Mr Stokes said.

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